Below are several excerpts from the Diaries of Reverend John J. Dickey,
a traveling Methodist minister who roamed southeastern Kentucky
in the late 1800's in search of converts. Reverend Dickey
was also a bit of an anthropologist and made a point of writing
down the interviews he conducted with many of the elderly
of the area. Their accounts recall the early days of the first
Kentucky settlers and are quite colorful. They bring to life
the language of the time, as well as the time itself, and
reveal much about the attitudes and behavior of the people
- our people!
Most of the interviews are strictly in the voice of the person being interviewed with occasional comments from Reverend Dickey found in brackets [ ]. However, this first piece is special as it is Dickey in his own words expressing his thoughts about the people and the community he has become a part of.
Trip to Leslie County
June 1, 1898
By John J. Dickey
I have just returned from a trip of 13 days to Leslie County. It included a fifth Sunday, which enabled me thus to protract my stay. The Lord sustained me with grace, health and strength for my trials and labors. The work in Leslie County is very discouraging. At Hyden, the county seat, we have a church building which was the first erected in the county, but we have never kept a man in the county, so that we have done practically nothing towards the building up a congregation. I sent Rev. Brother Lancaster there in 1893 or 1894, while he was pastor at Jackson, and he held a successful meeting; getting into the church the most influential people of the town, but they have died or drifted away from us till we have scarcely anything left.
The people need our preaching and help. The Presbyterians are not getting the people saved, but simply getting them into church. The county is large and more than they can cultivate. I have been preaching on Cutshin, at the mouth of Wooton's Creek, with a view to building at that point and establishing a church. It is one of the most lawless neighborhoods in the mountains, although there are many good citizens. There are 109 scholars in the district school, and it is a good place to build up a graded school. I have been trying to get the trustees to let me furnish them a teacher, but have not succeeded yet in getting them to do so. I hope for Christian teachers. The money of the state will support them, and they can do so much to mold sentiment and toward bringing the children to Christ.
I have had this view in building and funding schools at Jackson and London, but also, I do not see the results I have labored for. The faculties do not get the students saved. That is the great mistake they are making. Culture is not enough. I will pray for London. Oh, that that school may be a school of Christ. How we need converted teachers.
During my stay in Hyden, I visited the people. I do not feel like any place there is home. During this visit one man, Henry Lewis, told me to make his house my home; I trust he meant it. All received me kindly, but there is a lack of cordiality that makes one feel uncomfortable. But I endure it all for the sake of Christ, who endured such contradiction of sinners for my sake.
I visited the county jail, and held services twice. Monday morning last, I went to Wooton's Creek again to see further about the school at that place. During my stay, Emanuel Wooton received an appointment to raise a company for the Cuban War from the governor. He got it the 27th and the 31st; he led 46 men. Then young men in the county were enlisting very fast. Some married men were volunteering also.
The creeks are full of timber. They have had no tides yet in Leslie County, and very little in Clay. In the two counties there are 80, 000 logs ready for market, worth $240,000 or at least $200,000.
The young corn is very vigorous in the bottoms and on the hillsides men, women and children are cultivating it. I hardly past a field that did not have women in it, where work was being done. The people have an abundance of corn this year. This staple is worth little more than last year, and there are thousands of bushels in this county, and plenty in Leslie County to do the people.
The people are strong in intellect considering their lack of culture. The children are both handsome and bright. The young people make a much more attractive appearance than in former years. They have more money, more knowledge of what other parts of the world are doing, and have a greater desire to keep up with the customs and fashions of the world. As I rode up Cutshin Creek, last Monday morning, I passed eight or ten men playing cards, on the roadside. They paid no attention to me. Two games were being played. They had coats or blankets spread on the ground on which to play. I rebuked them in a mild way and passed on. The same day I visited Harrison Napier, a merchant who is a trustee of the Wooton's Creek School, to see him about furnishing a teacher. He is nearly 44 years old. He introduced me to his wife, who, he informed me, has passed her 14th birthday since they married five weeks ago. She is a mere child in every way with no conception of the responsibility of her situation. He has grandchildren. He killed a man a few years ago, whose wife's affections he had alienated. I could tell from his conversation that he was very impure in his life. Yet, he is a very bright man, one of the best salesmen in this section.
Rev. Apperson Sizemore, our local preacher in Leslie County, started to Wooton's Creek Saturday and Sunday, but he became offended at something before we reached our destination, and returned home. I did not know he was going or was offended until I heard of his retreating. Well, I thank God that he kept me in good fellowship and love with everyone. He is a very useful man, and I trust his usefulness will continue.
There are a number of Baptist and Campbellite preachers in Leslie County. I found one Sunday School outside of Hyden, conducted by some Baptists, at the mouth of Short Creek, one and one-half miles up the river from Hyden. If there are others in the county I am not informed. Praise God for the privilege of working in such a destitute field.
Andrew Combs Hazard [Perry Co], Kentucky. April 26, 1898 (J. J. Dickey Diary, Reel #3,
pp. 2267-2273, transcribed by Darlene Sizemore and Phyllis Hefelfinger.)
I was born in 1806. My grandfather lived at the Long Islands of Holston River, a good while. He and my father went there several times. My grandfather married Nancy Grigsby. I have been at the Long Islands of Holston myself. My mother was a sickly women and I went back for medicine. I took my mother to Salt Creek, Indiana to see her mother, Mrs. Hicks. I am a brother of John S. Combs who lives on this creek. I knew that General Leslie Combs was kin to us but I do not know whether he was Uncle William's son or not. I saw my uncle William often. He used to come from about Lexington to see us. My Grandfather Nicholas Combs came first. He built a cabin and left his wife and went back for provisions etc.
