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.

John R. Gilbert

I was born in Clay County, Kentucky, September 18, 1841. I am a son of Abijah and Martha Gilbert. I knew my grandfather, John Gilbert, well. I used to be with him a great deal. When I was 14 years old, my grandfather and I were passing the mouth of Hector's Creek. He said that here in this bottom, just above the mouth of this creek, was where Red Bird was killed. Red Bird and his companion, Jack, were asleep. A party of white men came along. A young man in the party had lost his father by the Indians, and he had taken a vow that he would kill the first Indian he should meet. This was the first chance. He took the tomahawk of these sleeping Indians and with it killed them and then threw them in the river. My grandfather said he came along a short time after the murders were committed and saw their bodies. I think he helped to bury them, though I do not remember. He told me the name of the young man who killed them. It was a strange name, but I do not remember it. He said Red Bird was a peaceable Indian and should not have been killed.

He told me also about the killing of Newberry. He said he came upon the men who had killed him while they were burying him. They shot him just above where the road comes over Newberry Hill and were burying him in the upper end of the little bottom now washed away just at the foot of the road coming over the hill. Begley, Callahan, Gibson, and another man were there. They asked them what they were doing with that man. They said they were burying him, and he had better look out or they would serve him the same way. He told them that they had better make a sure shot at him. He crossed the hill and went up the creek at Manchester. Gibson went to the top of the hill to waylay and kill him, but he confessed afterward that his heart failed him. Gibson turned state's evidence and saved his life. Begley and Callahan were hung.
He went on to Manchester, got the posse, and came back to Red Bird to arrest the murderers. They went to Wilson who lived just below the mouth of Hector's. He was afraid to keep them. Grandfather said, "I know where we can stay. We can stay where the murderers stay." They went on that night and found them fiddling and dancing at the house of either Begley or Callahan. I think Begleys. They arrested them and stayed there that night. When the jailor or sheriff went to the jail to get the measure of the prisoners for their coffins, they were dancing and fiddling. One said, "Three feet and a chaw of tobacco is our length." My grandfather told me that he lived here some years before he was married. He had a man and his wife to keep house for him. When in Cincinnati selling furs, the merchant gave him a book telling him that it might be of benefit to him sometime. When he reached home, he found it was a book of midwifery. This pleased him. Soon after the wife of this man was about to be delivered, the nearest neighbor to them was ten miles distant. A young woman, who was living with them, came to the clearing and said the woman was getting sick. Her husband started for the neighbor woman. He told him not to spare horse flesh. Soon the young woman came back to the clearing screaming, saying the woman was dying. Grandfather went to the house, found her on the floor, delivered her of the child, picked her up and put her back into the bed, and handed the child to the young woman. This achievement gave him great notoriety, and at once he was sent for far and near in similar cases. He did a great deal of such work in his lifetime. The last child he delivered (when he was over 100 years old) was John G. White. (I found in John Gilbert's Bible now in possession of John R. Gilbert the date of John Gilbert's birth. It is March 1757. He died March 1868. In the same Bible, I found the dates of his children's births. His first child was born February 21, 1804. This would make him 47 years old when his first child was born.

Martha Woodson
I was born November 8, 1807; Sarah M. Roberts, born January 25, 1806; John D. Gilbert, born 1809 and died young; Abijah, born February 15, 1815; Joseph, born June 12, 1817; and Nancy Hopper, born June 18, 1819. His granddaughter, Mary Jane McWhorter, was born October 1825. She married Silas Woodson (afterwards the governor of Missouri. J. J. D.)

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