THE PATH OF THE DIXON BED
Lt. Col. Henry "Hal" Dixon, (1740 - 1782) a Revolutionary War hero, was the first owner of record of what we proudly call the Dixon Bed, now in our possession. Historian D. Schenck wrote about Hal Dixon [obvious typographical errors corrected]:
In September 1889, when I published my history entitled, North Carolina, 1780-81, it contained on page 465-466 this paragraph.
Perhaps the most brilliant officer, whose service enriched the annals of that memorable invasion was Maj. “Hal” Dixon, whose dashing and impetuous course was so splendidly displayed among the scattered legions of Gates, at Camden. He refused to fly when his comrades had been driven from the field and his devoted band had been left exposed to the bayonet charge on its front and flanks, with a fierce spirit he faced his battalion to the charge from either side, and fought as long as a cartridge was in his belt; then resorting to the bayonet himself he cut his way through the attacking force and made good his retreat. We know from the roster that he died July 17 th , 1782, after independence had been won; but where he closed his eyes in death, or where is his unmarked grave, we cannot tell. His letters in 1781 several times speaks of returning to Caswell County, and it may be that his remains rest there in hope again to rise. 1
United States Senator from Kentucky, Archibald Dixon, also served as Lieutenant-Governor of Kentucky. A book on Kentucky governors and lieutenant-governors mentions Archibald Dixon's father, Wynne, and grandfather, Hal Dixon:
His father, Captain Wynn Dixon, was the son of Colonel Henry Dixon, a Revolutionary Army officer in the North Carolina Militia, who died at the Red House in Caswell County in 1782 of wounds received in the war. 2
This information was inherited with the Dixon Bed:
The affidavit of Armistead and Frances Flippen ( Hal's daughter ), asserts that Dixon died of a wound received in said war in 1782. Nancy Stafford then of Smith County, Tennessee, makes oath that “Dixon returned home in Caswell County sick of a wound received in some battle in South Carolina, which was the cause of his death. He died July 17, 1782. He was wounded three times the last time mortally - over at Stony.” 3
However, there is conflicting information about where Hal Dixon was when he was last wounded as reported by the 2 nd Regiment of North Carolina. He was wounded in three different battles.
On February 6, 1782, Lt. Col. Henry Dixon was transferred from the 3 rd North Carolina Regiment to the 2 nd North Carolina Regt. The unit was sent to besiege the British in Charleston, South Carolina. It was there that Dixon died of battlefield wounds on 17 July, 1782 in camp in Round O. Today, Round O is an extremely small town, located between Charleston and Walterboro on Hwy 17A. Today it is not known if Dixon's body was returned to his native Caswell County, North Carolina for burial or it was left at Round O, South Carolina.
The surrender at Yorktown was 19 October 1781. Henry Dixon died 17 June 1782 - about eight months after the British surrendered. I asked Mr. Patrick O'Kelley, 4 historian of the 2 nd Regiment of North Carolina, if the Siege of Charleston continued eight months after Yorktown. He responded:
Actually the siege of Charleston was officially from 7 March to 12 May 1780. At that time the American army surrendered. The occupation of Charleston by British forces lasted until December 1782.
I would assume that he would have been buried at his home in North Carolina.
He believed a person of Hal Dixon's rank would have been accorded that courtesy.
The location of Hal Dixon's home place and burial site has not yet been pin pointed. However, there is support for his service with the 2 nd Regiment of North Carolina and that he was probably buried near home. A history of Caswell County states:
After Guilford Courthouse, and when the British were no longer a threat to North Carolina, most American troops left the state to help drive the British out of South Carolina. Hal Dixon participated in those movements, and at the Battle of Eutaw Springs there on September 8 he was again wounded. His son, Lieutenant Wynne Dixon, was also wounded.
Lieutenant Colonel Dixon returned to his home on the upper waters of Moon's Creek where he owned over 3,200 acres but he died on July 17, 1782, from the last wound that he had received. 5
A monument stands to honor Hal Dixon on the battlefield of Guilford Courthouse near Greensboro, North Carolina, with this inscription:
Dr. Henry T. Dixon, a great grandson of Hal Dixon, confirmed the descent of the Dixon bed in an affidavit signed 10 February 1933 from the time it was owned by Hal Dixon and his wife, Martha Frances Wynne, to the time the bed came into our branch of the family. Hal Dixon's estate was finally settled twenty-five years after his death, in 1807. There is just one canopy bed listed in Hal's estate inventory.
