Research and Publications Committee
MONOGRAPH NO. 2
A HISTORY OF THE ANNUAL REUNIONS OF THE DICKINSON FAMILY ASSOCIATION
ALAN C. DICKINSON
|II||THE FIRST REUNION||2|
|III||LISTING OF ANNUAL REUNIONS||3|
|IV||DOCUMENTS FROM FILES OF THE ASSOCIATION||13|
|A||Steps that led to organization of DICKINSON ASSOCIATION OF CONNECTICUT|
|B||Further development of the formal organization|
|C||Dickinson Coat of Arms|
|V||THE NUMBERING OF ANNUAL MEETINGS||15|
|VI||SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS||16|
It is probably safe to say that the Dickinson Family Association has been built on family reunions. It was a family gathering that initiated our organization although the formal structure of the association took several years to materialize. Through the years, the DFA has been propagated by nearly annual family reunions.
The nature of the gatherings has evolved, and gradually other important areas of concern were added to the duties of the association, such as recording of genealogy and awarding of scholarships. Many significant milestones, however, were associated with annual reunions. Therefore, the history of DFA reunions is, in a sense, the history of the DFA.
This monograph is the result of a search for information on all the reunions, from that first family gathering in 1859 up to the most recent one, 152 years later. It starts with a description of the first reunion, and then lists all the reunions, grouping them by the President elected at each. Basic information, where available, is given in the list in section III. Additional information for milestones of the organization are given in section IV together with some documents of particular interest. Section V discusses some of the controversies over the numbering of the reunions and explains the convention now used. The reunion number, according to this convention, is given in the Section III list for every tenth reunion starting in 1960. Finally, section VI lists the sources of the information.
As a personal note, I have been aware of the existence of this organization for several decades. However, I first saw some physical evidence of the DFA in the 1990s, and only became actively involved in 2002. I was honored to be elected president in 2005 and started this project fairly soon after that. The establishment of the Research and Publications Committee at the 2008 annual meeting, and the publication of its first monograph for the 2009 meeting spurred me to accelerate the pace of my research. It has been an enlightening and exciting project and has heightened my appreciation of the importance of family history.
Alan Dickinson, 2011
II. THE FIRST REUNION
The first meeting that is generally agreed to represent the beginning, though informal, of the Dickinson Family Association, was held on August 17, 1859. It was a surprise party to honor Abner and Abigail Dickinson at their home in Glastonbury, Connecticut. A total of 37 people gathered, including their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Abner was 77 and Abilgail 79. Using the former genealogical numbering, Abner, 125-435, was son of Nathan125-43, son of David125-4, son of Thomas125, son of Joseph12, son of Nathaniel1.
A record compiled later states that it was “the first Dickinson Reunion and was followed by yearly reunions. Then they organized… 25 Aug. 1910.” [Probably 26 August 1910. See sections III & IV.]
III. LISTING OF ANNUAL REUNIONS
1859, August 17 “A Surprise Party” was held for Abner and Abigail Dickinson at their home in Glastonbury, CT, by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – in all 37 persons.
1883, August 8 “The Great Reunion.” Over 400 Dickinsons, from many branches and from around the country, gathered at College Hall on the Amherst College campus for a long and illustrious program, with many notable speakers. The president for the reunion was M. F. Dickinson of Boston, the secretary and treasurer was Franke W. Dickinson of Springfield, Mass., the recording secretary was Edward B. Dickinson of New York, and there were 32 vice presidents.
Charles L. Brown
1908, August 27 Home of Timothy Dickinson, South Glastonbury, CT
49th Reunion. It was VOTED to form a permanent organization and the first minutes of the Association are recorded. Charles L. Brown of Springfield, MA, was elected the first president.
Albert W. Post
Vernon Center, CT
1909, August 25 Home of Mr. Albert W. Post, Vernon Center, CT
Timothy D. Dickinson
1910, August 26 Forest Park, Springfield, MA
By-Laws proposed and voted on.