I think Sam Cornett was the oldest of the Cornett's. My grandfather was detained on his first trip back to (the) Long Island of Holston and he feared his wife would starve or die before he could get back but when he came up to the point of the mouth of Carr, he helloed and she answered him. His heart leaped with joy at the response. the deer were all about the cabin but she did not know how to shoot. The women were not marksmen. I knew my mother to kill bear and deer. the old Combs' were property plenty. They owned slaves. They went back to Tennessee. I crossed New River when I went to the seashore. I think old Thomas Grigsby came out with my grandfather; he was his brother-in-law, brother of my grandmother. Old Mason Combs married a terrible women. Martin Combs was his son, on Carr; also Preston on Middle Fork and Bony at Booneville. the Indians used to scout through the settlement and do devilment. My wife was Polly Feltner, they were Dutch people. My wife is four years my junior. She has a brother on Lot's Creek called Jacob Feltner, pretty well preserved. The Feltners came from Tennessee. They were here when I was born. I was born in this county. My mother was a Sumner. They came from the Long Islands of Holston. There is a island in the river a mile or two long, just below Bluntsville. I am pretty certain my father married in this state. My brother, Mose was the eldest child. He was a man grown when I was a boy.
My wife had brothers and sisters as follows:
William, Henry, Rebecca (OSBORNE) in Indiana, and Jacob. My father in law died and is burried at the Squire Nick Combs, place near L.D. Combs. She had a sister Nancy, married a Richie. Old Richard Smith married Nancy Combs, my aunt. He was a Baptist preacher. He would drink liquor and fight. He whipped a bully and got his nose and ear bitten off. He was a blacksmith. He could not be whipped. I have traveled a great deal. I got my eyes hurt in a fight when on the road to Indiana. A fellow imposed on my brother and I whipped him. The Dr. told me my eye would fail when I was old and now the sight is gone. I have had many fights but not on my own account.
I never was whipped. Some of the old Combs' belonged to the
church. My father did. He made a great deal of liquor. My
grandfather and he were great workers, never stopped. They
both got well off. My father made money making flat boats
and selling to Clay's Ferry to boat tobacco to New Orleans.
He sold one for $200.The Combs' were usually tall. My father
was called "Chunky" Jerry. He was like the Grigsbys. He had
$10,000 worth of land in Perry County when he died. He had
land all over the county. My grandfather was the richest of
all the Combs'. All had negros and a great deal of property.
My father used to boat coal to Clay's Ferry. I remember when
they began to boat coal from here. It was when I was a boy.
I remember when he took empty boats down. I am not certain
but I think my father Jerry Combs, took the first boat load
of coal down the river. I remember when they began to take
timber off on rafts. They took walnut first. John Amy(Amis),
Sam Davidson, old Billy Strong, the preacher, the Begleys,
and others were involved in the 'cattle war' the middle forkers
got the worst of it. Old Gilbert was with Amy(Amis) he rode
up amongst the Grapevine boys. Some of the Sizemores
were in it. Callahans and Davidsons came from Clay to help
the Grapevine boys. Amy(Amis) was an overbearing man. Joel
Elkins set his gun behind the door of the Court House and
at the picked time shot Amy(Amis). 1807.
They called William Combs of Fayette, "OLD BUCKERY". They said he was doing well. He was a farmer. I have been to his house in Fayette. My grandfather was a wild man, would fight in a minute but was very kind hearted. Old General Combs sent a negro man to bury a negro of his own who had died in a swamp below Squire Nicks burying ground. He had laid down on a log in a swamp and fell off dead. His little dog was lying between his shoulders when he found him. General (Elijah) told the negro to put a chain about the dead negros neck and drag him out and dig a hole and put him in it. My grandfather (Nicholas Combs) found it out and was about to thrash the negro for doing such a thing. They both carried (it) (him) to the graveyard and buried (him) in a coffin. General and grandfather had some hard words about it. General did not care for such treatment of others nor did he fear anybody, but my grandfather was too strong for him. The Feltners came from Long Islands of Holston but came later then my grandfather but not much. I have seen old General Elijah Combs at muster in his regimentals. I have been sick nine month but have had no physician. I have no confidence in the doctors we have. Then I thought I was old and must soon die and it was no use to try. I am in a peculiar condition. I do not believe anybody could do me any good.
Rebecca Maggard Boggs Combs
Hazard, KY. 4/26/1898, (Excerpts from the Dickey Diary - Dec. 30, 1895 to July 1, 1898, Microfiche No. 0157071, J. J. Dickey Diary, Reel #3, pp 2261-3)
I was born in 1821 in Harlan County, Kentucky on the Poor Fork. My father was
Samuel Maggard. He was born in Rockbridge, Co., PA. He was
Dutch. My mother was Rebecca Robertson. They had 12 children
to live to be grown. The children were: John, Susannah, Henry,
Rudolph, David, Mgt (sic), Sarah, James, Moses, Samuel, Rebecca
& Elizabeth. Susanna married Henry Back related to the Breathitt
Backs. Mgt (sic) married Jesse Adams, Sarah married Samuel
Caudill, Elizabeth a Creech. He was killed in the war. My
father and mother were members of the old Baptist Church so
were all my bros and sis. John was the father of Samuel, Reuben
or Rudolph Maggard of Leslie Co. My parents died on the Poor
Fork; six or eight miles from its source. My husband's name
was Abel Boggs He was raised on Callahoun Creek, Lee County,
Virginia, a mile from the Powell's River.
I was married to Mr. Boggs when I was 15 years old. We had four children. Jesse who lives at Hazard; Silas lives at Troublesome, a Baptist preacher; Elizabeth (Huff) who lives on the head of the Ball in Knott Co; Susanna who married Wm. Amburgey and lives in Montgomery Co. KY. I married John S. Combs Nov 1875.
John S. Combs
Hazard, Ky. 4/26/1898. (Excerpts from the Dickey Diary - Dec. 30, 1895 to July 1, 1898, Microfiche No. 0157071, J.J. Dickey Diary, Reel #3, pp. 2262-5)
I was born in Perry County 7/25/1819. My father was Jeremiah Combs. He was born in N.C. or Va. My grandfather was Nicholas Combs. He was born in Va or New River, N.C. He lived and died near where L.D. Combs now lives in Perry County. He came to Kentucky early in the settlement of Kentucky. There was a large company came together: Mason, George, Nicholas, W, Jeremiah, Henry, Elijah Combs. There was one other who made it. Yes, Henry was his name. Mason was the oldest. I have seen none of these Uncles. Henry moved to Indiana; Wm moved to Bluegrass. I do not know whether or not General Leslie Combs was kin to us but I suppose he was a son of my Uncle Wm. Combs as they both lived in that section of the state. Uncle Wm moved to the Bluegrass before I was born. My father died Jan 1853, 73 years old. This would place his birth in 1780. He was not grown when he came here. I often heard my father & mother say that the Combs' came from Jamestown, Va to North Carolina. My father had two brothers: Samuel who lives or lived at Booneville, the father of Wiley Combs & Nicholas, the father of Lorenzo, one sister who married John Williams who died on Troublesome.
