Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Dickson Brothers: George Jr. and Wilfred (Part 2)

Long Pine, Nebraska in about 1930

Wilfred Bellangee Dickson

Wilfred Bellangee Dickson was born on January 1, 1875 in Point Edward, Ontario.  He was the youngest child of George William Dickson, Sr. and Mary Elizabeth Bellangee.  Wilfred was about fourteen years old when his parents moved their family to Douglas, Wyoming in 1889.  He spent his teenage years there, living near all of his siblings.  His eldest sister, Elizabeth, ran the hospital in Douglas, while his sister Annie was a wife and mother on a working ranch.  His brother, George Jr., worked in the local telegraph office.

Wilfred and his brother George moved to Long Pine, Nebraska in 1900 to take positions in the Long Pine railroad office.  While George soon returned home to Douglas, Wyoming, Wilfred stayed in Long Pine and built a life there. The railroad was a big business in Long Pine at the time Wilfred arrived.  According to Wikipedia, "Long Pine was a hub for the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company on what came to be known as the Cowboy Line and at one time held a large roundhouse, turntable, and servicing facility."

A railroad bridge near Long Pine, Nebraska

In 1902, Wilfred married school teacher Grace Clift.  She was the daughter of George Alvord Clift, who had a farm in Long Pine.1  Wilfred and Grace soon had their first child.  Their daughter Leila was born in 1903.  They did not have another child until 1912, nine years later.  Their second daughter, Kathleen, died in January 1916 at the age of three.

In 1920 and 1930, as noted in the US Census for those years, Wilfred was the manager of the railroad stockyards in Long Pine.  The stockyards were the place where cattle were held for shipment along railroad lines. The article entitled The Stockyards, a Hotel for Stock or a Holding Company, provided by the Nebraska State Historical Society, gives information about the role of a stockyard in the early 1900s.

Western cattle were in demand in the East.  Railroads were building westward, connecting East to West, and the cattle trade was as essential to the wealth of the railroads as it was to the health of the nation.  Railroads built stockyards as watering and transfer yards for stock in transit during long trips by cattle car where loss to cattlemen could be great.

The following description of the vast Omaha, Nebraska stockyards from that same article could also be applied to the operations Wilfred would have managed in Long Pine.

The function of the yards is to provide a hotel for transient stock.  When livestock cars have been switched from the main railroads into the yards by terminal railroads, they are unloaded at the chutes by representatives of the stockyards company, who receive the waybills and take over responsibility for the stock.  The animals are brought to the pens of the commission firms to which they are assigned and locked in each pen until the commission firm acknowledges the receipt of the stock by requesting the opening of the padlock, or the commission men at times meet the train themselves and receive the stock consigned to them directly.

An anecdote about the history of the Long Pine stockyards can be found on the City of Long Pine website.

A thirty-day race contest was held each summer on the west side of Pine Creek where the golf course is now [was] located. Elwood Duffy's horses were always among the top money winners, and there was a man from Bassett by the name of Vere Leonard who had a fine string of horses there. The Indians from Pine Ridge competed in the saddle horse races and each fall they camped at the large stockyards just west of Long Pine. Here, they made beef jerky and many items such as moccasins which they sold to tourists. They also put on Indian dances for entertainment.

Wilfred Dickson would certainly have been there for this racing contest, and to witness the Indians camping near his stockyards.

In Long Pine, Wilfred and Grace raised their surviving daughter, Leila, to adulthood.  In 1923, at age twenty, Leila Dickson married William Prescott Bentley in Detroit.  They had two children, Alice K. Bentley and Roy Dickson Bentley, just before William died suddenly at age 23.  He was buried in Long Pine, although it's not clear if William and Leila had been living there full time.  This left Leila alone with two babies, and she would undoubtedly have leaned on her parents during her time of crisis.

In 1930, Leila married a second time.  In the early days of this marriage, to Frederick D. Moshier, she left her children to live with her parents.  In the 1930 census, young Alice and Roy are shown in the same residence with their grandparents, Wilfred and Grace Dickson, in Long Pine.  They later rejoined their mother and stepfather2, but it appears that Wilfred and Grace were responsible for their grandchildren for a period of time while their daughter got back on her feet.

Wilfred Dickson died on August 1, 1937 at the age of 62.  He was buried in Grandview Cemetery in Long Pine, alongside his daughter Kathleen.  When his wife Grace died in 1978, at the age of 101, she was buried in the same plot.

1 George Clift owned a "truck farm" according to the 1930 US Census.  A truck farm produces fruits and vegetables that are often sold directly to consumers at farmer's markets or "from the truck."

2 Leila and Frederick were divorced in 1948, after both of her children were grown and out of the home.

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