John Jay Dickey Diary - Microfilm Reel #3 - Transcription

pages 1593 - 2556 (963 diary pages)
time period: December 21, 1895 to July 29, 1898

    John Jay Dickey (1842-1934) was a Methodist preacher/teacher. His diary is a wonderful reflection of the day to day life of the people in southeastern Kentucky (Laurel, Clay, Perry, and other SE Kentucky counties) during this period. He was well educated, devoutly religious, and determined to establish schools and churches wherever he went, and he seemed to be very good at it despite all odds! 

    Reel #3  - During this period of the diary he was engaged by Sue Bennett to build the Sue Bennett College in London, Laurel co, Kentucky.  In his diary he details the purchasing of the lots, the hiring of contractors, and the actual construction. One of his comments on the dedication or 'Dirt Breaking' is as follows......

"I borrowed a steel shovel from J. F. Brown’s Hardware Store this morning to use on the occasion. I went into the bank with it and Col. R. M. Jackson, cashier of the bank, asked if he could not have it as a memento. He said he would have it decorated and preserve it. I told him yes, provided he would will it to the school when he was done with it to be hung in the museum. He gladly accepted the terms and gave me the money, 65 cents, to pay Mr. Brown for it. At the close of the ceremonies I delivered it to him. How wonderfully God is leading us. Difficulties, which seemed to men insurmountable, have, one by one, been overcome. An unseen hand is leading us. This has been my only hope from the beginning. I want no other, this is enough. "
    The diary is sprinkled liberally with the names of the residents as he builds his schools and churches and spreads the gospel. Rev. Dickey was himself interested in genealogy and he deliberately sought to record the family histories of the people he met. His diary has provided an enormous wealth of family information that would undoubtedly have been lost without his careful efforts to visit and record as much family history as he could of the people in this area.

    It is evident to the reader that Rev. Dickey was fascinated with the people of the area. He saw it as his mission from God to reach these people and save them from the wickedness that dominates their lives (as he sees it). By the time the Sue Bennett College is finished he has determined that Clay County must be saved at all costs. Referring to Manchester, Clay co, Kentucky, he writes....

"It was agreed the town was so wicked that no one would patronize a school there. If such a state of things existed there, it was of the last importance to the county that such a state of things be changed and the school is the very thing to do the work. I propose to put the school in the town. There are some good sides and trust God will give us one. Clay county is regarded as the richest in minerals, timber, and agricultural resources in the State. Its’ coal is abundant and of the finest quality. Cannel coal is being found in various places. Its’ salt springs have been its source of vast revenue for 100 years until the last ten years. The water is equal to the wells along the Ohio River and with cheap transportation they would still be profitable. There are many intelligent people in the county though the majority are about as the other mountain counties. There is little or no religion among the people. The county has always been noted for wickedness, though the presence of the Garrards and Whites has always given a tone of respectability to the county. Ever since October 1895 when I went to London to establish our school I have been praying and planning for Clay County. I have had it upon my heart and have been planning to visit its people. I thank God I have gotten here at last. Bro. Ragan has been preaching here 3 or 4 years with no visible results. He says the people of the town are more kindly disposed toward religion now than ever before. He says he had never had but one person to claim to be converted since he has known the town and that is Col. D. Y. Lyttle’s youngest daughter. A Godly woman named Callahan, with her two daughters have moved there in the last year and we have a nucleus now around which we can work. I hope to have a man here at once to assist Bro. Ragan and I expect God to do great things for this people. We stayed at Mr. Mike Horton’s last night and dined at Gen. Garrard’s today. We go to the Benge neighborhood this afternoon. I have accomplished all I expect to by this visit. "
    The complete diary is available on microfilm reels at many libraries and genealogy societies across the country and the Kentucky Explorer magazine has published many excerpts over the years.  Microfilm reels can also be requested at LDS centers for viewing. The complete diary is 7 microfilm rolls in total. I have finished transcribing Reel #3 and started the transcription of another reel. Reel #3 is especially noted for it's large content of personal interviews with several families of the area, such as this one....
November 10, 1898, Manchester, Key., John E. Roberts of Clay County, (deponent)

My grandfather, Joseph Roberts came to Clay County from Powell's Valley, Va. My father said that when my grandfather came to Clay County there were only three families on Red Bird, viz. Dillion Asher, John gilbert and Edward Callahan. Mr. Roberts settled near the mouth of Big Creek on main Red Bird. He had children as follows: —Farris, (probably named for John Farris of Laurel who settled first on Red Bird.) Jesse, Thomas, George Washington (father of deponent) born about the time of the Battle of New Orleans and was named in honor of that victory. Betsey (Begley), Rachel Wilson (Sturgeon people), Sookey (Bowling) mother of Elisha and Delaney Bowling of Laurel and Jackson Counties, Chana (Hacker)— wife of Samuel Hacker, the largest man ever in Clay County, (being a great bully), Action (Hacker) wife of Claiborne Hacker, mother of Ulus and Logan Hacker of Terrill's Creek, Jackson Co. also of "Long" John Hacker

Mr. Roberts says further:—Eli Vanover and his wife nee. Nancy Bailey of Harlan live now on Buffalo Creek, Owsley County. He is 95 and his wife about 85, both are active. He visited my house last spring. She told me that James BurkHart, the man who lived in the Sycamore tree in Harlan, lived to be 130 years old. When he was 80 or 90 he planted a walnut tree and said he wanted his coffin made from the wood of that tree and it was done. The body of the tree was split and hewed into boards from which the coffin was made. When he was about 110 years old his gray hair came out like one who had been afflicted with fever and there came in its stead a growth of black hair just like that of a child. About the same time he cut a full set of teeth which were very white and strong and continued so to the day of his death. After this time he would dance like a youth and claimed he was a boy again. Mrs. Vanover was a girl at that time and saw all of this with her own eyes. She was raised near Burkhart. Ad. White, son of James White, and nephew of Hugh White, married Davis Irvine's daughter. He lived at Richmond, Ky. and represented his district in Congress. His brother was Mayor of Huntsville, Alabama, died 8 or 10 years ago."

    Not all names mentioned in the book result from an interview or a discussion of the person's family history. Rather they are mentioned in the day-to-day activities of Rev. Dickey, much the same as if you had kept a diary of your life and recorded what your did and who you met. Thankfully for those of us interested in the people, as well as the history of the period, Rev. Dickey was active, traveled within the area a great deal, and wrote about most of the people he met! While there are people mentioned that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to identify; there are many whose identity can be traced....some easier than others.

    This annotated transcription of the diary is 290 'stuffed-single spaced' pages, very heavily indexed with the hundreds of names mentioned, and includes 314 footnoted annotations concerning the contents of the diary and the people mentioned. (Every name is NOT footnoted or annotated.) I typed the transcription in the 'genealogy style' of showing 'all caps' for surnames (examples given above). If you would like to view the index for the names mentioned in the book, please click here: IndexToTranscription  The book has comb binding for easy reading and stays open nicely when doing research.

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