The first Dixons to arrive in Henderson County, Kentucky, in 1804 were Hal and Martha's oldest son, Wynne Dixon (1764-1829]) his 2 nd wife, Rebecca Hart, and their two-year-old son, Archibald Dixon, who became Lieutenant Governor and United States Senator from Kentucky. Wynne's ten-year-old son, Payne Dixon, by his 1 st wife, Ketura Payne, also migrated. Wynne served in the Revolution with his father. 6
My direct ancestor, Hal and Martha's youngest son, also named Henry (1777-1858), either inherited or purchased the Dixon bed when the estate was settled. Henry brought the bed to Henderson County by ox cart when he and his wife, Mary Johnston (1776-1850), and their first three or four children and slaves migrated in 1808. 7
A son of Henry Dixon and Mary Johnston, another Henry Dixon (1806-1876), acquired the bed at his father's estate sale about November 1858 at Sulfur Springs in Union County, Kentucky. The bed was eventually passed to his daughter, Mary Dixon, who married George W. McClure of Corydon, Kentucky, in Henderson County.
The bed then passed to Samuel Ball of Corydon, and then to his daughter who later lived in Detroit. [I am not aware that there is a direct Dixon/Ball family relationship in this branch of the family, nor am I aware that the bed was moved to Detroit.]
Mary Elizabeth Hill, 3rd-great granddaughter of Lt. Col. Henry "Hal" Dixon and Martha Wynne, purchased the Dixon bed around 1930 at a dispersal sale at Corydon. I recall family members saying, “she bought it in order to keep it in the family.” I saw the bed in her home at 127 Alves Street in Henderson. On August 5, 1931, Mary Hill wrote to W. Cameron Smith, her half-brother, who had inquired about the bed. I have been told she also corresponded with Greenfield Village, a Michigan museum founded by Henry Ford.
Cameron and his wife, Frances Hartley, were about to build a home in Lexington, Kentucky. They purchased the Dixon bed from Mary Hill for $100 and had their building contractor add height to of one of the bedrooms to accommodate the bed. My mother and I visited them in Lexington during the summer of 1933, and they were very proud to show us their new home and the beautiful bed at 231 Holiday Drive. World War II brought an end to Cameron's work with Ballard & Ballard, the Louisville based flour miller. Cameron and Frances bought a farm on Utica Pike overlooking the Ohio River on the Indiana side at Louisville. I saw the bed in the lovely old farm home at that location just after the end of WW II.
Charles Ball Smith and his sister, Virginia, bought the old Smith home place at Zion in Henderson County about 1944. The Dixon bed was loaned to Virginia Smith when Cameron and Frances moved from the old farmhouse to a home where ceilings were lower. Frances died in 1952. Cameron later married Daisy Offutt Johnson of Morganfield, Kentucky.
Since there were no children, Cameron Smith (1891-1975) left the Dixon bed to me. He had confidence that my wife, Anne Hill Jackson, and I would make every effort to care for the bed and to keep it in the family. I am the 4 th great grandson of Lt. Col. Henry "Hal" Dixon and Martha Frances Wynne.
We do not know when and where the bed was built, or for whom. It is a massive, solid cherry, four-poster canopy bed. Each bedpost was a cherry tree. There is a bullet hole through the foot board, and a bullet is embedded in one of the head posts. Regrettably, we do not know the story of the bullet holes.
Because of eight-foot ceilings, we had to store the bed in Champaign, Illinois, for about sixteen years after the breakup of Smith home in Zion. However, when we moved to Georgia in 1999, we made certain that we had a guest room that would accommodate the Dixon Bed.
James Allen Smith, January 1990 - Champaign, IL, Revised 11 February 2001 - Kennesaw, GA
1 North Carolina University Magazine, Old Series, Vol. XXVIII. No. 1 October 1895. New Series, Vol. XV. Biographical sketch of Lieut. Col. Hal Dixon. The Chevalier Bayard of the Revolutionary War.
2 G. Glen Clift, Governors of Kentucky, 1792-1942
3 “Extract from the - blank - of the Heirs of Lieut Col. ‘Hal' Dixon of the continentals (Caswell County)”
4 Patrick O'Kelley http://www.2nc.org/
5 William S. Powell, When the Past Refused to Die, A History of Caswell County, North Carolina, 1777-1977
6 HISTORY OF HENDERSON AND HENDERSON COUNTY, KY , Edmund L. Starling, 1887, p. 575
7 Iibid, p. 608
Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2005 HCH&GS