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
March 19, 1898
I was born in Lee County, Virginia, March 26, 1827. My father
was William Hughes. He was born in Washington County, Virginia,
in about 1794. He was a soldier in the War of 1812. He enlisted
when he was 18 years old. He was in Colonel Sharp's regiment.
Colonel Sharp lived and died near Jonesville, Virginia. Andrew
Bailey came to Harlan County, and his descendants are scattered
through the mountains of Kentucky.
One of the early settlers of Lee County, Virginia, was Joseph
Coger. He is the grandfather of Fayette Rawlings' wife. He was
a doctor. He was a strong man. Jack Coger, his son, was a good
man. He was the father of the Rawlings, and he lived on Wallen's
Creek, Lee County, Virginia. He removed to Sexton's Creek, Clay
County, before the war, about 1854.
Winston Huff, my wife's father, was born in Lee County, also.
His father, James Huff, was born in Ireland. He was one of the
first settlers in Lee County. There were Indians then. James
Huff was active as a leader in defending the settlers. He was
Sheriff, a member of the Legislature, and a member of Congress.
Winston Huff was named for William Winston, who was the friend
of James Huff when either in Congress or the Legislature.
My grandfather was Isaac Hughes. He was born in Ireland. He
married Alcey White, sister of General Hugh White. My father-in-law
gave his wife a Negro man. She gave him for 10,000 acres of land
on the waters of the North Fork of Powell's River nine miles
from Jonesville. It extended to Yokum's Station.
James Huff was in the company that killed Benge. He lived to
be 102 years old. My grandfather lived and died on ? land. It
was valuable land. He gave each of his children a farm. His descendants
lived in Tennessee and Missouri. His son, Eli Hughes, was Circuit
Clerk of St. Louis, a very wealthy man.
I left Virginia soon after I married. My wife lived in Harlan.
My father-in-law, Winston Huff, bought a farm on Sexton's Creek
and gave it to us and we located on it December 27, 1857. Millard
Hughes, our son, was born September 18, 1858. He is now evangelizing
in the Southern Meth-odist Church.
John McDaniel Benge
March 14, 1898
I was born in Perry County, March 13, 1825. My father, John
McDaniel, was born in Buckingham County, Virginia. He came to
Kentucky before he was married. He had ten children. Reuben,
Thomas, Keziah, Mary, and Jesse are dead. Elizabeth (Robinson),
Tilah, Nancy (Robinson), myself, and William, who lived in Barboursville,
My great-grandfather came from Ireland. His son, Thomas, was
my grandfather. He was a deaf mute.
My mother, Judah Cornett, was the daughter of Nathaniel Cornett.
He lived in Perry County. His brother, Roger Cornett, lived at
Benge. My uncle, Robin Cornett, kept the toll gate which stood
just east of where James Benge now lives. It was kept by Elijah
McWhorter at the foot of McWhorter Hill previous to that time.
I think the gate was discontinued about or during the war.
In 1852 I took Bob Potter to Mt. Vernon to school. We paid toll
at a storehouse some six to ten miles this side of Mt. Vernon,
kept by a man named Smith. There were many horse wagons that
came to Goose Creek from Louisville when I was a boy, loaded
with goods and went back with salt. Robin Cornett would buy things
from these wagoners for people who would leave money with him
for that purpose. When the K. C. R. R. reached Lexington, it
killed the salt trade from Central Kentucky. One was hardly out
of sight of wagons those days. When I worked at General White's
about 1843 there were 12 furnaces in operation on Goose Creek,
and salt was selling at 35 cents a bushel. The following people
owned or operated furnaces at that time: Alex White above the
mouth of Buzzard; Adam White of Abingdon at the mouth of Buzzard;
Daniel Bates above Hortons on the west side of the creek; General
White at the forks of Goose Creek; T. T. Garrard, where it now
stands, built in 1832; Daughterty and James White on the main
Goose Creek above the forks; Frank and William White on the same
fork; Racener at D. Y. Lyttle's Ford below Manchester; someone
near where Garrison now lives at the Ford of Little Goose Creek,
and Frank Clark at the mouth of Red Bird, making ten. Previous
to that time there was a furnace at Ford of Little Goose west
of Manchester on the Burning Springs Road between James Love's
house and the ford. There was once a furnace just above town
at the mouth of Tanyard Branch. James Bowling was drowned in
the deep well near it, called ___ McHone Hole. I worked there
for three months for General White. I heard Daugh White say in
speech when running against T. T. Garrard for the Lower House
that he had eaten clabber out of a dish, sitting on the floor,
around which were gathered his brothers and sisters, each of
whom would take a spoon in turn as it was passed from one to
the other. (I suppose this was a little demagoguery to win votes
as T. T. Garrard was born rich. J. J. D.)
Water below five degrees is too weak to be profitable; over
12 degrees it was not good owing to "bitter water"
in it. It would also make kale salt. Nine degrees is the best
heat for salt. The deeper the wells were bored the stronger the
brine. There was a furnace six miles above the mouth of Buzzard.
In 1846 Daugh White beat T. T. Garrard 175 votes for Representative.
The next race he beat him 25 votes. They then agreed to make
the race no more. I saw Dick Wyatt hung for killing another Negro.
I saw James Cottingin hung for killing Sam Chessaut. I did not
see Dr. Baker hung. I started to see Bill Baker hung for killing
Frank Prewett, but a woman died and I had to make her coffin,
so I could not go. I did not see Callahan and Begley hung at
Barboursville for killing Newberry. Callahan was the son of Ned
Callahan, the old settler. They killed him for his money and
got 25 cents. Newberry was a cattle buyer. The murder was committed
at Red Bird at Newberry Hill.
Robin Cornett and his uncle, Roger Cornett, married Charlotte
and Zilpah Callahan, respectively, sisters of the man who was
hung. Old Ned Callahan died at Roger Cornett's, as did his wife.
Old Ned Callahan put on his shot pouch every morning as long
as he lived. He would set his gun by his side. He owned Negroes.
He would go out and build a fire and sleep all night in pretty
weather as he did in the days of hunting.