Role in Ravensworth: Owner Parcel 1.1.2

Dickins family papers. Three University library collections of family papers are accessible online:

  1. “Francis Asbury Dickins Papers,” #218, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,,Francis_Asbury.html.
  2. “Additional Papers of the Dickins and Kirk Families,” Accession #5533-K, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.,
  3. “Additional Papers of the Randolph Family of Edgehill,” Accession #5533-D, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.,

Each collection provides summary descriptions of the papers within them as well as biographical information for some family members. Sections of several papers are quoted at length. Altogether, the summaries give broad insight into the family’s history and affairs.

Robert Moxham’s Annandale, Virginia: A Brief History draws on the University of North Carolina collection and other sources for a lengthy account of the Dickins family’s time in Annandale and the Civil War’s impact on them and their neighbors.1

Francis Asbury Dickins was the son of Asbury Dickins (1780-1861) and Lilias Arnot Dickins (d. 1849) of Scotland. His father served as the Secretary of the United States Senate from 1836 to 1861.

In 1839, Francis married Margaret Harvie Randolph (1815-1891), daughter of Harriot Wilson and Thomas Mann Randolph (1792-1848) of Tuckahoe Plantation in Goochland County, VA. Francis and Margaret had nine children, five who lived to maturity: 2

  • Mary Randolph (1840-1849)
  • Francis Asbury, Jr. (1841-1890) – married Medora Braxton Garlick; attended The North Carolina Military Institute c.1860; enlisted as Private in the 1st North Carolina Regiment, Confederate Army – probably enlisting at the institute where companies of student volunteers were organized at the start of the Civil War; worked as a civil engineer on railroads, after the war 3
  • Frances Margaret (1842-1904) – unmarried; worked for the Confederate Treasury Department in the Civil War; died May 24, 1904 at her brother Albert’s home in St. Louis, MO.
  • Harriot Wilson (1844-1917) – married Henry Theodore Wight
  • Lilias Arnot (1845-1846)
  • Ellen Arnot (1847-1855)
  • Emily (1852-1852)
  • Thomas Mann Randolph (1853-1914) – married Minnie Viola Stinson; attended Virginia Military Institute and advanced to rank of Colonel in the U. S. Marine Corps
  • Albert White (1855-1913) – married Virginia Tucker Webb; worked on railroads; living in St. Louis, MO in May 1904

Except for Thomas, the children are buried with their father and mother in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Lilias and Mary were originally buried in Congressional Cemetery, Washington, DC, and moved to Richmond in 1902.The grandparents Asbury and Lilias Dickins are buried in Congressional Cemetery. 4

Washington Lawyer

Francis Dickins worked as a lawyer in Washington, DC, after several years in federal government jobs. He held positions in the Treasury Department, where his father had been Chief Clerk, and the War Department before entering private practice. The following advertisement appeared several times in the Army And Navy Chronicle between January and June 1834, announcing the launch of his practice.

TO CLAIMANTS AND OTHERS. FRANCIS A. DICKINS, of the City of Washington, having resigned the appointment held by him for some years in the Treasury and War Departments, has undertaken the Agency of Claims before Congress, and other branches of the Government, including commissions under treaties, and the various public offices; also, the procuring of patents for public lands, presenting claims for services in the revolution, and for military and navy pensions, and generally such other business as may require the aid of an agent at Washington. He will likewise attend to the prosecution of bounty land claims upon the State of Virginia, and the recovery of lands in Ohio which have been sold for taxes.

Persons having, or supposing themselves to have, claims, can, on transmitting a statement of the facts, have their cases examined, and be advised of the proper course of proceeding. His charge will be moderate, depending upon the nature of the case, amount of the claim, and the extent of the service.

He is also agent for the American Life Insurance and Trust Company, and for the Baltimore Fire Insurance Company.

Mr. F. A. Dickins is known to most of those who have been in Congress within the last four years, or who have occupied any public station at Washington.

His office is on Pennsylvania Avenue, adjoining the buildings occupied by the Treasury Department, and opposite to those occupied by the Post Office Department.

