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. 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.
Clay County, Kentucky
May 9, 1898
I was born in Whitely County, Kentucky, February 21, 1834. My father was Jesse Wilder. He was born either in Virginia or Kentucky. It was in 1805, and about the time my grandfather, Sampson Wilder, emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky. My grandfather had children as follows: Sampson, John, and Joseph with him. He died in Mississippi.
Sampson was living in Texas the last I heard. Joseph died in Alabama, and John went to Missouri. We have not heard from him since the Civil War. Solomon and Jesse lived and died in Whitely County. There are Wilders in Whitely, but I do not know whence they sprang. I know they are not from my grandfather. My grandfather once had a brother, William, who once lived in Whitely County, but his family was with him. I do not know what became of him. My father has sisters who had children without being married. Several were boys and, of course, bore her name. One of them who came to Corbin a few years ago is a descendant of one.
Ed Wilder of Louisville, the patent medicine man, resembles the Wilders of our family and no doubt is kin. My grandfather came to Whitely and owned a farm and kept house by himself. His dog lived with him, and when the old man died, the dog, which was shut in the house with him, barked till someone came to the scene. The Wilders are a small people. I do not know what nationality we are.
My father, Jesse, had children as follows: George Washington, Elijah, Sampson, William, Jesse, Solomon, Joel, Mary (Prewitt), Susanna (Jones), Sarah (Judge Harrison), Elizabeth (William Kidd), and Anne (Haginbot-tom). These all lived in Whitely. Some are dead. My father lived seven miles below Williamsburg on Jellico Creek. His house was a preaching place for the Methodists. He was a religious man. My mother was Sarah Prewitt. She was the daughter of Elijah Prewitt. He had a brother, John Prewitt, they were early settlers and reared large families. My grandfather, Elijah Prewitt, was a class leader in the Methodist Church. His brother, John, was a strict member of the Methodist Church. They were all good people. In Whitely County much of the first settlements were made on the poorest land. The people were afraid to get near the large streams on account of sickness. They kept away from the Cumberland and got on to the high table land and ridges. My ancestors were religious, at least those of their home. My paternal grandmother was an Adams. My maternal grandmother's sister married John Prewitt. My maternal grandmother was a Moss. Dr. Moss of Williamsburg is a different family, I think. His father was Henry Moss who came from Manchester to clerk for Barton Potter. He died of drink. Potter had a store in Williamsburg.