Role in Ravensworth: Owner Parcel 1.1.2
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
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.
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
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.
- Robert Morgan Moxham, Annandale, Virginia: A Brief History, ed. Estella K Bryans-Munson (Fairfax County History Commission, 1992). ↩
- Jefferson Randolph Anderson, “TUCKAHOE AND THE TUCKAHOE RANDOLPHS,” Register of Kentucky State Historical Society 35, no. 110 (January 1, 1937): 50. Accessed via JSTOR http://www.jstor.org/stable/23371542. ↩
- “North Carolina Military Institute,” accessed November 9, 2014, http://www.ncwbts150.com/NorthCarolinaMilitaryInstitute.php. and William Page Johnson (II), Brothers and Cousins: Confederate Soldiers and Sailors of Fairfax County, Virginia (Iberian Publishing Co., 1995), 44. ↩
- “Historic Congressional Cemetery Interment Index” http://www.congressionalcemetery.org/interment-index-0 accessed 11/8/2014 and “Hollywood Cemetery Search” http://www.hollywoodcemetery.org/genealogy/burial-records accessed 11/8/2014 ↩
- Benjamin Homans, Army and Navy Chronicle, Volumes 4-5 (T. Barnard, 1837) (Google ebook). ↩
- Natonal Intelligencer article quoted in “Obits_Dickins.pdf,” n.d., http://www.congressionalcemetery.org/sites/default/files/Obits_Dickins.pdf, downloaded from Congressional Cemetery website http://www.congressionalcemetery.org/ 11/4/2014. ↩
- Brian A. Conley, ed., Fractured Land: Fairfax County’s Role in the Vote for Secession, May 23, 1861 (Fairfax County Public Library, 2001), 55. ↩
- Moxham, 54 ↩
- Moxham, 102 ↩
- Moxham, 100 ↩
- Margaret Dickins, Diary 2/3/62 to 3/23/62, 22 pages included in Maria Fitzhugh Letters, ca. 1860-1865?, Accession #6834-a, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va. ↩