My mother was Synthia Sumner. Her father was Samuel Sumner who was killed by the Sheriff for resisting arrest either in N.C. or Ky. My mother came with the company to Ky. Her brother, John, came also. He moved to Indiana but some of his children returned and live in Letcher and Perry. My grandmother Sumner married a Hicks and went to Indiana and raised a family.
Two of my uncles Hicks lived on the Ozark Mts in the edge of Arkansas, when I was there. Nicholas Combs, my grandfather, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Several of his brothers were in the same war. I can't tell which ones were in the war, they may all have been in it.
Old Wm Cornett came with my uncles to Ky; also Richard Smith, great grandfather of "Bad" Tom Smith. He settled on Troublesome.
I have heard my mother tell often of the killing of Benge, the renegade. She saw the Indians and told of one fellow hiding in the loft and falling through while the Indians were cooking below and scaring them away.
Mason Combs, my uncle, had children as follows: Martin, lived on Carr's Fork; Preston, lived in Breathitt on the Middle Fork, Cyry is son; Washington lived below mouth of Carr on North Fork; Talton Combs at the mouth of Carr; Clinton still lived at the mouth of Carr, very old; Boneparte lived at Booneville.
George Combs had children as follows: Claiborne lived in Owsley, Henry dead.
Elijah lived in Perry. He was General of the Militia. He had sons: Jesse, Elijah, and Jackson. Josiah Combs was killed by Joe Adkins was the son of Jesse. Jesse was Clerk of Perry first and as long as he lived and his grandson, Ira Davidson, succeeded him. I have seen him (Gen. Elijah) in his regimentals commanding at the muster. He (Jesse) was killed by the explosion of a keg of powder in Shade Duff's store in Hazard. Someone snuffed a candle and accidentally threw the snuff in the keg of powder under the counter. Duff was son-in-law of Combs. Both Duff and Combs were killed. Duff was killed instantly. Combs lay a good while.
Henry (Harry) Combs had children as follows: Henry, lived in Big Creek; Matthew lived on Troublesome in Breathitt, father of Wm. M. Combs of Breathitt and Isaac of Wolfe; also George on Troublesome in Perry. Henry moved to Indiana. Old George married a HERALD.
I do not know when the Combs' came to Kentucky, but I know it was in the 1700's.
My grandfather Nicholas Combs lived to be 101 or 2 or 3 years old. He is buried near L. D. Combs. I was grown when he died. I was married, just married, had no children (He looked at his Bible. J.J.D.) was Feb.28,1838. I bought his dog irons at his sale to go housekeeping.
The old Sizemores used to come to my father's to get liquor. They would drink and fight.
Elijah Combs Cornett
Hazard, KY., April 27, 1898. (John Jay Dickey Diary, pp. 149-50 of transcription by Darlene Sizemore and Phyllis Hefelfinger, abstracted by Researcher Barbara Stacy Mathews)
"I was born Perry Co, Ky., March 22, 1822. My father was Robert Cornett. My mother was Louisa Combs, daughter of Gen. Elijah Combs. My grandfather Cornett's name was William. He and his brother, Samuel Cornett came with him. He lost his wife before coming here. Woolery Eversole married a daughter of his first wife and John Caudell of Letcher also. His second wife was an Everidge, William Cornett came from Buncombe Co., NC. He emigrated to Virginia when his wife died. He had children as follows: Nathaniel, Roger, Joseph, Archibald, Robert, Mrs. Woolery Eversole, Jeff who moved to Indiana, Jackson County, also Samuel Who died where Hindman now stands, Rachel who married John Caudell. General Combs first built a cabin on the hill back of Hazard. In 1800 he built the old log house which still stands in the upper end of Hazard. Samuel Cornett, brother of my grandfather settled on Line Fork, now Letcher County. His descendants live mostly in Letcher and Harlan... Alex Combs, son of Squire Nick Combs, brother of L. D. Combs took the first raft... I think the Cornetts came from Holston River to Kentucky. Mason and George Combs died with the fever the same year about the time I was born. General Leslie Combs was a kinsman of my grandfather Elijah Combs: also Dr. Combs of Winchester also Wirt Combs at the mouth of Howard's Creek below Boonesboro at Comb's Ferry. I do not know what kind of kin they are to us. I suppose he was descended from William Combs of Fayette. Gen. Leslie Combs built the towers at Kentucky River. He wore a hunting shirt at a great political meeting at Cumberland Gap in which three States were represented, my grandfather Elijah Combs was there..."
John D. White
[date and location missing] (John Jay Dickey Diary, Page 2289 of original manuscript, page 156 of transcription by Darlene Sizemore and Phyllis Hefelfinger, abstracted by Researcher Barbara Stacy Mathews)
Mason Combs was the original Combs in the mountains. he settled on a high hill below the mouth of Carr's Fork, on opposite side. Mace's Creek was named for him and is really Mason's Creek. His brother's Danger Combs and Gen. Elijah Combs came later. He laid out a patent about the mouth of Mace's Creek making his beginning corner a "mill seat" upon which a mill was never built until two years ago by one of the Halls.
A family named Leslie now lives at the mouth of Line Fork, Letcher County. Old General Leslie Combs was of this stock.
Matilda Duff Lewis
Hyden [Leslie Co], Ky., May 1898. (Dr. John J. Dickey Diary, Fleming County, Ky. Recorded in the 1870's and beyond. Reprinted in Kentucky Explorer, Volume 10, No 1 May, 1995. pp. 80-81.)
