Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Wandering Life of John C. Dickenson, part 2

 [For part 1, see here.]

John disappears from the historical record for a decade, turning up in Izard County, Arkansas in 1897, where he successfully applies for a Confederate pension. He states he has been living in Arkansas for 6 years. He claims he was wounded on September 30, 1863. His wounded heel "swells up gets very sore as painfull when much used." He has to go on crutches occasionally. He makes his living "Making brooms seling Books such things as I can do." His brother James Jackson Dickenson provides an affidavit proving John's military service. Perhaps this indicates a reconciliation between the brothers. His pension is approved and he is awarded $25.

In 1901 he is in Fulton County, Arkansas, again applying for a pension. It is again approved. Affidavits from neighbors state that John C. "does all he can to make a living. He lives entirely alone in a poor excuse for a cabin 3/4 to 1 mile from anyone & not on a public road. He has rheumatism is threatened with paralysis & had his heel shot off during the war."

At some point John is accepted into the Arkansas Confederate Home, in Pulaski County, AR. His stay there is short.

By 1905 John is back in Tennessee, in Davidson County, again applying for a pension. He also applies for entry into the Confederate Soldiers' Home in Nashville. At this time he states "I am engaged in no bussiness I earn nothing." In answer to the question "Do you use intoxicants to any extent?" he answers "I tuch not tast not handel not the unclean thing."

In answer to the question "Is your mind ever unbalanced?" he replies "I act a fool ocasionaly or I wood have been near the Flesh Pots of Ark." John is admitted the Confederate Soldiers' Home in Nashville on April 24, 1906. He doesn't stay long. He discharges himself on February 20, 1906 and returns to wandering and applying for Tennessee pensions.

Unfortunately for John, his constant badgering of pension officials soon angers the pension examiners. In 1906, John P. Hickman, the secretary to the Board of Pension Examiners writes:

"It seems impossible to make him understand that the laws in the different states are different, and the fact that one state has pensioned him does not of itself entitle him to a pension in Tenn. We have heard from him, first in Campbell [County, TN], then in Claiborne County, then in this, then in Wilson, then in Putnam, then again in Davidson, and now again in Claiborne County. He seems to have no fixed place of abode. During his last short stay at the Tenn Home, he regaled some of the inmates with abuse of myself, our Secretary, and the Board, for not granting him a pension. I see from a paper lately filed in the case, that in May last he was in Richmond, Va. While at the Tenn. Home, he stated that he had a son, or perhaps two sons, at or near Well Spring - that he had visited one of them, and loaned him 150$ to buy land. According to his story, there was some disagreement, and so he left. He seems to be a wanderer. I understand he is a peddler, and walks all over the country. When I saw him, he appeared to be a stout able bodied a man, as I am. He was no more lame than I am. We do not know that he is a bona-fide citizen of Tenn. We do not know that he is not still drawing a pension in Virginia or Arkansas, or both.
The Board has seen him, heard him, and considered everything he has filed, and declined to grant him a pension."

Buried within his Confederate Home application is a letter from Taylor Gray. In it he discusses John's wound:
"Some time after the war was over John got Dr Tom Kernan and Dr Malicoat to split his heal open. He thought it would heal up but did not. The second operation they found a piece of leather in his heel suposed to be a piece of his boot or shoe. then after a long time his heel healed over."
In yet another pension application, John discusses his children. When asked if his children could support him, he states "they don't do much good takeing care of themselves could not or wood not take care of me."

Despite his protestations and affidavits, John's Tennessee pension applications were denied.

In 1909 John was back in Russell County, again applying for a pension! He claims he has been a resident of Russell County for 50 years. He was making his living "pedling spettials combs &c." This claim was allowed and he was awarded $24 in 1910.

John was apparently wandering again when his son was married in Tazewell County in October of 1909.

