JOHN MONROE DICK arrived into this world as a British
subject on March 28, 1823, the son of George and Helena Dick
of Omagh, Tyrone County in Northern Ireland. A veteran of
the Battle of Waterloo, his father, George, had served as an
officer in the British Army (H.M. 25th Regiment of Foot).
His mother, Helena, came from Greece.
John and his relatives were part of the large and wealthy
Dick family of Tyrone County. Originally from Scotland, the
family allegedly is related to the renowned Sir James Dick
Some thirty years before John came to America, his
cousins, Nathaniel, James, Sarah, and John Dick (a cousin
named John, also) immigrated to America from Ardstraw in
Tyrone County. Members of their mother's family, the Kelsos,
had preceded them prior to the American Revolution. Robert
Kelso of Prince Edward County, Virginia, met them at the
dock, welcoming them upon their arrival.
While Nathaniel and James Dick started businesses in
Virginia and elsewhere, John Dick (the cousin) enjoyed a
distinguished career in law. After attending law school, he
practiced law in New Orleans, Louisiana. He served as U. S.
District Attorney in New Orleans from 1815 until 1820. Full
of fervor and zeal, he is recorded by historians as having
successfully prosecuted Andrew Jackson in 1815 (for contempt
of court). In 1819, he obtained convictions for two of Jean
Lafitte's "lieutenants" and a number of their men. He even
went so far as to accuse their opposing counsel of "being
seduced out of the path of honor and duty by the
bloodstained gold of pirates." The two attorneys ended up
fighting a duel. Both were wounded. He married Mary Farar of
Laurel Hill plantation near Natchez, Mississippi, in 1820.
Ten months later, Mary Farar Dick, along with her stillborn
child, had fallen victim to yellow fever. After Mary's death
at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, she was interred in a crypt
underneath the chapel at Laurel Hill plantation.
Hill Plantation: History
Despondent over his wife's death, John Dick (the cousin)
resigned his position as U S. Attorney. However, President
Monroe appointed him as a federal judge in 1821. He later
married his first wife's second cousin, Frances Ann Kenner,
on August 16, 1823, only to die shortly afterwards in April
By 1809, Nathaniel and James Dick had established
themselves in business in New Orleans, owning one of the
largest factorage houses in that city, the N. and J. Dick
& Co. In addition, Nathaniel was a founder and
Vice-President of the Hibernian Society. Both of the
brothers amassed great fortunes, having extensive land
holdings in New Orleans and elsewhere, including plantations
in several states. When Sarah Dick married Christopher Todd
of Virginia, James Dick had a home built for his sister, Elm
Springs, in Maury County, Tennessee. Today this antebellum
home serves as the headquarters for the Sons of the
County Historical Society - Elm Springs.
In 1836, Nathaniel brought his thirteen-year-old cousin,
John Monroe Dick, with him on his voyage back to America
aboard the ship, Pocahontas. Young John lived with
Christopher and Sarah Dick Todd and their children at Elm
Springs. He attended schools in Baton Rouge and Tennessee.
Later, he went to medical school, becoming a physician.
However, John apparently preferred agricultural pursuits
more than the practice of medicine. He managed "No Mistake"
plantation, in Yazoo County, Mississippi, one of several
plantations owned by the elder Dicks.
Tree Maker Genealogy Site: No Mistake
At twenty-three years of age, John fell in love and
married Miss Amanda Williams, regarded as one of the most
beautiful Southern belles in all of Mississippi and Alabama.
Born in Carnseville, Georgia, she was the daughter of
Benijah and Malinda Sparks Williams and a relative of United
States Senator John Sharp Williams of Yazoo County,
Mississippi. The couple exchanged their wedding vows at "No
Mistake" plantation on April 7, 1846.
A little over a year later, on August 4, 1847, the couple
faced the first of many tragedies when their twin sons,
Nathaniel and James, died at birth. Then on March 31, 1849,
their daughter Helena was born.
By 1849, John's cousins, Nathaniel, James and John Dick
(the attorney) had all died. John subsequently relocated his
family to his cotton plantation at Grand Chenier, Louisiana.
