The J.E. Dawson Family

Written by: George Dewey Dawson [1899-1991]

James Edward Dawson born in 1799 was the father of sixteen children of which Frederick D. Dawson, born in 1832, was the 7th child. James Edward Dawson, born November 11, 1855, was the oldest child of Frederick. This family produced seven children of which only four grew up to maturity. These were: James Edward, George, Russ, Mary Alice [Gillfillian ] and Freida [Hoffman], a daughter from a second marriage. Frederick D. Dawson became a well to do farmer living in Iroquois County near Milford, Illinois. Around 1905 he moved to Monroeville, Indiana and while there gave each of his four children 80 acres of land [in Madison Township, Allen County, Indiana].

James Edward Dawson, born in 1855, was a studious lad and always read a great deal. He prepared to teach school and graduated from the Gem City Business College, Quincy, Illinois. He applied for and was hired to teach at the Thomas School by B. F. Thomas, the trustee. Since it was necessary to board near the school, he boarded at the Thomas home. B.F. Thomas had lost his wife in 1874 when she was 37 years of age. A family of 6 girls and 2 boys were left. Madora Eleanor was the oldest child and she was only 14 years of age then. It was necessary for her to quit school and take care of the children. It is assumed that in addition to housework she found time for further study and probably the young teacher tutored her also. In 1878 they were united in marriage.

 During the next several years, J.E. leased farm land from his father and also taught school. We have a copy of the lease agreement that was made in 1878. Their first child, Arthur Ernest, was born on 28 December 1879. Glen Evart was then born on 30 June 1881 and died later on 13 September 1883. Audrey May [ Dot ] was born 1 September 1883 and Fred Asa followed with a birth date of 29 August 1885.

It was at this point when the words '' Go West Young Man, Go West'' became a common expression. The Homestead Act made this attractive and among those who were interested and anxious to get ahead was James Edward. In 1885 they moved to western Kansas [ Emmence Finney County ] to a homestead of 160 acres. This land was prairie land on which a few years previously, the buffalo roamed. In 1930's this land was a part of the Great Dust Bowl. Their land was forty miles from the nearest railroad. We have no knowledge now of the type of house that they had - but imagine what it must have meant to these Dawsons to have friends and relatives in Illinois, with three young babies in tow, to have made this move. Surely this was an example of the pioneer spirit and fortitude.

In those days the main fuel supply were buffalo chips that were gathered from the prairie. The story is told of the time when Grandfather Dawson [ Frederick ] visited the family, he bragged about the good toast that mother had made for breakfast. One morning he got up earlier and found her toasting the bread over the buffalo chip fire, after he saw this, he didn't think that the toast was near as good. Another incident that indicates the hardships that were incurred, involves a trip that James Edward was to make to get supplies like flour, salt, sugar ect. with the team and wagon. The trip was about 40 miles one way. He started early in the morning and did not expect to get home until late that night. His team consisted of a mule and a horse. On the way home there was some trouble. While he was hitching the mule, the mule kicked and knocked James hand against the single tree. James Edward fainted. It is not known how long he lay there - but he came home the next morning. The large fingers on his right hand were broken and never properly set. Because of this, these fingers healed crooked. He was never able to straighten then out.

Each of the years that this family was there, crops were planted but the hot winds and dust storms destroyed then before they could be harvested. Here Flossie Alice was born on 5 November 1887. After three years of crop failures, the Dawson homestead was given up. So along with a neighbor by the name of Clark, they loaded the families and possessions into four covered wagons and went to Cozad, [ Dawson County ] Nebraska. Three weeks were spent on this trip. There were no motels or McDonalds to provide for then. This was a distance of 225 miles. In Cozad, the family lived above a grocery store. Later they built a small frame house in eastern part of Cozad. The house still stands to this day.

While there James Edward taught school in a sod building which was in the country. He also operated a tin shop. Thomas Clark Dawson was born on 18 March 1891. The records are not too clear at this point, but we know that they moved to Shelton, Nebraska where the family operated a store and a bake shop. Mother's records of the purchases and the sales for the shop date from 15 September 1892 to 23 March 1893.

