On This Date – 18 July 1906

Today would be Hudson Wren’s one hundred eleventh birthday.

On this date, July 18, in 1906, my grandfather, Henry Hudson Wren, was born in Nevada County, Arkansas.  Everyone always called him Hudson.

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Mildred, Hudson, Norvelle Wren

He was born out in the country near Sutton, Arkansas, the youngest of Sam and Pearl Hudson Wren’s four children.  His three sisters, Mildred, Norvelle, and Carrie doted on the baby boy.  He grew up with a love for farming and a love for his family.  Norvelle, Mildred, and Hudson (Papaw) always called each other Brother or Sister and hardly ever called each other by their given names.

As a young boy, Hudson participated in his father’s love for horses and raising prize winners.  Later on, he tried hard to get his grandchildren to share that love of riding.  I think it worked for the granddaughters, both of whom are accomplished riders, but not so much with me and my brother.

Papaw was a very smart and very wise man, but I really don’t think he was much of a student.  I have is report cards from elementary school and I think even some from college and they bewren-0549-f-v00-HudsonWren-Footballar this out.  Based on the number of secret societies and fraternities he was a part of at the University of Arkansas, maybe there were other things on his mind besides schoolwork.  Hudson played football both in high school for the Prescott Curley Wolves and he lettered in 1927, 1928, and 1929 for the Arkansas Razorbacks.  He played the line on both sides of the ball.  These were in the days before really good pads and helmets.  I remember him saying that by halftime, he sometimes really didn’t have a good idea what was going on, he had been hit so many times and was so tired.

After marrying his college sweetheart, Mary Higgs, he and Nannie moved around a bit.  Portland, Arkansas to Little Rock to Raleigh, NC to Atlanta, GA, and finally back to Wilson, Arkansas.  Hudson was working his way up through the Department of Agriculture.  By the time he got to Atlanta, during World War II, he was in charge of the War Foods Administration for the southeastern United States.

Coming back to Wilson, Arkansas, he took a job with Lee Wilson & Co., a huge cotton plantation in northeast Arkansas.  Eventually, he worked his way up to being the Executive Vice President of the firm and was running over 65,000 acres of cotton, along with the rest of the business that made up Lee Wilson & Co.  His work led to his being selected Farmer of the Year by Progressive Farmer magazine in 1976.wren-0551-f-v00-HudsonWren-ProgressiveFarmer

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Bette Carole Wren, Jennie Wren, Hudson Wren

That’s all well and good.  He was very successful and respected in his field, but Hudson was my Papaw, and that’s how I remember him.  I remember he was crazy about his two daughters.

He was crazy about his grandkids.  And all of them were crazy about him.  He taught us that yes means yes and no means no, and not to talk back, and to say “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am.”  And at the same time that he was willing to get down and play with us at our level.  We would walk down the long driveway to the Marie ditch and see what we could see.  When Papaw would come home for lunch, he would honk for us as he crossed the first cattle guard and we would run out to ride the rest of the way in to the house in the car with him.

I remember how much I loved getting up early on Sunday to go to church and get things ready – turn on the heat, make sure the Sunday School room was ready, stuff like that.  He taught Sunday School in the Wilson Methodist Church for years and years and years.  I am so happy to have some his notes from his lessons.  If only I could find copies of the Cokesbury Adult Bible Study quarterlies from the 1970’s so I could know what the notes went to!

Papaw was always trying to show us things about the farm, I think hoping we would take a real interest.  I guess I was just too young to catch as much as I wish I had.  I remember going out to the grove farm where he worked to teach me to recognize different trees.  I can still do a little bit of that. We would drive the farm on Saturday or Sunday afternoons to check on how things were growing and what was going on.  We went into the cotton gin and the other processing plants to see what went on there.  And then we would play “little rabbit”, hide and seek, in the chest-high alfalfa fields.  After riding around, we would often go over to Dyess, Arkansas to visit the Blue Eagle drive-in for an ice cream cone.

Papaw died in 1978 after fighting cancer for a while.  He was really young, only 72, when he died.  Nannie lived another ten years.  And I know that there are so many people who miss them.  I know I do.  Even more, I know there are so many people whose lives were touched by Papaw and Nannie – people who had a tough time that he gave jobs to, people he helped out in different quiet ways – and his children and grandchildren who learned about love and grace and dignity and hard work and humility from a great man.  I remember him not as the executive of a huge farm and successful businessman.  I remember him as my Papaw, sitting at the end of the dining room table after dinner, smiling and talking and just being in the moment.

