Benjamin Dicken was my 6th great grandfather. His granddaughter, Martha “Patsey” Dicken married Thomas Bembry. I have had a dickens of a time researching this family for the past couple of weeks!
The first problem was that the Dicken family (they were apparently literate, and consistently spelled it with no “s”) properties straddled Fishing Creek, which marks the border between Halifax and Edgecombe counties in North Carolina. So, there are numerous wills and deeds spread out between the two counties.
The family was also very fond of repeating given names, producing at least three Benjamins and three Ephraims in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, along with the usual crop of Williams and Johns. Further confusing matters, a different (almost certainly related) clan of Dickens settled in Edgecombe county, beginning with an Ephraim Dicken from Fairfax County, Virginia in 1779.
In any case, thanks to the Dicken family’s habit of producing very detailed wills, and by following up with correlating information found in deeds, I was able to isolate my Benjamin Dicken as having first purchased property on the north side of Fishing Creek in Halifax County in 1760. That deed lists him as being “of Caroline County, Virginia,” so now I know where he came from. Unfortunately, Caroline County is a quite thoroughly “burned” county, so Benjamin will probably remain a brick wall for some time.
Benjamin later purchased several tracts just across the creek in Edgecombe County. His will, however, was filed and probated in Halifax County. He refers to the “plantation whereon I now live” and bequeaths that tract to his son Richard, my 5th great-grandfather. Richard later sold that tract, which is identified in that deed as being in Halifax County. This, therefore establishes that Benjamin settled on that first Halifax County tract purchased in 1760 and continued to live there until his death.
The will mentions several enslaved people; they are included in the abstract, below.
Halifax County Will Book 3
Will of Benjamin Dicken
Wife Anne; sons Benjamin, Lewis, William, Richard, Ephraim (dec’d); daughters Mary Ward, Elizabeth Wilson, Ann Lowry, Martha, Delphia; grandson Thomas Lowry.
Negroes: Joe, Rose, Edea (Edie?), Dinah, Martin, Bedea, Tab, Simon, Chainea (Chaney?), Rhody, Davie, Violet, Save (Sabe?), Simon, Jerry (boy), Andrew (boy), others not named.
Executors: Benjamin, Lewis, William Dicken (sons)
Witnesses: John Alsobrook, Ephraim Dicken, James Slatter (Slater?)
In the name of God, Amen
I Benjamin Dicken of Halifax County State of North Carolina being in a low State of Health but of sound Mind and memory praise almighty God for the same do make & ordain this my last Will and Testament that is to say
First & principally I recommend my Soul unto Almighty God hoping through the desire and passion of my dear Saviour to have full and perfect pardon for all my sins. My body I commend to the Earth to be decently buried in hopes to rise at the Resurrection of the last day to partake with my Soul. And as touching all such Earthly Estate as God hath lent to me I give and dispose in manner & form following, Viz:
First of all it is my desire that all my just debts should be paid by my Executors out of my Estate.
Item: I give & bequeath to my Daughter Mary Ward three Negroes by the name of Joe, Rose & Edea (Edie?) & Household furniture which she hath got in her possession to her and her heirs forever.
Item: I give & bequeath to my Daughter Elizabeth Wilson three Negroes by the name of Dinah, Martin, & Bedea & household furniture which she hath got in her possession to her and her heirs forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my Daughter Ann Lowry two Negroes by the name of Tab and Simon & household furniture which she hath in her possession to her and her heirs forever.
Item: I give & bequeath to my daughter Martha four negroes by the name of Chainea (Chaney?), Rhody, & Davie & her choice of the Negroes out of the estate at her Mother’s death. One feather bed & furniture, one horse, bridle, & saddle to her and her heirs forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my Daughter Delphia four Negroes by the names Violet, Save (Sabe?) & Simon, the second choice of the Negroes out of the Estate at her mother’s death, one feather bed & furniture, one horse, Bridle & Saddle to her and her heirs forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my son Benjamin Dicken the land and plantation he hath in possession on Deep Creek and other things he hath got in possession to him and his heirs forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my son Lewis Dicken the Land & Plantation that bought of the Estate of John Alsobrook, dec’d, one feather bed & furniture and other things he hath in possession to him and his heirs forever.
Likewise, I do give to my son Benjamin Dicken one half of the Moveable estate that did belong to his brother Ephraim Dicken dec’d and one half of the Estate that falls to me by his Grand Mother to him and his heirs forever.
Likewise, I do give to my son Lewis Dicken the other half of the Moveable Estate that did belong to his brother Ephraim Dicken dec’d, & the other half of the Estate that falls to me by his Grand Mother all to be Equally divided after they have settled their brother’s debts to him and his heirs forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my son William Dicken all the Land over the Creek in Edgecombe County that did belong to my son Ephraim Dicken dec’d except the Land he bought of Solomon Parrett, one Negro boy named Jerry, one Bed and furniture, one horse, Bridle & Saddle and six sows and pigs. The horse, bridle & saddle & his sows + pigs to be furnished out of the estate of his brother Ephraim by his two brothers Benjamin & Lewis to him and his heirs forever.
Item: I give and bequeath to my Son Richard Dicken all my land and plantation whereon I now live, that is after his mother’s death, one Negro boy named Andrew, one horse, Bridle & Saddle, one feather bed and furniture, & one half of the stock upon the plantation to have his Negro, his Stock & Ground to work until his Mother’s death, to him & his heirs forever.
Now it is my desire that all my sons should have an Equal part in both Sayn (Seine?) places that is on the Creek.
Item: I give and bequeath to my Grandson Thomas Lowry one piece of land that my son Ephraim Dicken owned on Beech Swamp to have in possession when comes to age of twenty-one. My son Lewis to have the use of the land, but not to cut any down except it is for rail timber till he comes of Age and one negro named Lettice & her increase to him and his heirs forever.
I lend to my loving wife Anne Dicken all the rest of my Estate both real & personal being of what nature, quantity or quality soever to her during her Widowhood, but if she should marry or die, then it is my desire that it should be Equally divided among all my daughters here named, Mary, Elizabeth, Anne, Martha, & Delphia all to share Equally alike.
Lastly, I do constitute ordain & appoint my three sons, Benjamin Dicken, Lewis Dicken, & William Dicken as my whole & sole Executors of this my last Will and Testament, revoking and disannulling all Testaments and Acknowledging this and no Other to be my last Will and Testament.
In Witness whereof I have hereunto set name hand & seal this the 24th day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety.
Signed, Seal’d & Publish’d, declared and acknowledged in the presence of John Alsobrook, Ephraim Dicken, Jas, Slatter
Will proven May term 1794 by oath of John Alsobrook, Lewis Dicken