Amanda's father and his second wife established another
plantation near-by at Prairie Gregg, west of Abbeville,
The couple's family rapidly increased with the birth of
John Dick, Jr., in 1850, followed by George in 1852, Benijah
in 1854, and Emma in 1856. Tragedy then again struck this
family. Seven-year-old Helena died that same year, probably
from yellow fever.
Lorenzo Quenton, born in 1857, died the following year in
1858 along with eight-year-old John, Jr. Jefferson Davis was
born in 1859, Thomas Jackson in 1860, and Robert E. Lee in
When the Civil War began, John Monroe Dick enlisted as a
private in the 18th Louisiana Infantry, Company B.,
serving part of the time in Louisiana under General Mouton.
He participated in the Memorial Engagement, attending the
negotiations for surrender at the battle of Mansfield.
He was detailed as a captain on a Confederate schooner as
a Coast Pilot from 1863-1864 in and around Sabine Pass,
Texas. Toward the latter part of the war, he served as a
blockade-runner, and spy. As a scout, he met and became a
personal friend of Jefferson Davis. Using his nautical
skills and knowledge of the intricate coastal waterways and
marshes of southwestern Louisiana, John served as a guide
for Confederate troop movements in that area. At the mouth
of the Mermentau River at Grand Chenier, he furnished the
use of his own sloop for the cause, lightering the larger
ships so that they could carry supplies to families living
up the river.
John became the most successful cotton grower on Grand
Chenier. After the War, his family once again began to
increase; Ralph was born in 1865, Katie in 1866, twins
Amanda and Frank in 1869. Concerned about yellow fever and
the health and safety of their children, the Dicks, along
with two other families, decided to pull up roots and move
westward to Chambers County, Texas.
In 1869, the couple established a cattle ranch at the
mouth of Lone Oak Bayou, near Smith Point, Texas. Outside
his house, John planted acorns he had gathered from under
the ancient live oaks at Grand Chenier. They quickly grew
into a fine, shady grove sheltering their home. Although
severe Gulf Coast hurricanes have long since swept away any
remnants of their original house, the trees still keep a
lonely vigil on the east shore of Galveston Bay, as if
waiting for the Dicks to return. Today they stand as a
living memorial, perhaps whispering to passersby of the
bygone hopes, struggles and tragedies of the pioneer Texas
ranch family that had once lived there so long ago.
With a new start in Texas, Amanda gave birth to the last
of their children at Smith Point: a third set of twins,
Lillian and William in 1871; and Matthew, their eighteenth
child, born in 1872, who only lived nine short days.
In 1877, a smallpox epidemic spread through Chambers
County, invading almost every home and killing many of the
residents. The disease took its toll throughout the area. It
is easy to assume that the Dicks would have been fearful of
contagion after the earlier loss of their children from
yellow fever. Such a reason could well explain why the Dicks
might have isolated themselves from the rest of the
population, allowing no one to come near their property.
With such wisdom, the family escaped the dreaded disease.
Beginning around 1880, a tangled web of conflict unfolded
at Smith Point, involving John and Amanda's beautiful young
daughter, Emma; her five protective brothers; a young man
named Charles Wilborn; and an estranged couple, Charles and
Sarah Ridge Pix, an Indian woman, lived on her cattle
ranch, near the Dick place. She was the daughter of a
Cherokee sub-chief, Major Ridge, whom some historians recall
in a most unfavorable light. Many regard him as a traitor to
his people and to their leader, Chief John Ross. Ridge and
his relatives, representing only a small fraction of his
tribe, signed the Treaty of New Echota, giving up all the
Cherokee lands in Georgia. The Ridge name became forever
linked to the Trail of Tears in 1838, which resulted in the
suffering and death of 4,000 Cherokee brethren. Later, in
Arkansas, unidentified Cherokees ambushed and ritually
killed Ridge, his son and nephew. (Chief John Ross remained
the respected leader of his people until his death in 1866.)
