Wordless Wednesday

Marcus W. Dickson, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, October1969

Twelve – as in 1812

“12” – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

When Amy Johnson Crow gave this week’s hint as “12”, I have to admit I was a bit befuddled. Last week, we did a big family, so 12 kids seemed right out. I pondered and pondered without anything really coming to mind. Sort of frustrating, since I next week was a slam dunk as soon as I saw it.

I was thinking about the folks in my tree that served in the War of 1812, looking to see who all there was and to see if I had collected their pension records. The War of 1812 is one of those forgotten conflicts. It doesn’t occupy the place in our national memory that the Revolutionary War or the Civil War or World War II does, but it was every bit a fight for our young nation’s survival. Hmmm. War of 18-12! There’s my twelve.

When I look in my family, I can identify quite a few Revolutionary War soldiers and supporters. I can find dozens and dozens of who fought in the Civil War. But, so far, only a handful of men who served in the War of 1812.

  • Col. Uriah Allison – Veteran of the War of 1812 and the Creek War. He served in the 8th U.S. Infantry. His sister, Susan M. Allison, was my 4th-great-grandmother.
  • Francis Baker Bailey – Served in Captain Burchett’s company of Virginia Militia. He was my 4th-great-grandfather.
  • Abner Dickson – A Private in Captain Williams’ company of Tennessee Volunteers, serving under General Jackson in the Campaign for Pensacola and New Orleans. More about him later.
  • Aylesbury Shehee – Served in Freeman’s squadron of cavalry in the Georgia Militia. He was another 4th-great-grandfather.

I am pretty sure that there are some others in there that I have not yet researched.

I’ve said before that my Dicksons have always been a mystery to me. Once I finally climbed over the brick wall of John H. Dickson’s parents, things have become easier. I just have not yet had the time to dig into this section as much as I would like. There is a really good, well researched, and well footnoted history of the Descendants of Simon Dickson, compiled by Claire Jean Potter Ferguson Sullivan, Ph.D. It has, so far, reliably pointed me in the way of my Dicksons.

So, twelve. I started poking around, looking again at my 1812 veterans and discovered that Abner was a very interesting story. As far as I can tell, Abner Dickson was born somewhere around 1786-1790 in Duplin County, North Carolina. His parents were Joseph Dickson, Sr. and Jane Moulton. (I wonder if that means we are kin to Sarah Moulton from FoodTV? Kathleen says she thinks she is from the Boston area, so not likely.) His brother, Joseph Dickson, Jr., is my 4th-great-grandfather.

My Relationship to Abner Dickson

Joseph Sr. came to Dickson County, Tennessee shortly after Tennessee statehood (1796). He died in Dickson County in 1803, so he wasn’t there very long. The family’s coming to Dickson county was hardly a coincidence of naming. The county was named for Joseph’s cousin, William Dickson, Jr., who was a good friend of Andrew Jackson. But that’s a story for another day.

When the war with England broke out, volunteers were raised in Tennessee to fight for our new nation. Abner answered the call. It looks like at least five of his brothers also served, including my ancestor, Joseph Jr. I just need to research this more. Abner enlisted as a private in the 1st Reg’t Mounted Gunmen (Dyer’s), Tennessee Volunteers. He served under Captain Williams, in General Coffee’s brigade. They were part of the Campaign for Pensacola.

Ultimately, Abner and his unit ended up with General Andrew Jackson in New Orleans for the famous Battle of New Orleans. New Orleans and southern Louisiana was even swampier then than it is now. Apparently Abner came down with some sort of a spinal infection while in the swamps. He was rendered completely unable to walk and had to be carried back home on a litter. As a consequence, he very quickly was awarded a life pension of $8 per month as an invalid.

Just this week, Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist, had a post called “Down the legal rabbit holes”, all about private laws. Turns out this was a great and timely post. When I read Abner’s pension file, I discovered that there was actually a private law passed by Congress to increase his pension from $8 to $16 per month. What an awesome coincidence! (By the way, the 12th Congress was during the War of 1812. Just saying….) This act doesn’t have nearly as much genealogical information in the Act itself as some, but the depositions and comments in the pension file supporting it are interesting and helpful.

Abner applied through his Congressman for this bill to be sponsored. It was read in committee, voted on, approved in committee, and passed by Congress. I am still trying to figure out exactly when this happened. The text of the act says 1836, but it appears to have been passed in 1856, retroactive to 1836. The pension account has a note that the increase occurred in 1836 and was paid in full in 1856.

His increased pension didn’t last for long. Abner died 11 Sept 1857 in Franklin County, Alabama. At the end of his life, he was living with his sister-in-law, Hannah, the widow of his brother Hugh. He never had a home of his own and appears to have always lived with family. He never married, being disabled and unable to take care of himself. But, there are a number of deeds and land warrants that he appears to be party to. That’s another area to research.