1911 Forest Park, Springfield, MA
Elmer N. Dickinson
1912, August 24 Forest Park, Springfield, MA
1913 No Reunion held.
1914, August 8 Hill Top Farm, Mr. Charles L. Brown, East Longmeadow, MA
1915, August 14 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
1916, August 19 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
Attendance small due to contagion of paralysis.
1917, August 14, Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
Some met although no reunion was called due to Infantile Paralysis.
1918 No Reunion due to war time.
1919, August 14 Home of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac M. Quin, Manchester Green, CT
1920, August 12 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
Arthur W. Dickinson
1921, August 13 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
1922 – 1925 No Reunions held.
Charles J. Strickland
1926, August 28 “Mayview”, Mrs. Etta Goff Rodgers, Higganum, CT
1927, August 27 “Mayview”, Mrs. Etta Goff Rodgers, Higganum, CT
1928, August 25 Home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles J. Strickland, Manchester, CT
1929, August 31 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
1930, August 30 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
1931, August 29 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
First time that the “Abner” and “Seth” branches of the family united for a reunion. (Seth was Abner’s brother and also his brother-in-law.) 30 were in attendance. This was the first meeting for which the notes are on record; they contain the first recorded mention of succotash at a reunion. One of the “Seth” branch, Addie Maria Dickinson was elected genealogist at this meeting. Her work would result in the first published genealogy of the Dickinson Family, in 1955. The oldest attendee, Albert Post, 82, had attended the original reunion at the age of 10.
1932, August 27 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
65 attended. It was announced that Albert Post had died in January.
1933, August 26 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
First time roll call by descendants of children of Nathaniel was held. Addie Dickinson gave an account of the dedication of the Dickinson boulder in Old Hadley Cemetery, held on July 16. Martha Dickinson Bianchi gave a speech at the dedication. Both Conn. and Mass. Dickinsons attended the ceremony.
Merton F. Dickinson
1934, August 18 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
Two who attended original reunion were present: Timothy Dickinson, 90, and Emma Brown.
1935, August 24 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
1936, August 29 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
Addie Dickinson gave a short history of Dickinson Reunions.
1937, August 28 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
It was decided to call the organization The Dickinson Family Association of America. It was announced that the Hadley Cemetery, badly damaged by the 1936 flood had been restored by the WPA to better condition than before the flood. Mrs. Merton Dickinson gave an account of their travels to several national parks out west.
1938, August 27 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
Ruth Bishop reported on the coat of arms. She had learned that no Dickinson is entitled to a coat of arms.
1939, August 26 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
A basket lunch was enjoyed as at all reunions from 1931 – present. A tribute was given to Rev. Anton Temple Gesner, author of the book:Dickinson Families of Milton and Litchfield Counties.
1940, August 31 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
Edward Ellis, 86, told about some early reunions. He was 4 years old at the original 1859 surprise party.
1941, August 23 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
1942 – 1945 No Reunions held due to war time.
The Duck Pond House, where reunions had been held, was used by the American Red Cross as the blood bank center. Letters were sent to all Dickinsons in the field.
1946, August 24 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
Addie Dickinson requested help putting her genealogy together. Discussion of Edward Dickinson’s book, “A New England Epic.”
1947, August 23 Elizabeth Park, Hartford, CT
Speakers, Louise Dickinson Rich, author of “We Took to the Woods” and Edward Dickinson (see 1946).
1948, August 21 Home of Mr. and Mrs. Merton F. Dickinson, Windsor, CT
1949, August 27 Home of Mr. and Mrs. Merton F. Dickinson, Windsor, CT
1950, August 26 Home of Mr. and Mrs. Merton F. Dickinson, Windsor, CT
Entertainment: An Antique Fashion Show, directed by Mrs. Merton Dickinson. Also, an exhibit of her glass collection.
1951 through 1952 No reunion held due to illness of President, Merton F. Dickinson
1953, August 29 Home of Mr. and Mrs. Merton F. Dickinson, Windsor, CT
1954, August 28 First Congregational Church, Amherst, MA
“Emily Dickinson Day”
Ralph R. Mason, Sr.
