This picture of Oxie Dickeson was e-mailed to me on January 5, 2012.
The political figure profiled today is without question one of the most obscure figures I've had to research thus far, and I think you'll agree that he possesses one of the most unwieldy names I've ever heard of! The gentleman in question is Mr. Auxencico Maria Pena Venezuela Hildreth Dickeson, a 19th century New Jersey State assemblyman. Originally, no picture of Mr. Dickeson could be found to place within his article here (see the update below) and the small passage posted above is one of the few available biographical resources on him. Even his last name is variously given as either "Dickinson" or "Dickeson". The following facts on "A.M.P.V.H.", as he is often listed, were discovered in a book entitled the History of the counties of Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland, New Jersey, with biographical sketches of their prominent citizens, published in 1883.
Auxencico M.P.V.H. Dickeson was born at Hancock's Bridge, New Jersey on September 29, 1842 (or 1843, according to the article above), the first child born to Dr. Thomas P. and Joanna Hildreth Dickeson. Auxencico is recorded as engaging in farming during his youth and received his education at the Salem Academy, later graduating with high marks from Princeton University in the class of 1864.
Bitten by the political bug early in life, Dickeson was elected at the age of twenty-two to the New Jersey State Assembly, representing his home county of Salem. This was Dickeson's only foray into the political arena, and he served in the assembly from 1865 to 1866. He is mentioned as opening a law practice shortly after passing the New Jersey State bar in 1867, but never actively engaged in his profession because of health concerns. Dickeson was also a very active Mason in his community of Salem and he was a former past master of the Excelsior Lodge #54, serving from 1871 to 1872. It is also known that Dickeson married New Jersey native Mary Jane Springer, with whom he would have five children.
Dickeson (one genealogical website lists his nickname as "Oxie") suffered from impaired health for the majority of his life, although it isn't elaborated on what exact malady it was. This unknown illness probably led to his untimely death at age 36 on June 15, 1879, at Hancock's Bridge, New Jersey.When one takes into account that Dickeson died at such a young age, the fact that he managed to graduate from Princeton, serve as a state assemblyman, attorney and high ranking mason can certainly be considered a varied and full life, despite his lack of years!
Dickeson's name as it appeared in the 1875 edition of a Theta Delta Chi editorial.
I first became aware of "Oxie" Dickeson courtesy of a 1906 edition of the Manual of the Legislature of New Jersey. Located in this particular book was a roster of every person that had served in the New Jersey state senate and assembly up until the year 1906. As I culled through the massive list of politicians looking for unusual names, the initials "A.M.P.V.H" immediately jumped out at me. After finding out this man's full name, I immediately set about trying to find more facts about his life, as well as a picture. Sadly, the initial research on Oxie yielded very little, and this remained the norm until two wonderful readers changed that! Read on to find out more!
An Auxencico Update.......January 6, 2012
Since I discovered Auxencico "Oxie" Dickinson in 2009 in a New Jersey State Legislative Manual, I have wracked my brain trying to find out more information on his life, as well as a photograph of him. Dickeson was profiled here on the "SNIAPH" blog back in July 2011 and in one of my "You Can Help" sections pleaded for any prospective readers/historians to do some digging on Oxie and report back with their findings.
On November 22, 2011, an incredibly helpful reader named Frank left a message stating that more information had come to light on Oxie and in a later message stated that a photograph of him adorned the wall of the Woodstown Masonic Lodge #138 in Woodstown, New Jersey.
On January 5, 2011, Frank sent me the portrait of Oxie that now adorns the top of the article you are now reading. In addition to this picture, Frank also sent me some previously unknown information on Oxie, including his Masonic lodge affiliations, his stint on the baseball team at Princeton University (his alma mater) and a reunion Oxie had with his old college fraternity.
I cannot state how helpful Frank has been in researching this infinitely obscure man, and it is incredibly nice to know that there are historically minded people out there like Frank who manage to do some digging and really help out a total stranger with a very odd history-based project.
An Auxencico Update.....Part Two!!! (February 6-7, 2012)
With nearly 100 page views to its credit, the blog article on Auxencico Maria Pena Venezuela Hildreth Dickeson (1842-1879) has proven to be the most popular page on the blog. "Oxie" Dickeson's name is truly one of a kind and he currently occupies the coveted #1 slot in the SNIAPH book, usurping the great Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar.
For those of you who haven't read his article yet, the condensed version is as follows: Oxie Dickeson served as a New Jersey State Assemblyman from 1865 to 1866 and was also a highly active Mason in his native state. He suffered from ill health throughout the majority of his life, and an undisclosed illness claimed him at age 36 in June 1879.
Throughout November and December 2011, new information on Oxie came to light, courtesy of a very helpful reader named Frank, who e-mailed me some facts that filled in a lot of the blanks in Oxie's life. He was also kind enough to photograph and send me the picture of Oxie that adorns the top of his article. After adding this information, I felt that I could rest easy knowing that Oxie Dickeson now had a face to place with his name and some much-needed life facts to tie his article together. Interestingly enough, however, a very great surprise was in store for me!!!
