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  • Writer's pictureTyeal Howell

The Legacy of Mary Ann and Benjamin Dickerson

Mary Ann Dickerson passed away quietly at the home of her son at 228 South Kenton Street in Urbana in 1910. It is believed she had reached the age of at least 108. The official death record shows her being born in 1803. While various documents show Mrs. Dickerson being born between 1802 and 1810, one thing is for certain and that is Mary Ann Dickerson and her family endured through trying times we could never imagine. In 1908, Mary Ann was interviewed by a local reporter where she recounted stories about her life. In that article, she stated she was born into slavery on a farm known as Apple Hill in Washington County, Maryland. That farm was owned by the Gaither family in which the city of Gaithersburg, Maryland is named.

Mary Ann, her husband and all their children were born into slavery. Six of her children (5 sons and 1 daughter) would be sold, and never heard of again. Mary Ann went to her death without knowing what became of a large part of her family. Mary Ann’s son, Benjamin, was born into slavery as well. He offered more details of what happened on the day of his escape, “I remember the day" he said "when my father who was still a slave; 2 brothers and I ran away before the war. We went to Woodbury in New Jersey and stayed there until after the rebellion."

For unknown reasons at this time, Mary Ann had gained her freedom before the Civil War according to her son, but the rest of her family remained in bondage. Following the war between the states, Mary Ann and her family reunited and had a small farm in Maryland. They stayed there until her husband’s death in 1871. Following that time, the family would find themselves as residents of Urbana and Ohio. Among them being her sons Aaren (Aaron), Lewis and Benjamin. Benjamin Dickerson once said he followed his mother’s philosophy that, “hard work never hurt anybody”. Among his jobs in Urbana, he worked as a weaver and picker at the Urbana Woolen mills near his mother’s home (now Bundy Baking Solutions) Like his mother, Benjamin Dickerson would reach the century mark before his own passing in 1953.

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