Friday, April 4, 2014

A to Z April Challenge: D is for Dawson

My theme for the A to Z April Challenge is “In-Laws and Out-Laws – Friends of the Family.”  I will be researching friends, colleagues, neighbors - those people who came and went touching my family’s lives in both small and large ways. 

is for Dawson.  Richard Dawson.  But not the original host of “Family Feud.”  This Richard Dawson was a neighbor to my William and Sallie Sampson and others of the Jollett family living in the McMullans Mill district of Greene County, Virginia in the mid-1800s.

I first noticed Mr. Dawson when, as a volunteer for the Greene County Historical Society, I was indexing a daybook from the Price-Hill General Store.  Dawson.  Sims.  Runkle.  Jarrell.  Melone.  Name after name had the air of familiarity.  And why not?  They were the names flanking my own family’s names in each census record for Greene County, Virginia. 

Born about 1814, Richard Dawson was a blacksmith.  In 1850, at age 36 he was head of a small household that included his wife Mary 34 and his mother Lucy 80. 

In 1860, the Dawsons claimed real estate valued at $2000 and personal property worth $1800.

Dawson died of pneumonia in March 1880. 

If I had only to rely on, that would be the sum total of what I know about Richard Dawson.  But because he was a regular customer at the Price-Hill General Store in Stanardsville, Virginia in 1855, I know some funny little things about William and Sallie’s neighbor:  
  • In a couple months time, he stopped by the store for tobacco at least 4 times.  
  • He bought typical staples like salt, coffee and sugar, but in November he purchased 8 pounds of sugar.  Maybe Mary was baking for the holidays.
  • Richard also ran some errands for Mary purchasing candles and 2 yards of calico. 
  • Three pounds of nails comprised one day’s purchase.  Was he repairing the house or shed?  Were the nails used for something in his blacksmith shop?
  • That he was able to read and write is almost certain as one time Richard purchased some quills and a quire of paper.  (That’s 25 sheets of paper or one-twentieth of a ream.)

I have to wonder what kind of friendship he might have had with my ancestors.  Did William and Sallie have Richard make horseshoes or fireplace pokers for them?  Did Richard take his corn and wheat to William to be ground?  Did they attend church together?  Maybe answers to questions like these are contained in some scraps of paper in somebody’s attic, just like the Price-Hill Daybook had been.

Discover delightful displays of daydreams and discourse at the A to Z April Challenge.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Oh, those general store records are priceless! Were those records in your ancestor's attic?

    1. No, not my attic. A couple bought an old house in Stanardsville in Greene County which is about 3 hours from where I live. That's my ancestors' stomping grounds. Anyway, they found it in their attic.