So, with a mystery topic like “Twelve”, we look at a sort of mysterious and unknown part of our history, the War of 1812. We find the secrets of private laws. And we continue to be amazed at the records that can be found today, 200 years after the fact, that can illuminate the lives of those who have gone before us.

Love – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

A Different Kind of Love

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air and on the minds of people around the world. I could tell you about love by talking about my wonderful wife, Kathleen, with whom I’ve just celebrated our twenty-second anniversary. Or I could tell you about the sweet, steadfast love that you could find in my grandparents, Robert H. Dickson Jr. and Susan Louise Bailey Dickson.

Instead, I want to tell you about the kind of love that both literally and figuratively gives of yourself, giving life and hope to people in hopeless situations.

Ralph & Bob Dickson

Let me tell you about my uncle Ralph. Daryl Ralph Dickson was born 9 Feb 1944 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the second son of Robert and Susan Dickson. My dad, Bob, was his older brother by three years. Ralph and Bob grew up in a house full of love. Like all brothers, they had their moments and squabbles, but as different as they were, it was always apparent that they loved each other dearly. Even as they drove each other crazy, sometimes.


Bob, Ralph, Scott, & Robert Dickson

Bob married and became a father. Ralph was single for most of his life, marrying only later, in his forties. But, Ralph was a fun uncle. I remember riding around with him in rural northeast Arkansas in his big station wagon. He had a fancy air horn in it. We would cruise around quiet neighborhoods looking for people and cats by the side of the road. He would let the air horns go and watch to see how high the cat would jump. He would never hurt any animals, but he like to surprise them! We would ride for burgers at the “Ptomaine Castle.” He loved to tell stories about things that happened to him, though you were never completely sure of the veracity of all of the details.

Ralph went to the University of Arkansas, got two degrees in English, and became a high school teacher, following in his mother’s footsteps. He actually taught in the same school where his mother began her career in Lavacca, Arkansas. He moved to Osceola, Arkansas and to Houston, Texas, and finally back to Fort Smith, Arkansas as a teacher. In each school where he taught, Ralph gave his all to his students. He was class sponsor, or led the student newspaper, or engaged with the students beyond the classroom in so many other ways. As a result, he was as loved by his students as he loved them. I think that, like his mother, he had high expectations of his students, but helped them meet those expectations.

Like his parents, Ralph was a helper. He was always pitching in to help people who needed something – a ride, a hand moving something, help building something or repairing something, whatever was needed. He was active in his church, singing in the choir and playing the handbells.

But, Ralph always had some health issues. Kidney problems ran in his family. His grandmother only ever had one that worked and eventually his were giving out. As his illness was progressing, Bob one time told him that if he ever needed a new kidney, Bob knew where he could find one. Eventually things came to that and Ralph needed a new kidney.

After going through all of the preliminary examinations and testing, Bob was found to be a good match and offered to give Ralph one of his kidneys as a transplant. The kidney problems that Ralph and Grandmother Bailey had did not carry into Bob. The love of brothers one again was coming through.

Bob Dickson in the hospital to donate a kidney to his brother

Ralph came to Pittsburgh, where Bob lived and where there were world famous transplant centers and they prepared for the surgery. Ralph and Bob shared a room before and after the surgery. I have heard that even though they were sometimes driving each other crazy (depending on who told it, the blame might have been more on one side or the other!), there was never any doubt that the room was filled with love and commitment to each other. And with that, Bob became a living organ donor to his brother, Ralph.

I wish I could say that Ralph lived for years and years after that, and that his young marriage became a long one. But ultimately, even though the kidney transplant was successful, Ralph’s other heath issues were too much and he died 6 Feb 1992, just a few days shy of his 48th birthday and only having been married for a year and a half. He was buried back in Arkansas, in the Vinita Cemetery in Hackett, Sebastian County, along with generations of his ancestors. His students turned out for the funeral. He was the much beloved class sponsor and the love was very much mutual.

Let me tell you how the love continued. Scott Lang was Bob’s stepson. He and Scott’s mother, Mary Ellen, had married in 1989. Scott was basketball coach at LaRoche College in Pittsburgh, PA. LaRoche is a small Division III school and even though Scott had had offers to move into Division II and Divison I schools, he cherished the atmosphere of the small school. At LaRoche, he could, as he put it, coach his players to not just be basketball players, but could coach them to become genuinely good men. That’s another kind of special love.

Half-way through a fairy-tale season, one where Scott’s team was clearly a special group and was on its way toward great things, tragedy struck. One Friday evening during practice, Scott had a heart attack and died on the basketball court, surrounded by his players. It was a huge shock to the team, the school, and certainly his family. He was only 41 years old.

