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
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. 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
General George Brittain was the administrator of the estate of
Calvin Bailey of Harlan, brother-in-law of Brittain. The estate
had a great many slaves, and they attempted to run away to Ohio
for freedom. Gen. Brittain followed these slaves and overtook
them at Louisa. When he returned with them, he put them on the
block at County Court Day and sold them without authority from
the court. Some years afterwards, some of the heirs of Bailey
brought suit against Mr. Brittain for $20,000 for his increase
in numbers, etc., that would have accumulated had the slaves
been kept. Mr. Brittain employed me to represent the administrator.
I went to Virginia and hunted up the brothers and sisters of
John Bailey. His heirs had them sign a paper stating that they
had received all for which the slaves were sold, and that they
believed that if they had not been sold they would have escaped
and have been lost to the estate. When the case was called, I
presented these papers to the court, and the suit was dismissed.
For this I received $200. For defending Howard above referred
to, I received $200. In 1856 I removed to Clay County. At that
time, I had five children, Brittain, Dale, Carlo, and Nannie.
I had lost two, Louisa and William. I had bought "Cedar
Crag" from Mr. Samuel Chastain who had mortgaged the property
to "Black Head" Hugh White and Barton Potter. There
were 300 or 400 acres, and I paid $2,300. I had it mostly paid
for before I moved. Gen. Garrard had once lived at the place
who owned it and sold it to Chastain. I built the present residence.
I have lived here ever since. I continued the practice of law,
visiting Booneville, Hazard, Whitesburg, Harlan, Barboursville,
and London. I was very successful in the defense of criminals.
I cultivated my farm in the meantime, I regard my defense of
William Cole at Jonesville as one of the greatest efforts of
my life. It was soon after I married. The defense had no hope.
The leading attorney, Samuel Logan, of Abingdon said to me after
the testimony was closed, "I have not enough to stimulate
an effort." The first speech fell to me. During my speech,
the jury, the court, and the bystanders were melted to tears.
I became so warm I took off my coat. The little children of the
prisoner were about him, and I used this with great effect. Mr.
Logan was buoyant with hope when I closed, and the sentiment
of the whole court had been changed. Judge Benjamin Estill was
the judge. He was the greatest judge I ever saw and among the
greatest men. He bought a farm above Louisville on the Ohio River.
About the year 1850, he took his slaves to the farm. He told
his slaves that the people over the river think you ought to
be free, and I think so, too. Now, if you want to go say so,
and I will divide my money with you. I don't want to go they're
beggars or paupers. They said, "No, we will stay here, you
go back, and we will raise a crop." When he returned, he
found the finest crop he had ever seen.