After Ridge's murder, Sarah, and her attorney husband,
George Paschal, moved to Galveston, Texas. It was not long
before the couple were divorced and Paschal moved to
Ross - Leader of the Cherokee
Ridge - A North Georgia Notable
A middle-aged divorcee, Sarah's next marriage was to a
youth named Charles Pix, the son of a prominent Galveston
merchant. More than twenty years her junior, he was close to
the age of her oldest son. At the time of their marriage,
young Pix would not yet be legally old enough to vote for
another two years. The couple, along with Sarah's entourage
of slaves, moved from Galveston, Texas to the eastern side
of Galveston Bay. They relocated on a tract of land near
Smith Point, in Chambers County, allegedly in the hopes of
establishing a sugar plantation.
The Civil War came and went, and Sarah had no more
slaves. At some point, the couple turned to cattle ranching.
As so often happens in December-May marriages, Sarah's
husband left her in 1872, moving to Galveston, Texas. Some
eight years later, Sarah filed for divorce. The publicized
divorce trial at Wallisville, Texas, focused on a bitter
struggle between the couple over the inherited property
rights of their deceased son's cattle. The trial court
ruling divided the property equally as per the Texas
Constitution of that era.
After considering an appeal written by Sarah's daughter,
Judge Edwin Hobby reversed the decision. Charles Pix ended
up empty-handed after more than twenty years of
of Texas On-Line: Sarah Ridge Pix
Shortly after the couple divorced, Charles Pix married
John Dick's oldest daughter, Emma. Their first child was
born two years later, in 1882.
Around that time, accusations of brand altering and
cattle theft allegedly began to bounce back and forth
between Sarah, Charles and the Dicks.
With rumors and gossip flying around them, the Dicks
probably chose to become even more socially isolated.
At this point we know that the conflict steadily worsened
between Charles Wilborn and one of John's sons, Benajah.
However, weaving what facts do exist together with the story
passed down from one Dick generation to the next, we can
only speculate as to exactly what may have taken place.
There may also have been other disputes involving the Dick
sons and Wilborn, as described in several published stories.
Perhaps Benajah Dick felt angry and powerless to put a stop
to Wilborn's alleged harassment of his family. Evidently, he
must have decided to take the law into his own hands.
Published accounts allege that Benajah, accompanied by one
of his brothers, knocked out Wilborn's front teeth with the
butt of his rifle.
With the alleged loss of Wilborn's teeth, the feud
between the two young men escalated, reaching a sad climax
on August 5, 1884. John Dick and his son were apparently
busy getting a load of watermelons ready to take by boat to
Galveston. A large group of men, allegedly led by Sheriff
Gibson C. Davis, rode up to the Dick homestead. Charles
Wilborn was among them.
In those precious moments just before the armed riders
appeared, thirty-year-old Benajah Dick had everything in the
world to live for: a wife, three beautiful babies, his own
ranch and cattle herd, and a promising future ahead of him.
But in one fatal fraction of a second, his future ended.
John and Amanda's unarmed son lay fallen on the ground,
mortally wounded. Allegedly in the presence of the sheriff
and twenty-five other men, Charles Wilborn had raised his
Winchester rifle and shot young Dick. In a desperate attempt
to save his life, the family took him by sailboat to
Galveston. His life ebbed away two days later, on the 8th of
August, 1884. The untimely death of the unarmed man left in
its wake a stunned and heartsick family.
And lest he forget his deed, Charles Wilborn would spend
the rest of his life with no front teeth. (He died in 1897,
around the age of 33.)
As outsiders, John's close-knit family may have found
themselves alone in their struggle to survive in a clannish
environment, unable to rely on protection by local law
enforcement. (The Dick ranch was located in a geographically
isolated county that was mostly populated by intermarried
families of early settlers. Even today, it is sparsely
settled in contrast to Galveston County on the west side of
the bay.) After John's unarmed son was shot in the presence
of a gang of men, it is understandable why members of this
grief-stricken and frightened family traveled to Galveston
to ask Jonathan Claiborne, a Notary Public, for help. He
wrote a letter on behalf of the Dicks to Governor Ireland,
appealing for an investigation of the local situation,
alleging that the sheriff and a local mob had even run them
off from the gravesite during the funeral services.
