Kentucky Genealogy From Dr. John J. Dickey's Diary

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.


Mr. Riggs

June 14, 1898

Last night I stayed at Mr. Peters' house. It rained most of the forenoon. I dined at Matt Morgan's. He is a descendant of a nephew of Gen. Daniel Morgan of the Revolutionary War. He was a jailer of Clay County for 12 years, having succeeded Col. John Lucas, who was jailer for 24 years. He is a sensible man, and has an interesting family. In the afternoon I visited Mr. Caudell, a nice family; Hard Shell Baptists for 16 years from Allegheny County, North Carolina. Also, I visited Mr. Hensley and his wife, a Methodist, and Mr. Hacker, a Baptist.


John Craft's

June 15, 1898

Today, I visited John Greer, whom I received into the church two months ago. He is sick in bed, and has been there 68 days; he is recovering. He said after I left the house the day I baptised him, the Lord came into his heart and, to use his own language, "Gave me what I wanted." Praise God for His wonderous mercy. He is rejoicing in the great salvation. This afternoon I visited old David Benge, 87 or 88 years old; he used to make whiskey and brandy. He is living on the farm, where he was living before he married, with his youngest child, a daughter, with three illegitimate children. She is one of the brightest women I have met in the county, but, here she is, poor and degraded. She was plowing corn, and two of her children hoeing; one is an infant. Her hair is streaked with gray, so she must be over 40 years old. She has two brothers and nine sisters. Her sisters are bright women. Old David has ten sisters and a brother living; remarkable longevity. The youngest is over 60. His grandfather, David Benge, settled first in Madison County, Kentucky, then came to Clay County, herding stock on the range and located here. He left a large offspring in the country, and many have scattered to other states.


Perry Howe's

June 16, 1898

I visited ten families today. Among them two distillers, Elihu Allen and James Benge, son of old David Benge, whom I visited yesterday. Mr. Allen talked very freely about his business, but would not agree to quit unless he could sell his stills, which he was trying to do. He is the father of the infant child mentioned in the former entry. This has made a very serious disturbance in his home life. He has a wife and two children and is not over 40, I should think. He is a very sensible man, but has been reared without God. He asked me to visit his father, who, he said, is a very wicked man. He was very cordial, expressing his appreciation of the interest I manifested in his family, and pressed me to visit him again. I did not see Mr. Benge. I saw only his daughter, Miss Florence, who has been attending school at London the past term with his sister, occupying one of the cottages. She is a splendid young woman and a fine teacher. She bitterly opposed her father and mother in their determination to make whiskey. The parents of both were distillers, hence, it is hard for them to see the evil. They have made 800 gallons this year, and the distillery is still running. These institutions are the curse of the community. Their removal would prove the greatest blessing that could come to it. I visited Lee Bolling's house. It is an old log house standing out in the pasture field with no fence around it, and no garden. The field belongs to Isaac Cornett, another distiller in the neighborhood, who has made 800 gallons of whiskey this year. There was almost no furniture in the house; a stove, table, and two beds. This young woman, with two babies and another in prospect, sits here, alone day in and day out with nothing to do, very little to eat or wear, while her husband drinks up much of his hard savings; though enriching these distillers. She says she sometimes has the presence of God. She wept while I prayed and talked freely of her condition. God help.


Wyatt's Chapel

George Wyatt's

June 17, 1898

I left Perry Howe's this morning for this place in hopes of meeting Rev. W. B. Ragan. I wanted to see about the Leslie part of my work, as I want it set off to itself, and I want to arrange for building a church on Cutshin. One of the distillers whom I visited yesterday, Elihu Allen, asked me to visit his father, who he said was a wicked man, 75 years old, and in bad health. He lives near this place, so I used the opportunity to see him today. He said his father had been baptized in infancy, and that he had lived a just and generous life. He had attended church, and often felt happy under the services, but that he would get off into bad company and do wrong. I exhorted him, taught him, expounded the scriptures to him, and prayed with him. His parents were Methodists, his wife a devoted Methodist. She said she never saw Methodists immerse in Washington County, Tennessee, where she was raised, but she had seen it here.

The effect of pious training was evident in the character of the old man. Had he been as religious as his father, his son would have never been a distiller. No training is so important as that during the first years of life. The die is already cast. Parentage is highest, holiest, and heavenliest of all relationships. No work is so great as bearing and raising children. The child will live while God lives, and it is for the parent to decide, largely, whether that existence will be in heaven or hell.

It is sad to look at the ashes of Wyatt's Chapel. Bro. Ragan and the people here labored so hard to build it. God so signally blessed their efforts and gave His endorsements by saving so many souls in it, that one feels regretful in looking at the ruin. But, God thus permits them an opportunity to do another great work, so that they may have a double reward and double honor.


Manchester, Kentucky

June 18, 1898

I left George Wyatt's this morning, and arrived here this afternoon at four o'clock. Dined at Mrs. Anderson's. As I passed Potter's Chapel, the only Methodist Church in the county and is seven miles from here, it occurred to me that as the Methodist people abandoned it, it might be my duty to take it up. After arriving at home this afternoon, Rev. Isaac Brigman, a local preacher of the Methodist Church, and son-in-law of Rev. William Wyatt, who built the church and organized the class, came to my room and asked me to go to the place and organize a Southern Methodist Church. It is rather a striking coincidence. May God make my pathway plain. Several other members have asked me to come there and preach, and Bro. Brigman said that his brother-in-law, Dr. Wyatt, a local preacher in the Methodist Church, had been talking of asking me to go there and organize a church. May God bless me with light. I found in the mail tonight that the Millersburg Deposit Bank would collect a note of $407, which I have been owing them for four or five years, it being for money advanced by Dr. Stitt and Mr. Allen, cashiers, for payment of premiums on my life insurance. The company has agreed to lend me the money so, praise God, I will be allowed to meet the obligation.

Judge Brown closed court today. He transferred the cases of John Baker, D. Baker, and Tom Baker to Barbourville, and sent the prisoners there without bail. He also transferred James Howard's case to Laurel Circuit Court, and sent him there without bail. D. and Tom Baker are indicted for the murder of William White, and Jim Howard, for the murder of George Baker.

The town is quiet. Tonight, about dark, a Negro man named James Collins was shot and killed in town, on the town branch. I could not learn how it occurred. The devil seems to be having his way.


Manchester, Kentucky

June 19, 1898

I awoke very sick with a headache. I sent a note to Rev. Mr. Ray, a young Baptist minister to fill my pulpit, but he excused himself as being sick too. I preached, however, though very weak. Had Sunday School at 2:30, and no church at night. Stayed all night at Capt. Holman's. The man who was killed last night was buried today.


Judge White's Clay County

June 20, 1898

I was in town a few hours this afternoon. Dined at Dr. Burchell's. Tom Baker and D. Baker, for killing William White, are in the Barbourville jail. They went away Thursday, in charge of soldiers, in irons. John Baker also, went with them for the crime. James Howard was taken to the London jail by the sheriff Saturday. Soldiers did not return from Barbourville. Col. Forrester sent a telegraph to Gov. Bradley for permission to return home, and it was granted. Judge Brown was surprised that they did not return. Col. was not pleased with some of Judge Brown's treatment. Quiet reigns.

Jim Fish Philpot, Millard Philpot, and James Fisher, cousins of the Philpot's, are charged with killing Collins. They surrendered today.

Judge White has a lovely home and a nice family, but is killing himself drinking whiskey. He is an elegant gentleman, bright, manly, and noble; how sad. He once joined our church. His wife is a good woman. She tried hard to train her children right, and supports the church liberally.