Letters from Alexander Franklin Dix  

Letters written by Alexander Franklin DIX

To Date From
James H. Reynolds, brother-in-law, Lockport NY July 7, 1855 Williamsville, NY
James H. Reynolds, brother-in-law, Lockport NY September 30, 1855 Williamsville, NY
James H. Reynolds, brother-in-law, Lockport NY May, 9, 1857 U. of Rochester, NY
Helen "Nellie" Beach DIX, wife, Midway AL May 24th, 1863 Knoxville, TN

Williamsville is about 10 miles northeast of Buffalo NY, where AFD is teaching,  just a few days before his 24th birthday. James H. Reynolds was his older sister, Angeline's husband. Lockport NY, (on the Erie Canal) was 16 miles to the north up what is now SR 78.  SR 78 also leads to Newfane, Olcott, and just down the lakeshore road to Wilson, where AFD was born.

Page 1

           Williamsville, July 7, 

Dear Brother

             Yours of June 26th, 
was duly received and as I have 
some time for writing today, 
I will try and answer it.

I am truly obliged for the 
news which your letter contained, 
but in that respect cannot 
answer it for I have not the 
first particle of news to tell.

I think that if I had been in 
Slaughter’s place, I would have 
waited until the grass had grown 
up on Lucinda’s grave before I 
filled her place.  Adda, poor girl 
of course, dared not say so, for 
fear he would get somebody 
else.  I cannot but think that. 
There is somewhat of Earth even 
in the thoughts of those who teach


Page 2

of Heaven.  We have had the best 
term of school, so far, that I ever 
taught.  All are engaged and 
determined to learn, although 
the school is not so large as 
it was in  the fall or winter.

I have not fully determined 
whether I shall remain here through 
the fall term or not.

We use Perkins Arithmetics, ele-
mentary and higher; Stoddard’s 
Intellectual; and Brown’s Grammar. 
Probably you have heard of the 
last named work. 

The more I study grammar, 
the stronger becomes the persua-
sion, in my mind, that Webster 
is The Grammarian of the language 
and whatever textbook I use, I will 
teach what I believe to be the truth. 

However, if I can find Webster’s 
Improved Grammar and am as 
well pleased with it as I expect to 

Page 3

be, I shall introduce it here at 
the commencement of another term.

       There is nothing perhaps of 
which I can write so well calcu-
lated to interest you as a little 
description of a religious sect, in 
this place which is stronger in 
numbers and wealth than any 
other in the place.  They call 
themselves as Disciples but their proper 
name is Campbellites as they 
follow after Alex Campbell in the 
letter and spirit of his teaching. 
They deny the influence of The Holy 
Sprit in conversion, contend 
that faith is nothing more than 
an intellectual belief and that 
the change of heart, which we profess 
to have experienced, is merely a turn-
ing of out minds of our own accord 
from sin to holiness.  Any person, 
whatever may be his belief, may 
become identified with them by say-

Page 4

ing that he believes that Jesus is 
the Messiah, whereupon they baptize 
him, and in that act of obedience, 
he becomes a new creature, and 
is prepared for a life of holiness 
or a death of triumph.

Those who have never heard their 
preaching  can hardly credit the 
story that such a sect could live 
in these days of bibles, but it is true 
and will, I fear, work is incalcul-
able mischief, as it is almost hope-
less to think of converting one 
who had been blinded into a be-
lief of sins forgiven in their one 
act of obedience. Universalism's 
Infidelity is much less imaginary 
in its tendency.  Think on the subject 
and be prepared when I come to show 
me the Scripture for the Divine influence
in conversion.  Expect me about the 
first of August.  With love to all, I 
remain as ever

        Your affectionate brother, Alex 

Page 1



Williamsville Sept. 30, 1855

Dear Brother

             Feeling somewhat 
anxious as to your stopping 
longer in Lockport.   I take 
the surest means of finding 
out by writing.

                 My school has 
opened much more favor-
ably than I had any reason 
to expect, numbering in all, 
97 scholars, fully one third of whom
are over 14 years of age.

4 Classes in Reading
4 Classes in Spelling
4 Classes in Geography
4 Classes in Practical Arithmetic
3 Classes in Mental Arithmetic
2 Classes in Grammar

Page 2

3 Classes in Algebra
1 Class in History
1 Class in Geometry

26 in all which with but one 
assistant, be assured, keeps me 
pretty busy.

           I never have experien-
ced, heretofore, so disorderly a time 
the scholars, many of them, hav-
ing been out of school all summer 
and all of them out for six weeks 
were very much like wild asses colts, 
but by dint of management, 
in use of our spur and rod, 
the last three days have been 
much more to my liking. 