The governor asked Adjutant General King to send the
Texas Rangers to investigate. Their arrival on August 19,
1884, made a lasting impression on the citizens of Chambers
County. The Rangers allegedly stayed at the ranch of the
wealthy and politically powerful cattle baron, James
Jackson. However, rather than the legendary heroes coming to
the aid of the terrified Dicks as the family had so naively
hoped, they arrested John's five grown sons for cattle theft
and brand altering.
Murder charges were filed against Charles Wilborn. At
about the same time, courthouse records indicate that a Nick
(or Nicholas) Wilborn, was charged with "neglecting to
arrest a person committing a crime within his view."
Unfortunately, more detailed information appears to be no
longer available. It is uncertain whether or not Nick
Wilborn was related to Charles Wilborn, and whether or not
he was another law enforcement officer who may have been
present at the shooting of Benajah Dick.
Realizing the likely impossibility of obtaining a fair
trial, the Dicks' attorney requested and received a change
of venue to Liberty County. At the trial, the judge
dismissed all charges against the Dicks. And Charles Wilborn
got off scot-free for the alleged cold-blooded shooting of
the unarmed Benajah Dick.
After their son's death, it became apparent that John and
Amanda had encountered enough trouble at Smith Point.
Whether by choice or from alleged coercion, as indicated by
several publications, they sold their land to James Jackson
for a mere pittance of its present-day worth. The Dick land
holdings dissolved into the vast ranch of James Jackson, who
acquired a substantial amount of acreage during the 1880s.
While John moved the family to Galveston County, his son
T. J. "Tump" Dick led a historic cattle drive across the
shallow waters of Galveston Bay to the western shore. Some
four hundred head of cattle and horses, herded by cowboys,
struggled across the shallow waters toward more hospitable
territory. After resettling permanently near League City,
John lived the remainder of his life near his son, Tump,
engaged in farming and livestock raising.
Dr. John Monroe Dick, a Southern gentleman, a Civil War
Veteran, a husband and father of eighteen children, passed
away at the age of 85 on August 31, 1907. His wife, Amanda,
died on March 25, 1919, and they are both buried at Fairview
Cemetery in League City, Texas.
John's obituary described his personal qualities as
"Death of Capt. Dick"
"Well Known Pioneer and Citizen Passed Away at League
City, Aged 85 Years Capt. John Dick, a venerable Confederate
veteran, died at his home near League City yesterday morning
at the ripe age of 85 years.
He was born in Ireland and came of an old line of sturdy
ancestors, his father, George Dick, and an uncle being in
the battle of Waterloo, where his father was wounded. A
younger brother, Sir Thomas Dick, is a surgeon in the
English army and was in active service during the Boer War.
Capt. Dick came to Louisiana, when he was a young man,
and received an education as a physician, but his
inclinations being more in the agricultural and commercial
lines he never followed his profession. While in Louisiana
he was married to Miss Amanda Williams of Alabama, and about
the year of 1855 moved to Texas with his family, engaged in
large plantation business, and carried on an extensive trade
through the old firm of Skinner and Stone, cotton factors,
in early days of this city.
During the Civil War he saw active service throughout the
four years, most of the time in Louisiana under Gen. Mouton.
He participated in the memorial engagement attending the
negotiations for surrender so ably conducted by Gen. Forrest
at the battle of Mansfield, and which were so wisely
foreseen by this General to be a trick of the enemy for
delay only, and in his reply to them tersely stated, "the
negotiations will not attain the desired end." In this
engagement his company with two others were placed in an old
rifle pit almost in the rear of the forts, and on a signal
the works were carried without a halt, the enemy retreating
to the river as the troops poured into the fortifications.
As a scout during the latter part of the war he made the
personal friendship of Jefferson Davis, and as a spy he
carried a message on foot from Calcasieu Parish, La. to Port
Bolivar, and afterward rendered valuable service as a pilot
on board a confederate schooner.
