Nancy Tyree Dickson Graham – 1 of 2, A Vintage Vignette

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Nancy Tyree Dickson Graham – 1 of 2
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
January 13, 2011

Some pioneer women had great inner strength and piety. Nancy Tyree Dickson Graham, born in Virginia in 1808, was one such pioneer of what became the south-central portions of Redstone Arsenal. She was the second daughter and second child of James Dickson and Keziah Wood, who married in Virginia in 1805. Nancy was also the second wife of Colonel James B. Graham. However, she was the last person known to be buried in the Dickson-Rankin Cemetery on Redstone Arsenal. Nancy's father James was born in 1780 Virginia, a son of Revolutionary War soldier William Dickson and Lucretia Nash. Nancy's mother Keziah was born in 1781 Virginia, a daughter of Revolutionary War soldier James Wood and Ann Philpott. After Keziah's death in Virginia, James Dickson moved in 1812 from Virginia to Tennessee for a short time before migrating into Alabama. He apparently lived on Indian lands before it was legal to purchase homesteads from the government in what is now the western part of Madison County. On the first day of legal purchases in February 1818 he patented 80 acres of Bradford Mountain in the southwestern part of today's arsenal, near Triana. The legal description of the land location is the western half of the southeast quarter of Section 14, Township 5 South, Range 2 West. By the time of his death in 1843, he owned the south half of Section 21 and the north half of Section 29, both parcels being in Township 5 South, Range 1 West. Today that is north of Buxton Road and west of McAlpine Road in the southern part of the arsenal. This land of her father was all purchased at an auction of Dickson's estate holdings in 1847 for $1750 by James Graham, Nancy's husband. Only two years later, James Graham died at his plantation in Somerville, Morgan County, where he had served as clerk of the county and circuit courts before the county seat was moved to Decatur.

Nancy bore seven children to James Graham before he died, but the last two children both died in 1848, one year before their father's passing. Nancy's obituary, written by H. M. Welch (excerpted from a book by Dennis Simpson entitled “The Descendants of Doctor William Simpson”, 1993) summarized her life: “Here (in Somerville) our departed sister grew up to womanhood, and in 1836, was united in marriage to Col. James B. Graham. Thirteen years of happy wedded life in a home of comfort and plenty passed away, and her husband was taken from her, leaving her the mother of five small children, the eldest twelve years old. A few years later she returned to the old family homestead (on the arsenal property), where she spent the remainder of her days, dying October 10, 1891.”

“She was a member of the Methodist Church and died in the faith of her first love. Religion was her joy and consolation, and under its benign influence she lived a life of earnest devotion to God and the cause of human salvation. She loved the church, the house of prayer, and the communion of saints. Her home was the abode of genuine hospitality, one in which the preacher always found a welcome, rest, and refreshment. In her last illness, which was a period of great suffering, but of submission and resignation, she praised God for His goodness, praised Him for the good children He had given her, rested all her hopes upon the cross, and died trusting in Jesus.”

“Mrs. Graham was in many respects a remarkable woman. Blessed with strong natural endowments, firm and unswerving in purpose, with strong decision of character, energy of action, she met life's duties and responsibilities bravely, faithfully, and well. One of Mrs. Graham's special characteristics was her honest frankness. Positive and decisive in her convictions and honest in her purposes, she was free from duplicity and artifice. Her home was her empire; she loved and ruled it well.”

Just how well Nancy Tyree Dickson Graham ruled her home and family is reflected in the detail that she put into her last will and testament. That will be the subject of another article to soon follow.

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