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.

John E. Roberts, Deponent,
November 10, 1898
Manchester, Kentucky

My grandfather, Joseph Roberts, came to Clay County from Powell's Valley, Virginia. My father said that when my grandfather came to Clay County there were only three families on Red Bird, viz. Dillion Asher, John Gilbert, and Edward Callahan. Mr. Roberts settled near the mouth of Big Creek on main Red Bird. He had children as follows: Farris (probably named for John Farris of Laurel who settled first on Red Bird), Jesse, Thomas, George Washington (father of deponent) born about the time of the Battle of New Orleans and was named in honor of that victory, Betsey (Begley), Rachel Wilson (Sturgeon people), Sookey (Bowling), mother of Elisha and Delaney Bowling of Laurel and Jackson Counties, Chana (Hacker), wife of Samuel Hacker, the largest man ever in Clay County, being a great bully, Action (Hacker), wife of Clairborne Hacker, mother of Ulus and Logan Hacker of Terrill's Creek, Jackson County, also "Long" John Hacker. Mr. Roberts says further: Eli Vanover and his wife, Nancy Bailey, of Harlan lives now on Buffalo Creek, Owsley County. He is 95, and his wife about 85, both active. He visited my house last spring. She told me that James Burkhart, the man who lived in the Sycamore tree in Harlan, lived to be 130 years old. When he was 80 or 90 he planted a walnut tree and said he wanted his coffin made from the wood of that tree, and it was done. The body of the tree was split and hewed into boards from which the coffin was made. When he was about 110 years old his gray hair came out like one who was afflicted with fever and there came instead a growth of black hair just like that of a child. About the same time he cut a full set of teeth which were very white and strong and continued so to the day of his death. After this he would dance like a youth and claimed he was a boy again. Mrs. Vanover was a girl at that time and saw with her own eyes. She was reared near Burkhart. Adam White, son of James White, the nephew of Hugh White, married Davis Irvine's daughter. He lived at Richmond, Kentucky. He represented his district in Congress. His brother was Mayor of Huntsville, Alabama, and died eight or ten years ago.

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