Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Family History Writing Challenge Day 10

Dickson headstone
While selling off parts of his farm would have been difficult, John Murdoch must have been devastated by the news he received on January 26, 1871. His business partner of several decades, Charles K. Dickson, died at the age of 54. He left behind his wife Mary, age 49, and six children ranging in age from 10 to 21. At the time of his death, his mother-in-law Margaret Thomas, and four servants were also living with the family. The 1870 census indicated that the value of Dickson's real estate was $280,000 and his personal estate was $250,000. Mary Dickson is shown with a real estate value of $65,000.

Dickson was very well-known in St. Louis not only for his association with the firm of Murdoch & Dickson, but also because his enterprises extended in many directions, sometimes with John Murdoch and sometimes without. He was a leading stockholder, director and officer of the Western River Improvement and Wrecking Company, contributed to the success of nearly all the railroad companies, was part of the syndicate that purchased the State Bank of Missouri and converted it into the National Bank of the State of Missouri and was Vice President of the bank until his death.

Construction of Eads Bridge
He was President of the Illinois and St. Louis Bridge Company, formed by James Eads to construct a combined road and railway bridge over the Mississippi River. Dickson invested heavily in this company in addition to being one of the largest stockholders of the bridge. The cornerstone of the bridge was laid on February 25, 1868. At the time it was the longest arch bridge ever built. It was also unique in that it was the first structure of any kind to make extensive use of steel. Dickson did not live to attend the opening ceremony on July 4, 1874 but James Eads invited his daughter Josephine Dickson Walsh to lead the 15-mile long parade, observe the speeches, and attend the fireworks display.

At the time of his death, Dickson was also a director in the Third National Bank; the North Missouri Railroad; the Brunswick, Chillicothe and Council Bluffs Railroad; the Tower Grove Railway Company; and the People's Railway Company. He was also President of the Granby Lead Mining Company.

His death notice took up three columns in the newspaper, and concluded by stating:

Mr. Dickson was not only a man of rare abilities, but he was also a thoroughly honest man, and with all so modest and retiring, that we doubt not that many who knew him well will learn with surprise that his magic hand supported and vitalized many of the public works we have above enumerated. The death of such a man is a great public calamity.

Many St. Louisans would feel the loss of Charles Dickson.


Linda Schreiber said...

I've been following and reading these with great interest! Thanks!
Dawned on me that I probably should say so....

Kim Wolterman said...

Thanks for letting me know, Linda. I appreciate it!