Wishing for a black plate

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4 Generations – 1967

It’s been way too long since I added to this blog.  I have lots of ideas but little time.  I will try to do better.

This evening, I was walking up 2nd Ave, between 51st and 52nd Street, when I happened on the Buttercup Bake Shop.  Since it was time for a bit of something sweet to finish off dinner, I stopped in.  They had a great selection of cakes and cupcakes.  I was waffling between German Chocolate and Lemon.  I asked and they said that the lemon had a layer of pineapple glaze under the icing, so I went with it.  Sounded good to me.

But, you know how it is with cake.  As good, and soft, and sweet, and lemony as the cake was, there was one thing missing – ice cream.  All cake is improved with ice cream!

When I was little and would go to Wilson, Arkansas to visit my mother’s black-rim-salad-dessert-plateparents, we would have cake for dessert.  When we did, Nannie would always ask if we wanted a “black plate”.  Seemed kind of strange to me.  What difference could the color of the plate make?

Turns out, years and years and years before, it seems that my grandfather’s mother, Pearl Hudson Wren, had two sets of dessert plates.  The everyday plates were great when you were having a piece of cake or a piece of pie.  But, if you needed a little something extra, like ice create with your cake, you needed different equipment.  Grannie had another set of dessert plates that were a little larger and could easily hold both the cake and the ice cream.  And guess what!  They were black!

So, if you wanted a black plate, you wanted cake and ice cream.  Mystery solved and tradition started.  So, even though my Nannie did not have a set of black plates, asking for a black plate still got a nice scoop of ice cream with your cake.  Even still works sometimes at Mom’s house today.

The cake was really good, though.  If you’re on 2nd Ave in Midtown, stop in to the Buttercup Bake Shop.

On This Date – 18 June 1966

On this date, 18 June 1966, fifty years ago, I became a big brother.  My little brother, Marcus Wren Dickson, was born. Since that time, he’s grown from a baby with a mohawk to a loving husband and father, a respected educator and researcher, a Base Ballist, and someone I am proud to have as my little brother.

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Marcus Dickson, 18 Jun 1966

There are far too many stories to tell about Marcus and the things we have done together.  So, I’ll just leave it with the fact that I am proud of you and hope your second half-century is as good as the first. Happy Birthday!  But, no matter how old we both get, I will always call you my little brother.

On This Day – 8 June 1938

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Susan Louise Bailey Dickson and Robert Harrison Dickson, Jr.  2007

This is is one of my favorite pictures.  Grandmother and Granddad, Susan Louise Bailey and Robert Harrison Dickson, Jr, always looked in love.  Sure, there were good times and hard times. But, they always looked in love.

Born in 1919, they married pretty young by today’s standards: early in 1940 at the age of 20. Not long after that, they had two young sons. They moved from Arkansas to California for a year or two, but pretty quickly came back to Arkansas.  Grandad went off to war in the Pacific near the end of WWII and stayed for the Korean occupation. Along the way, they always were quick to help out anyone who needed help, quick to strike up a conversation, tell stories, and smile a lot.

I am not sure I ever saw Grandmother wash a dish.  She cooked, baking fresh breakfast biscuits in a toaster oven right at  the table so they were as fresh as possible.  But I remember Granddad always doing the dishes.  Anything at all for Sue.  And the same way with Grandmother.  Anything at all for Robert.

Grandmother and Granddad moved from Arkansas to Pittsburgh when they were past 75.  My step-mother invited them to come live near them while everyone was healthy.  They said yes without having to consider it more than a minute.  But that’s another story.

Grandmother died about ten years after they moved to Pittsburgh.  I was visiting Granddad not too long after that, after his health was failing, and his memory fading.  He and I went out to run errands, have dinner at Eat-n-Park, and to go to the community Thanksgiving service at church.

At dinner, I asked him to tell me again about how he and Grandmother met.  “Oh, that was June 8, 1938.  We both went to a youth meeting at church and met there.  I asked if I could walk her home.  And neither of us ever dated anyone else after that night.”  Around then, he might get flustered and not really be sure of the day of the week or what we had for dinner, but that was a moment that he would never forget.  Because Robert and Susan were always in love.

John Oliver Brewer, Co. E 1st Arkans. Infantry

I spent thirteen years living in State College, Pennsylvania, right next door to Boalsburg.  In addition to housing possessions from Christopher Columbus, Boalsburg makes another claim to fame.  The tiny little town of Boalsburg is one of several that claim to be the site of the first Memorial Day commemorations.  The graves of fallen Union soldiers were decorated starting in October 1864.  Of course, there are lots of places that claim this honor.  But Boalsburg is the one I am familiar with.  Every year, there is a large Memorial Day commemoration there.

