Monday, January 26, 2015

Anne Amelia Dickson

Anne Amelia Dickson

Anne Amelia Dickson was my second great-grandmother.

Annie was born in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada on October 27, 1870. Her parents were Mary Elizabeth Bellangee and George William Dickson. Anne was named for her aunt, Anne Amelia Bellangee, sister of her mother, Mary Bellangee.

Annie was the second of the four surviving children of Mary and George.  Their first child, Mary, died as an infant in 1866.  Annie grew up with an older sister, Elizabeth Davock Dickson (b. 1868) and two younger brothers, George William Dickson, Jr. (b. 1872) and Wilfred Bellangee Dickson (b. 1875).

Annie Dickson in 1879 (age 9)

Sarnia is located directly across the St. Clair River from Michigan.  Annie's father, George, was a sailor on the Great Lakes, and the Dickson family had moved from Buffalo, New York to Sarnia some years earlier to support George's career.  Life in Sarnia focused on the river.  "Located in the natural harbour, the Sarnia port remains an important centre for lake freighters and oceangoing ships carrying cargoes of grain and petroleum products." [Wikipedia] Annie surely watched the ships come and go along the St. Clair, and had fond memories of playing on the beach in Sarnia with her siblings during her childhood.

My grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, knew Annie well and spent quite a bit of time with her grandmother during her childhood years.  She described Annie as rambunctious, opinionated and impulsive.  She told a story about Annie paddling out onto the Great Lakes in a small boat, right in the path of large freighters, and needing to be rescued.  Annie found this incident amusing and exhilarating.  Annie's mother, Mary Bellangee Dickson, was a very refined woman; a true lady.  By comparison, Annie was a bit of a loose cannon.  This is not to say she was not responsible.  She had five sons and was fiercely devoted to them.  She was simply spirited and adventurous in a way that other women of her circle were not.

As a young woman of 23, Annie Dickson was working as a nurse in a hospital in Detroit, Michigan when she met John Griffin. John was thirty years older than Annie, a widower with five children.  Family lore has it that John was a patient at the hospital where Annie worked, and a May-December romance bloomed.  On January 2, 1894, Annie and John were married in Sandwich, Ontario. My grandmother, LaVerne Smith, told me that Annie and John's honeymoon involved a long boat trip to Florida. The specifics of this trip are unknown. What is clear is that the romance quickly faded. John and Annie separated after the honeymoon, and were divorced in less than a year. However, by the time of their separation, Annie was pregnant.

Annie’s parents and siblings had recently moved from Canada to Douglas, Wyoming. It is said that one of Annie’s brothers took a job at a telegraph station there and the rest of the family went with him. The Dicksons were a close bunch who preferred to stay near each other.  Pregnant and separated from her husband, Annie joined her family in Douglas in 1894.  She moved back in with her parents and her sister Elizabeth, who had helped build the Douglas hospital and was working there as a nurse.

Annie (at right) with her sister, Elizabeth Davock Dickson.

Annie and John's son, George Roscoe Griffin, was born on January 23, 1895 in Douglas, Wyoming. There is no indication that he ever met his biological father.

On April 29, 1897, Annie married Malcolm Rutherfurd, a Scottish immigrant. Malcolm and his brother Archibald had moved from Jedburgh, Scotland to Wyoming and were running a ranch in Douglas.  A year after the marriage, Malcolm adopted young George, who was known to most as “Roscoe.” His name was legally changed to George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd. Annie and Malcolm then had four boys of their own, Malcolm, Archibald, Robert and Arthur, before Malcolm’s untimely death from pneumonia in 1913.

Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd

After Malcolm's sudden death, Annie moved with her boys to Los Angeles, California.  Her parents and sister Elizabeth had moved there several years previously, and Annie thought it was best to join them.  She also sent Malcolm's body to Los Angeles via train and had him buried at Evergreen Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

My grandmother recalled that Annie's home in Los Angeles, shared with her sister Elizabeth, was always full of books.  The Dicksons, Annie's parents, were great readers, and this love of literature was passed down to their children and their grandchildren.  George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd was quite a reader, and this trait continues with his descendants.

Annie Dickson Rutherfurd in 1925

By 1940, when Annie was 69 years of age, her heath had declined.  In 1940, the census shows her living at Woodcraft Home in Riverside, California. This was essentially an assisted living facility for the elderly.  I'm not sure what the circumstances were surrounding her stay there, or how long she lived there in total.  She had been living with her sister, Elizabeth, for many years, but sometime between 1930 and 1940, Elizabeth went to live with other relatives and Annie went to Woodcraft Home.  Later, Annie moved north to Oregon, for reasons that are also unclear.

Annie died on August 29, 1952 in Hood River, Oregon.  She died just 24 days after her beloved sister Elizabeth.  She was survived by four of her five sons (her second son, Malcolm, died in 1937) and several grandchildren.


I've previously written about Annie's mother, Mary Elizabeth Bellangee, and her son, George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd. I also wrote briefly about Annie's relationship with her sister, Elizabeth.


  1. Wonderful story about your 2nd great-grandmother's life. She certainly must have been a strong woman with the challenges she faced, especially with the death of her 2nd husband and son.

    1. Thank you, Jana! I'm glad to be able to know so much about her. She seems to have been a pretty tough lady.