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 S. Melton
Hyden, Kentucky
April 23, 1898

I was born in Johnson County, Indiana, May 1, 1834. My father was Terry H. Melton. He was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, 17??. My grandfather lived and died in Knoxville. I do not know where he was born. My grandmother was Polly Pollard. Both Melton and Pollard are Irish. I have heard my father say so. I do not know when my ancestors came to America. My mother was Sallie Templeton. She was born in North Carolina on New River, Ashe County. Her father, James Templeton, was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He was English. His father came from England. He died on Bad Creek, Leslie County, aged 105 years, ca. 1859. His wife died first at the age of 109. She was 13 years his senior. My mother lived to be 96. My youngest aunt lived to be 96 also. My father served in the War of 1812. In 1914 he came to Harlan, now Leslie County, Kentucky, and married. I have the record. He had seven children. All are living in this county, except one who died. I was elected Assessor of Perry County in 1866. I was chosen as the first County Clerk of Leslie County in 1877. I got 81 votes more than all of my opponents. James Duff was chosen Sheriff, but failed to give bond, and Mac Napier was appointed in his stead.
John Hyden came to my father's home on Wooton's Creek on Cutshin in June 1853. He had $60 worth of dry goods and notions which he carried on two small horses. He was accompanied by Ferguson. Each had a horse. The bundles were small. He opened his goods in a small round log storehouse, in which my father and old James Dixon had sold goods. He exchanged his goods for hides, bear and deer furs, ginseng, and other produce as feathers, beeswax, etc.; and transferred them 80 miles to Jonesville, Virginia, on horseback. Ferguson would go to Jonesville with the produce and return loaded with goods. He prospered greatly. He remained at my father's home for two years. He then married Elizabeth McIntosh and removed to the mouth of McIntosh's Creek. He then took in James L. McIntosh, his brother-in-law, as partner and enlarged his business. He went to Maysville for his goods and brought them from Clay's Ferry in canoes and freight boats. These were made in Cutshin, loaded with produce, and taken down to Clay's Ferry. I have gone on many a trip with them. Later, he went into partnership with Joseph Eversole, father of Capt. William Eversole. They were not together long. He sold out and moved to Sexton's Creek, Clay County. I pushed the boat down Middle Fork and up South Fork to the mouth of Sexton's. His wife was in very delicate health.
He was a man of fair complexion, had blue eyes, and weighed about 175 pounds. He was a fine-looking man and would be easily taken for a man of force among 1,000 men. He was very industrious, economical, had no bad habits, was the soul of humor, fair, just, and equitable in all his dealings. I have worked for him a great deal, had dealings with him in various ways, and always found him true to the principles of a high standard of manhood. He was very prosperous and popular as was clearly shown by his election to the Senate in 1877 without opposition in a Republican District while he was a Democrat. He was ambitious, held himself up among the first class of people. He would have liked to go to Congress. He amassed considerable wealth. I knew his father, John Hyden. He used to visit his son at my father's. He spent a winter there. They called him Jack. I also knew his brother, Wilson. Old John was poor but a high-minded man. He said he had a poor mountain farm in Lee County, Virginia, on which he reared his family.


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