Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Dickson Brothers: George Jr. and Wilfred (Part 1)

Douglas, Wyoming in about 1920 (source)

My second great-grandmother, Anne Amelia Dickson, had two brothers.  These brothers, George William Dickson, Jr, and Wilfred Bellangee Dickson, did not move from Douglas, Wyoming to California with the other Dicksons, and few stories about them were passed down to me.  However, much can be gleaned about their lives from vital records and newspaper articles.

George William Dickson, Jr.

George William Dickson, Jr. was born on April 16, 1872 in Point Edward, Ontario, Canada.  He was the third surviving child born to the family and the first son.  In 1889, seventeen-year old George accepted a job at the telegraph office in Douglas, Wyoming.  His parents, George William Dickson and Mary Elizabeth Bellangee, decided to move their whole family to Douglas rather than be separated from young George. This decision forever changed the lives of each member of the Dickson family.

George did not spend his entire career at the telegraph office.  In mid-1900, a decade after his arrival in Douglas, George and his younger brother Wilfred moved to Long Pine, Nebraska to work as railroad station agents.  The railroad was a thriving industry in the Midwest states at that time, with many job opportunities for the brothers.  Wilfred would remain in Long Pine for the rest of his life, but George soon returned to Douglas, where he settled down and opened a hardware store in town.

On June 12, 1907, George married Janet Adamson, a nurse who had come from Chicago to work at the Douglas Hospital, which was owned by George's sister, Elizabeth Davock Dickson.  Like George, Janet had been born in Canada.  Her father, George Adamson, was Scottish and her mother, Anne Dow, was Canadian.  A 1992 article in the Douglas Budget about the hospital states that, "She [Janet] was one of three girls [who came to work at the hospital], all of whom were born in Ontario, Canada, and who trained and graduated in the class of 1902 at the Presbyterian and Cook County Hospitals in Chicago."

George and Janet had two children.  Edward Dickson was born in either 1908 or 1909.  Mary Adamson Dickson was born in 1911.

George assumed management of his hardware store sometime between 1900 and 1910, probably not long after he returned from working on the railroad in Nebraska.  Some interesting information about his business can be found in The Hardware Reporter, Volume 57, Issues 14-16.  This collection of weekly magazines devoted to the hardware industry profiled George and his store in 1912.  On April 26, 1912, an article ran describing George's use of the Warren System of Hardware Store Fixtures.  It included two photos of his store's interior (shown above).  The article reads as follows:

The views herewith presented show the interior of the retail hardware store of the Florence Hardware Company, Douglas, Wyoming, which is completely equipped with the Warren System of Hardware Store Fixtures.  The steady growth of the company's business necessitated the installation of these fixtures, and in commenting upon them, George W. Dickson, Jr., secretary and manager of the company, warmly endorses the Warren shelving.

The Florence Hardware Company was organized in 1897, succeeding the firm of R.H.  & F.S. Knittle, and occupied previously an iron clad building with about 125 square feet of floor space, from which it had grown to a three floor main building, of which the pictures are the interior, each 75x50 feet, having a cement basement, main floor and second story, the basement being used for surplus and original package shelf hardware, stoves, etc., the second floor for the display of similar goods entirely and the upper floor for the showing of furniture and kindred lines.  In the rear of the building is the original store building described above which is now used as a shipping room and for surplus shelf goods.  Adjoining the main building and extending from the street front to the alley the company have shops in which they have a blacksmith shop, wood working and tin shop, covering 50x125 feet.  Across the street they have a lumber yard, which is complete in all its parts, farm machinery of all kinds, together with wagons, wind mills, field fence, fence wire, and roofing.  This occupies a space of 145 feet frontage.

Regarding their shelving the company write: "When we bought the Warren Shelving, we debated for some time the advisability of buying shelving for the open goods, such as enamelware and queensware, but now that we have it installed, we do not hesitate to say that we made no mistake.  It will be noted in the views we have one entire end or side of the building for the shelf hardware, with the glass fronts, together with a bolt rack, which is certainly a fine addition, and on the rear and opposite side we have the queensware and enamelware all open except one section which we had enclosed, in which to keep the fancy china or cut glass.   The floor proper, being the size it is, enables us to display a great many goods without showing any crowding and it is our intention to display on the floor all goods from time to time as the season demands.  We have no hesitancy in saying that we believe the Warren system of shelving in the hardware line will increase the sales two-fold at the very least, and as this locality becomes a more populous community we will reap better results even than the above."

George continued running this store until about 1935, when he retired.  In 1935, George and Janet moved to Dade, Florida, where they could enjoy year-round sunshine and a more leisurely lifestyle. 

It appears that both of George's children moved to Florida around the same time that their parents did.  The 1940 U.S. Census shows their son Edward Dickson living in Dade with his wife, Velma, and their daughter, Mary.  He was working as a news reporter.  George and Janet's daughter Mary also seems to have moved with them to Florida in 1935, but by the time of the 1940 census, she had moved to Los Angeles and was working as a stenographer.  It's quite likely that she connected with her aunts and cousins there.  Her aunts Elizabeth Davock Dickson and Annie Dickson Rutherfurd were both living in Los Angeles at the time, as were Annie's five sons.

Mary Adamson Dickson at age 16

George Dickson, Jr. died in November 1945 at the age of 73.  He was survived by Janet, his wife of thirty-eight years, both of his children and at least one grandchild.  Both of his sisters outlived him, but he was predeceased by his younger brother Wilfred.

Click here for Part 2 of this story

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