Thursday, July 21, 2011

Auxencico Maria Pena Venezuela Hildreth Dickeson (1842-1879)

                             This picture of Oxie Dickeson was e-mailed to me on January 5, 2012.

                This tiny passage appeared in an 1883 book detailing the history of Salem County, N.J.

   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. 
 And in a humorous aside note..... I'm fairly certain that Oxie is probably grateful for all the attention he's receiving over 130 years after his untimely death!

                          A Dickeson article mentioning his leadership of the Excelsior Masonic lodge.

                       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.

   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!


  1. I have information on A M P V H Dickeson.

  2. Hello Anonymous! Sorry for the late response, but its nice to come back and see a message like the one you've written above. I've been taking a little sabbatical from writing more biographies here, but will be getting back to things soon.

    I'd be interested to know the information you have on "A.M.P.V.H" and the origins of his unusual name. You didn't happen to stumble across a picture of him, did you? I've been looking across a multitude of geneological websites in the hope that I might find one, but alas, nothing!

    I'll keep checking back to see if I've gotten a response, and thanks again for stumbling across this little corner of the internet....

  3. A.M.P.V.H. Dickeson was the first Worshipful Master of Woodstown Masonic Lodge #138 located in Woodstown, New Jersey in 1874. He was a Past Master of Excelsior Lodge #54 which was located in Salem, New Jersey. I am not sure what year but I will check. Excelsior Lodge merged with Penns Grove Lodge a few years back and is now known as Penns Grove Excelsior Lodge #54 located in Carneys Point, New Jersey. His picture hangs in both lodges. I will have to do some digging but we do have all of the records going back to 1874. Being a Past Master and chartering a new lodge at such a young age was quite an achievement.

  4. Wonderful!!!! I hadn't expected to hear back from you so quickly, and I'll have to add the masonic information to Dickeson's page here. I'm guessing the pictures of Mr. Dickeson you mentioned aren't available on the internet anywhere, and I would be extremely greatful if you could possibly e-mail me a copy of said picture to post within the article here. I like having a face to place with the name when publishing a posting here because not only does it make the article more "professional" looking, but it also kind of validates the persons life, accomplishments, if that makes any sense.

    It certainly is quite an achievement for one man to launch a masonic lodge when he was barely into his thirties, and I find it even more amazing that he served as a state assemblyman when he was in his early twenties! I'd also be interested to know what illness claimed his life at the age of 36 in 1879.

    Once again, thank you for your interest and help thus far, and I look forward to corresponding with you again.
    Andy "Vladevanthys" Osterdahl

  5. Hello Anonymous! Just checking back in to see if you've found any other info on "Oxie" Dickinson. Look forward to hearing from you!

  6. "Oxie" was also a Past Master of Excelsior Lodge #54 in 1871-1872. I will get a photo to you as soon as I have time. Sorry for the delay.

  7. No problem. I recently started becoming active on (one of the world's largest geneological websites) and I had hoped that I might stumble across some information on "Oxie" on there but was unable to find anything.
    Look forward to hearing from you, and if you need an e-mail address from me, just let me know. Thanks again for your help!

  8. Hello again. Just checking back. Please let me know if you need an e-mail address from me when you get the photo. Thanks!

  9. Hello,

    I have a picture to send you of "Oxie". Please let me know what e-mail address to send it too. Thanks.

  10. Hi,
    Alphabetical Dick was what my family called my great great grandfather. The story as told in our family as to the source of this outstandingly different name is that AMPVH Dickeson's dad, Thomas P. Dickeson was a close friend of Auxencico Maria Pena, who was the first student from Venezuela to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania's medical school. Thomas vowed to name his son in honor of his friend, and so he did! Here are two sites you may find helpful: U Penn Archives and a yahoo group page

    The Salem County Historical Society is a good source of information on our family history. Thank you for your work!

    1. Hildy,
      I just received your message on your great great grandfather and wanted to say THANK YOU!!!! You have truly made my day with the information you've provided above, and I hope to correspond with you more about Auxencico's life and accomplishments.
      "Oxie" has proven to be one of the most popular profiles here on the blog, and I'm truly amazed that two people (yourself and the user who provided me with Oxie's picture) managed to stumble across my little corner of the internet here and were able to really help me out information wise. After discovering your great great grandfather in a 1906 New Jersey Legislative Manual, information on him proved to be almost impossible to come by.
      Because of your very kind note above, I now have the answer as to how Oxie received his unusual name. I wonder what Auxencico Maria Pena thought when he found out that his close friend Thomas named his son in honor of him! As I stated before, I have many other questions that hopefully you could answer about Oxie (namely what illness claimed his life at age 36, as well as his place of burial.)
      That being said, I hope to speak with you soon about your very interesting relative and thank you again for stumbling across his page here! I also have an e-mail address handy if you don't like commenting in the little box here.

