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.
I was born in Perry County, Kentucky, in 1839. My father was James Fields. He was born in Claiborne County, Tennessee, about 1815. He came to Kentucky before he could remember. My grandfather was John Fields. He was born in Virginia but moved to Tennessee before coming to Kentucky. He died in 1852. He and Joe Wilder were soldiers in some war together, when my grandfather was 17 years old, so it must have been the Revolutionary War. He never got a pension. My grandfather's children were Stephen, William, Easan, Jacob, James, Lucy (Nathan Young), Sallie (Wilson Baker), and Rachel (Jack Baker).
John D. White
April 21, 1898
I got the following items chiefly from James Campbell of Hazard and Isom Stamper of Turkey Creek, Letcher County. Fifty families assembled at the mouth of Walker's Creek, on New River, North Carolina, with a view of immigrating to Kentucky. This was in the spring of 1806. They sent two young men to "spy out the land" viz. Austin Couch and another whose name I have forgotten. They struck the North Fork of the Kentucky River near its head, passed down it to Boonesboro, went on to Lexington, returned by way of Boonesboro, up the North Fork and back to Virginia and reported a goodly land abounding in game and fish. They said that where Hazard is was a cane break. There was no one on the river. On May 15, 1807, they landed. The Campbells came into land where there were four acres of land cleared, but the fences were rotten, and everything indicated it had been long deserted. Campbells brought horses and cattle and such household stuff as they could carry. The patriarch, John Campbell, was a severe Christian. He trained his children as an orthodox Scotchman would do. One tradition claims that the two young men came down Troublesome. (Both accounts may be true; they might have come one and went back the other.) Mason Combs was the original Combs in the mountains. He settled on a high hill below the mouth of Carr's Fork, on the opposite side. Mace's Creek was named for him and is really Masons Creek. His brothers, "Danger" Combs and Gen. Elijah Combs, came later. He laid out a patent about the mouth of Mace's Creek making his beginning corner a "mill seat" upon which a mill was never built until two years ago by one of the Halls.
Isom Stamper, says that a man named Casebolt settled at the mouth of Livefork at a very early date. He had a stepdaughter, Polly Davis, who used to go to Turkey Cove, Virginia, alone for flour, when she was only 14 years old. She would stay all night going and coming at Wallace's on Poor Fork of Cumberland just above the mouth of Longs Creek. Her route was as follows: From the mouth of Line Fork, she went down the North Fork of the Kentucky River to the mouth of Leatherwood, up Leatherwood one-half mile to the mouth of Little Leatherwood to the head, over onto Turkey Creek to near head, over onto Defeated Creek, down Defeated to forks, up left hand fork, nearly to head, cross over to Trace Branch, down Trace Branch to Line Fork to a point about two miles below Hurricane Gap, across Pine Mountain by Log Rock, so called because the Rock, 30 feet long, is in the shape of a log, down to Wallace's on Poor Fork just above mouth of Loony. Up Loony to the head over the Big Black Mountain, where it is 4,000 feet high and down Loony into Virginia to Turkey Cove. There are four Loony Creeks, one in Harlan, one in Virginia, and two in Letcher County. They were named for the Loony's early hunters.
One of them was killed on Defeated Creek by the Indians. Isom Stamper got his from Polly Davis herself. She married Samuel Lusk and her descendents now live on North Fork about the mouth of Line Fork, Perry County. They have the finest body of walnut timber in the mountains of Kentucky and will not sell it. The Lusks are numerous in Garrard and Madison counties.
A family named Leslie now lives at the mouth of Line Fork, Letcher County. Old General Leslie Combs was of this stock. The 50 families, or the greater part of them, eventually settled in the mountains of Kentucky. The Casebolts of the Sandy Valley are descendents of the above (mentioned) Casebolt. Isom Stamper who lives on Turkey Creek, Letcher County, is 92 years old.