Dickey's Diary


Editor's Note: Readers of The Kentucky Explorer have been introduced to the Rev. John J. Dickey in past issues. Remember that he was a traveling preacher throughout the eastern part of the state during the years between 1880 and 1925. He helped to establish numerous churches and at least two colleges. He was also a teacher and a newspaper editor. However, his most enduring gift to us today may well be his diary that he kept faithfully during some 50 years of his later life beginning in the 1880s. In all, over 6,000 pages written in his own hand make up this interesting digest.
In this journal of his, Dickey often wrote down accounts of events daily. Much of the material concerns his day to day life. However, during the late 1890s he began to gather family history on various families he met in his travels. Beginning in this issue we are offering these interviews to our readers in the hope that they will be appreciated in the sense that Rev. Dickey intended. These interviews were written word for word as they were given to Rev. Dickey. Nothing has been changed.

February 23, 1898
The young woman who cleans up my room told me this morning that her father and three brothers have been killed. Her name is Hignite. She was reared in Leslie County. Two years ago her father was waylaid and killed in a cornfield. One brother killed another brother, and he in turn was killed in town by W. P. Bentley, a lawyer of Hyden, who had killed his own brother. Three patricides destroyed each other in a single combat. Such are the deeds that make Kentucky still "The Dark and Bloody Ground."
I have been reading the early history of Kentucky recently, and it is my opinion that the effusion of blood in the state today is almost as great as in the days of Boone and Kenton. Every newspaper brings tidings of murders and frays. Violence and blood mark the population of Kentucky today. Her sons go armed and they do not carry these arms for ornaments but for use.

February 24, 1898
We have a smallpox scare here. The contagion is at Middlesboro and other towns in that part of the state. The State Board of Health urges vaccination and it has begun here. People should always be prepared for death. There should be compulsory vaccination. Jenner's discovery was the greatest in modern times. It has saved millions of lives. I was able to go downstairs today, the first time in ten days. I walk with some difficulty but am conformable.
This ice is thawing, and I am beginning to get access to this wicked household. God save them. The religious interest awakened last fall has largely died out, but we will hope that as nature revives the springs that so shall we see our Christians come to life again.
Captain Byron, long of this place, but of London of late, died last Sunday.

February 27, 1898
News comes that Bro. May, my helper at Hyden, has "gone wrong." He got drunk, hired a mule, and left the country. He had $29 worth of watches belonging to Mr. M. D. Tanner of this place, and he had doubtless taken them. He came here last fall to help me in a meeting, with his nephew, Walter Bromley, and I was pleased with him. I asked him to stay and help me in my work. He agreed to do so, and after keeping him with me for three months, I took him to Hyden. I stayed with him there two weeks and left him in charge. He started off well, taught a singing school from which he got about $40, was getting paper hanging to do a $1.75 per day, and he was supporting himself. He was very exemplary in every respect while here and while there till he got under the influences of a Delilah, and in one evil hour fell from his steadfastness. Until eight years ago he was a gambler, a drunkard, and impure in his life. These things he told publicly and privately. I believe he was as sincere a man as I ever saw; but he was sorely tempted, often he used to tell me about. He said the devil was always after him. I have no regrets for the course I have pursued. I did what I thought best under the best light I could get and praying for guidance I was seeking to lift humanity up, and God will reward the effort. Poor man. My heart bleeds for him. He is now a wreck, and his last state is worse than his first. I pray that he might be restored. Mr. Tanner will lose perhaps $20 by him. He left some Bibles that Mr. Tanner can sell which will reduce his loss. I am sorry for him. He is poor, struggling to get a start in the world, but he persistently refuses to give his heart to God. But God will give us the victory yet. Glory! I preached twice today and conducted Sunday School.

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