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 parents, 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, 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.
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.
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.
Susan Louise Bailey Dickson and Robert Harrison Dickson Jr, 1940
Robert Harrison Dickson Jr and Susan Louise Bailey Dickson, 2000
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
George Collier Williams, born June 1854, Leake County, Mississippi, died 26 August 1945, Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas
Mary Catherine Williams, born 1856, Leake County, Mississippi, died 1916 in Arkansas
William David Williams, born 25 Feb 1861, Leake County, Mississippi, died 1 Mary 1928, Senatobia, Tate County, Mississippi
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. 45
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.
George Collier Williams, Robert H. Dickson Sr.
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.
1860 U.S. Federal Census, Leake County, Mississippi, pop. sch., Carthage, Page 67, Dwelling 634, Family 634, L. D. Williams. ↩
1870 U.S. Federal Census, Desoto County, Mississippi, pop. sch., Township 5 R 7, page 52, dwelling 365, family 365, David Dickson. ↩
1880 US Federal Census, Lonoke County, Arkansas, pop. sch., Totten Township, ED 188, Page 6, Dwelling 53, Family 54, Gates, A.J. ↩
1900 US Federal Census, Prairie County, Arkansas, pop. sch., Hickory Plain, ED 74, Page 10, Dwelling 172, Family 172, Gates, Andrew. ↩
1910 US Federal Census, Prairie County, Arkansas, pop. sch., Hickory Plain Township, ED 104, Sheet 9A, Dwelling 158, Family 160, Andrew J Gates. ↩
This is the second in a series where I try to unravel and figure out my Dickson ancestry. I am not necessarily working toward a narrative goal here. I am mostly capturing my research to be sure that I have a sensible understanding of the family.
In the first part, we started with our most recent known facts and started to work backwards. We began with my grandfather, Robert Harrison Dickson, Jr, and traced his family and movements backward.
Eventually, we found him in a family as a child with his parents, Robert Harrison Dickson Sr. and Ethel Garner Dickson. Tracing that family back through the census, we found Robert Sr, as a child in the family of his parents, John H. Dickson and Martha A. Dickson. We stopped at the first census where Robert Sr. appeared – 1880 US Federal Census of Prairie County, Arkansas.
In this post, we will try to round out John H. Dickson’s immediate family a little bit so that we can make some more progress. We will also identify a possible family of origin for him that we will look at more later on.
On the very first day that I ever went to a library to search in the census, back in 1988, in the 1880 census, I found John H. Dickson and his young family in Bridge Bend Township, Prairie County, Arkansas. We identify the family because we find Robert H. Dickson Sr, his brother Cecil, and his sister Minnie in the household. The 1880 census is important because it gives two new pieces of information not found on previous censuses. First, it shows the relationship of a person to the head of household. Second, it shows where a person’s parents were born. Robert, Cecil, and Minnie are listed as children of John, so we know for sure at least who their father is. We are pretty sure of the mother, but the proof is not quite as solid yet. 1
This census reports that John H. Dickson was born in Alabama, his father was born in Tennessee, and his mother was born in Virginia. His wife, Martha, reports that she was from Alabama. The two older children (Robert and his brother Cecil) were born in Mississippi and the youngest child (Minnie) was born in Arkansas. The information on the children fits what we already know, so we are confident we are looking at the right family.
The oldest child is 4 years old, indicating a birth in about 1876. If we look for marriage records, we find a record in a database of Mississippi marriages for J.H. Dickson to Martha A. Taylor on 12 Sept 1872 in Desoto County, Mississippi. 2 This fits with where Robert H. Dickson Sr. reported that he was born, so we are fairly certain this is the right marriage. But it also tells us that we will not find the couple together in the 1870 Census. Instead, we will have to look for each of them (John and Martha) as children in homes of thieir parents or else as individuals or else as parts of other families. John’s age indicates that he could have had a previous marriage; Martha’s age indicates that a previous marriage is unlikely for her.
Searching the census for a family where John H. Dickson, born about 1836 in Alabama, perhaps with parents from Tennessee and Virginia, we find one family that is a good fit. In 1870, in Desoto County, Mississippi, we find the family of David Dickson with a number of children. 3 This appears to be our most likely candidate family. In fact, it seems like the only one we find in a census search that comes very close. However it has its own issues that we will need to work through.
In particular, the way the surnames are reported looks a little odd. Typically, when a line or ditto marks are shown, that means that the surname is the same as the one above. If that were the case for this entry, then we would expect this family to be David and Eliza Dickson, Mary E. Williams, John H. Williams and a number of other Williams folks. We might think that John must be Mary’s husband from this or a brother in a different family. So, it’s a confusion that we need to work through. Our initial suspicion is that Mary is in fact Mary Williams, but the ditto marks for the rest of the family refer to Dickson rather than Williams. That would mean that she probably was a daughter who married and is now listed back in this family rather than in her own family. So, we will look further and come back to see if this holds up.
Stepping back one more census, to 1860, we again look for John H. either in his own family, his parents family, or somewhere else. When we look again at David Dickson / Dixon, we find his family, along with John, in Leake County, Mississippi, in the center of the state rather than the north of the state. 4 In this family, David and his wife Eliza and John are all consistent. The children change somewhat, but they appear to be consistent with the later census. John is listed out of order from the rest of the children, presumably because he is old enough to be on his own, so is considered by the census taker separately from minor children.
If we take one more step back in the census, to 1850, we find John as a child in the home of David and Eliza again. 5 At this point, they are located in Marengo County, Alabama about 140 miles east of Carthage, their location in 1860.
At this point, it might be valuable to summarize the family across the censuses. The following table shows the individuals in David and Eliza’s household across the census years, along with ages and birth places.
(in the home of J.F. Pardue, Tate, Miss.)
(Mary Gates, in home of A.J. Gates,
As we mentioned before, the 1870 census is interesting in that a large number of young children are listed, all born in Mississippi. These appear to be the children of Mary E. Williams. The oldest is 13 years old and the youngest is 7 years old. This could put some brackets around a possible date for when she and her husband were no longer together and give us a way to search for what happened to him. There is also a 63 year old woman, Lucy Vaugh, born in Virginia in the home. A theory would be that she could be Mary’s older sister. This is worth pursuing.
All of this is pretty good circumstantial evidence that John H. Dickson, my ancestor, is a part of this family. The census isn’t iron-clad proof, though. And I still don’t have anything that says “David is John’s father” or “John is David’s son.” I’m close though.
In the next post, I will share a picture that tied this together, at least to my satisfaction, and can let me move on to the next step.
1880 US Federal Census, Prairie County, Arkansas, pop. sch., Bridge Bend Township, ED 247, page 211, dwelling 218, family 218, John H. Dickson. ↩
Ancestry.com, “Mississippi Marriages, 1776-1935,” database, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2012), J.H. Dickson to Martha Taylor, 11 Dec 1872, Desoto County. ↩
1870 U.S. Federal Census, Desoto County, Mississippi, pop. sch., Township 5 R 7, page 52, dwelling 365, family 365, David Dickson. ↩
1860 U.S. Federal Census, Leake County, Mississippi, pop. sch., Carthage post office, page 67, dwelling 426, family 426, David Dixon. ↩
1850 U.S. Federal Census, Marengo County, Alabama, pop. sch., Not stated, page 44, dwelling 304, family 304, David Dickson. ↩