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
March 9, 1898
I was born
in Knox County, September 24, 1851. I am a son of John Graig
Black. He was born in South Carolina in 1805. He came to Nolechuckee
River in Tennessee and thence to Knox County when a boy. He was
a son of Alexander Black who was born in Ireland. I do not know
what part of Ireland. He came to America a married man. John
Gilbert, Sr., said he loaned my father $300 to start in business
when he did not know whether or not he would get it back. My
father brought the first wagon to Goose Creek. (I doubt this,
S. E. H. ) Henry Watterson's mother was a Tennessee Black. Felix
Grundy's mother was a Black. He was about the only man who could
hold a hand with Henry Clay. My father died in Knox County in
1876 in his 72nd year. He was a young man when he came to Tennessee.
There are a lot of Blacks living in east Tennessee where he lived.
My Grandfather Black was an overseer on a South Carolina plantation.
My father was a farmer on Richland Creek where I was born. He
never held any office except magistrate and that was before it
was elective. My father and mother had 13 children. John A. Black
of Barbourville is my brother. There are three other brothers
now living in Madison County, and a sister, Mrs. Alabama Hopper,
in Knox. I am the youngest of the family. My mother was Clarissa
Jones, born in Clay County in 1807, died in 1862. She was a daughter
of Isaac Jones. We have a tradition that his father came over
from France with Lafayette, fought in the Revolution, and settled
on the Yadkin in North Carolina. I got this from my uncles. My
oldest aunt (Black) married H. J. Jones of Williamsburg Institute.
I attended the common schools. My father was an uneducated man
and did not take an interest in the education of his children,
which he should have. My mother died when I was 11, and my father
married again. Soon after I turned 16 I left my father. I worked
on a farm for $10 per month for about a year. I then borrowed
money from my brother, John, and attended Greenville and Ferscuhum
(?? D. S.) College, Tennessee, where I was a student three years.
I completed the B. S. course and expected to return and take
the A. B. course, but being in debt, I concluded not to return.
I began teaching in Barbourville. This was in 1872. I studied
law while teaching, and at the end of two years, 1874, I got
a license to practice law. In 1875 I was elected to the Lower
House of the Kentucky Legislature from Knox and Whitley counties,
as a Democrat, overcoming a majority of 1,000. Dudley King was
my opponent. He was nominee of the Republican party. I was not
nominated. I served out my term and resumed the practice of law
in Barbourville. In 1877 I was elected school commissioner, receiving
the entire vote of the Board of Magistrates, though I was an
opponent. In 1886 I was elected Grand Junior Warden of the Grand
Lodge of Kentucky and in 1888 Grand Master. In 1892 I was appointed
one of five commissioners from Kentucky to the World's Fair or
Columbian Exposition with W. H. Dulaney of Louisville, Dr. Clandy
of Christian County, J. W. Yerkes of Danville, and Dr. A. D.
James of Muhlenburg County. One hundred thousand dollars was
appropriated. Seventy-five thousand dollars was used, $20,000
returned, and $5,000 enjoined by Gross of Kentucky Restaurant,
still in litigation. In 1896 I was the nominee of the Democratic
Party for the 11th Congressional District, every county was largely
Republican, but 367 more votes were cast for me than for Gen.
Hardin in 1895 for governor, although the party was divided on
the financial question in my race. I am now one of the commissioners
appointed by Governor Bradley to attend the launching of the
battleship Kentucky, the 24th of this month. I am a Knight Templer
(in 1888 Judge B. F. Day got the nomination for Congress in the
11th Congressional District over J. A. Black and was defeated
by J. H. Wilson of Barbourville. If Mr. Black had been nominated,
he could have been elected. Wilson would not have run. J. J.
D.) I was married in 1875 to Miss Mary Janette Pitzer of Barbourville.
I have three children living, one dead.