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
July 22, 1898
I was born in Perry County, in Campbell's Bend August 12, 1822.
My father was Francis Campbell. He was born on Walker's Creek
in North Carolina, a tributary of New River. They could roll
a hogshead of tobacco to Charleston, North Carolina, in a day.
He was born May 15, 1800, and he died January 8, 1893. He was
well-preserved. My grandfather was John Campbell. He was born
in North Carolina, also. His wife was a Couch. The Campbells
and Couches came from the same part of the state. In 1806 a large
number of families in that region thought of immigrating to Kentucky.
Not willing to take their families into an unknown country, they
selected the two men, Austin Couch and Charles Francis, two choice
men unmarried. They filled their knapsacks, took their flintlock
rifles, and were full of determination to accomplish the mission
on which they were sent. They started on foot to explore the
new Eldorado. They came through Pound Gap and striking the headwaters
of the Kentucky River they followed the North Fork to Boonesboro,
thence to Lexington, and returned the same route, reaching home
the same season. They reported a land of plenty. They said there
was everything to eat but nothing to wear. It was a land flowing
with "milk and honey." The streams abounded in fish,
and the woods were full of deer, bear, turkey, buffalo, and elk.
Filled with the flaming report, my grandfather and his family,
and his brother, William, and his family, started the following
spring. They were large families. They started for Lexington
but stopped at Campbell's Bend on the North Fork of the Kentucky
River in what is now Perry County. They found four acres of land
cleared at that point and concluded to make a crop and remain
over a year. My grandfather brought nine horses and his brother
ten. They brought their cattle, also. They had ague on the way,
and this was one of the reasons for stopping. When spring came
again, his family, or some of them were still sick, and it was
two years before they got rid of the chills. When they had gotten
well, they felt so well and were so charmed with the rich soil
and luxuriant canebrakes, and the abundance of game that they
lost the desire to go further. In North Carolina, they had put
manure in the furrow to raise corn, and then the frost would
cut it. Rare, ripe, diminutive corn was all they could raise.
The great ears of corn that grew on their rich bottoms was sufficient
to meet the expectations awakened by the glowing descriptions
of Messrs. Couch and Francis. They put all they had into clothes.
My great- grandmother's father was James. He was born in Ireland.
There were two brothers, James and William James. I suppose Jesse
James is of the same family. She was the daughter of William
James; they were rich. The Campbells are Scottish-Irish. Later,
Couch and Francis, the explorers, came to this region. Austin
Couch married a sister of Judge James Eversole of Clay County.
These explorers found a path hacked from Carr's Fork to Grapevine.
Peter DeWeese settled at the mouth of Grapevine and died from
choking. When they would find a bee tree, they would cut down
a small chestnut, peel it, and fill it full of honey and carry
it home. The horses and cattle lived on the range. The cane was
an evergreen and in winter and summer made good pasture. In the
summer, the peavine was equal to bluegrass. Flax was introduced.
Buckskin supplied the men. The 50 families of New River proposed
to make a settlement about Lexington. They came on later and
settled at different places. The Begleys, Sizemores, Rameys,
and my mother, Margaret Williams, came from that section. The
Nobles, Neaces, and Fugates came later. My grandfather was a
religious man. He was a freemason when he came here. His children
were James; John; Mary; Sallie; William; Francis, my father;
Elijah; Isaac; Stephen; Hiram; Samuel; and Bitsy (Betsy), 12
in all. William, his brother, settled at the mouth of Campbell's
Creek. His children were Charles, William, Elijah, Hanes, Henry,
Daniel, Margaret, and Amy.