The outpouring of love for him was overwhelming. The school had tributes for him and his death was covered on local TV and newspapers. His storybook team went on to win the conference championship for the first time and then to make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the school’s history. They said they were “Winning for Coach”. His story was featured in Guideposts Magazine. (You really ought to read it.) The team’s story was the subject of a tribute aired on ESPN during the Division I championship that year. There was no doubt about the love Scott had for his players and his school.

Scott Lang Tribute from ESPN

Upon Scott’s death, Bob and Mary Ellen knew that Scott wanted to continue to share of himself, something that they were already familiar with. Scott had long been signed up as an organ donor himself and his parents made sure that this was known at the hospital. Scott’s tissues – all sorts of things from skin to tendons and ligaments to corneas – were used for transplants to a number of other people. So, his love continued to other people that he never even knew.

Center for Organ Recovery & Education billboard in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Bob Dickson is in the center.

And that love that gives of oneself – both figuratively and literally – continues. Bob and Mary Ellen are active in recruiting and promoting organ donation with CORE, the Center for Organ Recover and Education. They help to answer peoples’ questions and calm any sorts of fears and qualms about organ donation. (Hint: It’s not like what you might have seen in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life!)

Love. That’s our topic. And you see that it comes in lots of flavors -from the love of brothers to the love of a marriage in one’s middle years to the love of helping young men grow and mature to the love of brothers and parents to give, literally, a part of themselves to save the life of another.

Let’s celebrate that love and look for ways that we can take it forward in our own lives.

Consider becoming an organ donor yourself.

Stay blessed!
–SCott

At the Library – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

It’s already Saturday and I still haven’t shared a story about “At the Library” for this week. I’ll make the excuse that I was traveling again, but that doesn’t go very far.

Actually, I have had a hard time figuring out what to write about.

So, I think I am going to recap a story I have told before and then point to “the rest of the story.”

Long ago, about 30 years ago, I got started in this game we call genealogy. I was in Fort Smith, Arkansas visiting my grandparents and went to the library there to do my very first day of genealogical research. I was so excited! I found my grandfather’s grandfather in the census. Granddad had not known his name, so he was happy, too.

Then, for about the next 27 years, through many many many trips to the library, and many libraries at that, I found no more solid documentary evidence about my Dickson family. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. I had a couple of theories and some circumstantial evidence about a family I thought was a likely connection, but nothing hard.

Finally, then, I was going back through some old photos and found the connection I was looking for. And that has sent me back to the library for more real data on the Dicksons.

Rather than detail the whole story, take a look at my previous posts where I break down this brick wall in detail;

Next week is back on the road, so another convenient excuse. But I’ll try to do better.

Finding Granddad’s WWII Records

This post is a shameless plug. But, it’s the real deal. So, stick with me.

This past year, I wanted to find my grandfather, Robert H. Dickson, Jr’s World War II service record. I had sent away for his packet some years back and discovered that it was not available. You might remember there was a terrible fire in St. Louis in 1973 at the records center housing many of the personnel records from the Army and the Marines. I thought that was probably the end of that.

Then, I was watching the live stream from RootsTech last year had heard Jennifer Holik speak. She talked about the fact that, while individuals’ records might have been lost, they could often be reconstructed. The payroll records and unit daily reports, and many others, were still available. She said not to give up. She said that you very likely could find a lot more than you realized. She talked about exactly how to go about searching and reconstructing those records. It sounded really promising to me. (By the way, you can watch her presentation from RootsTech here.)

However, much of this work has to be done on-site in St. Louis, Missouri and then in College Park, Maryland. Maybe not the most convenient, with my crazy travel schedule.

So, I contacted Jennifer at the WWII Research and Writing Center and contracted with her. She is a professional genealogist specializing in military records. She writes, teaches, researches, and councils with people searching for records or, more importantly, the stories of those that served.

Jennifer was able to find the records that detailed exactly where my grandfather was nearly every day for his time in the Army in the Philippines. This came from the unit records, payroll records, and other sorts of records that mentioned Granddad in the St. Louis archives. Then, she combined that with the broader histories and narratives from the units that Granddad served in. This really filled out the story and the experiences that he would have faced while in the field.

The result was an awesome report! I added photos to the report, then had it, the photos, and the unit histories bound and gave a copy to Dad. He was thrilled with this. He said over and over how much Granddad would have loved to have seen it.

Title Page – Robert H. Dickson, Jr’s World War II Service Report

So, my recommendation: if you are curious about your ancestor’s WWII records (or records from WWI, Korea, or Vietnam) and are serious about finding more about their experience, get in touch with Jennifer. Take one of her online classes. Go to one of her talks. Contract with her as a researcher if you feel like it’s out of your depth, or like me, you can’t get to the records. She’s a great resource and writer!

You can find her at http://wwiiresearchandwritingcenter.com. Be sure to take a look.

First – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

This is the first post for a new year – 2019. I have been on the road and super busy this week, so I was all set to punt and republish a story about the first time I ever went to the library to research and my first ancestor discovery. But, starting the new year with a retread is lame, so maybe a short post about my first immigrant ancestor to this country would be in order.

While my wife, Kathleen, may have descended from a number of famous and infamous Mayflower immigrants (notably, the Billingtons), my ancestors were here to greet them when the Mayflower arrived.

Cicely Reynolds (b. 1600, England, d. about 1660, Virginia) is my first immigrant ancestor to the New World. She arrived in Jamestown in August 1611 aboard the Swan with Sir Thomas Gates. According to “The Second Boat”:

“Cecily Reynolds was born about 1600 at Waymouth, Dorsetshire, England, daughter of Thomas Reynolds and Cecily Fitzpen. Cecily arrived on August 1610 at Jamestown, VA on the ship “Swan” under the auspices of several near-relatives of Dorsetshire. She made her home with Capt. William Pierce and his wife, Joan. In 1615, in the Pierce home in Jamestown, VA, she married her first husband, Thomas Bailey. Thomas was a young Governor’s Guard and had come to Jamestown, VA in 1612. Thomas died of malaria in 1619, leaving their only child, Temperance, born 1617, which married Richard Cocke about 1632. Cecily Reynolds Bailey married (2) Samuel Jordan (of Jordan’s Journey) on 20 Sept 1620. The Jordons’ famous neighbors were, to the south, John Rolfe, who had married the young Indian Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan. After her death, Rolfe wed in 1619, Jane Pierce, daughter of Capt. William Pierce. John was killed by Indians in the 1622 “Great Massacre.” A neighbor to the north was Capt. John Woodlief who in 1619 hosted the first Thanksgiving in America at his Berkeley Plantation. Authentication to this as the first Thanksgiving – and not the one in 1621 in Plymouth Plantation – is contained in a mandate from the London Company to Capt. Woodlief, saying “We ordain the day of our ships’ arrival at the place for plantation on the land of Virginia (Berkeley Plantation) shall be yearly kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.” Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson officially recognized this event.”

“The Second Boat”, vol. 12, number 4, Sept-Oct 1991

If you have ever studied the history of Jamestown, you might recognize that Cicely arrived at a particularly bad time. The harvest of 1611 was poor and that winter was known as The Dying Time. By the next spring, the settlement was reduced to just a handful of people. Those that were still alive were considering their options for abandoning the settlement.

Connie Lapallo has written a trilogy of historical novels, or maybe you would call them fictionalized histories, of Cicely and the women and children of Jamestown. These are fascinating and really provide a view into what things might have been like during those difficult first days. She also has some well thought out and well reasoned new ideas for Cicely’s ancestry in England and how she came to Jamestown. The first book in the series, “Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky” traces Cicely and her arrival and first years in Jamestown. Take a look at this and Connie’s other books in the series

Cicely is also remembered for being the source of one of the first scandalous lawsuits in Jamestown. After Cicely’s second husband, Samuel Jordan, died, Cicely had a number of suitors. Apparently, Rev. Greville Pooley felt like she had engaged herself to marry him. So, when she married William Farrar instead, he brought suit for breach of promise. The suit is well documented in the colonial records.

Cicely Reynolds is the ancestor of a large number of famous families that can claim Jamestown lineage. She is my 10th great-grandmother:

  1. Susan Louise Bailey (1919-2006) m. Robert Harrison Dickson, Jr. (1919-2007) – my grandparents
  2. Charles Council Bailey (1868-1935) m. Viola Tennison (1875-1970)
  3. Hume Field Bailey (1829-1891) m. Sarah Louise Council (1837-1915)
  4. Francis Baker Bailey (1796-1855) m. Evalina Belmont Hill (1802-1854)
  5. Peter Cock Bailey (1765-1844) m. Sarah Baker (d. 1822)
  6. Roger Cocke Bailey (1727-1790) m. Mary Rennard (1732-1777)
  7. Temperance Cocke (1698-1770) m. Abraham Bailey, Jr. (1694-1774)
  8. William Cocke (1674-1717) m. Sarah Perrin
  9. Thomas Cocke (1638-1696) m. Agnes Powell
  10. Temperance Bailey (1617-1652) m. Richard Cocke (1597-1665)
  11. Cicely Reynolds (b. abt 1600, d. abt 1660) married Thomas Baley (b. abt 1580, d. 1619, Virginia)

So, there you have it. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like to come to Jamestown and to live through all that, not only she and the Jamestown settlers, did, but the succeeding generations. That small group of settlers, the vast majority of whom died in their first years in the New World, laid the groundwork and foundation for us today. Hopefully, we can continue to live up to their ideal.