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.

Manchester, Kentucky
July 27, 1898

I arrived here this afternoon having stayed last night at Israel Howard's and dined at Mr. M. H. Horton's. I have traveled 150 miles since I left here on horseback. I praise God for protection and guidance. I have grown in grace during my journey and feel more closely anchored to the throne than before I started. I have seen the progress the country is making. It is slow but steady. Much has been accomplished toward the advancement of civilization in these three years. I am primed to see how small a part the Methodist Church is taking in the work where I have been. Our congregations are weak, our men are weak, and we are putting very little money into the work. At some points in the mountains we are doing better, but in Lee, Owsley, Breathitt, Perry, Leslie, and Clay counties, we are doing hardly anything. The leaders in our conference are taking no interest in this work. Oh, I pray that God would put the Spirit upon some leader for this mountain work of missions in our conference. There needs to be someone to travel through our conference and stir up the missionary spirit, especially as to our home missions work. We have been "playing" at this mountain work for 75 years. Our conference has never seemed to believe that there was a future to these mountains. I feel so deeply, their mistake! Great power will come out of the mountains in the future, and they need the help I earnestly wish for them. They are the making of a great people. I am so glad God has put it into my heart to help them, but my way now seems to be hedged up. I had hoped to get our church to do something for Clay County. I have asked for a small school here as a nucleus, but I have failed to get it. Now Dr. McDonald, of the Presbyterian Church, announces that his church has the money ready, coming from a bequest of the late Dr. William Young, President of Centre College. He proposes putting a school and church combined like they have at Booneville and Hyden. That announcement seems to end my usefulness here, for without the school I do not see how we can succeed in this county. The Sue Bennett Memorial School needs the patronage of this county, and this cuts it off to a great extent. True we ought to establish churches over the county, one at the county seat, but this work could have been done so much more easily with the assistance of the school. I am in no way despondent. I have no plans for the future, but I want God to make my plans. I have never known what is best for me. God has always decided it, and I am rejoiced at the decision. I am willing to do anything or nothing as God may appoint.

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