1955, August 27 S. White Dickinson Library, Whately, MA
Genealogy of Nathaniel Dickinson by Addie Dickinson is completed and available.
1956, August 26 First Congregational Church, Hadley, MA
1957, August 24 Congregational Church, Agawam, MA
Announcement that the Prentiss (Dickinson) House had opened at the museum at Shelburne, Vermont.
1958, August 23 Hatfield Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Frank G. Reynolds
1959, August 29 Congregational Church, Agawam, MA
1960, August 27 Wyben Chapel, Westfield, MA
Program by Mr. & Mrs. Charles Ross: Illustrated lecture on their trip to Mexico.
Edward L. Dickinson
1961, July 29 First Congregational Church, Windsor, CT
Connecticut and Massachusetts gathered and continued as a single group called the Dickinson Family Association with by-laws and officers.
1962, July 28 Congregational Church, Whately, MA
Eleanor V. Smith
1963, July 27 Congregational Church, Old Deerfield, MA
1964, July 25 Hatfield Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Speaker: Alfred Mueller, slide show entitled“The Valley As I See It”
Philip B. Dickinson
1965, July 31 First Congregational Church, Southampton, MA
Speakers: Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Bruns, “Motor trip through the British Isles”
1966, July 30 Public Library, Granville, MA
Speaker: Ralph Hiers, curator of Historical Room: “History of the Noble and Cooley Drum Factory”
1967 United Church of Christ (First Congregational), Thomaston, CT
Program: A movie, “African Holiday” by Ethel Dickinson Cross
Walter C. Dickinson
1968 Congregational Church, Westhampton, MA
Speaker: Richard Tracey,“Colorful Facts in Westhampton History”
1969 Second Congregational Church, Amherst, MA
“An Afternoon with Emily Dickinson”
Speaker: Polly Longsworth,“Emily Dickinson, Her Letter to the World”
Tour of the Dickinson Homestead
1970 100th Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Hatfield Tercentenary Week
Paper by Mary Cutter: “The Dickinsons in Hatfield History” read by Elinor Smith.
1971 Congregational Church, Whately, MA
Whately Tercentenary Week
1972 Congregational Church, Granby, MA
Mrs. Raymond Dickinson read her paper on the Granby Dickinsons.
Speaker: Rev. Samuel Young: “History of the Granby Church”
Mrs. Harry Dickinson
1973 First Congregational Church, Hadley, MA
Speaker: Mrs. Doheny Sessions, curator of Porter Phelps Huntington House:“History and Present-day Activities”
1974 First Congregational Church, West Springfield, MA
Raymond S. Dickinson
1975 Congregational Church, Agawam, MASpeaker: Paul Toelken, “A Brief History of the Agawam Church”
Speaker: Paul Toelken, “A Brief History of the Agawam Church”
1976 Mt. Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA
Music: Helen Scott, violin with E. Porter Dickinson, piano.
Speaker: Dr. Marjorie Kaufmann, “Emily Dickinson and Mount Holyoke College”
1977 First Congregational Church, Plymouth, CT
Music: Nancy MacGreggor & son, Douglas, recorder duets
Speaker: Thomas Hennessy, curator of the Lock Museum of America, Terryville.
Philip B. Dickinson
1978 Congregational Church, North Amherst, MA
Music: Amherst Senior Citizens Choral Group
Speaker: Harold Cary,“History of the North Amherst Church”
1979 Federated Church, Granville, MA
Music: presented by the Church Choir
Speaker: Helena Duris & Mae Dickinson,“Early Granville History”
1980 110th Congregational Church, Granby, MA
Speaker: Mrs. Robert Berkey, slide show – “Egypt”
1981 Trinitarian Church, Northfield, MA
Speaker: Elsie Scott, “Dickinsons in and Around Northfield”
President 1982- 1991
1982 Congregational Church, Whately, MA
Special guests: Belles of Amherst – Barber Shop
Main Speaker: Ruth Masso, “Peru”
1983 First Baptist Church, Amherst, MA
Theme speaker: Margaret Bock, genealogist – “100th Anniversary of 1883 Reunion”
Main Speaker: Ruth Jones, Slides on Emily Dickinson and Amherst
1984 First Church of Christ, Wethersfield, CT
125th Anniversary of Founding of the Dickinson Family Association
Announcement: Bequest of $10,000 by Arlene Crangle Rosner, initiates scholarship fund.
