Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Children of William Dickson and Mary Ann Browning (Part I)

William Dickson was an affable man and an accomplished seaman.  He was apparently well-liked in Buffalo and respected for his work as a ship's captain on the Great Lakes.  Much of William Dickson's personal contentment seems to have come from his happy family life.  His marriage to Mary Ann Browning was a long and successful one, and they had eight children together, six of whom survived to adulthood.

According to his grandson, William Dickson Young ("WDY"), whose biography of William Dickson provides most of the details we know about him, William Dickson was very content in Buffalo.  Even when he stood to inherit his parents' estate in Ireland, he did not consider moving his family from New York.
William was the eldest son of the family [his parents, George Dickson and Elizabeth Black, had six children total] and therefore the heir to the property in Ireland, for that property was entailed, but on his father's death he refused to accept it, for he was then well off, and had become an American citizen and would not go back to Ireland, so it went to his next brother, John.

The children of William Dickson and Mary Ann Browning were as follows:

  1. Esther Dickson, born Sept. 16, 1833 in Port Stanley, Ontario.  Died February 2, 1872 in Buffalo, New York.  She did not marry.
  2. Sarah Ann Dickson, born October 8, 1836 in Buffalo, New York.  Died October 15, 1915 in Buffalo, New York.  She did not marry.
  3. George William Dickson, born December 11, 1838 in Buffalo, New York.  Died December 31, 1916 in Santa Monica, California.  He married Mary Elizabeth Bellangee.
  4. John Henry Dickson, born May 11, 1841 in Buffalo, New York.  Died 1865.  He married Sarah Mitchell.
  5. Robert James Dickson, born October 8, 1843 in Buffalo, New York.  Died 1878.  He did not marry.
  6. Elizabeth Jane Dickson, born October 8, 1847 in Buffalo, New York.  Died March 9, 1935 in Buffalo, New York.  She married Albert Barnes Young.
  7. Louis Dickson, born 1850 in Buffalo, New York.  Died 1851.  (Twin of Louise Dickson)
  8. Louise Dickson, born 1850 in Buffalo, New York. Died 1851.  (Twin of Louis Dickson)
William Dickson Young wrote about his aunts and uncles in his biography of the Dickson family members.  

Esther Dickson

Esther Dickson is sometimes also referred to as Hester in various online accounts of the Dickson family.  However, in all the census records I've seen, she is called Esther.  This is also the name engraved on her tombstone.
[Esther Dickson] was born in Port Stanley, Ont. Sept. 26 1833.  She never married, although she was at one time engaged to Charles Church, a brother of Mrs. William Ives (William Ives was a little man whom every one in older Buffalo knew, for he was the first, and for many years the only librarian of the Young Mens Association, later the Buffalo Public Library).  I never knew Esther, for she died before I was born.  She was apparently an able, brilliant and popular girl and woman, very active socially and fond of good clothing and nice personal possessions of the best quality.

Sarah Ann Dickson

Of his aunt Sarah Ann Dickson, William Dickson Young wrote the following:
[Sarah Ann Dickson] was born in Buffalo, N.Y. in the Eagle Street house Oct. 8th 1846.  Sarah was never very brilliant, but faithful, good, true and devout.  She was blue-eyed.  She was, in a way, the off-chick of the family, and among her quick and clever brothers and sisters people seemed to think that she could not do things as well as the rest (which may have been true) but this was perhaps why she never had the chance or desire to try.  None of the children, except my mother, ever had much education in the modern sense, in part probably because their parents had never had much and could not visualize what a real education was, and so far as the girls were concerned, also probably because it was thought less necessary for females than for men, for the family had the means to get it [education], and perhaps partly because they were a social rather than a reading family.
Sarah lived with her mother until the death of the latter and then lived with us at 29 Park Street until her death.  She was a loving and devoted friend to we children, always ready to serve us or to read to us by the hour, at such a speed that no one but we could understand what she was saying.  When I was small I called her Aunt Lalu, my understanding of Sarah (pronouncing "A" as in "sad"), which in time became simply "La" ("A" as in "say") to us to her death.  She was a devout and devoted member of Calvary Presbyterian Church.  She is buried in the Dickson lot in Forest Lawn [in Buffalo, New York].

George William Dickson

William Dickson Young didn't know his uncle George William Dickson (my third great-grandfather) very well.  George left Buffalo as a young man, making few return visits.  Still, WDY wrote a summary of him based on his memories.
[George William Dickson] was born in the Barker Street house on Dec. 11th 1838 and died some years ago in California and is buried there.  I remember him, but not very well, as a tall, broad-shouldered, quiet man.  He was never a money-maker, nor were any of his brothers.  He was also a lake-man for most of his life, and for many years was Captain of the big Grand Trunk car ferry from Sarnia, Ont. to Point Huron, Mich. across the river, which would take on whole trains.  They lived in Sarnia.  He married Mary Bellangee of Milwaukee, Wisc., a niece of Mrs. Davocks .... who lived on Delaware Avenue, in a house where the Westminster Parish House now stands.  They never lived in Buffalo.  

It's interesting that WDY repeatedly refers to his Dickson uncles in somewhat dismissive terms in his biography.  He brings up several times the idea that they were spoiled, had too much money and not enough fatherly supervision, and thus didn't turn out to have successful lives of their own.  My own family lore paints George William Dickson in a more positive light.  He certainly had a long career as a ship's captain.  His marriage seems to have been a happy one, and he was quite devoted to his children.  He may not have been as financially successful as his father, but he seems to have been a hard-working and contented family man.  Since WDY didn't know George well, he may simply be lumping him in with the other Dickson boys, but it's an interesting and unexpected characterization of his uncle.

William Dickson Young also wrote brief paragraphs about George Dickson and Mary Bellangee's four children.  Of these cousins, he only ever spent any real time with Elizabeth Davock Dickson, the eldest, since she lived in his household for a time while attending nursing school in Buffalo.
Lizzie Dickson, named after my mother who was always called Lizzie.  She was a little older than I am.  She lived with us at 29 Park Street for several years, a big, capable girl, and a good sport.  She graduated in nursing at the Buffalo Homeopathic Hospital, has adhered to it and is a wonderful nurse.  She was in France during the war, although then over 50 years of age.  She has never married and is, I believe, in California.

This is quite in line with what my grandmother told me about Elizabeth Davock Dickson, except that I've never heard about her being overseas during World War I.  WDY goes on to describe Elizabeth's sister, Anne Amelia Dickson.
Annie Dickson.  She was a boisterous, stubborn sort of a kid.  She also became a graduate nurse from the Buffalo Homeopathic Hospital, but she was never as able a girl as Lizzie.  She married and lives in the west.

Although this isn't a terribly nice way to describe my second great-grandmother, it does ring true.  My grandmother always described Annie as headstrong, willful and fiercely independent.  As I've written in previous posts, Annie was a nurse for some years, but gave it up when she became a mother to her five boys.  Elizabeth was a devoted nurse and hospital administrator her entire life, which is probably why the "not as able" comment is aimed at Annie.

Of Elizabeth and Annie's brothers, William and George Dickson, it appears WDY didn't know them at all.  He says simply that "both of these sons are married and live in the west."  More information about George and William can be found in my previous posts.

I'll continue with descriptions of William Dickson's three youngest children in my next post.

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