Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dr. Isaac N. Dickson

April 18th marks 118 years since the death of Dr. Isaac Newton Dickson.
Faithful unto death
Isaac was born on November 24, 1817 in Reisterstown, the son of Isaac Dickson and Susannah Larsh.  He was a cousin of Dr. James C. Larsh, from last April's blog post.  His father was a veteran of the War of 1812, having served as aide-de-camp to Brigadier General Charles Carnan Ridgely, who later became Governor of Maryland.

As a boy, Isaac attended Reisterstown Academy, and went on to attend the University of Maryland School of Medicine, graduating in 1838.  Soon after, he moved to Bay Hundred in Talbot County, where he first began practicing medicine.  It was there that he married Mary Jane Sears in October of 1840.

By the 1850 census, Isaac and Mary were living in Baltimore City, with their two daughters, Susannah, age 9 years, and Ann, age 5 years.  Isaac was working as a physician, but wasn't listed as owning any real estate.
The Dicksons did still have property in Talbot County, given to Mary by her father in 1849, and it was at their home in Bay Hundred that Mary died on October 28, 1851, at the age of 31.

Two years later, Isaac's older brother, Dr. Louis Larsh Dickson, died suddenly in Reisterstown on April 19, 1853.  Isaac, along with his two daughters, moved back to Reisterstown to continue his brother's medical practice.  In October of that same year, Isaac married Mary Elizabeth Cockey, daughter of Mordecai Gist Cockey and Eurith Bramwell of Carroll County.

Isaac's new father-in-law Mordecai had been named as a trustee of his late brother Louis Dickson's will.  As part of the settlement, Isaac purchased six acres from Louis' estate on March 28, 1857 for $1,610.
In 1856, Mary Dickson gave birth to a daughter, Louie Cockey Dickson, likely named for Isaac's brother.  Sadly, Louie died on March 25, 1859, about a week shy of her third birthday.

In the 1860 census, Isaac Dickson was listed as a farmer, owning real estate valued at $3,000.  He and Mary had welcomed a new daughter, Fanny, into the family, just 10 months old when the census was taken.  The Dicksons employed a servant, James Crawford, who was 10 years old, and a hostler, William Johnson.
On July 28, 1864, Isaac's eldest daughter Susannah married Dr. David Miller Barr, and moved with him to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In early 1869, a group of Reisterstown men received an official charter to form a new local Ionic Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.  Isaac was among the Lodge's earliest members, applying to join on March 9th.  He progressed quickly through the Masonic degrees, from Entered Apprentice on March 23rd, to Fellow Craft on April 13th, to Master Mason on April 29th.  Later, he would serve as the Lodge's Worshipful Master from 1874 to 1875, and again from 1880 to 1894.  The usual term for the Worshipful Master of a Lodge is one year, thus Isaac's long tenure in the office reflects his stature in the Reisterstown community and the respect of the Lodge's members.

But 1869 was also a year of sorrow for the Dickson family.  Isaac and Mary's only son, Isaac Jr., passed away on July 12, 1869, at the age of only 10 months.

Oh hads't thou still on earth remained
Vision of beauty, fair as brief
How soon thy brightness had been stained
With passion or with grief
Now not a sullying breath can rise
To dim thy glory in the skies
Despite the year's ups and downs for the Dicksons, it proved to be an important one for Reisterstown.  In December of 1869, Dr. Isaac Dickson completed his manuscript "The Early Days of Reisterstown and Vicinity".  In writing it, he drew in large part on the memories of Philip Reister Jr., a grandson of John Reister, and Isaac's uncle by marriage.  At the time, Philip was near 88 years old, and with his aid, Isaac was able to record much of the town's past that might have otherwise been lost:
"The most of these facts have been gleaned from a grandson living and eighty years old, with most assuredly one of the brightest and most retentive memories in existence.  It certainly is somewhat remarkable how he can go back and converse freely and truly upon those early days, so deeply shrouded by the roll of many years.  But with the readiness of active life and with a quick perception, he takes a retrospective view of olden times, and then by some magic influence, he calls up those primitive facts and then relates them with all the promptness and precision of a mathematician."
Isaac Dickson's history of Reisterstown and its founding families preserved a one-of-a-kind window into the town's past.  Through the efforts of his children and the Kiwanis Club, the manuscript was re-printed in 1947, and is still used by researchers to this day.

The following year, in the 1870 census, Isaac was living with his wife, Mary, and three daughters:  Annie, age 22;  Fanny, age 10;  and Blanche, age 7.  He was again listed as a physician, with real estate now valued at $3,576.  Also living with the family was a domestic servant, 10-year-old Lucy Howard.
Around this time, Isaac was appointed as secretary of the board of trustees of Franklin Academy - later, Franklin High School.  An article from the Baltimore Sun on the school's 100th anniversary noted, "Of the various personalities closely associated with the history of Franklin that of Dr. I. N. Dickson is conspicuous.  His interest in the school did not cease when it passed out of the direct management of the trustees, but continued until his death."

