Genealogy From Dr. John J. Dickey's Diary

Number 63 In A Series

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.


Wooton, Kentucky

July 23, 1898

I reached here at noon. I prayed very earnestly last night that God would enable me to reach my appointment today though my horse is lame. He answered my prayer. The horse was no worse, and I think a little better after getting warmed up. He brought me here in four hours; it was 11 miles distance. I walked over two large mountains, which exhausted me somewhat. I should think I walked 1 1/2 or 2 miles. But, I got a nap and my dinner at Dan Baker's, where I am staying tonight, and I put my horse in the pasture borrowing Mr. Baker's to ride to my appointment two miles up the creek. When I reached the schoolhouse, not a soul was present, though I was eight minutes late, having stopped to see a dying man. I prayed and began to sing, "A charge to keep I have," and before it ended two came in. I began to preach, and by the time I closed 13 were present. God helped me to preach. Praise God for his good providence in bringing me safely to this point and in giving me health and strength in spite of my labors. My soul exults in the Lord!


Hyden, Kentucky

July 24, 1898

I preached this morning to a good house at the schoolhouse near the mouth of Wooton's Creek. I went to Reuben Maggard's for dinner. Got a nap, horse fed, and had company of L. D. Lewis, lawyer to Hyden. Preached at 4:00 p. m. to 20 people at our church, announced services for tomorrow at 4:00 p. m. and 7:30 p. m. Took supper at Bige Eversole's and went to the Presbyterian Church and heard Rev. Mr. Walton on Elijah, "What art thou doing here, Elijah?" I slept at the Lewises. Bro. Walton had hardly 20 hearers, though the moon shined and the weather was good. The people are dead in trespasses and sins. I doubt if one is converted, though the Presbyterians have baptized, perhaps, 70 and tell them they are Christians. They do not know the first step to salvation, viz, repentance. I have seen 500 people taken into the Presbyterian Church in my lifetime, and I have never yet heard a word said to a candidate about repentance. He is never asked to give up his sins even in preaching. A man is told to accept Christ, and his righteousness is to be imputed though he goes on to sin. I have seen the work of the Presbyterian Church in these mountains for 12 or 14 years, and I have seen no permanent improvement in the morals of the people where they have dominated the community. It is a sad comment on the work of a church that pours out its money like water for the benefit of these people, yet only helps them to better manners and higher culture. I want to see more fruit than this where I labor. If men are not saved, if lives are not improved, then is the Gospel preached in vain? The Gospel is for the salvation of the world. This means a great deal more than education, culture, or mere morality. It is not to be expected that men will be lifted out of their sins by a Gospel that teaches them that they are bound to live in sin all the days of their lives, committing sin "every day in word, thought, and deed." I praise God that I find something better for them in the Bible than this, and I preach it to them, too.

Since coming here I learned that John Baker and Frank Clark were shot and killed at the mouth of Horse Creek in Clay County, Kentucky, on the 20th just as they were going to Gen. Garrard's from Al Baker's in Manchester. It was just a little after dark. One of the coroner's jury said Baker had 32 bullet holes in him and Clark 11. They were literally riddled. After the first fire there was a short silence, then it began again and continued for some time. There was a third man with them, Dick McCollum. He says there were three of the assassins. After the first fire they ran on their victims and dispatched them. John Baker has been charged with all manner of crimes though he is a young man, inside of 25 years. He has a wife and one or two children. His father, Garrard Baker, a relative of George Baker, and his sons were assassinated when John was only ten years old. He swore then that he would avenge his father's death when he was old enough. A man named Wilson was charged with the crime. A few years ago, Wilson was waylaid and killed, and John was tried for the crime and acquitted. Wilson had been tried and acquitted, also.

Last winter, the residence of Wilson's widow was burnt. Baker was indicted for stealing meat, but was acquitted. He seems to be one of those men so numerous in the mountains who could always prove himself innocent. But, nemesis had followed him, overtaken him, and has been avenged upon him.

Frank Clark was a Negro who had been consorting with the Bakers and Garrards. His assassination was incidental. He was with John Baker and had to be killed to conceal the crime. Gen. Garrard had bailed Baker out of the Barbourville jail about three weeks before this happened and a few days before Gilbert Garrard was shot at. A young man who lives in Manchester, young Brittain, said to me here this morning that Garrard had Baker bailed out for a purpose. I knew the Whites would take that view of it and so expressed myself when I heard it. Brittain sympathizes with the Whites. Gilbert Garrard and wife have fled the country. The Whites and the Garrards had "sown to the wind, and they are reaping the whirlwind."

Clay County is having a baptism of fire. No doubt more will be killed. Several of the Bakers will be convicted of murder in the courts and will be either hung or sentenced to life imprisonment. The slayers of John Baker and Frank Clark may be apprehended and punished and those who attempted to assassinate Gilbert Garrard.

After the war is over there is prospect of permanent peace. God hastens the day in His own way. The county will yet blossom as a garden. Oh, for grace and wisdom to do my part in the great revival that is coming. Lord, I am at thy disposal, use me as thou see fit. The venom and spleen that have controlled the lives of so many of the county's people must need have its legitimate results. The history of the Jews is being repeated in the history of nations, peoples, communities, and individuals. God opens our eyes to see these things, and Oh, God, make me an Elijah to reprove, rebuke, and if need be, suffer also.


Hyden, Kentucky

July 25, 1898

I have rested and worked today. Bro. Walton said to me sometime ago that he would like to know whether or not we would occupy Wooton's Creek and would wait till I could see Bro. Ragan or the authorities. I told him I would let him know after the District Conference. I learned at Wooton's Creek Sunday that Dr. McDonald had told the people there last Sunday, the 17th, that if they would put the lumber on the ground he would build a church there. I was surprised at this after my conversation with Bro. Walton. I spoke to Bro. Walton about it today, and he was embarrassed. He told me tonight that he had written to Dr. McDonald to write to Bro. Ragan about the matter. I am in God's hands in this and every other affair. What He does will please me. I confess that this mountain work is a perpetual puzzle and a heavy burden to me all the time and has been for 15 years. Praise God the end will come.


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