All letters must be post paid.5

Dickens’ career path through federal positions, gaining experience and contacts, and into private practice representing clients with business before government agencies is not a new one. Rather, it adds historical perspective to what is today sometimes called Washington’s “revolving door.”

In 1843, Francis Dickins bought Parcel 1.1.2 from Thomas and Jane Crux. The 598 acres comprised most of what was called the Ossian Hall tract. With this purchase Dickins became a farmer as well as a lawyer.

Death of Mary Randolf

On July 30, 1849, nine year old Mary Randolf Dickins died in a carriage accident near Oak Hill, which also injured Anna Maria Fitzhugh of Ravensworth. The following report appeared in the National Intelligencer newspaper, August 2, 1849.

We learn from the Alexandria Gazette that a most lamentable accident occurred on Monday evening last, in Fairfax county, near the residence of David Fitzhugh, Esq., about ten miles from Alexandria. The horses attached to a spring wagon, in which Mrs. A. M. Fitzhugh, Miss Dickins, and two other ladies were riding, took fright and ran off with great fury. The wagon was dashed against a tree, and broken to pieces. Miss Dickins, about twelve [sic] years of age, a most interesting girl, daughter of Francis A. Dickins, Esq. of this city, was so severely injured that she died in an hour or two after the accident. Mrs. Fitzhugh was very much injured, but it is hoped, from the report of the physicians, that her wounds are not dangerous. Another of the ladies had her arms shattered, and in other respects was much bruised; and the other young lady was slightly injured. Such was the violence of the concussion of the wagon against the tree, that it is a wonder the whole party were not killed. This melancholy accident is deeply regretted in the whole neighborhood.6

Civil War

Francis Dickins was not recorded as having voted in the May 23, 1861 vote on the Virginia Ordnance of Secession. His brother Edward A. Dickins, who lived nearby, was one of 29 “yes” votes vs. four “no”s cast in Annandale Precinct.7

The Dickins family were southern sympathizers living in Union-occupied Fairfax County, though Robert Moxham isn’t so sure about Francis’ leanings. He cites the widespread intimidation of voters to not oppose secession and: “In his Diary, Dickins stated that he voted for Union candidates to the ratifying convention, and voted against the Ordinance of Secession.”8

Whatever the case, Francis Dickins was arrested and imprisoned four times during the war on suspicion of aiding the south. Margaret Dickins was arrested once and released.9 Of the older children, Francis, Jr. served in the Confederate Army. Fanny worked in the Confederate Treasury Department.

Like many others in their situation who had the means, the Dickins eventually left home and moved behind Confederate lines until the war ended. After the war, they returned home and Francis Dickins re-opened his Washington D.C. law office.

In 1878, the year before Francis died, they were forced to sell Parcel 1.1.2 to Jacob Stout in an out-of-court debt settlement. 10

Margaret Dickin’s diary

Margaret’s support of the Southern cause is clear in her diary pages from February and March 1862. She recounts almost daily visits by soldiers in which she often feels threatened, and sometimes property is stolen or damaged. Almost as frequently, she mentions notes from her neighbor Anna Maria Fitzhugh of Ravensworth, sometimes bringing recent war news.

Margaret applaudes each reported Confederate win and bemoans each loss. All but a few of her observations on local events are based on what she sees from the porch and windows of her house, commenting on what passes by her door, into her yard and in the near distance on Braddock Road. When Francis is away, she is alone with her sons (9 and 7) and “two little colored girls,” she often refers to as “servants.” Several times she mentions “Uncle Frank,” one of Anna Maria’s servants sent to help Margaret when Francis is away. A few samples from her diary:11