My father was Rev. Daniel Duff, born in Guilford County, N.C. in 1776. His
father was Shadrick Duff. He was killed in the Revolutionary
War. His wife was Deborah Dickson, did not survive him. Shadrick
Duff's father was born in Ireland. He was Scotch-Irish. The
Dicksons were Irish also. My father spoke (used) broken English.
My father used to call Mrs Sparks his old Irish aunt. My father
had a sister, Elizabeth, who married Mr. McLean. They settled
in Green County, Tenn. and reared a large family. I saw two
of the sons at my father's once. My mother was Nancy Ann Ellison.
My parents were married in Guilford County. Her father was
Welsh. Soon after my father and mother married they came to
Lee County, Va. There were Duffs living there. Robin Duff
of that county was a very wealthy man. They were related to
While they [Daniel & Nancy Ann Ellison Duff] lived in Lee County several children were born to them. Their oldest child was Henry, he was born in 1798. John was born in 1801. In 1818 my parents removed to Perry County, Kentucky, and settled on the North Fork of the Kentucky River about two miles above the mouth of Grapevine Creek. He [Daniel] was a Baptist Minister. Attending a meeting of some kind in Harlan County, he met with Rev. Jesse Bolling who lived on the North Fork and becoming attached to him, made a visit to his home. This led to his removal to Kentucky and Perry County.
My father's children were: Henry, John, Shadrick and Martha who married William Bowman and moved to Iowa. They reared a family.
Deborah, who married William Bolling and reared a large family on Middle Fork about Perry and Breathitt line.
Mary married a Shepherd and moved to Missouri;
Colson who married Elizabeth Gilbert of Virginia. These Gilberts moved to Sandy Country, where Thomas Gilbert, the father died.
Drusilla married William Gilbert, brother of Elizabeth. They moved to Illinois about the close of the war. They lived in Carter county up to that time.
Alexander married Miss Holly or Holyfield. He is a carpenter and lived in Breathitt.
Margaret who married John Hays of Breathitt and moved to Wolfe County where she died. She was living at last account. [sic] She raised a large family.
I am the next and youngest. I was born in 1825. I married John Lewis in 1859. Our children: Drusilla Lewis, wife of Theo Lewis, and Henry Lewis with whom I live and one who died are my children. These are all.
My father died in 1855 in Carter County, my mother in Perry County in 1849. My father then went to his daughters in Carter County where he married a Mrs. Ellen ROE. He only lived a short time after this.
I went to school to David FEE. He was a smart man, a good teacher and highly respected. He taught near my home. When my father moved to Kentucky he came horseback. They came down Red Bird and up Cutshin. There were no wagon roads. They stayed all night at John Gilberts. I knew old William Strong, he too, was a Baptist preacher. He married Jane Callahan, the daughter of Edward Callahan, of Red Bird. Several of her brothers lived on the North Fork and it was they who were engaged in the "Cattle War." John AMIS, the leader of the other side, was a brother-in-law of John Gilbert, they having married sisters ... Bollings. The names of Callahans were William and Isaac, nicknamed "Pike" and it seems to me there was a third. Old Samuel Davidson married a Callahan, sister to Mrs. Strong, and he was in the war.
Rev. William Strong was a Baptist preacher. He had children as follows; Edward, Isaac, Alexander and William. William married a Deaton, sister of the old legislator. Edward married a Spencer; his children were: Capt. William Strong, Mrs. Alfred Marcum, Mrs. John Little and Mrs. Henry Duff, also Robert Strong who died young leaving a few children; also Judge Alex Strong of Lee County, Kentucky. William had children as follows; Judge Edward Strong of Lost Creek known as "Red Ned;" Mrs. William Cope (Tom Cope's father) and Mrs. Wiley Cope, of Big Branch. Isaac had a son, William. Alexander married Miss Wilson, had several children, one the wife of George Baker of Clay County, also Daniel Strong of Laurel County.
John Spencer was an early settler of Grapevine. I think he came from Virginia. He had a large family. I think William Spencer of Breathitt who married Miss Brittain was a relative of his. Joseph Spencer was one of his sons. John Spencer who married John Duff's daughter was a son of Joseph Spencer.
My brother, John Duff married Mary, the daughter of General Elijah Combs.
He had children as follows:
Sarah Jane Davidson,
Henry Duff who married Mahala Strong, daughter of Edward and sister of Capt. Bill Strong;
Elijah, married Mary Eversole, daughter of old Billy Eversole lives in Owsley, father of Miss Mary Duff;
Shadrick Duff married Mary Combs, granddaughters of Gen. Combs. They raised a family;
Louisa, wife of John Spencer;
Nancy, wife of Major John Eversole, mother of Joseph and Harry, George, John and Claude Eversole;
Orleana, wife of Adam Campbell, they reared a family;
Mary wife of Anderson Eversole who moved to Kansas, a brother of Abner and Capt. Billy Eversole.
John Duff, my brother, was the first surveyor in Perry County. He was county judge of Perry in his old days. He had an arm amputated when he was in the 70's. He died in 1892, age 91. He left a fine estate at the mouth of Grapevine. His wife survives him.
Old Miss Effie Moore, raised one child, Allen Moore. She was a good woman, raised her child well, never had any other. Allen married Margaret Lewis, sister of my husband. They had a large family of children; Daniel James, William, who was killed in Jackson, some left the country; Drusilla married James White, parents of Miss Mary White. They were two of the old Davidsons, Samuel who married Callahan above given and who moved to Missouri; and Robert who lived in Breathitt.
Shadrick Duff, my brother was killed by the explosion of a keg of gun powder in a store room in Hazard when a young man. He snuffed a candle and threw the snuff into a keg of power, accidentally. He and my brother James were in partnership in the goods business. We lived in Hazard at the time. [My brother] John was in the south with a drove of horses at that time and did not hear the calamity till he reached home. His wife told him of it, before he got off his horse, whereupon he went to the grave and stuck his riding switch in the fresh dirt. It grew to be a tree and stands there today.