Theme speaker: Bob Magovern, “Religious aspects of the move to Hadley”
Main Speaker: Douglas Alves, “Slides and History of Wethersfield (350th anniversary)
1985 Prospect Hall, Mt. Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA
Speaker: Jeff Babar, “Swift River Valley and Quabbin Reservoir”
1986 Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Speakers: Bob Magovern, etc.: “Hatfield in the 17th Century”
1987 Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Speaker: Richard Garvey, “History of Dickinsons”
1988 Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Re-enactor: Connie Clark as Emily Dickinson
1989 Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Speaker: Daniel Lombardo, “Amherst Dickinsons”
1990 120th Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Speaker: Richard Garvey, “Dickinsons Then and Now”
President 1991 – 1997
1991 Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Speaker: Donald Friary, “Dickinsons of Deerfield”
1992 Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Speaker: Bill Schoeffler, “Researching Family Roots”
1993 Congregational Church, North Hadley, MA
Speaker: Gregory Farmer, “The Evergreens and Austin Dickinson”
1994 Congregational Church, North Hadley, MA
Re-enactor: Dennis Picard as Nathaniel Dickinson
1995 Lord Jeffery Inn, Amherst, MA
Speaker: Dr. Georgia Nugent, “Rev. Jonathan Dickinson”
1996 Lord Jeffery Inn, Amherst, MA
Speaker: Daria D’Arienzo, “Samuel Fowler Dickinson”
1997 Lord Jeffery Inn, Amherst, MA
Main Speaker: June Cook, “Women in Nathaniel Dickinson’s Day”
President 1998 – 2001
1998 Old First Church, Springfield, MA
Main Speaker: Bob Magovern, “Pilgrims”
1999 Yankee Pedlar, Holyoke, MA
Main Speaker: Cindy Dickinson, “The Dickinson Home and Cemetery”
2000 130th Yankee Pedlar, Holyoke, MA
Main Speaker: Polly Longsworth, “The Evergreens”
Acting President, 2001 – 2002
2001 Yankee Pedlar, Holyoke, MA
Main Speaker: Robert Aborn,“Broom Making”
President, 2002 – 2005
2002 Congregational Church, Hatfield, MA
Main Speaker: Joe Carvalho, “Family Association”
2003 Dickinson Homestead, Amherst, MA
Re-enactor: Belinda West as Emily Dickinson
Special Program: Cindy Dickinson, Jane Wald and staff, “Customs and Events at Dickinson Family Homes in the 19th Century”
2004 Bement School, Old Deerfield, MA
Main Speaker: Donald Friary, “Dickinsons of Deerfield”
Alan C. Dickinson
2005 Hopkins Academy, Hadley, MA
Reenactor: Dennis Picard as Nathaniel Dickinson
Main Speaker: Dr.Marla Miller, “Rebecca Dickinson”
2006 South Congregational Church, South Amherst, MA
Special Presentation: Doris Dickinson, “Memoirs of Harvey Dickinson”
Main Speaker: Clif Read, “History of the Quabbin”
2007 Westfield State College, Westfield, MA
Special Theme: Dickinsons in Education
Special Presentation: Ken Haar, “The Dickinson School of Southwick”
Main Speaker: Bob Brown, “John Woodbridge Dickinson, Educational Innovator”
2008 Amherst College, Amherst, MA
125th Anniversary of the Great Reunion of 1883
Main Speaker: Polly Longsworth, “Those Old Grounds of Memory”
2009 First Church of Christ, Wethersfield, CT
150th Anniversary of the founding of the Dickinson Family Association
Main Speaker: Melissa Josefiak, “From Adventurers to Establishment: Early
Wethersfield” – Cancelled due to tornado Friday night and power outage.