After this, they moved back to Cozad. Edward Edwin was born on 5 September 1893. Then Frank Edison was born on 10 August 1896- he died 8 May 1897. Eighty acres were acquired about this this time and James Edward built a sod house on it for the family. This was one of the first sod houses to have a shingled roof, wood floor, glass windows and screens. We have a picture of this house. Mother loved flowers and this picture shows her geraniums blooming in the window of this house. George Dewey was born here on 4 August 1899. At this time Arthur returned to Milford, Illinois to go to high school. He got there by riding his bicycle from Cozad to Milford.

In 1901 the family moved to Rochester, [ Fulton County ] Indiana where Grandfather Thomas was living. Audrey May did not make the move with the family. She had married Cadet York and remained at Cozad. Rexford Albert was born in Rochester on 12 March 1905. Dewey was very unhappy with Rex- he wanted to send him back; for he was too little to play with. The Rochester home was on 40 acres of sandy soil which was not productive except to produce berries, vegetables and other small fruits. When the fruit was in season it was picked and sold from door to door in Rochester. Transportation in those days was a horse and spring wagon which was an open vehicle with steel tired wheels.

In 1907 the J. E. Dawson family moved to eighty acres at Monroeville, Indiana. Grandfather Dawson had decided that since James Edward had several boys to help, he should get the 80 acres that had 40 acres of virgin timber. The house here was ample but, of course, there was no furnace or inside toilet facilities in it. The barn was small and there were no other buildings. The soil here was fertile and so good corps could be raised. The school was only a quarter mile away. It had only one room for all eight grades and of course, only one teacher. This was the beginning of a new period for the family. It was a period of hard work which included clearing the timber so the land could be used for corps, building a barn, chicken house, grainery, hog house, a machinery shed and remodeling of the house. James Edward was very handy with tools, so with the help of Tom and Ed, very little help was required except for the barn building and some of remodeling of the house. The farming here was done with horsepower using real horses. A herd of fine Jersey cattle were developed along with a herd of Chester White hogs. Many chickens, geese and turkeys were also raised on this farm.

During these years many new items were acquired by the family. Among these were; a new barrel churn to replace with the hand dasher- the new washer was turned by hand with a crank. A new buggy and carriage were added, and in 1917, the family got its first automobile. Our walking plow was replaced by a riding plow that was pulled by three horses. A telephone was added to the household. By gathering up iron junk, Rex and Dewey were able to buy a new Kodak camera for two dollars. Rex still has this camera.

As all farmers who raise livestock are, we were exposed to accidents, runaway horses and Jersey bulls, who were always dangerous. In one case, a Jersey bull knocked James Edward down and was rolling him across the field. At that time, Tom was coming down the road with a team and wagon. He saw what was taking place and arrived just as the bull was about to roll James Edward against the fence. Tom clubbed the bull off. James Edward had some broken ribs and was badly bruised from the incident. We sold that bull immediately. While we had other Jersey bulls, they were always respected and treated with great care after that. In 1916, James Edward suffered a severe stroke which left side his paralyzed. His speech and mind were not affected though. After this, he had to walk with the aid of two canes.

World War I took place during the years that the Dawson family lived at Monroeville. Fred, Tom, Ed and Dewey were registered for the draft. Since most farmers at that time were exempt from the service, the three older boys were not called up to serve. However Dewey who had graduated from Monroeville High School in 1918, was in. In August of 1918, on his 19th birthday he was called for training in the Army truck corps. His Army career was a short one though. The armistice was signed in early November- Dewey was discharged and able to return home by Christmas, 1918.