    The academy here will go into 
operation the first of Dec. if expecta-
tions are realized, at which time doubt-
less a change will occur in my 
school.  What the real effect is 

Page 3

going to be, I cannot tell, but I 
expect it will make the school 
such a one as I shall not wish 
to teach.  In fact I care but 
little whether I teach or not.

It is time that I made 
up my mind what occupation 
I am to follow for life.  If it 
is to be teaching, then it is time 
I was at the Latin and Greek, 
for I will not teach any second 
rate school, nor receive second-
rate wages.  My design has been 
to go through college and my de-
sire still accords with that design.

If ?? was differently situated, 
I would not hesitate at all, but 
I find it impossible to rid my 
mind of responsibility in that 
quarter.  The fact that we cannot 
always see the ways of Providence, 

Page 4

should never impair our reliance 
for the want of knowledge of a result, 
is the very foundation of faith.

How unbecoming would fears 
of a parents ability to provide for 
the necessities of a prattling child 
be to him; then how much more 
so is distrust of an all-wise and 
all-powerful parent.

     Hoping that may find you 
all well, and doing well, and 
that it will bring a speedy an-
swer.  I remain

       Yours affectionately
                          Alex. F. Dix

To James H. Reynolds
Lockport [NY]


Page 1

          University of Rochester
                          May 9, 1857

Dear Brother,

              Your note was duly 
received and I take the first 
opportunity to respond that the
“Songs of Zion” may be had at
$.25 per copy, no deduction from 
the retail price except to merchants 
who will sell again.

I know of no opportunities 
for obtaining situations in any 
department of labor.  The public 
schools in this city are so much 
under the control of designing 
men that it is useless to think 
of them.  All vacancies are filled 
long before they occur.  Still I 
know but little about them, 

Page 2

being so confined to my 
 room that I hear and 
care to hear of but little that
is going on outside.  -------

     As to myself, now as it 
has always been; I fair better 
that I deserve, though I am 
frequently disposed to complaining.

      Just now appears to be the 
darkest time that I have 
yet seen, but I have not the 
least doubt that all my steps 
are ordained by one whose glory 
will be their ultimate issue, 
and I will not distrust his 
wisdom.  If I am to leave 
college at or before the close of 
this term, or am to continue 
here as long as I intended. 
I shall endeavor to do either 
with equal cheerfulness.  Please give 
my love to all.  Yours truly,Alex F. Dix


Phyllis Owens has sent the letter (below) from Alexander Franklin DIX to his wife, Helen "Nellie" Beach DIX.  If my arithmetic is correct, Nellie is about 6-months pregnant with Albert Sidney DIX, born September 1, 1863 (see the allusion to her dress size in page 2).  She is 22 years old, a stranger in a strange land and forced to depend on the kindness of strangers.  All of her family is back in New York, and on the "other side" in the war.   I'd like to hear your thoughts as well.

The following letter is owned by Chris Kilcrease.  The images and transcription courtesy of  Phyillis "Sis" Owens, who also initially contacted us.  Phillys writes:

Mr. Kilcrease has purchased three of these letters from his friend out of Florida.  They were purchased by his friend from an estate sale, but I am not sure of where the estate sale was held; I will be sure to inquire in our next contact. The three letters that I have seen were not sealed.  The stamps on two envelopes (1 stamp on one and 2 stamps on one) are canceled, but on the third envelope there is no cancellation, nor is it addressed to or from anyone, but the letter inside IS to Mrs. Dix.  This letter is written in pencil instead of ink and is very pale/faint and hard to read.  Hopefully, Mr. Kilcrease will bring it for us to work with on his next visit. 

The attached images of the hand-written letter are of such low resolution, that reading is quite difficult.  Thanks to Phyllis  for the painstaking transcription. 

Before this letter, I had assumed that AFD had returned home on furloughs to account for the conceptions of the children while he was away in the war, but there is a suggestion here that she may have visited him during his stint in the CSA. 

Eugenia, you'll see on PAGE 2, a reference to their neighbor and friend, "Maj. Feagin"!