On February 1, 2012 I returned from a walk and set about writing an article on Fort Elmo Land, who served as the Georgia State Superintendent of Education from 1925-27. Before doing so I checked my e-mail and noticed a message from a user named "Hildy", concerning Auxencico M.P.V.H. Dickeson.....needless to say, I was immediately intrigued! As it turns out, "Hildy" wanted to inform me that their great-great-grandfather was none other than Auxencico Dickeson!!!! Evidently, Oxie was known by his later descendants as "Alphabetical Dick" (because of his "outstandingly different" name) and that there was a family explanation for how he received his wonderful name.....
This article (and its spelling variations regarding Oxie's name) appeared in the 1887 Princetonian.
This article (and its spelling variations regarding Oxie's name) appeared in the 1887 Princetonian.
Hildy went on to tell me that Oxie's father, Thomas Dickeson, was the close friend of a young medical student named Auxencico Maria Pena, who was studying at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. Pena hailed from Venezuela, and was the first student from that country to graduate from the school in its history (this occurring in 1836.) Thomas Dickeson was evidently so taken with his friendship with Pena that "he vowed to name his son in honor of him, and so he did!" With the addition of the country of Venezuela to the name, as well as the maiden name of Thomas's wife (Hildreth), the end result is certainly interesting to say the least!!!
Hildy also clued me in on two previously unknown websites that gave much-needed info on the aforementioned Venezuelan medical student, as well as one that went more in-depth on the Dickeson family. Oxie's wife, Mary Jane Springer, was born in 1844 and survived her husband by nearly forty years, dying on February 2, 1918. The two were married in Salem, New Jersey on February 22, 1870. Further information was also gathered on Oxie Dickeson's five children, who are listed as follows: Wilbur F.S. Dickeson (1871-1871, who lived only four months), J. Hildreth Dickeson (1872-1918), Wilbur S. Dickeson (1875-1921), Anne Dickeson (1877-ca. 1884) and lastly, Cornelia Dickeson (1878-1884). One can notice that ill health plagued the Dickeson family, as three of the children died before reaching their 10th birthday, and the two remaining sons died in their forties! Oxie himself died at age 36, so it is quite tragic that his wife lost so many of her family within such a short span of time.
With those facts in hand, I want to give a hearty shout out and thank you to "Hildy", who kindly provided me with the facts presented here in this addition to the article above. I would also be remiss in mentioning that Hildy thanked me for my article on Oxie, and believe me, those words mean a lot! It was truly a pleasure to "rescue" Oxie from the shroud of obscurity that has clouded his life since his death over 130 years ago.
Thank you again "Hildy" for your words of encouragement and your help!!!!
An Auxencico Update....Part III: July 18, 2012
If you've followed this site for any length of time you'll hopefully recognize that I take great pride in the article/biography I've put together on Auxencico Maria Pena Venezuela Hildreth Dickeson!!!! Dickeson (who's nicknames are Oxie and "Alphabetical Dick") was a 19th century New Jersey State Assemblyman who hailed from Salem County, and it is he who holds the honored title of "the strangest name" out of a great many politicians I've collected and profiled over the years. Mr. Dickeson's site profile is the most viewed article out of the 170 or so that I've done thus far, with over 180+ views to its credit. You might also remember reading the two updates I wrote for "Oxie" and his article centering on the help of two wonderful blog readers (Frank and Hildy) who volunteered their time to correspond with me and send me the portrait of Oxie above!
While many new pieces of information on Oxie came to light, many others remained a mystery, especially in regards to his burial site. Dickeson died at the young age of 36 in 1879 but no available source gave notice as to where his final resting place might be....that is until now!
Earlier this week I developed some correspondence with Salem County Librarian Beverly Bradway, who related to me that Oxie is buried in the Salem Friends Burying Ground in the town of Salem, New Jersey. This cemetery (which contains graves that date back to the 1690s) is also home to the famed Salem Oak tree, shown in the picture below. I owe a great debt to Beverly for all of her help, and without her aid, I might never have known where Dickeson was interred!
In addition to the above information, I also received a death notice for Oxie, the closest thing to an obituary that could be found. Beverly found this rare article in a June 20, 1879 edition of the Salem Sunbeam, which states that Auxencico M.P.V.H. Dickeson died "at the residence of his father, Dr. Thos. P. Dickeson, in Hancock's Bridge on the 15th inst." This newspaper is located in the archives of the Salem County Historical Society and is in all likelihood the only "obituary" for Oxie that you'll ever see. While the mysteries of his burial site location and place of death have been solved, only one question remains......what illness claimed A.M.P.V.H. Dickeson's life at the young age of 36?
From the Salem Sunbeam, June 20, 1879.
The above-mentioned question centering on Oxie's illness/death may never be sufficiently explained, but I can rest easy knowing that over the course of a year a plethora of research was done in regards to the life of this infinitely obscure man, and with the help of Frank, "Hildy" and now Beverly Bradway, more people can now learn of the life and exploits of this wonderfully named (and sadly obscure) New Jersey resident!