  • 2/3/1862 (Francis had just been arrested and her personal papers confiscated) “What a desperate traitor I must be with such a weight of evidence against me carried to Washington by an armed company of fifty or more brave Yankee soldiers!! Rest assured, they are too much occupied just now with traitors of our sex to think of an advance to meet our brave, noble chivalric Southern men…I said to them, Gentlemen I seek no disguise. I am a Southern woman and my heart and sympathy are all with the South. This will probably cause my arrest and imprisonment.”
  • 2/26/1862 “In the afternoon Mrs. Summers and her niece were here. She is an elderly person & her sister a widow, are all that are on her place. She has been stripped of everything on her farm, horses, servants, implements, and her house searched and a great many articles taken from it. Everyone in this unfortunate neighborhood has suffered in the same way.”
  • 2/28/1862 “I took Randolph in the rockaway as far as [her brother-in-law] Edward’s (Rose Hill) to see if I could get someone from there to drive me into town. The scene that met my view on the road made me heart sick. Such utter ruin & desolation I had not imagined. houses…torn to pieces. The little Annandale Chapel a ruin. fine trees cut down, even those in the grave yard. fences all gone, a monument of Northern barbarity & wickedness.”
  • 3/4/1862 “Edward Dickins has just gone. Says my husband is released without being required to take the Oath of Allegiance, which he refused under any circumstances to do…in the afternoon my husband returned, looking better than I hoped to see him, but badly enough & with a dreadful cough. He was examined before the Commissioners on Friday. Genl. D… whom he has known for a number of years received him kindly. asked him if he was not willing to take the oath. to which he replied ‘never’ if that was the only condition on which he could be released he would return to prison & leave his helpless family in the hands of a merciful God. He told Genl. D that he had nothing further to say to him in their official capacity, but as a private gentleman would express his views, feelings, & situation. All of which he clearly & plainly did. for once justice & right predominated & he was released. a paper given him to return home as a prisoner on parole.”
  • 3/10/1862 “Raining fast. About 9 o’clock we saw a large number of Cavalry upon the Braddock Road. The whole Army of the Potomac are moving up. Thousands of Cavalry. Infantry. Artillery. & wagons. With banners & bands of music are passing. It is an awful sight. About an hour ago the Cavalry in great numbers rested on the field in front of the house (south) & now there’s a large body of Infantry on the field east of the garden. Only a few stragglers have been by the house….Old Uncle Frank heard yesterday of the retreat of our forces from Centreville. Three horsemen rode up to the door. one asked me “if there was a road through to A M Fitzhugh’s and if I had any horses to spare.” I recognized instantly in the speakers George Armes, [neighbor] Jos deluded boy. May God forgive him for all the unhappiness he has caused in this neighborhood by his treachery & falsehood. It is now night and I can see their fires and hear their voices somewhere near the Accotink. Capt [name blank] a relative of Dr. Gulick’s rode thru here in the afternoon he says they are camped for the night on Ravensworth.”
  • 3/12/1862 “…A note from AMF. An officer in the Northern army, a great grandson of Mrs. Stuart whose residence was here, called to see her.”
  • 3/14/1862 “A very disagreeable day with an easterly drizzling rain. Two soldiers been here they are camped on Oak Hill waiting orders to march up.”


  1. Robert Morgan Moxham, Annandale, Virginia: A Brief History, ed. Estella K Bryans-Munson (Fairfax County History Commission, 1992).
  2. Jefferson Randolph Anderson, “TUCKAHOE AND THE TUCKAHOE RANDOLPHS,” Register of Kentucky State Historical Society 35, no. 110 (January 1, 1937): 50. Accessed via JSTOR
  3. “North Carolina Military Institute,” accessed November 9, 2014, and William Page Johnson (II), Brothers and Cousins: Confederate Soldiers and Sailors of Fairfax County, Virginia (Iberian Publishing Co., 1995), 44.
  4. Congressional Cemetery ( and “Hollywood Cemetery Search” accessed 11/8/2014. Use search feature to find those interred in the cemeteries.
  5. Benjamin Homans, Army and Navy Chronicle, Volumes 4-5 (T. Barnard, 1837) (Google ebook).
  6. National Intelligencer article quoted in “Obits_Dickins.pdf,” n.d., downloaded from Congressional Cemetery website 11/4/2014. Use obituaries search feature.
  7. Brian A. Conley, ed., Fractured Land: Fairfax County’s Role in the Vote for Secession, May 23, 1861 (Fairfax County Public Library, 2001), 55.
  8. Moxham, 54
  9. Moxham, 102
  10. Moxham, 100
  11. Margaret Dickins, Diary 2/3/62 to 3/23/62, 22 pages included in Mrs. Anna Maria Fitzhugh Letters, ca. 1860-1865?, Accession #6834-a, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.