Friday, September 4, 2015

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

My fourth great-grandparents, William Dickson and Mary Ann Browning, had eight children.

In my last post, I shared William Dickson Young's remembrances of the three eldest Dickson children, Esther, Sarah and George.  Here, I will share what William Dickson Young wrote about the three youngest surviving Dicksons.

John Henry Dickson

John Henry Dickson was the fourth child and second son of William Dickson and Mary Ann Browning.

Born May 11th 1841.  He was the fourth child of William and Mary.  I never knew him as he died..... [date not mentioned].  I imagine, from the family tales, that he was a rather whimsical, good-natured sort of a boy and man, whose father had too much money for the boy's best good and was away from him for too long periods.  John was never very fortunate, in possible consequence, in what he undertook.1  He married Sarah Mitchell and they had one child, Hattie, who died in infancy.

In May/June of 1863, John Henry Dickson registered for the Civil War draft along with his brother George.  It's unclear if they actually served.  I do not find them on the rolls of the 21st, 49th or 116th Infantries, which were assembled in Buffalo.  On the draft registration, both brothers are listed as mariners.  John was single at the time of his registration.  Soon after, he married Sarah Mitchell in Buffalo.

According to the New York Census, in 1865 John Dickson was residing in Buffalo with his wife Sarah and their daughter Hattie.  The young family was living with 42-year old Mary Mitchell, Sarah's widowed mother, and multiple Mitchell children in their teens and twenties.  John can also be found in Buffalo's 1865 City Directory, living at 155 Delaware.  His occupation is listed as sailor.

The census was taken on June 20, 1865, and Hattie is recorded as being one year and three months of age.  This would put her date of birth around March 1864.  Hattie is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, where the majority of the Dickson family is buried.  Her headstone is hard to read, but I believe it says she was age 2 years and 8 months at the time of her death.  This would put her death around November 1866.  However, when I reviewed the 1870 and 1875 census records, I found Hattie in both of them, aged 6 and then aged 11, living with her mother, Sarah in Buffalo.  Perhaps this means she actually died at age 12, not age 2.  Why, then, does William Dickson Young claim she died as an infant?  If Hattie died in 1876, one year after that final census listing, her cousin William would have been four years old, perhaps too young to remember the details of her death.  This remains a bit of a mystery for now.  

We don't know what killed John Henry Dickson, a young man in his prime, in 1865.  We do know that his wife, Sarah, did not remarry.  She lived nearly forty years after John's death, dying in 1903, and is buried next to him at Forest Lawn in Buffalo.

Robert James Dickson

Robert James Dickson was the third son of William Dickson and Mary Ann Browning.

Born Oct. 8th 1843, the fifth child of William and Mary.  He never married.  He was an able chap and very clever with his hands in drawing, carving, etc.  He lived with us at 29 Park Street for a number of his last years, having that small room that my father occupied in his last years.  He died there in 1878 at the age of 35.  I was of course a small boy and I do not remember him personally at all well, but I do remember the smell and taste of his pipes and tobacco, lying on his table, for I used to try them when he was out.  He was a civil engineer.  His first active work as such was on the Lake Short & Michigan Central Railway, under Peter Emsley, when they were building the stone arch culverts and bridges on that line (and it is interesting to remember that most of the lime stone blocks for the bridge over Eighteen Mile Creek came from what was later our own beach at Derby, being gotten out near the waters edge, by gangs of red-shirted Irish laborers, who had huts along our bluff where, later, our house was moved). 
He was on the train which met with the fearful accident at Angola, N.Y. when it ran off the track on the bridge over the creek near the mill (the bridge is still there).  He felt the car leave the rails on the bridge, pulled the bell rope over head, humped to the door, and as the train plunged over the side of the bridge he leaped off on the opposite side, turning over and over, his overcoat flying in the wind, and crashing through a tree, which broke his hall.  He always suffered more or less from that shock, but was the only one in that car who was not killed. 
After leaving the railroad, he was on Government work at Oswego under Col. Harwood, U.S. Engineer Corps.  In 1872 he entered the service of the Canada Southern R.R. and was on work at Amherstburg, Ont.  In the summer of 1873 he entered the office of the Buffalo City Engineer, under Mr. Ditto, and continued during the term of Mr. Edward Mann (father of Stuart Mann) up to Feb. 8th 1877, and was in charge of the Department of Sewers, and later of streets.  He was also in charge of the digging of Buffalo Park Lake.  He left this office to go with the Bradford, McKean & Olean R.R., and was in their employ when he died.  I believe he died of Typhoid Fever.   
He was an enthusiastic sportsman and a fine shot, winning the $100 prize for shooting with the shot gun at the State Sportsmen's Convention in Buffalo in 1877. 
He was also, as has already been mentioned, quite an artist and wonderfully clever in making little knick-knacks with his knife.  There is a little black boat, made from a button, with a gold skate on it, and gold buttons up the side, also a wooden pocket knife, and other things about, which he made. 
The bearers at his funeral were E.B. Guthrie (also a city engineer), Geo. E. Mann, Charles F. Bingham, H.R. Jones, O.S. Warren, John Bullymore, Frank Kimberly, Wm. W. Lyon, all prominent younger men of the city.