Margaret Combs Lewis
Hyden, KY, May 30, 1898. (Dr. John J. Dickey Diary, Fleming County, Ky. Recorded in the 1870's and beyond. Reprinted in Kentucky Explorer, Vol 10, Number 2, June, 1995. pp. 81-82)
I was born in Perry County, Kentucky in 1820 or 1822.
My father was Nicholas Combs. He was a son of Nicholas Combs, one of the original eight brothers who settled in Perry County from Holston River, Virginia.
My grandfather John Combs, my mother's father, was a Revolutionary soldier, I am certain of that. One of his brothers was also a soldier in the Revolutionary War. I think it was Washington. I was nearly grown when my grandfather, Nicholas Combs, died in 1837 or 1838. He settled near where L. D. Combs now lives and there lived and died. My father, Nicholas Combs, told me that when grandfather first came to Perry he went to Carr to get some wheat to sow from old William Cornett. He had no wheat but half a bushel of rye which my grandfather brought home. My grandfather sowed it and when the grain was in the milk they washed it and cooked it, so scarce was bread stuff.
My grandfather, Nicholas Combs,* had only five children, viz. Nicholas, Jeremiah and Semund [sic]. Rebecca married a Williams and Licia married a Smith.
Granville and Lorenzo Combs are my brothers and still live below Hazard.
My mother was Elizabeth Combs, daughter of John Combs and one of the original eight Combs in Perry. He first settled in Lincoln County near Danville and later came to Perry and settled on Carr's Fork. He moved to Owsley County and lived a number of years and then went to Lincoln or Boyle County where two of his daughters lived and there died. These daughters never came to the mountains. They married before their father moved to the mountains. One of them married Joseph Good, two of their sons from about Danville were in Perry once buying cattle. They were prosperous men. Another daughter married James Hundley and they removed to Perry with my grandfather, John Combs. They had two sons, Harry (Henry) Hundley and Samuel Hundley. Harry (Henry) Hundley married a sister of Judge Josiah Combs of Perry. Kenneth Hundley, son of Sam, married Miss Mattingly, sister of Judge Josiah Combs' wife. My grandfather, John Combs, had a daughter named Dicie who married a Spencer and removed to Illinois. This Spencer was related to the Spencers on Grapevine. Another daughter, Margaret died single. My grandfather, John Combs, had sons: Hardin, Benjamin and John, called Jack. Hardin lived and died in Breathitt on Middle Fork at the mouth of Buck Creek. My sister married his son, Hardin. She still lives there. Benjamin lived and died on Turkey Creek, Breathitt County. Jack lived in Owsley on Cow Creek. I think the Combs came from North Carolina to Holston River. Meredith Combs of Clay County is a son of my uncle John or Jack Combs.
William M. Combs
Jackson, Breathitt Co, KY, July 19, 1898. (Excerpts from the Dickey Diary - Dec. 30, 1895 to July 1, 1898, Microfiche No. 0157071, P. 2411). (Combs Note: Interview 1 of 3)
Henry Combs was my grandfather. He married Rachael Clements before he came to Kentucky. They had children as follows: Matthew (my father), Henry, George, James, Stephen and Frank; Bettie, Polly and Winnie. Bettie married Jerry Combs; Winnie married John Miller; Polly, Downey Stacy. My grandfather moved to Indiana about 1837 or 1838. He visited KY about 1848. He reared a large family by his second wife, Phoebe Francis. George died in Perry on Troublesome. His descendents are still there. Henry married Nancy Brown in New River, NC and reared a family on Big Creek, Perry County. Frank married Bettie Oliver first, second Polly Couch, lived and died in Perry. Stephen lived and died in Breathitt. My father married Frankie Brown on New River, (sister to) my Aunt Nancy Brown (who was married to Henry Combs). His children were: Aaron, Alfred, Matthew, Henry, Richard, Isaac B., Wm. M., Nathan, Rachel. Aaron married Ruth Dickerson; Alfred, Peggy Noble; Matthew, Sallie Williams; Henry, Tempie Davis; Richard, Polly BACK; Isaac B., Louvisa McIntyre; Wm. M., Jane Combs, daughter of Washington and grandaughter of Mason Combs, one of the original Combs'; Nathan married Miss Cline of Arkansas and is still living there. Rachael married Isaac Back. Alfred and Henry lived and died on Troublesome in Breathitt. Aaron and Matthew lived and died in Missouri; Richard in Montgomery Co., Ky. Isaac B., in Wolfe County, Ky., Rachael on Quicksand, Breathitt Co., Ky.
William M. Combs
1898, Breathitt County, KY. (Dr. John J. Dickey Diary, Fleming County, Ky. Recorded in the 1870's and beyond. Reprinted in Kentucky Explorer, Volume 11, No 2 June, 1996, p. 82.) (Combs Note: Interview 2 of 3)
I was personally acquainted with General Leslie Combs. I met him in Frankfort in 1862, July. Dr. Rodman knocked him down. Combs called Rodman a God-d------ traitor. Leslie swore he could cut out a better General with a broad ax out of a buckeye than the General who was commanding at Flafort??? [sic] (Frankfort). Leslie told me we are all kin. I do not know how close, but it was distant. He had two brothers who were not much. Leslie was the boy Captain during the War of 1812. He carried a man off the battle field, and when Leslie broke (?), this man set him up in business.
Nickolson Combs was called "Danger" Combs; his son, Nickolson, was called "Birdeye;" he was Peggy Lewis' father. General Leslie Combs was Clerk of the Court of Appeals after the Civil War.
At a Methodist meeting at the mouth of Lot's Creek, the preachers were slapping the mourners on the back and telling them to pray on, saying, "We have the devil down. Let's keep him down." Old General Elijah Combs was present and ... (Interview ends here without any warning.)
William M Combs
Jackson [Breathitt Co], Kentucky, July 19, 1898. (Dr. John J. Dickey Diary, Fleming County, Ky. Recorded in the 1870's and beyond. Reprinted in Kentucky Explorer, Vol 10, Number 10, April, 1996. p. 85.) (Combs Note: Interview 3 of 3)
Reverend Nixon Covey, a local Methodist preacher, taught school in the Cut Off at Jackson in 1844. I went to school to him in 1844. He is the grandfather of the Barnetts.