Andrew W. Dickinson
2010 140th Willits-Hallowell Center, Mt. Holyoke College, So. Hadley, MA
Special Presentation: Melissa Josefiak, “From Adventurers to Establishment: Early Wethersfield”
Main Speaker: Martha Ackmann, “Emily Dickinson and Mary Lyon: Lessons in Independence”
2011 141st Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst, MA
Special Presentation: “The Dickinsons of Amherst, In Their Own Words Readings with photographic masks.
Main Speaker: Jane Wald, “The News, like Squirrels, ran” The Emily Dickinson Museum from 2003 to the present.
IV. DOCUMENTS FROM FILES OF THE ASSOCIATION
A. Steps that led to organization of DICKINSON ASSOCIATION OF CONNECTICUT
August 17, 1859 “A Surprise Party” was held on Abner and Abigail Curtis Dickinson at their home Glastonbury, Conn., by their children, grand-children and great-grandchildren, in all 37 persons. Each year thereafter the family got together. It wasn’t until 1908 that there is record of vote being taken to form a permanent organization and the following are excerpts from the Secretary’s Record Book.
At the annual reunion of the Dickinson family held at the home of Timothy Dickinson in South Glastonbury, Conn., August 27th, 1908, it was VOTED a permanent organization be made and the following officers were elected and committees appointed.
President Charles L. Brown of West Springfield, Mass.
Secretary D. W. Brown of Springfield, Mass.
Treasurer Albert W. Post of Vernon Center, Conn.
Mr. Northend moved that a committee of three (of the Dickinson) family be appointed by the President to draft By-laws, etc. for the organization. The following were appointed:
- David Hollister
- Albert Post
- Serilla Dickinson
Mr. Post moved that a vote of thanks be tendered to Timothy Dickinson and family for the use of their home and grounds for this reunion, which was given heartily.
Mrs. Brown moved that a collection be taken for the expenses of today, and for future use, which was VOTED.
A committee of one, Serilla Dickinson was appointed to prepare a badge.
Committee of arrangements, Julia Ellis, Julius Strickland and Almeria Dickinson.
A letter from Mrs. Serilla Ellis was read, she being the only surviving member of the original Dickinson family, being 85 years of age.
Mr. John Northend gave an entertaining reading.
Sixty-five persons present.
D. W. Brown, Secretary
The Fiftieth Annual Reunion of the Dickinson family (of the Dickinson Association, the second,) was held at the home of Mr. Albert Post of Vernon Center, Conn., August 25th, 1909.
There were twelve present who had attended the first of the Dickinson reunions.
Annette I. McGee, Secretary
B. Further development of the formal organization.
- July 16, 1933. At the dedication ceremony of the Dickinson Boulder in the Old Hadley Cemetery, both Connecticut and Massachusetts Dickinsons gathered together.
- August 28, 1937. At the 1937 reunion it was decided to call the organization THE DICKINSON ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA to reflect the fact that the Connecticut and Massachusetts Dickinsons were meeting together.
- July 29, 1961. The union of Conn. and Mass. Dickinsons was formalized with new by-laws, officers and the name, DICKINSON FAMILY ASSOCIATION.
C. Dickinson Coat of Arms
From time to time there is mention of a “Dickinson Coat of Arms” in connection with a DFA reunion. The most famous image is that which appears in the 2nd edition of our genealogy. It also appears in the 1883 Reunion book and has been used in a variety of ways, including badges, bookmarks and brochures.
In the November 2004 issue of the DFA Newsletter, Margaret Bock, then the genealogist, shed some light on the legitimacy of a coat of arms for the DFA. She stated that “there is no such thing as a coat of arms for a family name.” Coats of arms may be awarded to an individual but should not be construed to belong to all who bear the same surname. Nevertheless, in the past it has been a common practice for family associations to display coats of arms in their genealogical publications. More recently published genealogies rarely do this.
