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.

Abijah Gilbert

July 12, 1898
I was born February 25, 1815, in Clay County, Kentucky. My father was John Gilbert. He was born in North Carolina. His brother-in-law, Stewart, was in the Revolutionary War. My father had Stewart's discharge papers when he died. He brought (bought) it with the expectation of getting a pension on it. Some attorney wrote proposing to work it up, and I sent the paper to him but never got it back. My father's father was in the Revolutionary War. Jarvis Jackson, I think, or some other Jackson from London, came to my father and wrote a sketch of his life. I do not know what became of it. I have heard my father say often that he was a youth when the Revolutionary War was on. He claimed to be 111 years old when he died. He was the first settler in Clay County. He came as a trapper, hunting beaver. He caught the beaver at the mouth of Longs Creek where there was a dam. His brother, Felix, and William Hudson came to Clay County a little later. He gave them both land. I do not know when he came to Kentucky. My father lived near Cumberland Gap in Tennessee before he came to Kentucky.

Mrs. Martha Jane Gilbert
I was born in Lee County, Virginia, February 1818. My father was Robert Gibson. My mother was a daughter of Gen. James Renfro who lived and died at Cumberland Ford. He came from Virginia to Kentucky at an early date. He owned a great deal of land. He reared a large family, nine daughters and two sons. One son, James, was killed by a falling limb. The other son, William, lived and died in Missouri. Father Gilbert was the most saintly man I ever knew. God seemed to bless his ministry to the salvation of the souls.

He was preaching. At the close of the service, he was impressed that there was someone present who would never have another opportunity to be prayed for. He gave an invitation, and a man from the rear of the house came forward. He prayed earnestly for him. Before morning, he was sent forth to visit him. When he reached the house, he was drawing his last breath.

Another Incident
He said to Mrs. Ambrose, "Have you ever had any thought of your eternal happiness?" She abruptly left the room without making any reply. A few months later, her husband, who was a minister, wrote to him that his wife had obtained a hope and wanted him to come and baptize her. She told him that she had no peace after that until she found the Savior.

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