Late in 1909 he applied for entry to the Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Veterans Soldiers' Home in Richmond. He stated "I have to Peddel pills Notions around Coal Camps for something to Eat." In April of 1911 John was accepted; he entered the home on February 19th, 1912. However, John's wandering nature again took hold of him, and he asked for a discharge on April 4th, 1913. He reentered the home on September 28th, 1916. While at the Home he ordered a headstone from Edward L. Perkins of Richmond, Va. He again asked for a discharge on August 21st, 1919 to go live with his son. He reentered the home for the third and last time on November 14th, 1925.

While at the Home, John wrote letters to the editor of the Lebanon News, which were published. He reminisced about his school days in Russell County 70 years earlier.

On June 16th, 1927 John left the Soldiers' Home without permission. He had been suffering from a bad case of eczema and was unhappy that he was not allowed a furlough. John managed to talk a conductor into allowing him to travel on the train to Roanoke and refused to go back to the Home. The Police Superintendent of Roanoke eventually sent him back to the Home. On August 22nd, 1927 he asked for his final discharge from the Confederate Soldiers Home. He cited the "awful hospital" as the reason for his leaving.

On September 9th, 1927, the Lebanon News ran this article:

Old Soldier at Russell Poor Farm

Sixty-odd years ago a brave company of men, Confederate soldiers, met the invading Yankees in battle at Wytheville and through the Valley of Virginia where some hot fighting took place in the war of 1861-65.
One of these young men who faced the enemy and did his share of fighting was John T. Dickenson, a Russell county boy. Today this old hero of the stirring days that tried men's souls, is spending his remaining days in the Russell county poor house, having been admitted to the home of the homeless a few days ago.
It is said that every penitentiary in the United States have been searched and that no Confederate soldier could be found there, and indeed we are sorry that one has been compelled to seek refuge in the alms house.
Until recently Mr. Dickenson was cared for at the Soldier's Home in Richmond, but he says that he does not want to go back. Perhaps it is a desire with home to be near the scenes of better days.
God bless this old soldier. God bless every old soldier.

John remained voluntarily at the Poor Farm until July 1st, 1930, when he died peacefully in Lebanon, Virginia.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Wandering Life of John C. Dickenson, part 1

John C. Dickenson was born in Russell County on either March 15, 1838 (per his death record) or March 10, 1841 (according to his application to the Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers' Home and the Tennessee Confederate Soldiers' Home.) His father, John Dickenson, was one of the wealthiest landowners in Russell County, with over $36,000 worth of real estate and $24,000 worth of personal goods in 1860.

John C. enlisted as a private in Company C of the 37th Virginia Infantry on May 10, 1861, probably on his 20th birthday. His obituary states that "...he was the first man to walk out into the streets of Lebanon in 1862 [sic] when volunteers were called for to join the McElhaney Company, and enrolled his name..."

Unfortunately for John, as for many southwest Virginia farm boys, he was soon laid low by disease. Few muster roles exist, but John was sick at Monterey, Virginia for July and August of 1861, and was again sick for the musters of January and February 1862.

Regaining his health, John was present for the February 28th to March 30th musters. His status for the May and June 1862 muster is not stated. Since his enlistment was for 12 months, he was discharged in March of 1862. He then enlisted in the 22nd Virginia Cavalry for a three year term.

In late November of 1863, he was shot in the left heel in a skirmish near Johnson City, Tennessee. The ball entered the heel, taking a piece of boot leather with it, and crushed the "oscalsos" [sic, calcaneus] bone, taking half the bone with it. He was furloughed until the end of the war, and walked with crutches for 3 years.

Two attempts were made after the war to alleviate the pain and suffering of the wound. Dr. Tom Kernan and Dr. Malicoat both operated on the heel, while John C. was under the effects of chloroform. One of the operations succeeded in removing a piece of leather that had been in his heel since 1863. The operations were partly successful; John was able to walk without crutches.

