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.
March 23, 1898
While at secret prayer in the house of Mr. Carnahan I was impressed that I should open up school in Manchester. I was praying, as I had been for some time for God to provide for my wants. I had no money and no prospect of getting any. I had nothing to buy postage stamps, hence had to quit patronizing the mail. I had on my back my only suit of clothes. My wash woman had bills against me for three or four weeks, and I had no money to take my laundry from the office. My board was behind for the entire time of my residence here, except $12. These things are still so. I came here to be used of God to lift up this county. I came ready to do anything but I did not think that I would ever again teach school. This has been my settled purpose for eight years, ever since I quit in Breathitt County. My plan was to get godly men and women to come here from the interior of the state and teach at various points in the county and build up communities.
I wrote long letters to H. W. Bromley and Rev. J. W Hughes at Wilmore, laying the needs of this people before the students of that school that they might be moved to "come over and help me." But I have not had a line of response. I have looked upon this desolation since last October and prayed that God in His own way, would take it away and give prosperity. A good school is indispensable to the accomplishment of this work. I see no way to have it but to make it. It is a new building about 25' by 30' with a vestibule and small recitation room. The addition of one room would give capacity for all the students I would have for some time. In fact by throwing the vestibule and recitation room together by simply removing the short petition between them, two teachers could manage 60 or 70 students, and this is as many as we could hope to have. Still, if an additional room were built this summer, it would advertize the school and largely increase the attendance, doubtless.
I would prefer to have everybody who would do so go to London, especially if that school is made an institution for the salvation, as well as the intellectual development of pupils. I want the people of Clay County elevated and whatever means will best produce that result I pray to be used. Teaching is hard work. It is a work which I feel but poorly qualified to do. I lack at many points. Yet, I love it. There is nothing so trying to the patience as the perplexities of the school room. But what are all these hardships compared to the glorious results which will most certainly crown my efforts. The pulpit, the press, and the schools are the great levers of civilization. I found Manchester without any of these, but by the help of God she shall have them all. True, we had churches, but no pastors. We have a little printing press, but no paper worthy the name, and a small schoolhouse, but no school.
I will not take a step without the assurance that God goes before. I would greatly prefer to preach, but ever in that field I can see no conversions. I can teach the people, but I cannot move them to action, for this power I have prayed. I have desired it above all gifts, but it seems to be withheld. I love pastoral work.
When I came to this county I felt that I had at last reached that point in my history so long prayed for, viz, the season of soul winning of pastoral care and success in building up God's church. But alas! I see but little fruit and bread to sustain the body is withheld. All this seems to point to the establishment of a school here as my work. As I said before at Bro. Carnahan the second ultimo the impression came to me for the first time I told Sister Carnahan that morning that I believed God had given me the key to victory, while I had prayed, though I do not tell her what it was. I need a Godly woman here so much, and this plan will bring here. The Lord lead me.
April 4, 1898
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