Select Dixon Miscellany

Here are some Dixon/Dickson stories and accounts over the years:

Thomas Dicson, The First of the Dicksons in Scotland

The Dickson name is thought to have originated upon the birth of the son of Richard Keith, son of Hervey de Keith, the Earl Marischal of Scotland, and Margaret, daughter of the 3rd Lord Douglas.  Alexander Nisbet in his 1722 book A System of Heraldry wrote:

“The Dicksons are descendants from Richard Keith, said to be a son of the family of Keith, Earls Marischals of Scotland.”

Richard Keith's son, Thomas, took the surname "Dicson," meaning "Dick's son" or "Richard's son."

This Thomas Dicson has quite a history. Born in 1247, he was associated in some way with William Wallace and was killed by the English in 1307 in battle. Tradition states he was slashed across the abdomen but continued fight holding the abdominal wound closed with one hand until he finally dropped dead.

He was buried in the churchyard of St Brides, Douglas and his marker shows him with a sword in one hand holding his belly with the other.  Robert the Bruce made him Castellan of Castle Douglas the year before he was kille

English Dixons of Scottish Origin

B. Homer Dixon in his 1884 book A Shorter History of Clan Dickson reported:

“Some of the Dickson clan left Scotland at an early date and became tenants of Furness Abbey in county Lancaster.  One of their number was Sir Nicholas Dixon, Rector of Cheshunt, Prebendary of Howdon, and Baron of the Exchequer.  He died in 1448.

From John Dixon of Furness Falls sprangRichard Dixon, Lord Bishop of Cork in 1570, and Sir Richard Dixon who married the widow of Lord Chancellor Eustace.   He was the ancestor of the Dixons of Beeston in Yorkshire and now of Seaton Carew in Durham."

The Dicksons from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

The Dicksons were a Scots Irish family who had come to Pennsylvania in the 1740’s and settled near Chambersburg.

One of the sons George, born in Ireland in 1735, came to Black Lick Creek (now in Indiana county) in 1772, accompanied by his younger brother John and bought 400 acres of land.  There they built a cabin, cleared what land they could during the summer, and then went back to Chambersburg for the winter.  The next year they returned and cleared more land and in 1774 George moved his family into the cabin.

He continued to clear and cultivate the land until 1778 when, in the greatest haste, he was obliged to flee upon receiving news of the Wyoming massacre and the near-approach of hostile Indians.  With his wife and three small children, all mounted upon two saddle horses, they summarily returned across the mountains to Chambersburg.

In 1782 George and his brother John again visited their property in western Pennsylvania to find everything in ashes.  Coming southward to Pittsburgh, suitable alternative land was found and purchased by George.   John went further west into Ohio where he married and settled near Poland.

Another son Andrew was born in America in 1748.  He died in service during the Revolutionary War. The Bible containing Andrew Dickson's family record still exists and remains in family hands

Jeremiah Dixon and Dixie

Jeremiah Dixon from Cockfield in Durham and his colleague Charles Mason completed the surveying to mark the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland in 1768.  It became known as the Mason-Dixon line.  It became also the demarcation line between North and South.

The word Dixie, popularized in the song Dixie Land, was to be a popular term of reference for the Southern states.  Abraham Lincoln even ordered that the song Dixie Land, so dear to the South, be sung at the reunion of the two sides after the surrender, making it one of the national anthems.

Where did this term Dixie originate?

Some have suggested that it referred to an English slave-owner who took his slaves toNew York. He was then told that slavery was unlawful there. While the slaves were there they often talked about "Dixie land," the name of the Southern plantation to which they were eventually restored.  Dixie might also have originated from dix which was French for ten.  There was a small coin in New Orleans by this name.

But the more likely origin seems to have been the Jeremiah Dixon of the Mason-Dixie line.

Charles Dixon, Emigrant to Canada

Charles Dixon, emigrant to Canada, described himself and his journey as follows:

"I, Charles Dixon, was born March 8 in the year 1730 at Kirleavington, near Yarm in the East Riding of Yorkshire in Old England.  I was brought up to the bricklayer's trade with my father until I was about nineteen years of age and followed that calling till the 29th year of my age.  I then engaged in a paper manufactory at Hutton Rudby and followed that business for the space of about twelve years with success.  At the age of thirtyone I married Susanna Coates, by whom I have had one son and four daughters.

In 1772, after many thoughts and consultations with my wife and friends, I came to a resolution to leave all my friends and interests I was invested with and go to Nova Scotia. The time arrived that we were to be at Liverpool and we reached there the 27th February, from whence we sailed on the 16th day of March on board the Duke of York with sixty-two souls as settlers.

After many discouragements we arrived and landed at Fort Cumberland on the 21st day of May and went into the barracks with my family until we could find a resting place.  At first glance things wore a very gloomy aspect.  There were few of the inhabitants but wanted to sell their lands and depart.  I began to walk about the country and went over to Sackville.  After a few days investigation, finding the cause of discontent to be largely due to indolence and lack of knowledge, I purchased a tract of land at Sackville, to which I removed my family on the 8th of June."

The Adventures of Thomas Dixon

Thomas Dixon was born on the Isle of Man in 1816.  At the age of 21 he married a woman named Eliza Fennella. That same year of 1837 his mother died and Dixon inherited her estate - only to find that his mother was in such debt that her assets barely covered the costs of her funeral.  Pursued by her creditors, Dixon and his wife fled the island.

They ended up in London where his wife left him and their two children.  Undeterred Dixon applied for and was appointed Superintendent of Convicts for the Swan River Colony in Western Australia.  In 1850 Dixon traveled to the colony with his two children and his "wife."  Shortly after their arrival at Fremantle, Dixon's wife was banished to Toodyay "for the good of the Service."  As no record of Dixon's second marriage was ever found, it seems that his wife's banishment from Fremantle was most likely attributable to her exposure as Dixon's common-law wife who was not the mother of his children.

At Fremantle Dixon created a reforming humane convict regime for the new colony.  But there was little recognition of what he had achieved because he was charged and indicted in 1859 for embezzling public money.

Dixon fled to Singapore and made his way to Labuan Island where he was appointed chief constable. However this appointment was nixed by the Colonial Office when they learnt about it.  From around 1862, Dixon was a mercenary with the forces fighting to put down the Taiping Rebellion in China.

Nothing was known of how he spent the next ten years of his life.  But in December 1876 he arrived back at Fremantle and spent the final years of his life in poor health living with his eldest daughter Mary and her husband.

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