The Dickenson Genealogy

The Dickenson Genealogy

By Jared L. Olar

January 2019

Updated November 2019

On my wife's late mother's side, there is a probable descent from a New England colonist named John Dickenson (c.1622-1682), also called Dickinson and Dickarson. His surname is a patronymic, signifying "Son or Descendant of Richard." In England, men named Richard were often known by the nicknames of "Dickard," "Dickar," and "Dickon" -- hence the name "Dickenson" soon came to be given to men whose fathers were named Richard, and in due course families adopted the patronymic as a hereditary surname. Unfortunately nothing is known of our probable ancestor John Dickenson's parentage or ancestry -- Marguerite S. Dickinson's 1968 Descendants of Captain John and Elizabeth Howland Dickinson of Oyster Bay, Long Island (pages 1-2) had identified our John as "John Dickinson b 1602 at Ely Cambridge, England, came with his brothers Nathaniel and Thomas with 'the Cambridge Company' to New England in 1630." However, that John Dickinson was of Salisbury, Massachusetts, while our John was of Plymouth and Barnstable. In addition, that John's first wife was Mary Taylor, whereas our John Dickenson's first wife was named Frances. Finally, that John is almost a whole generation older than our John.

Since we are unable to trace our John's ancestry, we instead turn now to an account of John's life and family:

Two Generations of the Dickenson Family

1. JOHN DICKENSON, parentage and ancestry unknown, born in England probably circa 1622, died Oct. 1682 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. John married first perhaps in Boston, Massachusetts, to FRANCES (NN), by whom he had one son in 1648. After Frances' death, John remarried on 10 July 1651 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to ELIZABETH HOWLAND, born circa 1631 possibly in Maine, died 26 Jan. 1692 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, daughter of Mayflower passengers John and Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland. John and his second wife Elizabeth had five daughters and four sons.

John Dickenson was one of the founding settlers of Oyster Bay, playing a leading role in the voyage to Oyster Bay. Consequently, he appears frequently in the Oyster Bay records that are cited and quoted in Howland Delano Perrine's 1923 Wright family of Oysterbay, L.I.. Perrine also provides this summary of John Dickenson's life on page 144 of his book:

Captain John Dickarson, or Dickenson, was Master of the vessel bringing the first settlers to Oyster Bay, in 1653, from Sandwich, Mass., probably via Buzzards Bay. Settled in Oyster Bay, and received his allotment of a Home Lot. This lot adjoined the home lot of Peter Wright on the east, fronting to the main street, and extending west to Quahaug Lane. Elizabeth Howland, his wife (b. before 1630, d. 1691, m. July 10, 1651) was the widow of Ephriam Hicks, of Plymouth, whom she married Sept. 13, 1649, and he died Dec. 2, 1649, and a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland, and granddaughter of John Tilley, of Plymouth, Mass. Both Howland and Tilley were "Mayflower" passengers. John Dickarson's first wife was a sister of Ephriam Hicks. (The Howland Family, Franklyn Howland, 1885, p. 324; Oyster Bay Town Records, Vol. 1, pp. 240, 511; Queens Co. Register's Office, Liber A of Deeds, p. 112)

Regarding Capt. John Dickenson's role as Master of the vessel bringing Oyster Bay's first settlers to Long Island, Marguerite S. Dickinson's 1968 volume, page 2, quotes Barnstable Families as follows:

In Barnstable families page 340 "Capt. John Dickinson master of the 'Desire' of Barnstable owned by Capt. Samuel Mayo of Block Island in 1653. They were delivering the possessons of Rev. Willam Leverick of Sandwich, together with three brothers Anthony, Peter and Nicholas Wright of Oyster Bay, L.I., when the boat was seized by Capt. Thomas Baxter. The general court of Hartford, Conn. ruled Baxter return the goods or pay Capt. Mayo $150."

The following biographical and genealogical sketch of Capt. John Dickenson's life and family is found in Elizabeth Pearson White's John Howland of the Mayflower, Volume 4: The First Five Generations of Documented Descendants Through His Fourth Child Elizabeth Howland, wife of Ephriam Hicks and Captain John Dickinson (2008), pages 29-35:

