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.

Ferry Howe
June 16, 1898

I visited ten families today. Among them two distillers, Elihu Allen and James Benge, son of Old David Benge, whom I visited yesterday. Mr. Allen talked very freely about his business but would not agree to quit unless he could sell his stills, which he was trying to do. He is the father of the infant child mentioned in the former entry. This has made a very serious disturbance in his home life. He has a wife and two children and is not over 40, I should think. He is a very sensible man but has been reared without God. He asked me to visit his old father, who, he said, is a very wicked man. He was very cordial, expressed his appreciation of the interest I manifested in his family and pressed me to visit him again. I did not see Mr. Benge. I saw only his daughter, Miss Florence, who has been attending school at London the past term with her sister occupying one of the cottages. She is a splendid young woman, a fine teacher, bitterly opposed to her father and mother in their determination to make whiskey. The parents of both were distillers, hence it is hard for them to see the evil. They have made 800 gallons this year, and the distillery is still running. These institutions are the curse of the community. Their removal would prove the greatest blessing that could come to it. I visited Lee Bolling's house. It is an old log house standing out in the pasture field with no fence around it and no garden. The field belongs to Isaac Cornett, another distiller in the neighborhood who has made 800 gallons of whiskey this year. There was almost no furniture in the house, a stove, table, and two beds, and this young woman with two babies and another in prospect, sits here, alone day in and day out with nothing to do and very little to eat or wear, while her husband drinks up much of his hard savings, though enriching these distilleries. She says she sometimes has the presence of God. She wept while I prayed and talked freely of her condition. God help.

George Wyatt
Wyatt's Chapel
June 17, 1898

I left Perry Howe's this morning for this place in hope of meeting Rev. W. B. Ragan P. E. as his of M. was to be here tomorrow. I wanted to see about the Leslie County part of my work as I want it set off to itself and want to arrange for building a church on Cutshin. One of the distillers, whom I visited yesterday, Elihu Allen asked me to visit his father, who he said was a wicked man, 75 years old, and in bad health. He lives near this place, so I used the opportunity to see him today. He said his father had been baptized in infancy, that he had lived a just and generous life, had attended church, and often felt happy under the services; but that he would get off ters: Sarah, Elizabeth, Charity, Rachel, and Mary. William II was a captain in the Revolutionary Army and fought at the Battle of Guildford.

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