In 1919, in order to gain more acreage, the Dawson family moved to Markle [ Rock Creek Township, Huntington County ] Indiana. This new place was forty miles from Monroeville. We moved the grain, hay and furniture by wagon and drove the cattle and horses. This was a timely move. In the following spring, that of 1920, a tornado struck the farm at Monroeville and completely demolished every building, bush and shrub. It left only the foundation of the and barn in place. A maple tree which Tom had planted in the yard also remained and is still standing. This storm struck at six o'clock on Sunday evening. We would have all been home at that time taking care of the stock. Of course it is a question of whether all or any of us would have survived had we been there then.

Following World War I, farm prices broke sharply and so the farm was traded for land at Wheatfield [ Jasper County ] Indiana. In November, 1921 the Dawson family moved to Wheatfield. Flossie did not move with the family because she had married John Couey. At this point Dewey decided to give up farming. Rex made the move with his mother and father. Tom and the family he had by now also moved to Wheatfield.

On June 25,1922, James Edward suffered a stroke of apoplexy, resulting in his death [June 27th]. His body was returned to Monroeville for burial in the Monroeville Memorial Cemetery.

In the fall of 1922, Mother and Rex moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana and made a home for Dewey and Rex. In 1925, Dewey married. In 1932, Mother close her home to live with Flossie and her family. She continued to be in good health and active until her last year. She passed away in Flossie's home in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 30, 1950. She is also buried in the Monroeville Memorial Cemetery.

No review of the family would be complete without a special mention and tribute to Flossie. Even though she was handicapped by a crippled hip, she was strong- both physically and in spirit. She had remained at home helping Mother with the house work, raising chickens, doing garden work and helping with the younger children. After her marriage at the age of 34, she had five children and she had many hardships. In spite of this, she was always cheerful and managed some way. After Mother closed her home, she lived with Flossie and assisted her with her family. In Mother's final years, Flossie made a home for her and took care of her until she died. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Flossie.

As we look back, we must realize what a great and wonderful heritage we had in having a Christian home with loving parents who had dignity and a great respect for others. We always had friends. Mother never saw a stranger and was loved by all who knew her. In some respects she was strict - no liquor, no tobacco, no playing - except for Flinch. Bickering, scolding and backtalk were not a part of the family scene.

Father was a great reader, especially of current events. There were always farm magazines and National Geographies in the house. Mother was a great student of the Bible and saw to it that we all went to Sunday School and Church. To my knowledge, none of us were ever paddled. We were promised that if we were paddled in school, we get paddled at home a second time. There was no back talk. This can be verified by Ed's experience. One day when he was about 12 years old, while living in Rochester, Mother asked him to bring in some wood. He was reading and didn't answer. She asked again saying that she wanted him to hurry. He said "Get it yourself". Mother had a small piece of wood in her hand. She threw it at him and struck him on the side of his face. He had a scab on the side of his face for a few days, but all us understood that when Mother spoke, we should listen.

Father enjoyed going to the circus and he always took we boys when one came to town. He also enjoyed political speeches. Dewey remembers when William Jennings Bryan came to Rochester. Father held Dewey up on his shoulders so that Dewey could see over the crowd. Mother was a good seamstress. With money scarce and with a growing family, there was a lot of sewing, darning and patching to be done. She worked many hours, making over hand me downs and while our clothes might have been patched; they were always clean. Five years before her death Mother found some material that she liked. She made a dress for herself and laid it away with the request that it was to be put on her for burial. This, of course, was done.

By today's standards we were probably underprivileged; but that word was unknown to us. We can be thankful for the character and moral fiber that has been built into our lives. We can only hope that those who follow will continue to walk with their chins up and hold the ''Dawson'' banner high.

This recap of the James Edward Dawson family covers the span of over a hundred years. Over this century there many changes made to ever phase of our lives. The way of living today is a far cry from the pioneer life of covered wagons and cow chips that were common place in the early days of this family. In spite of all the changes that has taken place, we can be proud of our moral fiber and the emotional stability that has been ours. We have maintained our dignity and respect for others; in return, we have the respect of our fellowmen. We need to offer no apologies- and hope that those who follow to worthy of our heritage.

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