John Dickarson/Dickenson/Dickinson "of Barnstable," who was probably born in England around 1622, but whose parentage has not been ascertained. John married first, perhaps in Boston, Mass., a wife named Frances [not Francis Foote], by whom he had one son, John, born 28th 5th mo. 1648, who was not a descendant of John Howland of the MAYFLOWER. John married Elizabeth Howland in Plymouth, Plymouth Co., Mass. on 10 July 1651. Capt. John Dickinson died in Oyster Bay before 12 March 1683, the date his will as proved.
John and Elizabeth Dickinson must have lived in Barnstable, on Cape Cod, during the first few years of their marriage and their first few children must have been born there. In 1651, Capt. John Dickinson bought a plot of land Barnstable which contained eight acres near where the courthouse now stands.
By May 1658, John and his family were living in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. In February 1659 John Dickinson bought land from John Hinksman. John paid for it in part with cloth and liquor, indicating he was a merchant and trader. On 15 February 1660, the town granted John Dickinson a house and lot at the south end of Oyster Bay, with a first share of meadowland. The next year, 1 February 1661, he was granted additional land, 10 rods deep, at the end of his property. Many other grants followed. On 12 January 1665/6, John Dickinson of Oyster bay bought five acres of land from John Finch "of Fairfield on ye Main, formerly an inhabiter" of Oyster Bay.
In 1671 John Dickinson was appointed by the town to obtain a letter from the Rev. William Leverich, who had since moved to Huntington, Long Island, then to Connecticut, and then back to Newton, Long Island. He was asked to discuss the subject of the rights of the Town of Oyster Bay with the Town of Hempstead. The same year John sold his rights in Hog Island, across from the Town of Oyster Bay, to Capt. Richard Morris. John Dickinson and Richard Harcut were chosen as overseers in 1676.
Capt. John Dickinson died about eight years before his wife, Elizabeth. In his WILL dated 26 January 1680, proved 12 March 1683, John gave his son, Joseph Dickinson, the land and meadow previously settled on him. He gave five shillings each to two of his daughters, Elizabeth and Mercy, who had already received their portions, indicating that they were both married, but he did not mention their married names. His widow, Elizabeth, was given the right to divide the rest of the estate among his six youngest children, named as Lydia, Mehetable, Samuel, Hannah, James and Jabez, making special provision for Jabez, who was incapable of caring for himself. Overseers were John Underhill, Sr., John Feakes, Sr., and his own son, Joseph Dickinson. The witnesses were Thomas Townsend and Thomas Weekes.

The children of Capt. John Dickenson thus were:

     --  JOHN DICKENSON, born 28 July 1648 in Plymouth or Barnstable, Massachusetts.
     2.  ELIZABETH DICKENSON, born 11 Oct. 1652 in Plymouth or Barnstable, Massachusetts.
     --  JOSEPH DICKENSON, born 24 Dec. 1654 in Plymouth or Barnstable, Massachusetts, married Rose Townsend.
     --  MERCY DICKENSON, born 23 April 1657 in Plymouth or Barnstable, Massachusetts, married Benjamin Harcourt.
     --  JABEZ DICKENSON, born 23 Feb. 1660 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, never married.
     --  LYDIA DICKENSON, born 5 Oct 1662 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, said to have married Ephraim Carpenter.
     --  SAMUEL DICKENSON, born 26 March 1665 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, married Lydia (NN).
     --  MEHITABEL DICKENSON, born April 1667 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, married Thomas Cheshire.
     --  HANNAH DICKENSON, born 6 March 1672 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, married Isaac Gibbs.
     --  JAMES DICKENSON, born 27 July 1675 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, married probably Hannah (NN).

2. ELIZABETH DICKENSON, daughter of John and Elizabeth Dickenson, born 11 Oct. 1652 in Plymouth or Barnstable, Massachusetts, died probably after 1 April 1719 probably in Greenwich, Fairfield County, Connecticut. Elizabeth was the second child of Capt. John Dickenson, but was the eldest child born of his second wife Elizabeth Howland. Her birth is listed in records of the New York Society of Friends (Quakers) as "Elizabeth, ye daughter of John & Elizabeth Dickisson, was borne ye 11th of ye 8th mo., 1652." Elizabeth is thought to have married after 20 May 1673 but before 26 Jan. 1680 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, to CALEB WRIGHT, born circa 1635 in Saugus (Lynn), Massachusetts, died 5 Feb. 1695 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, son of Nicholas and Ann Wright. (See Mayflower Increasings, Susan E. Roser, 1996, pages 68, 73, and Descendants of Captain John and Elizabeth Howland Dickinson of Oyster Bay, Long Island, Marguerite S. Dickinson, 1968, page 3) Caleb's wife was certainly named Elizabeth, and Caleb and his fellow Wright kin were very close neighbors of the Dickensons in Oyster Bay. Furthermore, John Dickenson's eldest daughter Elizabeth was certainly married by 26 Jan. 1680. But likely though it is that Elizabeth Dickenson was Caleb Wright's wife Elizabeth, positive proof remains elusive. (See Elizabeth Pearson White's John Howland of the Mayflower, Volume 4: The First Five Generations of Documented Descendants Through His Fourth Child Elizabeth Howland, wife of Ephriam Hicks and Captain John Dickinson (2008), pages 39-47, in which White discusses at great length the pros and cons of identifying Caleb's wife Elizabeth as Elizabeth Dickenson, stressing the lack of documentation of this identification.)

