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
April 30, 1898

I returned today from a ten day trip to Leslie and Perry Counties traveling over 100 miles. Bro. Ragan met me at Hyden with Bro. Taylor, our pastor at Jackson. Sunday we had sacramental service. I preached in the morning, Bro. Ragan in the afternoon, and Bro. Taylor at night, before the Presbyterians. Monday morning before daylight Bob Nichols shot Ballard Begley in the back. He and Begley were playing cards in the courthouse, Maggie Johnson, a lewd woman, was with them, the concubine of Nichols. Begley is still living and Nichols and Mrs. Johnson are in jail. Monday morning we went to Hazard where the brethren began a meeting. I visited my nephew, J. B. Shockley, his wife, and their child. They withdrew from the church two years ago and greatly weakened the congregation at Hazard where he had been the leader. I do not think they have accomplished much since. They seem happy and cultivated, are still intensely religious.
I arranged with Bro. Sizemore to preach with me on Wooton's Creek on Saturday afternoon before the 4th Sunday of each month, at the mouth of Wooton's Creek Sunday morning following and at Hyden Sunday afternoon and night. I got a saw mill to come to the mouth of Wooton's Creek this summer, so we can build a schoolhouse large enough for church purposes or a church in which we can teach school. Bro. Walton, the Presbyterian preacher, has begun to preach there monthly, and one of us will have to give up the place. It is an old Methodist stand but has been neglected. Letch Sizemore accidentally shot James Begley Wednesday on Middle Fork. I visited the boy Thursday afternoon.
My circuit is now 100 miles in extent. Beginning at Benge to Manchester 10 miles, to Wooton's Creek 40 miles, to Hyden six miles, to Manchester 30 miles, to Benge 10 miles. There are vast possibilities within these bounds. These people have excellent blood in their veins, hence stalwart bodies, and keen intellects, susceptible to moral and religious impressions. From their number will come men and women of distinction. God help me to lead them toward him. They need moral and intellectual culture. God help me to provide it for them. I count it a great privilege to help them work out their destiny.
If my friends in the Bluegrass could realize what the possibilities are of these people, they would support the work and send more men and women into it. But they are blind to the situation and will not support those who are willing to endure the toil and discouragements incident to the prosecution of this work. But God will work out the problem as speedily as he can, since he too must rely upon human agencies.

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