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
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
Clay County, Kentucky
May 9, 1898
I was born in Whitley County, Kentucky, February 21, 1834. My
father was Jesse Wilder. He was born either in Virginia or Kentucky.
It was in 1805 and about the time my grandfather, Sampson Wilder,
emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky. My grandfather had children
as follows: Solomon, Jesse, Sampson, John, and Joseph. My grandfather
removed to Alabama and took his three sons, Sampson, John, and
Joseph, with him. He died in Mississippi.
Sampson was living in Texas the last I heard. Joseph died in
Alabama, and John went to Missouri. We have not heard from him
since the Civil War. Solomon and Jesse lived and died in Whitley
County. There are Wilders in Whitley, but I do not know whence
they sprang. I know they are not from my grandfather. My grandfather
once had a brother, William, who once lived in Whitley County,
but his family was not with him. I do not know what became of
him. My father had a sister who had children without being married.
Several were boys and of course bore her name. One of them came
to Corbin a few years ago.
Ed Wilder of Louisville, the patent medicine man, resembled
the Wilders of our family and no doubt are kin. My grandfather
came to Whitley and owned a farm and kept house by himself. His
dog lived with him, and when the old man died the dog, which
was shut in the house with him, barked till someone came to the
scene. The Wilders are a small people. I do not know what nationality
My father, Jesse, had children as follows: George Washington,
Elijah, Sampson, William, Jesse, Solomon, Joel, Mary (Prewitt),
Susanna (Jones), Sarah (Judge Harrison), Elizabeth (William Kidd),
and Ann (Haginbottom). These all lived in Whitley. Some are dead.
My father lived seven miles below Williamsburg on Jellico Creek.
His house was a preaching place for the Methodists. He was a
religious man. My mother was Sarah Prewitt. She was the daughter
of Elijah Prewitt. He had a brother, John Prewitt. They were
early settlers and reared large families. My grandfather, Elijah
Prewitt, was a class leader in the Metho-dist Church. His brother,
John, was a strict member of the Methodist Church. They were
all good people. In Whitley County much of the first settlements
were made on the poorest land. The people were afraid to get
near the large streams on account of sickness. They kept away
from the Cumberland and got on to the high table land and ridges.
My paternal grandmother was an Adams. My maternal grandmother's
sister married John Prewitt. My maternal grandmother was a Moss.
Dr. Moss of Williamsburg is a different stock, I think. His father
was Henry Moss, who came from Manchester to clerk for Barton
Potter. He died of drink. Potter had a store in Williamsburg.
Lewis Renfro, who lived at the Ford of the Cumberland, was a
Baptist preacher. Others who lived there were the Campbells,
Perkins, Whites, Finleys, Silers, Tyes, Mackeys, Boyds, Davises,
Stephenses, Gillises, Craigs, Kings, Gatliffs, and Dutch Snyders.
The first Methodist preachers I remember were Wilton Pyles, Jesse
Locke, John L. Gregg, Hubbard Kavanaugh, Ely, John Burnett; these
were before the war. After, there was Demsy Perkins, who organized
the Methodist Episcopal Church, and her preachers have served
ever since. I moved to Laurel County after the war, and the first
preacher was Rev. William Wyatt. He served two years. He was
a strong preacher. Others have been McDaniel, Travis, Judd, Bullock,
Ingram, and Anthony.