John lived and worked with his parents until 1870. In 1871, after the death of his father, he began a lengthy Chancery Court case against his brother James Jackson Dickenson, also a veteran of the 22nd Virginia Cavalry. John C. was contesting their late father's will. In the case John argues that his brother James Jackson exerted improper influence on their father when he was writing his last will and testament, just a few months before he died. Various witnesses, including his mother, brothers and an uncle, testified that bad blood existed between James Jackson and John. C. Dickenson. Brother William P. Dickenson states that he heard "J. J. Dickenson say that he could not live in the house yard or on the place if John C. Dickenson stayed there." The root of the bad blood was apparently "insults and abuse" toward James J. Dickenson and his wife from John C.

However, bad blood apparently existed between John C. and his father as well. John C. was ordered off the farm by his father - "Because he said John C. Dickenson was doing no good there for himself or any other person & he wanted him to go some where and go to work & make something to live upon, and not spunge on him for a livelyhood." His father also stated "John C. Dickenson was so disagreeable that he could not live with him & that he was unwilling to risk himself with him in his old days."

The family feud came to a head (pardon the pun) when John C. Dickenson hit his brother James over the head with a plank in November of 1870. He then called his mother a liar, upon which insult she struck him in the mouth "with her fist." The case dragged on until August 8th, 1873, when the jury found the will was authentic.

The historical record is never quite as detailed as we would hope it to be. Such is the case in John C. Dickenson's wandering life. We next find him in Tazewell County in 1877, marrying Lillian Baker on March 15th.

On May 15, 1882 Lillian delivers a still born child. John and Lillian eventually have three children: Florence (b. 1878), Archibald (b. 1883), and James (b. 1884).

In February of 1882 the State of Virginia passes a law providing a pension for disabled Confederate soldiers. John applies in September of 1883. His application describes the nature of his service and the wound he received at Carter's Station, Tennessee in either October or November 1863. His application is eventually approved and he receives $60 in 1886.

John finds himself back in court by 1883. He brings suit against Alexander R. Beavers for conveyance of 300 acres he had purchased in 1879 but not received.

In 1886 he is sued by John M. Estill over medical care provided by Estill to Lillian Dickenson, dating back to 1881, but never paid for. John is mentioned as being "a non-resident & wholly insolvent". Estill's medical care include two visits for obstetrics, one on July 28, 1883 and one on September 17, 1884. John loses the case.

On July 4th, 1887 John is granted a license to "Peddle goods wears [sic] and Merchandise in the county of Washington [TN]." John C. continues to make a living as a peddler for many years.

John's wandering days had begun.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Many Loves of John W. Martin

John Wesley Martin was born in 1822 and died on March 27, 1891. He married Caroline Campbell on July 16, 1868. At the time, he was 46 years old and she was 20. Caroline died February 22, 1871.

However, Caroline was not John W.'s first love. Here are transcriptions of two letters from John W. to other women (Rebecca and Sarah) professing his love.


Russell County, Va December 15th 1862

Dear Miss it with no small degree of pleasure that I take my pen in hand this evening to drop you one more of my little notes it may fall upon your ear as an old song unheard or lisen to but I hope better things of you Miss Rebecca.

There is two things that trouble my mind greatly one of them I nor you can amend nor better the case but the other is in your power to settle.

The first is this unjust and unholy War the other is you Miss Rebec my heart has been greived a great deal about you since last spring I have tried to frowned my giref and sorrow as I was passing up and down the road by looking at the growing corn the waveing wheat the green foiliage the flowers after all this my mind would still wander back to that sweet and lovely form of yours. I will not say that my love is seventy seven times hoter than melted lead But I will tell you what I do say there never was such love filled the heart of man as mine is for you Miss Rebecca.

I would ask you sentimentally confidentially and religiously why you done as you did last fall and wi[...] you threw every inducement and every inference that a lady could produce to make me love you at home at meeting and in fact every where I saw you I remember well the night before Dr Ferguson had a little gathering I had your sympathys till a late hour in the night not to intrude upon your ladyship and then before it was light you was up with your love and affections renewed assure me if I would stay and go with you to Doctors you knew that I would be welcome But I had to return home as I thought it looked manly not to stay with you too long but hated to leave you very much with many other times and places I could refer to.