Reverend Carlisle Babbitt was an early circuit rider. He reproved Nathan Noble for cooking on Sunday. Next time, he gave him cold bread. Babbitt asked for the warm bread which Noble had cooked for himself, but he did not get it. His wife, Aunt Jennie, was a member of the Methodist Church. Babbitt preached on Lost Creek and Troublesome. It was old Mrs. Allen who told him where to find his sheep. It was at a log rolling; Mrs. Allen was there. He stopped. Mrs. Allen was a little tipsy and asked him his business. "I am hunting lost sheep (of Israel)." "I say that is your ram at old Bill (Jake) Noble's."
Some say she said, "Ill be d--ned." I went to school to a circuit rider in the old Baptist church on Troublesome. Reverend Richard Smith married Malissie Combs, an ancestor of Bad Tom Smith.
Napoleon Bonaparte Combs
Jackson [Breathitt Co], Kentucky, July 19, 1898. (Dr. John J. Dickey Diary, Fleming County, Ky. Recorded in the 1870's and beyond. Reprinted in Kentucky Explorer, Vol 10, Number 10, April, 1996. p. 85.)
I was born in Perry County, Kentucky, in 1808. All I know about my age is that I voted for General Jackson. I think it was his second election for I only voted for him once.* My father was Mason Combs. My mother was Jennie Richeson or Richardson. He and seven brothers came. William Combs, my uncle, went to Fayette County. He was at my mother's after my father died and wanted to take me to his home to raise. My father had 11 children, 5 girls and 6 boys. I am the youngest. The girls were born first. Willie, the youngest daughter, was born in Kentucky. There are seven children, at least, born after the Combs' came to Kentucky, and the youngest was born in 1808. The surveyor (?) books are good authorities. John Duff was the first surveyor I knew. I think the Combs' are Irish. Stephen JETT told me that he stayed all night at my father's when he moved to Kentucky. My father took up all the land that he could in his own name, and then he took some up in his daughter, Willie's, name. He owned six miles up Carr, also up and down the North Fork. He had land in Tennessee. He left his land on the Holston. He said there were Indians in Kentucky, and if he could not live here, he would have his own land to which to go back. He never sold it. He had plenty here and did not need it.
I married Miss Susan Isom. My father-in-law said he used to carry his own gun while plowing, but I do not know that there were Indians here. The Isoms must have come about as early as the Combs'. I moved first to Breathitt about fifty years ago and then to Owsley seven years later. General Leslie Combs, of Lexington, was a cousin of my father's. I have always understood it. One of my nephews named his son for him. So did Hardin Combs of the Middle Fork, Breathitt. Old Leslie told Wiley Combs, my son-in-law, "Never deny your name. It is as good a name as there is in this world." He always claimed kin to us."
Coon Creek, Leslie County, KY, Jan. 17, 1898. (John Jay Dickey Diary, p. 2138, extracted from Clay Co KY Rootsweb Archives)
I was born in Perry county, KY, Feb. 3, 1814 on Leatherwood Creek. My father's
name was Archibal Cornett. He was born in East Tennessee on
either Little or Big Moccasin. His father's name was James
Cornett who came to Perry County, KY. When my father was a
boy 7 to 10 years old. My father was 84 years old when he
died in 1873. This would make the coming of the Cornetts to
KY from 1796 to 1799. My grandfather was married twice, once
to a GILLAM, once an EVEREDGE. He had children as follows:
Nathaniel, Samuel, Roger, Archibald, William, John, Robert,
Lucy (Woolery Eversole), Elizabeth (Campbell) Nancy (Samuel
Combs), Archibald, my father, married Judy McDaniel; Robert
(a Combs), Roger, Charlotte (Callahan).
Jason Walker Bolling
Benge [Clay Co], Kentucky, June 15, 1898. Dr. John J. Dickey Diary, Fleming County, Ky. Recorded in the 1870's and beyond. Reprinted in Kentucky Explorer, Volume 10, No 4 - September, 1995. p. 86)
My great grandfather, Jesse Bolling, came to Kentucky in 1810. My grandfather, Elijah Bolling was born at the Three Forks of Powell River in Lee Co., Virginia in 1798, and when he was 12 years old his father removed to Perry Co., Ky. Daniel Duff baptized by great-grandfather, Elijah Bolling. Rev. Andrew Baker baptized by great-grandfather at Blackwater Church, now Hawkins County, Tenn. My great-great grandfather was Major John Bolling. He had 19 sons. I do not know that there were any daughters. One of these sons, William Bolling married Martha Jefferson, sister of Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States. Other sons were, Jesse, above mentioned, Benjamin the oldest born in 1752 or 3. Jesse was born 1765. Roberta the wife of U. S. Senator Archibald Dixon, was the daughter of Dilaney Bolling of Missouri and the granddaughter of Major John Bolling, aforesaid. Gov. John Young Brown'S wife was a daughter of Archibald Dixon. (Roger Cornett, son of the original William Cornett built the house where Hamp Coldiron lives, in 1802, he married Zilpha Callahan. This makes the date of the Cornett'S coming to Kentucky 1796-1799 probable. Men from Crug's Ferry at mouth of Sexton were at the raising. ROGER Cornett was into slaves and land. He owned the Coleman Survey, patented in 1783 of 5,600 acres.)
There are some Bollings in western Kentucky. One went to Congress some years
ago, perhaps 1870 or 1872. The first Bolling who came to America
was Colonel Robert Bolling of London, England. I think old
Cava Baker made the rhyme on the "Cattle War," I have always
heard it that way. Old Julius Bob Baker and William Neal were
in St. Clair's defeat. Baker held a Major's Commission. They
are both buried at Buffalo, Owsley, County. Neal requested
to be buried beside Baker. John Gilbert and John AMIS married
sisters of James Bowling [sic]. From Eli, John (grandfather
of Judge Josiah Combs'S wife), Christopher, William, Joseph,
Nancy (Sizemore) another sister of these,
have descended most of the Bollings in Clay County. Jesse
Bolling, my great grandfather married Mary Pennington of Lee
County, Va. He was born in North Carolina at Hillsboro. His
father was born in Virginia. David Pennington , her brother,
was living during the War of the Rebellion. My grandfather,
Elijah Bolling stayed with him in Lee Co. during the late
war. Jesse Bolling had ten children as follows: Hannah married
Huff; Mary married Abram Barger; Justice married ??; John
married Polly Lewis; Jesse married Lewis for his second wife;
William married a daughter of Daniel Duff; Elijah married
Roberts; George married Lewis; a daughter married Joseph Spencer;
Betsey married Abel Pennington ; another married Maggard;
another died single. A. P. Hill and Basil Duke married sisters
of John Morgan. His mother was the daughter of John Hunt,
the first millionaire in Kentucky. Dr. Foster of Kentucky
was reared by Mrs. Hunt.