The train wreck which William Dickson Young describes is also known as "The Angola Horror."  It was a devastating and grisly derailment over a gorge that killed about 50 people and was widely sensationalized across the nation.  Future Standard Oil magnate John D. Rockefeller was meant to be on that train, but missed it by minutes.  The incident eventually led to widespread change in railroad safety protocol.  In her book The Angola Horror: The 1867 Train Wreck That Shocked the Nation and Transformed American Railroads, author Charity Vogel describes Robert Dickson's experience in the train car and his desperate leap to safety.  He was, in fact, the only passenger in his car to survive the wreck.

Elizabeth Jane Dickson

The youngest surviving child of William and Mary Dickson was Elizabeth Jane Dickson.  She was the mother of William Dickson Young, whose biography of the family has shed so much light on their lives.
Born Oct. 8th2 1847.  This is my mother.  She married Albert B. Young [Albert Barnes Young] Oct. 20th 1870, in a house on Niagara Street near Georgia, where her mother was then living.  They then went on to live at 29 Park Street and have been there ever since, except for one year, a part of which was spent at Niagara Falls, Ont., and a part with her mother at 61 Park Street.  Mother was, next to Esther, and perhaps more than Esther, the cleverest and ablest of her family.  She tells so much of her early life in her own story that I shall not even attempt to add details here.  She graduated at the Buffalo Female Academy, now the Buffalo Seminary, and in later years was President of the Graduates Association.  She was an accomplished pianist, and I now have several old books of her music.  She had almost black hair and eyes, and before her marriage was said to be the handsomest girl in Buffalo and had a host of friends.

Elizabeth married Albert Barnes Young in 1870, when she was twenty-three.  They had two children, William Dickson Young and Alice Fletcher Young.  I will share Elizabeth's memoirs in a future blog post.

The youngest children of William Dickson and Mary Ann Browning were fraternal twins, Louis and Louise Dickson.  They were born in 1850 and died in 1851, at just over a year of age, of some sort of illness.  They are buried at Forest Lawn in Buffalo with the rest of the Dickson family.

I am so grateful that William Dickson Young took the time to write down these recollections of his family members.  Without them, we would know little more about these relatives than the dates of their birth and death.  The specifics of their lives in Buffalo would be completely lost to us.

William Dickson Young

1 William Dickson Young's disdain for his uncles and assertion that they were not successful is somewhat of a mystery. Both George and John were steadily employed as seamen on the Great Lakes. Both married and had families. Robert had a notable career as a civil engineer and overcame an extremely traumatic accident to contribute meaningfully to society. It's unclear where William's feeling that his uncles were less successful and serious than they should have been originates. It seems William was raised in a more academic household than his mother, aunts and uncles had been, and perhaps was less financially privileged than his mother and her siblings, but it's not clear if this influenced his feelings about his uncles or it was something else entirely.

2 Elizabeth's memoirs say her birthday was actually October 6th.

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