Editor's Note: We continue our series of interviews taken from Dr. John J. Dickey's famous diary. Dr. Dickey of Fleming County, founder of several schools and churches, traveled throughout Eastern and Central Kentucky some 100 years ago, interviewing older residents. In most cases, he wrote down their very words while compiling a diary of several thousand pages. Each month we include a few lines from this remarkable man's diary, which he kept faithfully for over 50 years.
December 22, 1898
When Garrard was perhaps 75 years old, he
went to Beattyville and proposed marriage to Priscilla McGuire,
a daughter of James McGuire, sister of John G. McGuire's wife,
and half-sister of Mrs. Harvey Lucas, deponent. She was an old
maid, 50 years old. She declined his offer. General White was
a noble specimen of manhood, one of the handsomest of men. He
could primp his mouth and give to his face a peculiar charm.
He was a heavy drinker, but quit later in life.
General Garrard was in the Legislature when
his sister married James White, son of General Hugh White. So
bitter was the feelings between the families that he wrote to
her that he would soon see her go to her grave.
Old Alex White drank heavily. He was the father
of Mrs. Captain Byron. Mrs. James White is still living. She
lives in Richmond, Kentucky. She visits Clay every summer. I
was overseer for several of the Whites. I have known them well.
They were great money makers. I worked for James and Dougherty
My step-father, Pearce Cottongin, used to
steer salt boats. I never did. My grandfather, Richard Lucas,
was a man of great physical power. He was a drummer in the militia.
A man named Butts, from Tennessee, rode 400 miles to whip him.
He rode up to grandfather's saddler shop and called, "Does
drummer Lucas live here?" "Yes, sir," said my
grandfather. "Well, I live in Tennessee, 400 miles from
here, and have come to whip you." "What have I done
to you?" said Grandfather. "Oh, nothing, I am the bully
of Tennessee, and I understand you are the bully of Kentucky;
and if I whip you I will be the bully of the world." "Well,
get down and go in. I keep a hotel, and you can stay with me.
It won't cost you nothing," said Grandfather. "No,
I won't whip a man and live off him too." "Well, it
may not turn out that way," said Grandfather. Mr. Butt went
to another hotel. The next morning, they fought after the manner
of the times, and Grandfather was victorious. The Tennesseean
seemed perfectly satisfied, and he returned to his home. My grandfather,
afterwards, joined the Methodist Church. He was hospitable and
My maternal grandfather was John Cundiff.
My father died when I was six years old. It was about 1821. Grandfather
Cundiff was a loyal friend. He would do anything in his power
for a friend. He was a great power in elections. My uncle, John
Cundiff, killed Eli Bowling. Bowling was a bully, a man of great
power. He led my uncle to old Bill Dincel's house, where old
Millie Henson lived. They had a quarrel about the woman. Bowling
kicked my uncle, a small man. He went away and came back with
a dirk knife, called Bowling to the door, and plunged it into
him. He died in a few minutes. My uncle left the country and
never returned. Uncle Sam Lucas took his wife to him. Eli Bowling
was a bad man. His son, James Bowling, was hunting for my uncle,
John, when he met my grandfather Cundiff. "Jim, put that
gun down. We have gotten rid of two bad men and let the matter
stop." He did so. The Cundiffs of Breathitt County are the
Old George Stivers, a Methodist preacher,
taught school. I went to school to him. He was a man of much
prayer. He held family prayers, night and morning; also, at school.
He said he did not sin. At family prayers, his son, Simeon, put
a pin in the toe of his sock, and while I was kneeling at family
prayer, he stuck it into my body. This made me jump, and I struck
Bro. Stivers. After prayers, the father said, "I will pay
you for that, Simmie," and he did give him a severe thrashing.
This was in Manchester in 1847. I was 29 years old. I went to
school to Milton Pigg, a crippled man. Marshon was a teacher
in the county also.
Eli Bowling was a great rogue. I have heard
him tell of stealing his neighbor's horse, put him in a cave,
fattened him, cut off his tail, trimmed his ears, and led him
to his neighbor's door a few months afterwards; and the owner
did not recognize the horse. He would laugh when he told me.
He told it at a horse race at the old tanyard, which was above
town. He also said he bet a fellow $5 that he could steal his
blanket as they were camping on a hunt, and he got it.