Manchester [Clay Co], Ky April 13, 1898 (Excerpted from Dickey Diary, pages 2238-2243 from reel 3, transcribed by Researcher Leslie Gunter for Combs Researcher Debi Kendricks).
"I acted as U. S. Deputy Marshal after the war. I arrested , perhaps more moon-shiners than any other man that ever served in the mountains. I caught several on the Middle Fork. Among them was Bill Combs. I took him to Wash Combs' and when we got him to the house he lay down and died. He had got a lick on his head by a falling tree which had fractured his skull. I suppose that the excitement caused his death. There were about 30 of us in the party. We hitched our horses at the foot of the mountain and went far up the hill and captured a still. It was an awful cold night, the hill was icy. I turned the still loose and it went down the mound makin fearful bounds and it reached the base of the mountain where our horses were hitched. Every one of them broke loose and we had a fearful time capturing them."
Robert N. Baker
(Excerpted from Dickey Diary, pages 2238-2243 from reel 3, pp. 2277-8.
"The following old people are now living in Perry County; Polly Duff, Chavies up in 90; Felix Stacey, Asawam, in 80; James Fields, Avawam, in 80; Clinton Combs, Hazard about 90; James Campbell, Hazard, 76; Elijak [Elijah Combs] Cornett, Hazard 76; Ira Couch, Avawam 75; (76?) (ds) Jesse Barger (Middle Fork) Gay's Creek, 90; Campbell Johnson (Middle Fork) Gay's Creek, 90; Granville Combs, Hazard in 70; Old Bill Stacey, Hazard, 90; Andrew Combs, Hazard, 92; Old Ann Begley was a YORL, mouth of Hell - for - Sartain, almost 100; her son Henry Begley is good authority on a branch 2 miles below Cutshin. John J. Godsey, Sassafrass in 80; his wife a Combs, a Duff also lives. Old man Joe Wilder died when I was almost 10 years old, 1866, 107 years old lacking a few days; was a Revolutionary soldier. His son Ewell Wilder still lives either in Clay or Owsley in the Buffalo Country. Mrs. Martha Moore, Pad Napier's mother though young, is remarkably well posted, Hazard, 60; Isaac Baker, Hazard, 1844, but don't remember. Calvin Shepherd, moved to Leslie, McIntosh's Creek, 80; Eli Combs, Wooton's Creek in 60's but posted. Old man Huff, Middle Fork is living, very old."
D. Y. Lyttle
"Sam Cornett, the progenitor of the people of that name in the mountains came from Scott County, Virginia to Harlan County, Kentucky, and removed from there to Line Fork in Perry County. Also General Lige Combs, the progenitor of the large family of Combs', could neither read nor write, but was a man of great intellect and force of character. He owned a great deal of land in Perry County. His son, Jesse, was the first clerk in Perry County. General, when asked by a woman in Frankfort how old he was, replied, "Madam, I have lived long enough to eat 500 bushels of hominy." (Dr. John J. Dickey Diary, Fleming County, Ky. Recorded in the 1870's and beyond. Reprinted in Kentucky Explorer, Volume 11, No.10, April, 1997, p. 80. By permission. Perry County. From Kentucky Biographies (Combs entry not indexed) http://www.starbase21.com/kybiog/perry/cornett.s.txt)
Copyright 1999, Combs &c. Research Group, http://www.combs-families.org/~combs/index.htm
July 12, 1898
I was born Feb. 25, 1815, in Clay County, Kentucky.
My father was John Gilbert. He was born in N.C. His brother-in-law Stewart
was in the Revolutionary War. My father had Stewart's discharge when he
died. He brought (bought) it with the expectation of getting a pension on
it. Some attorney wrote proposing to work it up and I sent the paper to
him but never got it back. My father's father was in the Revolutionary War.
Jarvis Jackson, I think or some other Jackson from London came to my
father's and wrote a sketch of his life. I do not know what became of it.
I have heard my father say often that he was a youth when the Revolutionary
War was on. He claimed to be 111 years old when he died. He was the first
settler in Clay County. He came as a trapper, hunting beaver. He caught the
beaver at the mouth of Long Creek where there was a dam. His brother Felix
and William Hudson came to Clay County a little later. He gave them both
land. I do not know when he came to Kentucky. My father lived near Cumberland Gap in Tennessee before he came to Kentucky.
When my father came to Clay County
there was plenty of buffalo, elk and deer. He went to Richmond to get his
license to marry. His wife was Mary Bolling. She had brothers:
Eli, John, William, Levi; sister Nancy (John Sizemore).
Her son, William Sizemore, lived with my father. He gave him a farm on
Middle Fork on Rockhouse Creek. His brother, John Sizemore,
assessed Clay County many times.
My father had 11 children, only five reached majority.