Caleb and his wife Elizabeth had two daughters and a son. The will of Caleb's uncle Anthony Wright of Oyster Bay, dated 20 May 1673, indicates that Caleb was not yet married by that time, so Caleb and his wife Elizabeth must have been married later than that. Howland Delano Perrine provides the following entry on Caleb and Elizabeth Wright on page 143 of his Wright family of Oysterbay, L.I.:

"CALEB WRIGHT (NICHOLAS), b. 163-; d. Feby. 5, 1695; m. Elizabeth (Capt. John and Elizabeth (Howland) Dickarson, of Plymouth, Mass., before 1680; b. Oct. 11, 1652."

As noted above, in the will of Elizabeth's father Capt. John Dickenson, dated 25 Jan. 1680, John gave his two oldest daughters Elizabeth and Mercy, who were already married and thus had already received their portions, only five shillings each. John also granted his widow Elizabeth the right to provide for their six younger children. It may be for these reasons that Caleb's wife Elizabeth is not named in the will of Elizabeth (Howland) Dickenson, dated 10 Sept. 1691, and not, as some genealogists suppose, because Caleb's wife Elizabeth had already died before then. Alternatively, Elizabeth may have become estranged from her mother -- or she may have died before 10 Sept. 1691, and Caleb's wife Elizabeth was not Elizabeth Dickenson after all.

Caleb died just three days after making his own will. Abstracts of Early Wills of Queens County, New York, Recorded in Libers A and C of Deeds provides this abstract of Caleb's will:

"Wright, Caleb of Oyster Bay, 2 Feb 1695 - 1/2 moveable estate to wife Elizabeth, other half to daus. Elizabeth and Penelope when 18 and to rights to the meadow on the highway to Jericho. Residue to son William when of age. Wife Elizabeth as exe. Trustees Jon Townsend at the mill, Nathaniel Coles Jr. and brother Jon Wright. Witss. Anthony Townsend, Anthony Wright, Josiah Harrison. Probate date not recorded."

Many online family trees erronously state that Caleb's wife Elizabeth died in 1695, a mistake that probably arose from misinterpreting the date that Caleb mentioned her in his will (which formerly was the last known reference to her on record) as the last year of her life. In fact, two years after Caleb's death his widow Elizabeth remarried on 3 Aug. 1697 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, to GERSHOM LOCKWOOD, born 6 Sept. 1643 in Watertown, Massachusetts, died 12 March 1719 in Greenwich, Fairfield County, Connecticut, son of Robert and Susanna (Ferris) Lockwood. Shortly after their marriage, Gershom and Elizabeth are found living at Caleb's former property. Elizabeth apparently survived Gershom, as she is probably his widow Elizabeth who was granted letters of administration of Gershom's estate on 1 April 1719. It is important to understand that early researchers (including Perrine) had mistakenly misidentified "ye Widdow Elizabeth Wright of Oysterbay" who married Gershom Lockwood as Elizabeth Townsend, daughter of John Townsend of Oyster Bay, and widow of Gideon Wright of Oyster Bay, a cousin of Caleb Wright. However, Harry Macy Jr. demonstrated in his paper, "Three Elizabeth Ludlams of Oyster Bay" (in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 131, No. 2 (April 2000)) that Gideon Wright's widow Elizabeth Townsend remarried in 1686 to Joseph Ludlam of Oyster Bay, who died 16 March 1698/99, about two years after Gershom Lockwood married the Widow Elizabeth Wright, who thus could not be Elizabeth Townsend at all (cf. Scott Andrew Bartley's paper, "Who is Elizabeth, Wife of Caleb Wright of Oyster Bay, Long Island?" in The Mayflower Descendant 55 (2006), pages 4-15, which suggests Elizabeth Dickenson had died before Dec. 1691 -- cf. Elizabeth Pearson White's abovementioned 2008 arguments and discussion regarding Elizabeth Dickenson and Caleb Wright).

Caleb and Elizabeth Wright had three known children:

     --  ELIZABETH WRIGHT, born 14 Sept. 167-, married Joseph Coles.
     --  WILLIAM WRIGHT, born 8 Dec. 1680, died 9 Nov. 1759, married Elisabeth Rhodes.
     --  PENELOPE WRIGHT, born circa 1689.

Dickenson Genealogy Resources:

Notes for John Dickinson and Elizabeth Howland
Capt. John Dickinson Find-A-Grave Memorial
Elizabeth (Howland) Dickinson Find-A-Grave Memorial
We Relate: John Dickinson
We Relate: Elizabeth (Howland) Dickinson

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