The coat of arms with the hinds’ heads was evidently a Dickinson coat of arms, granted in 1625. It is not known to whom it was granted, but there is no record of Nathaniel ever receiving a coat of arms. In 1698, Nathaniel’s son Obadiah used an imprint of this coat of arms in sealing his will. Since he was born in Wethersfield Connecticut and was not a British subject it would not have been officially granted to him.1
A communication from Lynn Betlock of the New England Historical Genealogical Society states that the use of a coat of arms as in the 1993 DFA Genealogy is not improper as long as its source is clearly stated and perhaps a description is given in heraldic terms. She said that this seal “is an authentic decorative and historic device, no more and no less.”2
In conclusion, we can continue to enjoy displaying this coat of arms, but we must understand that it is “a Dickinson Coat of Arms,” and not “the Dickinson Coat of Arms.”
1“Shedding Light on Some Dickinson Controversies,” Margaret (Bucky) Bock, DFA Newlsetter, vol. 1, no. 3, November 2004; E-mails from Margaret Bock, May, 2010.
2E-mail from Lynn Betlock, NEHGS, June 4, 2003.
V. THE NUMBERING OF ANNUAL MEETINGS
Although a formal organization as we now know it was not present initially and actually took many years to develop, the original “surprise party” for Abner and Abigail Dickinson in 1859 has long been considered the first meeting. A subsequent record stated that it was “the first Dickinson Reunion and was followed by yearly reunions”.
As noted in section III of this monograph, the first existing mention of officers and committees was at the 1908 meeting, also in South Glastonbury, CT. That gathering was recorded as the 49th reunion and the 1909 event was recorded as the 50th annual meeting. If there had been a gathering each year, 1909 would have been the 51st meeting. This may imply that there was one year without a meeting, but we have no record of that. There also seems to have been an attempt to distinguish between what was considered a “reunion” and what was a “meeting.”
Serious errors in numbering occurred in 1931. That year’s reunion was referred to in one place as the 61st, later as the 65th, and in the minutes, the 67th. This was a source of confusion for decades.
From 1908 on, the reunions/meetings occurred annually except for 13 years in which there was supposedly no meeting. Those years were: 1913, 1917, 1918, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1951 and 1952. To complicate matters further, even though no formal meeting was called for 1917, some records in our archives report that a few people did gather. The prevalence of “infantile paralysis” (poliomyelitis) seriously affected attendance in both 1916 and 1917.
Discrepancies in numbering continued until the mid-1990s when a convention was adopted which has been followed to the present time. It is based on the following statements:
- The “surprise party” is taken as the first reunion.
- It is assumed that there were reunions held each year thereafter except for 12 of the 13 years listed above as “no-meeting” years. The small 1917 gathering is considered a reunion.
- All years in which there was a gathering are counted, regardless of whether it included only “Connecticut” Dickinson or both “Connecticut and Massachusetts” Dickinsons.
Using this convention, the 2011 reunion was the 141st. It is also now common to refer to the whole gathering, usually two days, as the (numbered) “Reunion” and the business meeting which takes place at the reunion as the (same numbered) “Annual Meeting.” This tacitly acknowledges that those early reunions which did not have formal business meetings may still be regarded as meetings.
The age of electronic communications has made it possible for Dickinson cousins and other interested parties to be in touch despite the fact that we are spread around the globe. And yet it is good that our annual reunions continue to occur giving us an opportunity to meet face to face, and continuing the long tradition documented in this monograph.
Alan C. Dickinson, Historian
Dickinson Family Association
October 16, 2011
VI. SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Andrew Dickinson – material from the files stored at the Hatfield Library.
John Stene – information on reunions from 1980 through 2005.
Nancy Payne – secretary’s notes from 1997-2006.
The book: Reunion of the Dickinson Family, 1883, published in 1884.
Margaret Bock – information on the coat of arms issue and general help.
Robert Magovern – historian’s archives collected from many sources.