My oldest sister ---- [blank] married Andrew McRoberts,
a farmer of Knox Co., but born and raised in Lincoln. She had one child,
a daughter who married Silas Woodson, his first wife. She had one chld,
a son, who died when a young man. I was elected to the Senate in 1860 to
fill the unexpired term of --- [blank]. I voted against Kentucky seceding
and for this my house was burned during the war. I removed then to Clay's
Ferry, in Fayette County. I rented the ferry. The rebels burnt my boat and
it cost me $300 to build a new one. I tried to get Congress to pay me for
my boat but could not. A Union officer stationed at Richmond ordered me to
build a new boat and he pressed one above me at Comb's Ferry till I got one
built. The Union authorities refused to pay regular rates for ferriage which
reduced my bill $4800. I ferried all night once, putting a regiment of Union
soldiers over. I could carry 25 men and horses at once. The river was out of
the banks, drift running. I paid $1205 a year for the ferry part of the
time and $1600 part of the time. The Union soldiers killed a desperate Negro
on the ferry boat. He had robbed and stolen, searched women, etc. A man
called from the Madison side one day, it was raining. I told the ferrymen to
wait till the shower was over. The man swam the river though it was very
high. He said the Rebels were coming, that he had dispatches, that six men
had drowned and he would report me for refusing to carry him over. I was
alarmed. Dough White of Clay County came over the next day. He said no
Rebels were coming, that doubtless the fellow had stolen something and was
escaping justice and the story of drowned men was a fabrication. I have
never heard of him anymore. I served two terms as door keeper of the Senate,
one term while I lived in Fayette County. I afterwards (later) served a term
in the Lower House from Clay, Owsley and Estill. Brashears of Perry opposed
me in my race for the Senate. My cousin, Asa Gilbert, Democrat, opposed me
in the last race. Red Bird was killed by some hunters below the mouth of Big
Creek and thrown into a hole of water. I do not know whether my father
helped bury him or not. I have heard my father talk about Red Bird but I do
not remember anything definitely now. There was no justification for the
murder of Red Bird. The hunters quarreled with him about furs and killed him
out of greed. He had an Indian with him, called Jack, who escaped.
June 23, 1898
My grandfather, Dillon Asher, came from Tennessee to Ford of Cumberlands
in 1800, moved to Red Bird. His wife was Sally Davis. Their children:
Blevins, Robert, John, Ira (Roberts), "Pug" (Henry Sizemore).
There were others, I do not remember them. By Miss Davis, his wife's sister,
he had children that took the name of Asher as follows:
Jackson, Wilkerson, and Joshia who still lives and I think, Preston Asher
was their brother. Bige, Matt, Jackson, Hugh, Tom and Dillon Asher are sons
of Jackson. These are the men that have become so wealthy. All are worth
more than Bige and he is probably worth 25,000 dollars. Jack, said to be
worth $300,000, Matt, $200,000, Tom lives at Masiota, worth $300,000.
Hugh lives at Pineville, also Jack, though they have houses near Lexington.
Matt, Jack and Hugh were famous lumbermen who started booming logs on
the Kentucky River at Ford; they made big money. Their sisters are
Mrs. Martha Morgan; Charity Howard; Puss,
Bige Morgan of Sexton; Polly Gibson.
JOHN E. ROBERTS
November 10, 1898
My grandfather, Joseph Roberts, came to Clay County from Powell's Valley,
Virginia. My father said that when my grandfather came to Clay County,
there were only three families on Red Bird, viz, Dillon 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 County, also "Long" John Hacker.
Mr. Roberts says further: "Eli Vanover and his wife, Nancy Bailey, of
Harlan live now on Buffalo Creek, Owsley County. He is 95, and his wife is
about 85, both 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 over 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 hairs came out like one
who was 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 he would dance like a youth and claimed he was a boy
again. Mrs. Vanover was a girl at that time and saw this with her own
eyes. She was raised near Burkhart. Ad. White, son of James White,
married Davis Irvine's daughter. He lived at Richmond, Kentucky. He
represented his district in Congress. His brother was mayor of Huntsville,
Alabama, died about eight or ten years ago.
JOHN W. CULTON
of Clay County, KY
"The Asher Family"
I marked the first sawed log above the Cumberland Falls. This was in 1874.
There being no railway crossing the Cumberland River above the falls, rafts
could not be taken over the falls hence there was no market for the timber.
The Southern Pump Company built a boom below the mouth of Rockcastle
River, caught the timber, rafted it, and took it to Nashville. The Indian
Lumber Company was interested in the boom as they also bought logs. In 1875
or 1876 an ice tide swept the boom away breaking the companies and crippling
me. A boom between Barbourville and Pineville had been built. Here logs
were caught and at a certain stages of water, were turned loose. The ice
tide swept this away also. The ice piled up to 45 feet high. The breaking
away was like the firing of artillery. If the boom had not given away the
whole country would have been inundated. The first timber I marketed was
walnut. I bought walnut trees 45 inches in diamater for $2.00 apiece. I cut
thousands of walnut logs on the banks and islands of the river which did
not have to be touched but were floated away by the rising tide. Walnut and
poplar were the only kinds of timber taken out at that time. This ended the
floating of timber till the L&N was built to Williamsburg about 1892.
The Ashers have been great factors in the development of the timber industry
in the mountains. Chief among these have been the Asher brothers, sons of
Jackson D. Asher, who lived and died on the head of Red Bird. These sons
are named as follows: George Mattison, Thomas J., Andrew Jackson, Hugh L.,
and Abijah B. They were raised barefoot. Their father was a money-maker, by
saving. He raised stock, loaned his money, then began the lumber business
by putting small lots of logs from the wood into the Cumberland River on
contracts. Each year he put in more logs. Matt and Jack went to California.
They returned, and they all went in together. Their father helped them, and
then other brothers joined them. They soon became the lumber kings of the
mountains. When Mr. Huntington built the K.C.R.A. from Paris to Livingstone
[sic], with his keen perception he saw that the crossing of the road at Ford
on the Kentucky River made the best mill site in the mountains, four of the
brothers, (Matt, Tom, Jack and Hugh), formed the Asher Lumber Company
there, created mills, put in a boom, bought large tracts of timber on the
upper forks of the Kentucky, and began business on a large scale. They made
money rapidly. They ran the business for many years, then sold to a Michigan
company. Matt, Hugh, and Jack bought fine farms around Lexington where Hugh
and Jack still reside. Tom now owns one of the best mills south of the Ohio
River at Wasiota, one mile above Pineville. It is of iron; nothing about it
can burn. Jack Asher lives at Pineville and is operating a saw mill at that
point. The two have $300,000 worth of lumber on their yards at present.