    2. Hello again, Hildy!!! Hopefully you're still out there to read this note, as I'm writing to thank you again for your incredibly helpful info on your great-great grandfather. I've included all of the info in a new update on him, as well as putting it in his article. I also thanked you in the article as well, as you deserve a great deal of credit for your help!! Thank you again!
      Andy Osterdahl

  11. Hello,
    I found your blog while looking for information on Dr.Thomas P.Dickeson and was startled to find that I have the note book of A.M.P.V.H. Dickeson from his Nassau Hall days at Princeton and with some old news paper clipping of his death, news and some election results. One amusing one "It is announced that A.M.P.V.H.Dickeson has commenced the practice of law in Woodstown. Finding it impossible to get his alphabetical cognomen within the dimensions of a usual sized lawyer sign he has chartered a forty feet of a board fence on the side of the street opposite his office and theron has stenciled his name and profession. A year or two ago this same gentleman was a candidate for the Legislature; but those intials were too much and many of his friends to learn in a day so they abandoned him and took a man with an easier name.

    1. Well, well, well! I happened to see a new comment here on AMPVH Dickeson's page and it certainly sounds as if you've stumbled upon the holy grail of memorabilia when it comes to this oddly named New Jersey assemblyman! As you might be able to tell from all of the above, I've made it a life's mission to locate any and all facts on this outstandingly named gentleman and I'd like to invite you to contact me via the site's Facebook page. I'm extremely interested in AMPVH's notebook you have and I'm quite certain that you will be able to help me discover even more previous unknown facts on his life.....and you already have! Those fragments you mentioned about the 40 foot of fence board bearing his name is something I'd been previously unaware really must have been something to see back in the late 1860s and 70s! As I said before, what you have in your possession is a veritable treasure trove of info on "Oxie" and I greatly look forward to hearing back from you. I've provided a link to the Facebook page below (it can also be reached via the box at the top of the site here) and you can reach me through there. I hope to hear from you soon!

      Take care, best wishes and congratulations on your outstanding discovery!

      Andy Osterdahl

  12. A.M.P.V.H. died of consumption. So says a rather long and yellowed Obituary. "We regret to announce this week the death of A.M.P.V.H. Dickeson, which took place at the residence of his father , Dr. Thomas P. Dickeson of Hancock's Bridge, on Sunday morning last, in the thirty-sixth year of his age. For several years it was seen that the dreaded monster, Consumption, had marked the deceased as a victim. A few months ago he went South for the benefit of his health, but a month ago returned home to go under the medical treatment of his father at Hancock's Bridge. He was not confined to his bed until Friday last, when he grew rapidly worse, and two days after breathed his last. The deceased was a graduate of Princeton college and the Albany Law School, and for a number of years practiced law in Woodstown with success. In politics, the subject of this sketch was always a staunch Republican and in 1864 and '65 represented the Second District of this county in the Legislature with signal ability. He was a prominent member of the Masonic, Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias Orders and among all classes he was well and favorably known. he funeral takes place at the residence of his father , at Hancock's Bridge, This Wednesday morning , at eleven o'clock."

    1. Hello! Always nice to see another comment on AMPVH's article. If you don't mind I'd be interested in hearing more about this obit for Mr. Dickeson and where exactly you stumbled across it! A fantastic discovery I must say! Look forward to hearing from you, and feel free to post a message on the site's Facebook page or here!--Andy

  13. Hello. Another of the items from the notebook mentioned in previous message. Also have his diploma's as well as those of his father. I will be donating the AMPVH items to the Woodstown NJ Historical Society after I add everything on him to your blog. This may take some time as you can see from the dates of my 2 comments. So long for now.

  14. Hello Andy, It is incredible to read what caused AMPVH's death at such a young age. Although it has been a year since I last contacted you, I have not given up on searching for information on "Oxie" Dickeson. Prior to the article you posted on his burial location in the Friends Cemetary under the famous Salem Oak Tree, I joined the Salem County Historical Society in hopes of finding more information on AMPVH. My wife and I as well as a friend walked the entire cemetary looking for his grave stone without success. Unfortunately many of the stones are worn from the weather. I plan on speaking to the Friends Society to find out the exact location of his burial but have been too busy to pursue it at this time. I'm sure when warmer weather comes I will find the time. I did stumble across an incredible find back in June or July. While searching the internet I came across several old documents belonging to AMPVH. I purchased these documents from a very nice woman in Colorado. I received the items back in the beginning of December. I will send pictures of these documents to you in the future. I have AMPVH's election results from 1865, his Masonic Apron when he became a Freemason in the 1860's, his certificates signed by the Governor of New Jersey when he was elected as a New Jersey Assemblyman, and death notices for AMPVH as well as his father and children. It is truly an amazing collection. It also contains several letters from his son to Mrs. Dickeson. The certificates are large and are on vellum paper. I hope to obtain in the future, a traveling desk and inkwell that belonged to Oxie that had all of these items folded neatly in a storage compartment within the padded part of this desk. I hope all is well with you and I will send more information when I can. Frank D. Jones

  15. Anne Dickeson lived until 1910-1920 with her brother Wilber and their mother in Salem. It looks like Anne never married, and Wilber married late, between age 35 and 45. (U. S. Census) Wilber's daughter Anne E. Dickeson was my neighbor and died two years ago in her 90s. She never married either.

  16. BTW, thanks for the research, I was stuck and linked me to the rest of her family.