Letter to 
Department Headquarters Knoxville
May 24th, 1863
Ever Dear Wife.
       Sabbath evening has 
come again and well nigh passed 
reminding me that my ever pres-
ent and increasing desire to be 
with you is vain, and that I must 
still employ that means of commun-
ication left us, and which, were 
we deprived of it, we would con-
sider an inestimable privilege. 
Many in our army are separated 
entirely from their homes and 
months pass without a word of 
cheer to hearts perhaps as depend-
ant upon each other as ours. 
I frequently meet those whose 
homes are in those portions of 
the Confederacy in the hands of the 
enemy who tell me that six months 
or a year has passed since the 
heard from wife or sweetheart or 
parent. I sincerely pray that we 
may not be brought to this, and 
will endeavor to enjoy the blessing 
permitted without murmuring that 
it is not greater. My Darling is
now free from school 1and may
spend her time as pleases her. It seems 
to me dearest that your hesitancy 
about going out is a little prema-
ture. You speak of wearing dresses 
which you could not wear a year 
ago; 2 surely there can be no great
alteration for the better. You know
my old foible. I hope darling,
you will not shut yourself up in 
that little room so small and 
close. You will need some exer-
cise, and need have no fears
of Dr. You know how Mrs. B.
did, she sat in our room frequent-
ly throughout the interval. 3 Nor, if 
you have opportunity need you hes-
itate to visit at Maj. Feagin’s. They 
are all friends there, and no one 
to put you to the blush. I ardent-
ly wish, My Darling, that I could 
be with you to relieve you of 
any dependance upon others for 
society, but still no prospect opens. 
    My hopes for peace have, since
the beginning of the war, had 
a foundation in the united in-
fluence of victory on our parts
and resolution on the part of our 
foe. In the former, the Lord has been 
as constant to us in the bestowal, 
as was for our good. True the 
news from Mississippi has been 
unfavorable for a few days, but 
today we again have the shout
of victory and the revival of the 
hope that all may yet be well 
in that quarter. In the latter a 
steady progress has been made 
from the first, and is now ap-
proaching a crisis which it will 
be impossible for any assumed 
of Lincoln to withstand. 
    We must bear in mind that the 
revolution which subverted the 
Constitution and drove us upon 
our undoubted right of secession, 
was thirty years in progress. 
    The whole whole body politic had
become diseased, and bleeding 
was the only remedy which would 
produce any effect. Every other way 
tried only to prove more conclusive 
by threat the influence of reason 
and right had ceased to act. 
    We need not look then for a change 
so speedily as we might desire, but 
as in the practice of physic, the 
influence of bloodletting is imme-
diate, so no more active means 
of restoring the normal tone of 
society could be employed.
At least, I judge so from the 
fact that the Great Restorer
of Nations has employed this 
seems almost exclusively since 
the earliest history. If we are 
successful in Mississippi a battle 
will soon be fought in middle 
Tenn. which will precipitate 
revolution at the North and lead 
to an early peace. If we are not 
successful there in Miss. the ef-
fect will be to prolong the war 
indefinitely. Never the less, the object 
for which we have left. Our homes 
will be attained though through 
still greater suffering.
    Such are my thoughts at present 
in regard to the prospect of peace.
While I hope, I fear it will not, 
come in time to enable me to 
spend much of the summer with 
you. Had we not been blessed with 
nobler prospect doubtless you would 
be about to start on a trip to Knox-
ville. Capt. and Mrs. Sommerville are
quite anxious to have you come 
and spend a few weeks at least 
where the heats of summer are tem-
pered by an occasional mountain 
breeze; but though I told the Capt. 
why it may not be, I hardly thought 
it but to tell his wife. I rode out to 
their boarding place a few days ago 
and had another very pleasant call.
But such calls are unsatisfying;
they only serve to remind me how 
how great a blessing is mine but not
to enjoy... I have felt my ab-
sence from you more during a 
few weeks passed that at anytime 
before, unless it be when I have 
been about to start to see you. Per-
haps it is because I know what 
must be the natural want of a wife 
situated as you are and my sym-
pathies are the more fully aroused.
I am glad darling that in con-
trasting the present with five years 
ago when surrounded by all the 
sweet influences of home, you 
can say that you are happier
now. Were it otherwise I should 
much self condemnation not 
unmitigated however, by the fact
that had peace continued to smile
upon us I might have made 
you much happier than I have 
been able as it is. I hope, when 
peace shall come and I shall have 
secured a home for you which 
it will be our united pleasure 
to beautify within by graces, and 
without by toils, to be able to 
multiply your happy hours, and 
make all tears of the past seem 
to you but as a string of pearls 
employed to adorn the neck of 
youth...I believe that I answer-
ed the business portion of your letter 
in my last. I have not yet got 
my money changes so as to send 
that but will probably do so by 
the middle of the week when 
I write again. All moves on 
smoothly here now, two of our 
old clerks have gone so that 
instead of sending me away 
there is more likelihood of 
calling in another. Take good 
care of your health darling and 
do not fail to take some exercise 
to wear off school with. May 
God bless you and hear our uni-
ted prayers for peace and the return of
your Frank.


1  now free from school and may [she taught children at AFD's school in Midway]

2You speak of wearing dresses which you could not wear a year ago [She's 6-months pregnant with ASD]

3  You know how Mrs. B.  did, she sat in our room frequently throughout the interval. [Mrs. Beach?, her mother? -- RDW]