|Whitman Hill Dyson (1836-1914) In the possession of Pat Raney.|
When I was a child, this large photograph of our great-great grandfather, Whitman Hill Dyson, intimidated me. It hung on a dim wall across from the fireplace in the large entry of our grandparents' house. The old man glared at me as I came through the front door. It first appeared in 1953 with other large framed photographs when Great-Grandpa James Raney came to live with our grandparents.. Now I realize the photograph was taken when Whitman Dyson was much younger than I am now. The beard isn't as thick or as long as I remembered, and he isn't really frowning, but appears solemn and dignified. Not a wrinkle appears on his face. Who was this man?
He was a farmer and the father of eleven children who survived infancy. Most lived into advanced age, but not so two of his three wives. The only story I recall Grandpa telling me was that when the Civil War was heating up in 1862 and recruiters came to his farm, he met them at the door holding his shotgun. "I'm not going," he told them and they didn't bother him again. He would have been about 26-years-old then. Pat Raney remembers his dad Paul saying that Whitman "was regarded by the neighbors and beyond as an honest and law-abiding citizen. People would often bring their disputes to him and he would listen and then render Solomonic decisions that everyone abided by. Looking due west from his place in Pike County, Indiana, a higher ground was called “Dyson’s Mountain” and to the northwest past the church in Spurgeon, a high rise was called “Dyson’s Knob”.
|Pike County, Indiana|
|Union County, Kentucky|
|Warrick County, Indiana|
|Theodore Clement Steele - Indiana Landscape artist|
On May 15, 1858, Whitman Dyson married his first wife, Elizabeth J. "Ella" Turpin (1 Sept. 1837 - dead by 1870) . What is curious is that Ella had a baby girl (Mary) the previous year, probably on what may have been her uncle's farm near where Whitman Dyson lived. Her parents had lived in Indiana, but were now resettled in Decatur County, Iowa. Had she been sent up to Indiana because she was pregnant? Had she been married to a Turpin cousin and was widowed? Whatever her story, Whitman married her and they had children, including our great-grandmother Nancy Dyson in 1867. But after giving birth to six daughters: Mary J. (1856-), Louann (1865-1943), Alice A. (1859-), Margaret Ellen (1861-1944), Sarah Elizabeth (1865-1940), Nancy Ann (1867-1938), the poor woman died before her 30th birthday and does not appear in the 1870 census. Daughter Mary was the oldest female listed in that census, trying to care for the family at age 14. The census taker wrote "Housekeeper" after her name, but then crossed it out. She was just the daughter.
|Covered bridge in Pike County, Indiana|
And then on September 30, 1886, Sally died at age 49. Her daughter Sarah Ellen was 25 and at home. According to family lore, her presence put Whitman Dyson in a dilemma. Would having this unmarried step-daughter in his house give scandal? He decided what was to him the right course of action. He married her on April 28, 1887. He was 51 and she was 23. The service was conducted by Whitman's brother-in-law, George T. Hutchinson, Minister of the Gospel, married to Whitman's sister Susan. Whitman and Sarah Ellen had sons Grover (1890), Joseph (1891), John (1898), and Leonard (1901). Should you find this pairing slightly off-setting, take a look at Whitman and his wife at a Dyson family gathering in the summer of 1902. He was a stately-looking gentleman, standing tall and broad-shouldered; they make a handsome couple.
|Whitman Hill Dyson, dappled with sunlight, and probably Sarah Ellen Dyson next to him. 1902|
|Dyson Family Gathering 1902. Thee of their young sons must be in the front row. Nancy Dyson Raney and James with mustache middle right (refer to their blog for closeup).|
Who were Whitman Dyson's forebears? We'll discover in forthcoming blogs. Here's a hint. The surname Dyson appears to have originated in Yorkshire, England. The surname Julian is French.