Dickey's Diary


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.

Matilda Duff Lewis
Hyden, Kentucky
May 27, 1898
My father was Rev. Daniel Duff, born in Guilford County, North Carolina, in 1776. His father was Shadrick Duff. He was killed in the Revolutionary War. His wife, Deborah Dickson, did not survive him. Shadrick Duff's father was born in Ireland. He was Scotch-Irish. The Dicksons were Irish, also. My father spoke (used) broken English. My father used to call Mrs. Sparks his old Irish aunt. My father had a sister, Elizabeth, who married Mr. McLean. They settled in Green County, Tennessee, and reared a large family. I saw two of the sons at my father's once. My mother was Nancy Ann Ellison. My parents married in Guilford County. Her father was Welsh. Soon after my father and mother married, they came to Lee County, Virginia. There were Duffs living there. Robin Duff of that county was a very wealthy man. They were related to my father. While they lived in Lee County, several children were born to them. Their oldest child was Henry; he was born in 1798. John was born in 1801. In 1818 my parents removed to Perry County, Kentucky, and settled on the North Fork of the Kentucky River, about two miles above the mouth of Grapevine Creek. He was a Baptist minister. Attending a meeting of some kind in Harlan County, he met with Rev. Jesse Bolling who lived on the North Fork and becoming attached to him made a visit to his home. This led to his removal to Kentucky and Perry County. My father's children were Henry; John; Shadrick; and Martha, who married William Bowman and moved to Iowa. They reared a family. Deborah married William Bolling and reared a large family on Middle Fork, at about the Perry and Breathitt line. Mary married a Shepherd and moved to Missouri; Colson married Elizabeth Gilbert of Virginia. These Gilberts moved to the Sandy country, where Thomas Gilbert, the father, died. Drusilla married William Gilbert, brother of Elizabeth. They moved to Illinois about the close of the war. They lived in Carter County up to that time. Alexander married Miss Holly or Holyfield. He is a carpenter and lived in Breathitt County. Margaret, who married John Hays of Breathitt County, moved to Wolfe County where he died. She was living at last account. She reared a large family. I am the next and youngest. I was born in 1825. I married John Lewis in 1859. Our children: Brusilla Lewis, wife of Theo. Lewis; Henry Lewis, with whom I live; and one who died are my children. These are all. My father died in 1855 in Carter County. My mother died in Perry County in 1849. My father then went to his daughter's in Carter County, where he married a Mrs. Ellen Roe. He only lived a short time after this.
I went to school to David Fee. He was a smart man, a good teacher, and highly respected. He taught near my home. When my father moved to Kentucky, he came on horseback. Dad came down Red Bird and up Cutshin. There were no wagon roads. They stayed all night at John Gilbert's house. I knew old William Strong; he was also a Baptist preacher. William married Jane Callahan, the daughter of Edward Callahan of Red Bird. Several of her brothers lived on the North Fork and it was they who were engaged in the "Cattle War." John Amis, the leader of the other side, was a brother-in-law of John Gilbert, both having married Bolling sisters. The names of the Callahans were William and Isaac (nicknamed "Pike"); it seems to me there was a third. Old Samuel Davidson married a Callahan, a sister to Mrs. Strong, and he was in the war. Rev. William Strong was a Baptist preacher. He had children as follows: Edward, Isaac, Alexander, and William. William married a Deaton, sister of the old legislator. Edward married a Spencer. His children were Capt. William Strong, Mrs. Alfred Marcum, Mrs. John Lyttle, and Mrs. Henry Duff; also Robert Strong, who died young, leaving a few children; and Judge Alex Strong of Lee County, Kentucky. William had children as follows: Judge Edward Strong, of Lost Creek known as "Red Ned;" Mrs. William Cope, Tom Cope's father; and Mrs. Wiley Cope of Big Branch. Isaac had a son, William. Alexander married Miss Wilson and had several children, one the wife of George Baker of Clay County and Daniel Strong of Laurel County.
John Spencer was an early settler, Grapevine. I think he came from Virginia. He had a large family. I think William Spencer of Breath-itt County, who married Miss Brittain, was a relative of his. Joseph Spencer was one of his sons. John Spencer, who married John Duff's daughter, was a son of Joseph Spencer. My brother, John Duff, married Mary, the daughter of Gen. Elijah Combs. He had children as follows: Sarah Jane (Davidson); Henry Duff, married Mahala Strong, daughter of Edward and sister of Capt. Bill Strong; Elijah, married Mary Eversole, daughter of Billy Eversole, lives in Owsley County, father of Miss Mary Duff; and Shadrick Duff, married Mary Combs, granddaughter of General Combs. They reared a family: Louisa, wife of John Spencer; Nancy, wife of Maj. John Eversole, mother of Joseph, Harry, George, John, and Claude Eversole; Orleana, wife of Adam Campbell, reared a family; and Mary, wife of Anderson Eversole who moved to Kansas, a brother of Abner and Capt. Billy Eversole.
John Duff, my brother, was the first surveyor in Perry County. He was county judge of Perry County in his old days. He had an arm amputated when he was in his 70s. He died in 1892, age 91. He left a fine estate at the mouth of Grapevine. His wife survives him.

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