DAWSON FAMILY MEMBERS PERISH IN HOUSE FIRE IN 1856
House fires, as we all know, creates terrible images that can make the strongest of us tremble. Have you ever gone back into your home to check the stove to make sure it was turned off? Maybe you got up after going to bed to check the stove or some other possible fire hazard.
House fires are perhaps one of the most feared tragedies that can be inflicted upon a family. The catastrophic loss when a fire strikes is difficult to measure in words. The loss of the sanctity and refuge that is your home is horrible enough, but when it takes the lives of your cherished family, it is heart wrenching and leaves a lifelong unbearable pain.
Such was the tragedy that befell Jackson Dawson, a young man who moved to Doddridge County from Allegany County, MD with his wife, Charlotte Lewellen Dawson along with their young children. The two had married on March 30, 1848 and spent the early years of their marriage in Maryland near her parents
Jackson’s family on the night of September 25, 1856. It was a cool night nearing 1 a.m. when the fire began at the back of the house in the kitchen which was on the first floor of their one and a half story home located where the John Dye stood. The family was sleeping peacefully in the early morning hours when the deadly flames ignited. Jackson Dawson, his wife, Charlotte Lewellen Dawson, and their children Sarah A, who was age 7 ½ , Mary M who was age 6, Charlotte S who was age 4 ½, Luvena who was age 2 ½, Elizabeth who was only 2 ½ months old, and Luvena Mires who was 11 ½ were inside the inferno as flames rapidly tore its way through the wood framed house reaching toward the windows and doors.
Both Jackson and his wife were only semi-conscious and ran from the house only to realize that their children were still inside. He could hear the cries from them and immediately rushed back into the now nearly consumed house to save his children. He was unsuccessful in his attempt. Unfortunately, he survived severely burned for eight days before succumbing to his burns.
When morning came, the local undertaker, Joseph Cheuvront, arrived on the scene. He gathered the charred remains of family. Then, placed them in a box together and buried them in the Old Seventh Day Baptist Cemetery which is one of the cemeteries which make up what is known as Blockhouse Cemetery.
Tragedy struck Charlotte again when her son, William Green, who had joined the military during the American Civil War, died of wounds he received on September 22, 1864.
Young William had joined the military on August 14, 1862 in West Union. He mustered into service on August 23, 1862 in Wheeling as 1st Sergeant of Co. A, 14th W.Va. Infantry. Less than a year later, on January 10, 1863 he was promoted to Sergeant Major in the same Company.
He enrolled into service again in West Union in April of 1863 and gained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. In August of 1864, he once again was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.
William was a dutiful son and took care of his mother’s financial needs. In a letter to his mother dated April 3, 1864, William writes:
“My Dear Mother,
I propose to drop you a few lines to inform you that I am still on the land and among the living and enjoying good health. I left Burlington, W.Va. on the morning of the 2nd and come to New Creek and from there on the Cass to Webster, this side of Grafton. I expect we will go to Beverly or some other place up in the mountains. I will write to you soon again.
I remain your devoted son,
Wm. P Greene, Lieut.
P. S. I expressed one hundred dollars for you at New Creek yesterday. I forgot to pay the expressage on it. You will have to pay it.”
On November 1, 1864, death came calling again when young William succumb to the infection because of a wound he received when he was shot in his left foot. The foot was amputated, and the surgery did not stop the infection. William died at the Regimental Hospital in Winchester, VA.
Only a mother who has received news of the death of a child could know the grief Charlotte was forced to endure yet again.
Flavius Josephus Ashburn describes it in his diary (housed at the D C Museum) this way:
“On Sunday, the 6th I attended the funeral services of Lieut. William Green. He died on the 1st day of this month from a wound received in battle and his body was embalmed and sent home to West Union. He was there placed in a highly finished coffin and conveyed to the meeting house while Bro. Lyon (a Methodist minister and Chaplain in the army) preached his funeral. After which amidst the outbursts of grief and mournful lamentations of his mother and other relations he was interred in the silent tomb.”
Charlotte Elizabeth Lewellen Dawson found peace at last on October 6, 1880 when death at last came calling for her. She lies in that eternal sleep alongside her husband, Jackson Dawson and her sons and daughters as well as many of her grandchildren and great grandchildren at the Old Seventh Day Baptist section of the Blockhouse Cemetery. May God give her the rewards she deserved and did not get in this life…in the next life.
*Note – Charlotte’s story deserves so much more research. I hope to bring you a more detailed story of her tragic life in a future article.
God Bless and Stay Well
Patricia Richards Harris