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
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
Clay County, Kentucky
May 9, 1898
I was born in Whitely County, Kentucky, February 21, 1834. My
father was Jesse Wilder. He was born either in Virginia or Kentucky.
It was in 1805, and about the time my grandfather, Sampson Wilder,
emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky. My grandfather had children
as follows: Sampson, John, and Joseph with him. He died in Mississippi.
Sampson was living in Texas the last I heard. Joseph died in
Alabama, and John went to Missouri. We have not heard from him
since the Civil War. Solomon and Jesse lived and died in Whitely
County. There are Wilders in Whitely, but I do not know whence
they sprang. I know they are not from my grandfather. My grandfather
once had a brother, William, who once lived in Whitely County,
but his family was with him. I do not know what became of him.
My father has sisters who had children without being married.
Several were boys and, of course, bore her name. One of them
who came to Corbin a few years ago is a descendant of one.
Ed Wilder of Louisville, the patent medicine man, resembles the
Wilders of our family and no doubt is kin. My grandfather came
to Whitely and owned a farm and kept house by himself. His dog
lived with him, and when the old man died, the dog, which was
shut in the house with him, barked till someone came to the scene.
The Wilders are a small people. I do not know what nationality
My father, Jesse, had children as follows: George Washington,
Elijah, Sampson, William, Jesse, Solomon, Joel, Mary (Prewitt),
Susanna (Jones), Sarah (Judge Harrison), Elizabeth (William Kidd),
and Anne (Haginbot-tom). These all lived in Whitely. Some are
dead. My father lived seven miles below Williamsburg on Jellico
Creek. His house was a preaching place for the Methodists. He
was a religious man. My mother was Sarah Prewitt. She was the
daughter of Elijah Prewitt. He had a brother, John Prewitt, they
were early settlers and reared large families. My grandfather,
Elijah Prewitt, was a class leader in the Methodist Church. His
brother, John, was a strict member of the Methodist Church. They
were all good people. In Whitely County much of the first settlements
were made on the poorest land. The people were afraid to get
near the large streams on account of sickness. They kept away
from the Cumberland and got on to the high table land and ridges.
My ancestors were religious, at least those of their home. My
paternal grandmother was an Adams. My maternal grandmother's
sister married John Prewitt. My maternal grandmother was a Moss.
Dr. Moss of Williamsburg is a different family, I think. His
father was Henry Moss who came from Manchester to clerk for Barton
Potter. He died of drink. Potter had a store in Williamsburg.