There are many veterans in every generation in my family tree, some in my direct line, some among the uncles, aunts, and cousins.  John Oliver Brewer is one who is almost in my line. John Oliver Brewer was the first husband of my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Louise Council.

John and Sarah married in 1858 in Sebastian County, Arkansas and started a family there. Their first child, a daughter, Mary Angeline Brewer, was born in February 1860 and lived just a few months.  Their second child, a son, Philip Dodridge Brewer, was born in June of 1861.

Northwest Arkansas was a hotbed of border tensions during the Civil War.  Even though it was a part of the Confederacy, there apparently was a large degree of support for the Union in the area.  According to Grandmother Dickson, this led to things being pretty ugly from time to time and to people being pressed into service on one side or the other at the point of a rifle.

In the spring of 1863, on March 10, John Oliver Brewer enlisted in the 1st Arkansas Infantry of the Union Army.  His brother had joined the Union Cavalry already.  John never say service.  After being mustered in at Fort Smith, he went with his unit north to Fayetteville.  Were he caught the measles.  John Oliver Brewer died in hospital in Faytetteville on the 18th of May, 1863, barely two months into his service.  He left his young widow, Sarah, behind with a young son to care for.

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Sarah Louise Council Brewer Pension Application, 1864

In 1867, Sarah remarried to Hume Field Bailey and had a substantial family, including my great-grandfather, Charles Council Bailey.  in 1891, Hume died.  In her old age, Sarah again fell back on her status as the widow of a Union veteran who died in service.  She applied again for a pension, after proving that her second husband (Hume) had never served in the Union Army and had certainly never served the Confederacy.  Again she was awarded a small pension to assist in her old age that she continued to receive until her death.

Phil was adopted by Hume and grew up to have a successful career as an attorney.  He was the first commissioner of the Oklahoma State Supreme Court as Oklahoma transitioned from a territory into statehood.

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Philip Dodridge Brewer Obituary

In the end, had it not been for John Oliver Brewer’s service with the Union Army, I wouldn’t be here today, I suppose.  I don’t know how he felt about enlisting and serving.  But it seems sort of anticlimactic to be struck down by what we consider now to be a childhood disease while in camp.

 

 

 

Chipping Away at a Dickson Brick Wall – Part 4

Sometimes help comes from unexpected quarters.

In my on-going research on the Dickson family, I have talked off and on to other researchers.  Over the last few weeks, I have been corresponding with another Dickson researcher about my line.  Prior to finding the picture I talked about in the last section, I hadn’t really had a good connection to her line at all.  But, with the firm connection to David Dickson, the wall starts to tumble down.

Ann, the other researcher, told me of a group of Dickson researchers who pooled their efforts a few years back.  A book, compiled by Claire Jean Potter Ferguson Sullivan, Ph. D., came out of those efforts that traces this Dickson family back to about 1607.  As it turns out, this is one of the books that is not only available from the Family History Library, but is available online!!  You can find the FHL library entry and the digital version here.

I am so excited!  Of course, this is a Ronald Reagan moment – trust but verify.  It looks like there is good documentation in this book. Many of the references and documents it uses are included in the text, but it still needs to be analyzed and verified.  I did Y-DNA testing some time back.  Now to see if this plays out with the documentation.

It looks like my line could be:

  • Grandparents – Robert H. Dickson, Jr. (b. 1919, d. 2007) and Susan Louise Bailey (b. 1919, d. 2006)
  • Great-grandparents – Robert H. Dickson, Sr. (b. 1878, d. 1942) and Ethel Mildred Garner (b. 1887, d. 1974)
  • Great-great-grandparents – John H. Dickson (b. 1836, d. bef. 1889) and Martha A. Taylor (b. 1858, d. bef. 1942)
  • 3-great-grandparents – David Dickson (b. 1808) and Eliza Johnson (b. 1812)
  • 4-great-grandparents – Joseph Dickson, Jr. (b. abt. 1785) and Mary McNairy (b. 1791)
  • 5-great-grandparents – Joseph Dickson, Sr. (b. 1744) and Elizabeth Moulton (b. abt 1757)
  • 6-great-grandparents – John Dickson, Sr. (b. abt 1704, County Down, Ireland)
  • 7-great-grandparents – Michael Dickson (b. abt 1682) and Nancy Campbell
  • 8-great-grandparents – Joseph Dickson II (b. abt 1657)
  • 9-great-grandparents – Joseph Dickson I (b. abt 1630)
  • 10-great-grandparents – Simon Dickson (b. abt 1607, England)

It seems like the documentary trail gets fuzzier as you go farther back, but this is at least a good place to start.  And while the book identifies the Dickson line, it also identifies many of the grandmothers and even some of their parents and grandparents.