Isaac's second wife Mary passed away a year later, on May 21, 1871, at the age of 44.  The two had been married for 18 years.
Three years later, in December of 1874, Isaac married a third time, to Eurith Bramwell Cockey, the younger sister of his second wife.  The couple would have just one child together, Isaac Cockey Dickson, who was born in 1876.

In the 1880 census, Isaac, now 60 years old, was still working as a physician, and his wife Eurith was keeping house.  Living with them were daughters Anna, age 33, and Fannie, age 20, and son Isaac, age 4.  Two servants worked in the household:  Samuel Long, a general laborer, and Lucy Taylor, a domestic servant.
In late August of 1890, the Dickson family would have received grave news from New Jersey about daughter Susannah Dickson Barr.  While sorting laundry one evening, Susannah was severely burned when the fabric caught fire.  She died of her injuries on August 31, 1890.

Dr. Isaac Newton Dickson passed away on April 18, 1896, at the age of 78.  He was buried with Masonic honors alongside his second wife, Mary.  A book of biographical sketches of University of Maryland alumni had this to say of Dr. Dickson:
"In medical circles in Baltimore county, Dr. Dickson was a familiar figure for more than forty years ... although he was a member of several professional associations did not make himself conspicuous in their assemblages, for he was a man and physician of quiet habits and tastes, but he had a wide acquaintance with medical men in the state and was highly respected by them all."
(Dr. Dickson's Signature)
In the 1900 census, Isaac's widow Eurith was living with her stepdaughters Annie, Fanny, and Blanche, though curiously, they're all listed as her nieces (true of Fanny and Blanche, as they were her sister Mary's daughters, but not so for Annie).  Eurith is listed as running a boarding house, and Annie is listed as a landlord.
Eurith Dickson passed away on April 8, 1901 at the age of 66 from pneumonia.

He that overcometh shall inherit all things
Isaac Dickson's children by his first wife, Mary Jane Sears, were:
  • Susannah Larsh Dickson, c1842-1890, wife of David Miller Barr
  • Annie Eliza Dickson, 1845-1932, unmarried
Isaac Dickson's children by his second wife, Mary Elizabeth Cockey, were:
  • Louie Cockey Dickson, 1856-1859
  • Fanny Virginia Dickson, 1859-1933, wife of William Russell Thomas
  • Blanche H. Dickson, 1863-1955, unmarried
  • Irene Dickson (died young, dates unknown)
  • Bettie Dickson (died young, dates unknown)
  • Issac Newton Dickson Jr, 1868-1869
Isaac Dickson's child by his third wife, Eurith Bramwell Cockey, was:
  • Isaac Cockey Dickson,  1876-1960, husband of Melanie Sherwood 
After his death, Isaac's property in Reisterstown was passed around among family members for several years.  His house and office at 67-69 Main Street still stand today, now housing the Association of Animal Rights, Inc., Morris Remodeling, and Harmony Road Music School.  In 1926, Isaac Cockey Dickson donated his father's property on the corner of Main Street and Chatsworth Avenue to the Ionic Building Company on the condition that the lots "be used for the erection of a building for Ionic Lodge No 145 A F & A M ... set back not less than fifty-seven feet from the outer edge of the curb line."  The cornerstone was laid on October 2, 1926, and the completed building was dedicated on March 25, 1927.

Ancestry.com (census & marriage records)
  • Year: 1850; Census Place: Ward 14, Baltimore City, Maryland; Roll: M432_285; Page: 457A.
  • Year: 1860; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M653_468; Page: 46.
  • Year: 1870; Census Place: Reisterstown, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: Roll: M593_569; Page: 277B.
  • Year: 1880; Census Place: District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 495; Page: 568C.
  • Year: 1900; Census Place: Election District 4, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: 606; Page: 7A.
Baltimore Sun
  • "Died."  Date: 30 March 1859; Page: 2.
  • "Married." Date: 30 July 1864; Page: 2.
  • "Died." Date: 3 August 1869; Page: 2.
  • "Married." Date: 22 December 1874; Page: 2.
  • "Telegraphic Summary Etc." Date: 20 August 1890; Page: 1.
  • "Summer Resort Notes." Date: 21 August 1890; Page: 3.
  • "Death of Mrs. Dr. D. Miller Barr." Date: 1 September 1890; Page: 6.
  • "Buried with Masonic Honors." Date: 22 April 1896; Page: 7.
  • "Franklin High School This Year Celebrates Hundredth Anniversary." Date: 13 June 1920; Pages: 6 & 10.
Internet Archive
  • University of Maryland, 1807-1907 by Eugene Fauntleroy Cordell, 1907.
Ionic Lodge #145 A.F. & A.M. & Bob Reynolds

Maryland Archives (death & land records, Historic Sites Inventory Surveys for the Isaac Dickson House and Ionic Lodge)

Reisterstown Library
  • Early Days of Reisterstown and Vicinity by Dr. Isaac Newton Dickson, 1869.
  • Reister's Desire by Lillian Bayly Marks, 1975.
Cemetery photos © AgateGS

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