At the close of the war he went back to Louisiana, but
soon returned to Texas and settled in Chambers County, where
he lived until about twenty-five years ago, when he came to
Galveston County and made his home on the mainland where he
industriously engaged in farming and stock raising.
Capt. Dick possessed in a marked degree the lofty moral
and intellectual qualities that especially distinguished
those old pioneers who linked their destinies in a struggle
for personal liberties and freedom in the enjoyment of
rights of property. Serious and thoughtful in disposition,
gifted with strong powers of perception and analysis and
thoroughly conscientious in decision of every right and
wrong, through a loyal adherence to the principles of
Democracy he contributed a service of great value to our new
Commonwealth. He was loved for his virtues and admirable
social qualities as a man and a neighbor, equally as for his
able services contributed for the up building of those
communities, which during his long useful life enjoyed his
With a consciousness of duty well performed, and
surrounded by a devoted family, he quietly and peacefully
passed over the river to rest under the shade of the trees
there to be with his immortal leader Stonewall Jackson and
the rest of the old guard who have heard the last call to
arms and the treasured words, "Well done, thou good and
faithful servant," leaving surviving his widow and the
following children Hon. T. J. Dick County Commissioner, Jeff
Dick, George Dick, R. E. L. Dick, R. S. Dick, William Dick
and Frank Dick of the county and Mrs. Lillie Sloan of
California and Mrs. Amanda Parker of El Paso, Tex. The late
Mrs. C. S. Pix of this city was also a daughter of Capt.
Dick.---" Galveston Daily News, Sept. 1, 1907 .
One of John's sons, Jefferson Davis Dick, became a cattle
rancher at Virginia Point, Texas. After suffering staggering
losses of livestock during both the 1900 and 1915 storms,
Jeff gave up ranching and became a bailiff for the Galveston
County courthouse. Another son, Thomas Jackson "Tump" Dick,
became a County Commissioner for Galveston County and
founder of the Buckhorn Ranch at Clear Lake, near League
City, Texas. A third son, Robert E. Lee Dick, also a
cattleman, married the granddaughter of one of Jean
Lafitte's former "lieutenants."
What had seemed in the beginning to be an idyllic future
for these privileged members of Southern aristocracy
eventually turned into a life filled with tragedy, hardship,
and heartbreak. Through it all, like so many other Southern
families after the Civil War, John and Amanda endured. It is
unfortunate that they cannot still be alive today. They
would surely rejoice in seeing that so many of their
remarkable qualities have been inherited by their
Among them today, in the year 2001, they would find many
productive citizens: one minister; two lawyers; four
doctors, including an internist, a surgeon, and a
psychiatrist; a registered nurse; educators, including a
Texas A&M professor, a high school principal, and
several teachers; a writer; a private investigator; three
accountants, including two CPAs, one of them a CFO and past
Vice President of a major business publication; a mayor; a
Galveston County Commissioner; several who followed in
John's footsteps, including a farmer, several cattle
ranchers, one a past president of the Texas Brangus Breeders
Association; a Special Ranger and lead detective for the
Texas and Southwest Cattlemen's Association; longshoremen;
entrepreneurs, including millionaires; real estate agents an
opera star; four accomplished artists; and his most famous
descendant to date, a supermodel, movie actress, vocalist,
composer and musician, all embodied in one exquisitely
beautiful, intelligent and talented woman.
Smile - A Tribute to Rosie Vela
Nancy J. Barginear
*The author would like to thank her cousin, Renee Dick
Hillman, and Alecya Gallaway, both of Bacliff, Texas, Peter
Stines of the Anahuac Public Library, Kevin Ladd of
Wallisville Heritage Park, and the entire staff at the Sam
Houston Historical Library near Liberty, Texas, for their
assistance and valuable information.
1 Records of Louisiana Confederate Soldiers
and Louisiana Confederate Commands, compiled by Andrew
B. Booth, Commissioner of Louisiana Military Records, New
Orleans, LA., 1920. Volume I, II, and III
2 Galveston Daily News, Sept. 1, 1907,