Rev. David Weaver, of Laurel, had family prayers
(Mrs. Burchell told me last Sunday night that Mr. Carnahan was
the only man in Clay County that holds family prayers, as far
as they knew). George O. Barnes told the people, when at Booneville,
where I heard him preach, to come drunk or sober; it would be
all the same, if they only confessed.
Rev. A. D. Collins, who lives on Laurel in
Clay County now, lived then in Owsley. He wanted to turn his
members out, who shook hands or joined Barnes. He is a Missionary
Baptist. I left the church and joined the reformers.
Rev. George Stivers had a large family of
sons, who were the most reckless men ever reared in the county.
Sam Stivers wanted to kill Gen. Garrard. In order to get a chance
at him, he stabbed a man named Fritz (perhaps Fitzgerald), thinking
that Garrard would come to Fritz's defense, and then he could
kill him. Fritz died, and Stivers left the country and never
returned. Gen. Garrard was a man of great physical strength,
a very brave man, and men feared him. He rarely, if ever, had
a fight. He was peaceable himself.
George Stivers, Jr., who lives near town with
his nephew, James Stivers, was seen in his office in the courthouse,
naked and with a woman. The grand jury saw him, but did not indict
him. James Stivers' lawyer, who now lives near this place, killed
his men at Irvine.
Dr. Baker was hung here for killing Daniel
Bates. After his conviction, the jail was strongly guarded to
prevent his friends from rescuing him. Fortifications were built
around the jail, and a guard of 150 men from Madison County,
and 150 from Clay were kept on duty. The friends of Baker let
drop remarks about a cannon that was coming for their use, in
order to intimidate the guard. One night, some bodies built fires,
like a camp, and a demonstration, which caused a stampede among
the Clay County militia. They threw away their guns and ran like
scared dogs. The next morning all that had run were discharged.
It was a ruse of Baker's friends. I was one of the guards. John
Cole was jailer. A party was organized to rescue Baker, but never
made the attempt. Baker was crazy. He was jealous of his wife,
who was as pure as the mother of Jesus. It was his jealously
that caused him to kill Bates.
A man named Bledsoe feared my uncle, John
Lucas. My uncle was inside of a circus tent, and Bledsoe stabbed
him through the cloth, cutting him in the back and about the
bowels. He lived ten years, but was never himself again. Bledsoe
fled the country.
Uncle William was a tanner. The rebels took
him prisoner at Wild Cat Mountain. He said there was terrible
screaming among the rebels. Col. Garrard, the general's father,
was a Southern sympathizer. He told the general's wife that the
rebels would be whipped at Wild Cat. When brother John went to
California, I loaned him $300 and paid $100 debt for him. Gen.
Garrard and John went off together. John paid me.
Barton Potter was a merchant in Manchester,
as far back as I can remember. He was a drinking man, never too
drunk to attend to business; a clever man. He made money, and
he left a large amount to his children.
Dave Walker was the bully of Clay County when
I was a young man, and my uncle, James Cundiff, was almost equal.
James Cundiff was killed by Lewis Stivers, son of Rev. George
Stivers. I think Stivers was insane. He wanted to kill Gen. Garrard.
He was a soldier in Col. Lucas' company when he killed Cundiff.
They were camped in Manchester. Cundiff was in the same company.
Stivers was court-marshalled and shot. Every
ball took effect. Gen. George Morgan was in command. There were
12 soldiers and six guns loaded. I came into town a few minutes
after he was shot.
My grandfather was a bully, a dissipated man.
He whipped James Crum out of his house and cohabited with his
wife, and she had three children by my grandfather. These made
good men and women. Grandmother raised these children. I have
seen him shoot at a candle 60 or 100 yards at a shot. He usually
shot the candle out. Beef shooting was common in those days.
He usually won.
My grandmother was a gentle, pious woman.
She did whatever her husband asked. The Cundiffs, of Breathitt
County, are my cousins. So is the present jailer of Clay. Howard
Redmon killed Dan Price, James Price's brother. It was he who
went to the Virginia caves and committed suicide to escape arrest.
James and Dougherty White each had a great
many slaves. Dough would get on a log or a stump when he whipped
a Negro. The slaves liked James, but did not like Dough. When
I was working for James White, we killed 60 hogs before daylight.
We scalded them in a salt kettle, and handled them with a sweep.
My step-father, Cottingin, gutted them. We were the only white
men at it.