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
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
James W. Linden
July 16, 1898
I was born April 28, 1836, in Breathitt County on Cane Creek.
My father was James Linden. He was born in North Carolina. His
father was Benjamin Linden, a German. He came from North Carolina
to Virginia, then to Breathitt County on the North Fork, just
below Jackson. He went to Irvine to vote and got hurt on Winding
Stairs Hill. He died at the place David Pryre now owns in December
1835 and was born in 1805. He was running his horse in a race,
and the horse went on one side of the tree, and he went on the
July 19, 1898
I was born in Perry County, Kentucky, in 1808. All I know about
my age is that I voted for General Jackson. I think it was his
second election, for I only voted for him once. My father was
Mason Combs. My mother was Jennie Richeson or Richardson. He
and seven brothers came. William Combs, my uncle, went to Fayette
County. He was at my mother's after my father died and wanted
to take me to his home to rear. My father had 11 children, 5
girls and 6 boys. I am the youngest. The girls were born first.
Willie, the youngest daughter, was born in Kentucky. There are
seven children, at least, born after the Combses came to Kentucky,
and the youngest was born in 1808. The surveyor books are good
authority. John Duff was the first surveyor I knew. I think the
Combses are Irish. Stephen Jett told me that he stayed all night
at my father's when he moved to Kentucky. My father took up all
the land that he could in his own name, and then he took some
up in his daughter's (Willie) name. He owned six miles up Carr,
also up and down the North Fork. He had land in Tennessee. He
left his land on the Holston. He said there were Indians in Kentucky,
and if he could not live here, he would have his own land to
go back to. He never sold it. He had plenty here and did not
I married Miss Susan Isom. My father-in-law said he used to carry
his own gun while plowing, but I do not know that there were
Indians here. The Isoms must have come about as early as the
Combses. I moved first to Breathitt County about 50 years ago
and then to Owsley County seven years later. Gen. Leslie Combs
of Lexington was a cousin of my father. I have always understood
it. One of my nephews named his son for him, so did Hardin Combs
of the Middle Fork, Breathitt County. Old Leslie told Wiley Combs,
my son-in-law, "Never deny your name, it is as good a name
as there is in this world." He always claimed kin to us.
Rev. Nixon Covey, a local Methodist preacher, taught school in
the Cut Off at Jackson in 1844. I went to school to him in 1844.
He is the grandfather of the Barnetts.
Rev. Calisle Babbitt was an early circuit rider. He reproved
Nathan Noble for cooking on Sunday. Next time he gave him cold
bread. Babbitt asked for the warm bread which Noble had cooked
for himself, but he did not get it. His wife, Aunt Jennie, was
a member of the Methodist church. Babbitt preached on Lost Creek
and Troublesome. It was old Mrs. Allen who told him where to
find his sheep. It was at a log rolling; Mrs. Allen was there.
He stopped. Mrs. Allen was a little tipsy and asked him his business.
"I am hunting lost sheep (of Israel). I say that is your
ram at old Bill (Jake) Noble's."
Some say she said, "I'll be d- ned." I went to school
to a circuit rider in the old Baptist Church on Troublesome.
Rev. Richard Smith married Malissie Combs, an ancestor of "Bad"
One of the first settlers in Breathitt County was my great-grandfather.
My mother, Nancy, was the daughter of Col. John Haddix. His grandson,
Sam Haddix, now lives on Gilmore Creek, Wolfe County. Kentucky.
He says that Samuel Haddix came with his family and a colony
and settled at the mouth of Lost Creek. They came from Virginia
here, but he was a native of North Carolina. In the colony was
a shoemaker, Hicks, also a gunsmith, and other mechanics. They
had to go back to Virginia for seed corn. They used turkey breast
and venison for bread. Samuel Haddix had children as follows:
Col. John Haddix, my grandfather; Colby, father of Sam in Wolfe;
Henley; William; four sons. Old Sam Hurst told me that he knew
my grandfather and my father in Virginia.