I feel pretty good about the line back to the immigrants.  They come from Ireland to Chester County, Pennsylvania and then move down into North Carolina.  From there, they head to Tennessee and into Alabama and Mississippi.

Each generation opens up a whole new set of research possibilities.

So, now to start to verify and be confident of all of this new data.  Looks like my work may be cut out for me for the next several months or years.

Chipping Away at a Dickson Brick Wall – Part 3

In the last two posts (part 1, part 2), we have established fairly well via the census that John H. Dickson, my great-great-grandfather is the son of David Dickson and Eliza Johnson Dickson.

But, the census is not terribly compelling evidence.  In this post, I will share a more compelling circumstantial reason for believing this to be true.

In the family of David and Eliza Dickson, John H. has a hypothetical sister, Mary E. Dickson who is one or two years his senior.  To be complete, let’s look at Mary’s family.

Sometime prior to 1854, Mary married Lorenzo Dow Williams from Carthage, Leake County, Mississippi.  Other researchers have told me that Lorenzo went away to the Civil War and was killed near Franklin, Tennessee.  I have not yet found his service record.  The two Lorenzo Dow Williams records I found were for the Union Colored Troops (not him) and for a man from Greene County, Mississippi who was discharged in Fernandia, Florida due to injuries (also not him).  However, in any case between the 1860 1 and 1870 2 census, Lorenzo disappears from the census record.

Mary and Lorenzo have four children together:

  1. George Collier Williams, born June 1854, Leake County, Mississippi, died 26 August 1945, Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas
  2. Mary Catherine Williams, born 1856, Leake County, Mississippi, died 1916 in Arkansas
  3. William David Williams, born 25 Feb 1861, Leake County, Mississippi, died 1 Mary 1928, Senatobia, Tate County, Mississippi
  4. Frances Dow Williams, born 1863, Leake County, Mississippi, died before July 1916

After Lorenzo died, Mary lived with her parents for a time, since she and her children were with them in the 1880 census.  In 1876, Mary married again to Andrew J. Gates and they moved to Arkansas.  They settled first in Lonoke County 3 and then moved in to Prairie County. 4 5

Interestingly, John H. Dickson, Mary’s presumed brother, moved to Prairie County, Arkansas around that same time – just prior to 1880 – and lived there (I believe) until his death before 1889.  Another researcher has shared that he believed that David Dickson (Mary and John’s father) had a brother who had moved to Prairie County sometime before the Civil War.  This would be one of the few close relations outside Mississippi and a good reason for these children to move on to Arkansas.

The clincher to me in connecting John H. Dickson to Mary E. Dickson, and therefore to David and Eliza Dickson was a picture I found in my grandfather, Robert H. Dickson, Jr’s belongings.

This is a photo of Robert H. Dickson, Sr. (on the right), my great-grandfather who died in 1942 in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  With him is a George Williams.  The names are in my grandmother’s handwriting.  But, my grandfather wrote on this “cousins”.  That’s the key I have been looking for.

As I look through all of Robert Dickson’s relations, the only person who could be a cousin, of roughly his age, named George Williams, is George Collier Williams (1854-1945), son of Mary E. Dickson and Lorenzo Dow Williams.  The only way for George and Robert to be cousins would be for George’s mother and Robert’s father to be sister and brother, and therefore have the same parents.

So, while this is still circumstantial evidence and not quite bulletproof proof, to me it solves the mystery of who my great-great-great-grandparents on the Dickson line are and points me to a new line of research.

In the next posts in this series, I will start to document Mary and John’s parents, David Dickson and Eliza W. Johnson.

 


  1. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Leake County, Mississippi, pop. sch., Carthage, Page 67, Dwelling 634, Family 634, L. D. Williams. 
  2. 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Desoto County, Mississippi, pop. sch., Township 5 R 7, page 52, dwelling 365, family 365, David Dickson. 
  3. 1880 US Federal Census, Lonoke County, Arkansas, pop. sch., Totten Township, ED 188, Page 6, Dwelling 53, Family 54, Gates, A.J. 
  4. 1900 US Federal Census, Prairie County, Arkansas, pop. sch., Hickory Plain, ED 74, Page 10, Dwelling 172, Family 172, Gates, Andrew. 
  5. 1910 US Federal Census, Prairie County, Arkansas, pop. sch., Hickory Plain Township, ED 104, Sheet 9A, Dwelling 158, Family 160, Andrew J Gates.