I would asked in the name of all that is sacrad and good what have I said or done to you that all this coldness exist to ward me you know me all your life when I came to see you last winter I was honest enough to tell you I was coming there for a wife I asked you for your objections then you said you and none but some body down there has objections to me marry you. Miss Rebec you have got me in the valey of dispair where i cant tune nor get off the bogg now I ask Miss Rebeca I know I have my wrongs also my failures and I am sorrow that it is so I know that I am a poor man so much the more pity for me Miss I don't thing I would left you [...] the last night I was at your Fathers [...] every circumstance I have some things of yours I would like to keep some of them an bring you up too if you cant reconcile this to feelings will you permit me to [...] you one more vist.

Dear Miss if all the persons from Mothers down to Henry Campbell had tolled me that I would have been a castaway from your Fathers house I could not have believed them.

Now in conclusion I feel like I could wipe the last tear from your eyes and the last drop of sweat from that sweet and lovely face.

I hope you will write me a satisfactorial answer.

Your affectionate friend

John W. Martin


Russell Co Elk Garden Va
Aug 24th 1865

Dear Miss Sarah I come before you for the first time in all my life, in the shape of above letter. I esteem this a great privelege that I am favored with the opportunity to write to one whom I have for the last two years held as a lady indeed and in truth.

Miss Sarah my first interview with you was going to Mc Cluens Chapel In September nearly two years now you know the connescion how we came to gether. I had not reached half way there before I fell in love with you certain and sure. But my mind got tangled up before I left the place I have labored under many dificulties to ascertain the cause, you the week before the Quartterly Meeting at Town told me the reason; Miss Sarah there is a kind of diffidence or backwardness at every place I see you to ward me since Routh Preached Susan Fergeson Funeral. Miss Sarah I never said or done anything in my life to insult or to hurt your feelings be it fare from me.

Dear Miss Sarah I fell in love with you two years ago I love know nor has there been any space in that time but what I did love you. Miss I have seen you at Town in kitchen at the [...] in the washtub in the Parlor at all these places you have filled a high place in my mind, you have been nothing more nor less than a monument of modesty and virtue.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Knock knock, Who's There - Shotgun!

 I started transcribing Southwest Virginia censuses in 1996. The first three went live on my original website later that year. They were the 1860 censuses for Russell County, Wise County, and Buchanan County.

In the last year I've added the 1850, 1870, 1880, and 1900 censuses for Russell County. By my count that's over 61,000 census entries that I've transcribed and made available freely.

When transcribing the censuses you occasionally come across unusual entries, names, occupations, etc. Here are a few of my favorites.

In the Elk Garden District of the 1880 Russell County census, we find the family of Reuben Price, living in a farmhouse. We also find this notation:

"Best information I could obtain of this family. No body at home but small children."

Later in the same census we get this absolutely wonderful occupation for John G. Duff:

"Watching with arms for his enemies."

I often imagine myself in the role of the census taker, in this case Dr. Charles W. Johnson. I think it would be trouble enough to visit every house in your district, much less contend with the often cantankerous Appalachian backwoodsman. But this would really take the cake! I picture Dr. Johnson asking for the occupation, getting this reply, asking again, getting the same reply, perhaps with more emphasis, and then reluctantly writing it down. "And underline it, dammit!"

I find no evidence that John G. Duff was mentally unstable, although he was involved in several lawsuits related to his declaring bankruptcy in 1872. The lawsuits lasted for decades.

Maybe the fact that Dr. Johnson served in the same Civil War unit, the 37th Virginia Infantry, as Samuel A. Duff, John G. Duff's son, helped.

Finally, the last entry for Elk Garden District, 1880 Russell County census. By this time (I imagine) Dr. Johnson is sick and tired of this shit, and enters the following for Mary Martin's infant son:

"Wandering about with its mother. Wandering in the woods."