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.

James Brock
Hyden, Kentucky
January 8, 1898

I live in Leslie County. I am 55 years old. I was born in Clay County. My father's name was James Shepherd. He was born in Virginia. I do not know what country it was. It was near Fort Yokum and Fort ___ which was taken by the Indians when he was about ten years old, led my Benge, the White man who was taken by the Indians when a boy, seven years old. His capture was as follows. His mother had sent him to gather elderberries for the ducks. A party of Indians came upon him and attempted to kill him. He gathered stones and began to fight them. Pleased with his valor, they took him prisoner, saying, "He will make a good warrior." I have heard my grandfather tell this and many other things, among them the taking of Fort ___ and the killing of Benge. At the taking of this last mentioned fort, the Indians killed all but two women, the wives of George and Peter Levice. Among the slain were the aged mother and father of Benge. After the massacre, one of the captured women asked Benge if he did not remember an old man and an old woman who were killed? He said he did. She said, "They were your father and mother." He dropped his head and wept. They crossed the Cumberland Mountains at Benge's Gap. One of the women was tied to an Indian Chief, but the other, led by Benge (Peter Levice's wife) marked the path of their retreat by pieces of her clothing torn and scattered. As the whites pursued they came to the house of my great grandfather, Nimrod Shepherd. My great-grandmother was cooking bread. It was not more than half-cooked but was divided among them hastily. They took down some dried bear meat and venison, saying, "We will use the bear's flesh for meat and the venison for bread." The first sight they got of the Indians was an Indian who had stationed as a picket. He was roasting a turkey and nodding. Peter Levice slipped within 31 feet of him. They feared to shoot lest the prisoners would be murdered. Springing from behind a tree, Levice at three bounds fell upon his victim and dispatched him with his tomahawk. He fell into the fire and pursuers first ate turkey and then went on in their pursuit. Peter had lost a wife before this by the Indians and had recently married. He swore he would have her, if he had to pursue them into Ohio. George Levice's wife was ancient. Peter Levice's wife was sitting awake. Benge was asleep with his hand in her lap. Only one Indian was awake. A bird hovered over Benge's head, fluttered and darted off in the directions of the pursuers. The waking Indian shook Benge and told him there was danger. He grunted but fell back to sleep. The bird repeated its performance. The Indian then waked Benge and told him to "Get up, bad luck, bad luck." Benge rose and climbed a Black Gum tree nearby and got some mistletoe, saying, "I have always gotten mistletoe from this tree when coming to Powell's Valley and have always had good luck." He put it in his shot pouch, and they started. The white men overtook them near Benge's Gap. Mrs. Peter Levice first saw her rescuers and her husband was the first one she saw; he was peeping from behind a tree. He caught her eye and shook his fist at her to keep her quiet. She went only a few steps when she broke away and started toward her husband screaming. Benge made three leaps after her, but seeing his danger turned in retreat. Levice fired at him as he was pursuing his wife but feared lest he would kill his wife. As Benge retreated he bounded from side to side to prevent his pursuers from hitting him. Vinton Hobbs saved his load till Benge would get into the narrow gap and then at a distance of 55 yards he put a ball through his head. Benge had a cup tied to his body, which he clapped over his forehead and it filled with blood and brains; he had a small keg of brandy swung over his shoulder. The white men were so infuriated that they turned the contents of the cup upon the ground and drank the brandy from it. They took three strips of flesh from his back 18 inches long, saying, "These are for razor strops." They put his skull in the cleft of a rock and my mother says she has seen it often. George Levice's wife clenched the Indian to whom she was tied and held his arms. He struck at her with his tomahawk over his shoulders but she had his arms pinioned and he could only use them below the elbows. She would dodge his lick as far as her head was concerned but her collar bone received blows. She held him till her husband came to the rescue and dispatched him. Soon after, she died. A party of white men had gone another route in pursuit of the Indians and they killed all that escaped from this party, save one and he died after reaching home. This was the last Indian raid into that country. My grandfather died about 20 years ago (1878). He was about 90 (88-94) years old. This would place this event late in the last century. (Collins' account is from Beiy (?) Shaw's book in American Pioneers) Collins says 1793 (Scotch?) Bell County.
The Indians had captured a little Negro boy. They had him in one end of a sack and a keg of liquor or brandy in the other end of the sack. When they were attacked they tumbled the sack over the cliff. It struck the top of a spruce pine which softened the fall. After they had settled with the Indians and had started back, they heard the little Negro crying. Going down under the cliff, they found him. When they asked him how he got there he said, "Why they just throwed me over here and didn't care whether they killed me or no."
A man named Wallin, with a squad of seven men, came from Virginia to Harlan County to hunt. Near the mouth of what is now called Wallins in Harlan County, one of the party saw an Indian sitting on a log patching his moccasin, and, raising his trusty rifle, shot him dead. Within two hours the whites were surrounded by Indians and were all shot dead but one man. He escaped to Virginia, and it was seven days before he returned with a party to bury the dead. Each hunter had his dog. These dogs had attacked the bodies of the dead, except Wallin's. His dog lay by the side of his master's corpse and would neither touch it himself nor suffer another to do so. They buried them where they were shot, which was on Laurel Branch, a little above the mouth of Wallin's Branch, at the foot of Pine Mountain. Wallin's Creek got its name in this way.

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