Friday, April 11, 2014

Queen Rebecca Dickerson - a long life lived well - Part 1 of ?

(Family lineage: Queen Rebecca Dickerson 1; Edna Bethel Franklin  2; Judith Ann Hayward  3)

1891 – 1998

      Queen, the 6th child of  Rev. William Dickerson and  Emerine Bartram, was born in Wayne County, West Virginia, where she lived until age 17. She was named for an aunt, Queen Foreman Dickerson.
Queen Rebecca Dickerson, abt 17 years old
   In 1890, Aunt Queen and her husband, Henry Dickerson, wanted Emarine and William's 10 year old daughter, Eliza, to stay with them while attending school. That winter, Eliza was exposed to measles and, upon learning of it, Rev. Dickerson immediately planned to bring her home.  However, because her sister-in-law, Emarine, was pregnant, Aunt Queen objected to taking Eliza back until the danger was past. Tragically Aunt Queen caught the measles herself and died.  Her husband, Henry, died six months later. 

In memory of this special couple, Queen (who was born a few months later) was named for her aunt, and the Dickersons' last child, born in 1893, was named for Uncle Henry (aka Harry). William and Emarine took Queen and Henry's one and three year old daughters into their home and cared for them until William's death three years later, after which other family members stepped in to care for the girls.
One of Queen's drawings in the primer

As described in Emarine's story in an earlier post, her husband died of a freak accident at age 38. However, he did leave an extensive library containing the Bible and many school books. Queen's reading began when her father bought her a primer which had colored pictures to demonstrate the letters of the alphabet. Her mother taught her to read from that primer and in her later years she re-constructed that book from memory with the hope it would be published eventually  (it wasn't).

Queen's 18th year was pivotal to the rest of her life. After attending high school for two years, she obtained a teacher's license and started teaching while living in Arkansas.  Just before she began her teaching career, her brother, Boyd, gifted her with a beautiful gold locket/watch, which is still worn by a family member today.

     Later that year, after moving to Missouri to live with her sister, Clara, she met William Frederick Franklin (Fred), who had been working on a threshing machine crew in Kansas with Queen's twin brothers. Queen often talked about the phenomenon that she and Fred experienced while they were “courting”:  Haley's Comet dashed across the sky, which she described as “a huge moon-like ball with a long tail which lighted up the area all around us.”

Queen and Fred married on her 20th birthday on March 29, 1911 in Missouri. On their first anniversary they were gifted with their first son, William Evert,  followed closely by a daughter, Edna Bethel, and later by  two more sons, Paul Keith and Carthel Floyd.

Queen and Fred in 1914 with Evert and Edna   
In 1823, after moving from state to state in search of a way to care for their growing family, they
Queen's painting of farm
saved enough money to buy a farm with an adjoining store in Gaff, a small town between Versailles and New Marion, Indiana. The store was welcomed by all neighboring farmers who did not have good transportation or decent roads into the larger towns at the time.   However, with the advent of the automobile, the improved shopping opportunities in outlying areas beckoned, and eventually the store was closed.  Fortunately the farm contained a large garden and livestock which fed the family but didn't provide the cash needed for the every day necessities. Eventually both Fred and Queen were persuaded by Queen's brother, Boyd, to sell Watkins products door-to-door, and the money they earned greatly relieved the cash shortage they had been experiencing.  
They continued to live and work on the farm until after the beginning of World War II, when they temporarily closed it down and moved to Chicago to find work in wartime industries and be closer to their daughter, Edna, and her family.  Chicago was also the hub where their sons came whenever they were on leave from their military service. After the war ended, they returned to Indiana and re-activated the farm with some cows and chickens and - of course - a large garden.

 As mentioned in the title line, this is only Part 1 of Queen's story. The woman (my grandmother) lived an incredibly long and full life and died at age 107.  Even then she was still able to walk with only a cane and easily convinced people that she was years younger than she really was. She became a well known artist and painted well into her 90's when she began to lose her sight. She wrote poetry celebrating family events and, at age 95, decided to move from Indianapolis to Florida where her four children and their spouses lived. She bowled until age 103 and served as the family genealogist by contacting relatives around the country and asking them to share their stories.

      In view of all the tales that are still available describing Queen's life, it seems highly likely that there will be more posts devoted to her life sprinkled throughout this blog. Hopefully you will enjoy reading them as much as I am enjoying writing them.