Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Dickinson Flag - A Unique Artifact of Reconstruction in Jackson County

The Dickinson Flag
The flag shown here holds a unique place in American history. It covered the coffin of John Q. Dickinson, Jackson County's assassinated Reconstruction era Clerk of Courts, on its journey north to Dickinson's home in Vermont.

Dickinson was shot and killed on the night of April 3, 1871, as he walked from the courthouse to his Marianna home at around 10 o'clock p.m. The motive for his murder remains controversial. Some say it was because he was an appointed Northern Republican or "Carpetbagger," sent to Jackson County with other such men to rule over local residents during the years after the Civil War. Others say it was because he was engaged in selling the lands of local men on the courthouse steps for taxes they could not pay during the hard times of Reconstruction. A third theory holds that he was having an affair with the wife of a Greenwood man and was murdered by the jealous husband. The final theory is that his murder was part of a robbery. Dickinson was carrying a substantial amount of cash at the time he was killed, only a few dollars of which was ever found.

Personally, I find the robbery possibility to be very intriguing, as it seems to coincide with the evidence gathered by local officials immediately following his death. I'll post more on that soon.

John Q. Dickinson
Following a coroner's inquest, Dickinson was buried in Marianna but his body was exhumed after only a few days and his coffin carried east to Quincy by wagon (the railroad had not yet been extended to Marianna). In Quincy it was placed on a train car for its journey east to Jacksonville. The flag was mentioned in a reporter's account of the arrival of the train in Tallahassee:

The remains of Capt. J.Q. DICKINSON arrived at the Depot in this city from Marianna yesterday afternoon, and were received by quite a number of persons, including the Governor and other officials, with a large concourse of colored people of both sexes. When the train stopped, the doors of the car containing the coffin, which was draped in the United States colors, were thrown open and the crowds of colored women and children present drew near and showered into the car a perfect avalanche of flowers, so that in a few minutes the coffin was completely buried beneath the floral offerings. - Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, April 11, 1871.

From Tallahassee the train carried the flag-draped coffin on to Jacksonville, where it was placed aboard ship and sent north. A memorial for him was held at the Grammercy Park Hotel in New York City and from there the coffin was taken on to Benson, Vermont. Funeral services were held there, followed by his burial.

The huge flag that drapped Dickinson's coffin was given to his family and remains in the hands of descendents to this day. According to Dexter King, a direct descendent of Dickinson and current owner of the flag, "His brother, Albert kept the flag until his death. Albert had 3 daughters, Fannie, Florence and Colleen. On January 31, 1908 Colleen Amelia Dickinson married Carl Fish King. They had 3 children, Kenyon and Coleman (twins) and Carl Fish King II (my father)."

The Kingston Place farm in Vermont was passed down over the years and now belongs to Dexter. The flag, which appears to be a large garrison type flag, has been a treasured family memento through the years. I did not know of its existence until I was contacted by Dexter last year. Since then, we have become long distance friends and he has helped tremendously in my research of his ancestor and of Reconstruction in Jackson County.

6 comments:

Terry Sirmans said...

Excellent work Dale!
Thank you for the new information.
Terry

Dale said...

Terry, Thanks! I hope all is well with you.

Dale

Dexter said...

I agree with Terry, excellent work.The flag is an 8'X12" American Eagle and in very good condition for being 140 years old. I guarantee it wasn't made in China.

The 2 new theories are fascinating; robbery and jealous husband. Do you have a name of the husband and I can look for a letter or clue in my material.

Dexter

Dale said...

Dexter, The story that went around was that he was having an affair with wife of a man from Greenwood named Bryan. No one put much stock in it at the time and I don't think it had anything to do with the murder. The idea of robbery, however, is very interesting. Capt. Dickinson had been paid the day before his death and was carrying a large amount not only of his own cash, but also cash for a local planter. All of it disappeared and someone also ransacked his house at the same time. In fact, bullet-damaged papers from his pockets were found in the house after the murder, an indication that the killer had also gone into his house.

Dale

Dexter said...

Dale,

You struck a cord in my old memory. WOW, there was also a pocket bible with a bullet hole in it that I remember seeing years ago. I have to do some homework.

Dexter

Dale said...

Dexter, I would LOVE to have a photograph of it if you can dig it up!

Dale