Monday, August 16, 2010

The Dawson's in America

Perhaps in response to letters from friends or family who previously emigrated to Philadelphia, 20 year old WILLIAM travelled south to Philadelphia, and in short order met and married ANNA FULLER [17].

As suggested in Footnote [17], oral tradition in the family is that the marriage was extremely fruitful, that g1 gm ANNA FULLER DAWSON bore to g1 gf WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON 12 children before the latter's death in 1869. Perhaps 2 or more of the children were twins. More than half of the children died before completing their teen years. The 1870 Census names only 5 in the year following g1 gf WILLIAM's death: Great uncle CHARLES DAWSON, 13; great uncle EDWARD DAWSON, 8; great aunt EMMA DAWSON, 7; great uncle THEO C. DAWSON, 6; and gf HENRY AVERY DAWSON, mysteriously referred to as JOHN R. H. DAWSON in the Census record.

G1 gm ANNA FULLER DAWSON and g1 gf WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON raised their children Roman Catholic. It is unknown if WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON ever actually converted to Roman Catholicism. Their address before 1860 is unknown. Perhaps they moved into ANNA's apartment at #3 Goldsmith Court. Perhaps they moved into WILLIAM's apartment, wherever that was. Perhaps they moved to the vicinity of Old St. Mary's Church at 4th and Locust, where some of the children were later baptized. Who knows?

In any event, something happened between their marriage around 1852 and the birth of their son, great uncle CHARLES DAWSON, in 1857 -- for great uncle CHARLES DAWSON was born in Maryland, according to the 1870 Census!

Once again, history may supply the answer. As millions of Irish Catholics escaped the consequences of the Potato Famine by emigration to the great cities on America's Eastern Seaboard, the economies of those cities became greatly disrupted. Millions of Irish men and women, having previously endured enormous deprivation, were willing to work for extremely low wages in the America workplace, since even that was a substantial improvement over what they had had in Ireland. This tendency had the impact of drastically driving down available wages in the cities, much to the dismay of native Protestant workers. As wages plummetted and unemployment rose in Protestant families, young men in those families banded together in groups nicknamed "the Know-Nothings." They terrorized immigrant families, especially Irish Catholics, and organized a powerful political group, the American Party, which sponsored legislation barring them from the country. They acquired their nickname from their members' tendency to tell the police, "I don't know nothin'," every time police would investigate another Irish Catholic hanging.

G1 gm ANNA FULLER DAWSON would have had a lot to say to these thugs. She would have told them how their Protestant counterparts in the British Isles stole the lands of her forefathers and outlawed her native language, her religion, and most forms of employment for her forefathers. She would have described how her Protestant neighbors in Londonderry County watched as ANNA and her husband back in Ireland starved, so that he died, and her baby was born blind. Perhaps, as she walked to Mass at St. Mary's one day, she spat at a member of a local Know-Nothing group. And then perhaps they chalked a death threat onto the sidewalk in front of the Dawson house. Again, who knows? That the DAWSON family should move to Maryland from Philadelphia in 1856 or 1857 corresponds very well with the historical background -- 1856 was the year in which the Know-Nothings were strongest in Philadelphia, for their formal organization, the American Party, had its national convention in Philadelphia that year.

In any event, if you were escaping anti-Catholic thugs, Maryland, even then known as "the Catholic state," was the place to go in those days. The Know-Nothing movement was very strong in Maryland, too; however, there were many more Catholics there.

And so that is where great uncle CHARLES DAWSON was born, according to the 1870 Census.

If g1 gm ANNA FULLER DAWSON had 12 children in 17 years, then children were born to her before and after CHARLES whose names do not appear in the 1870 Census, and who therefore presumably passed away before that year.

The fact that the DAWSON's do not make an appearance in the 1860 Census records for Philadelphia suggests that they stayed in Maryland till after that year. Again, this fits the historical background -- the Know-Nothing movement had largely run its course and died by 1861.

By 1862, however, the DAWSON family was back in Philadelphia. They began living in 510 Prune Street, on what is now the south side of the 500 block of Locust Street<[>18]. Although all of the homes on the 500 block of Locust have since been demolished in favor of one enormous building, the colonial-era homes still standing on the 400 block of Locust suggest that 510 Prune was a narrow 3 story row home. If great uncle CHARLES DAWSON, who would have been about 5 years of age in 1862, was the only surviving DAWSON child at that time, it would have been an "easy fit" for the family. The probability is that g1 gf WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON and g1 gm ANNA FULLER DAWSON were renting 510 Prune [19].

Great uncle EDWARD SAMUEL DAWSON was born at 510 Prune Street in 1862 [20]. Family oral tradition is that he was baptized Roman Catholic. However, I was unable to locate the baptismal record for Edward Samuel Dawson in the records of the Roman Catholic parish in which 510 Prune Street was located, Old St. Mary's.

It appears certain that g1 gf WILLIAM SAMUEL CHARLES DAWSON did not fight in the Civil War, but instead worked, lived at home, and continued having babies with ANNA [21].

The next child, great aunt MARY EMMA DAWSON, known to us as "Aunt Emma" who married Edward Joseph Doyle, from whom Dad probably got his first and middle names, was probably born in the same house, on October 4, 1863. For whatever reason, MARY EMMA DAWSON was not baptized until years later, in 1877, apparently just before her first communion at Old St. Mary's [22].

The very next child was probably born substantially premature, otherwise it is a little hard to believe. Great uncle THEODORE C. DAWSON was born 9 calendar months and 6 days after MARY EMMA DAWSON, on July 10, 1864. The baptismal record for THEODORE shows that he, too, was baptized at Old St. Mary's, on May 25, 1865, by Fr. G. Strobel, with Maria Antoinette Preault as her godparent.

Though the baptismal record for THEODORE confirms that the "C" initial in g1 gf WILLIAM SAMUEL C. DAWSON's name stands for "Charles," there is a tiny bit of evidence that the "C" in THEODORE's name does not [23].

Aunt Marie insists that the photo circulating through the family of the young man who everyone believed to be a picture of gf HENRY AVERY DAWSON is actually a photo of great uncle THEODORE C. DAWSON. My notes show that years ago Dad told me that his only memory of his Uncle THEODORE is a photo of him lying in his casket.

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