Samuel Fowler Dickinson (1775 - 1838)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Amherst, Hampshire, Massachusetts
Death: Died in Hudson, Summit, Ohio, USA
Occupation: Co-founder of Amherst College, One of founders of Amherst College, Lawyer, Representative and Senator in General Court of Mass.
Managed by: Thomas Don McGurk
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About Samuel Fowler Dickinson

The following was downloaded 2010 from the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts, http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/samuel_fowler_dickinson

Samuel Fowler Dickinson (1775-1838) and Lucretia Gunn Dickinson (1775-1840) were the paternal grandparents of poet Emily Dickinson.

Fowler, or “Squire,” his honorary title, was a prominent Amherst lawyer, and a man of rare public spirit. Though his life overlapped with Emily’s for only a short time, Fowler Dickinson built a brick house on Main Street that would become Emily’s home and sanctuary for most of her life.

“one of the most industrious and persevering men that I ever saw” - Edward Hitchcock, President of Amherst College, on Samuel Fowler Dickinson.

A deeply religious man, Squire Dickinson became deacon of the church in 1798 at the unusually young age of 23. A farmer and major land-owner in the country, he served the community into which he had been born with legendary determination and energy. He was Town Clerk, served twelve years as a state Representative (1803-1827), and spent one as a Senator (1828). He planted trees. He represented the town in legal matters. Edward Hitchcock, President of Amherst College from 1845 to 1854, recalled Fowler as “one of the most industrious and persevering men that I ever saw” (Reminiscences of Amherst College, Northampton, Mass.: Bridgman & Childs, 1863, p. 5). Lucretia Gunn of Montague, whom Fowler married in 1802, kept their home, raised nine children, and supported her husband’s work.

A driving force behind the creation of Amherst Academy in 1814, Fowler Dickinson was one of the first to subscribe to the charitable fund that served as the foundation for Amherst College (opened in 1821). He expressed his fervent belief in the virtue of education for both sexes, evident in the admission policy of the Academy, in a public address in 1831:

   “A good husbandman will also educate well his daughters…daughters should be well instructed in the useful sciences; comprising a good English education: including a thorough knowledge of our own language, geography, history, mathematics and natural philosophy. The female mind, so sensitive, so susceptible of improvement, should not be neglected….God hath designed nothing in vain.” (address given to the Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin Agricultural Society on October 27, 1831, in Northampton, Massachusetts. Cited in The Years and Hours of Emily Dickinson, ed. Jay Leyda, Vol. I, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960, pp.17-18)

His support of these educational endeavors came at great personal cost. By 1833, he was bankrupt. Fowler had “sacrificed his property, his time and his professional opportunities” for the College (The History of the Town of Amherst, Massachusetts, Amherst: Carpenter & Morehouse, 1896, p. 187). Although his son Edward, the poet's father, tried to mitigate the situation by purchasing half of the family's Homestead, eventually Fowler Dickinson was forced to leave Amherst with his wife and two youngest daughters and move to Cincinnati, where he became Steward of the Lane Theological Seminary. He later served as Treasurer of Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio. By April 22, 1838 he was dead of “lung fever” at age 62.

His Ohio obituary, reprinted in the Hampshire Gazette on June 6, 1838 noted: “…his piety consisted much in a deep laid principle of active, yet meek and unostentatious beneficence. The grand practical maxim of his life seemed to be to ‘esteem others better than himself’—to lead him to neglect his own interests, and attempt to make all others within his sphere comfortable and happy” (Leyda, Vol. I, p. 49).

After her husband’s death, Lucretia returned east. She died in Enfield, Massachusetts, on May 11, 1840. Both Samuel Fowler and Lucretia Gunn Dickinson were reinterred in the family plot in the Amherst burying ground in the 1840s.

Samuel Fowler Dickinson and Lucretia Gunn Dickinson’s most lasting legacy for their granddaughter was the home she lived in, the academy she attended as a child, and the college that was her family’s community for decades.

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-------------------- Poet Emily Dickinson's grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, spent the last two years of his life as treasurer at Western Reserve College in Hudson. Born in 1775, Dickinson was later described as "the embodiment of those qualities and virtues that gave to New England strength and character." He graduated from Dartmouth in 1795, studied law, married and became the father of nine children, served a term in the Massachusetts Senate, and in 1813 built an imposing brick house in Amherst, called the Homestead (pictured here), where Emily was later born and spent part of her childhood.

Samuel was one of the founders of Amherst College and a member of its first board of trustees. In fact, the college became such an important element in his life that it depleted his resources. He was forced to sell his family home in 1833 and seek employment at the Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. In August of 1836 he came to Hudson to become treasurer of the college and "superintendent of the financial concerns and the workshops." His salary was set at $500 a year. Shortly thereafter, he suffered "depression of spirit" combined with failing health which led to his sudden death in 1838 at the age of 62. One account reported that he died "disillusioned, neglected, and forgotten." Historian Fred Waite noted that Dickinson died "leaving his accounts in a sorry mess." His body was returned to Amherst for burial. His oldest son, Edward Dickinson (Emily's father) was able to repurchase "the old Homestead" in 1855.

It is interesting to note that while Emily's life could be summed up as "born in Amherst, lived in Amherst, died in Amherst," her grandfather traveled widely and lived elsewhere in search of the financial security which eluded him. Unlike his famous granddaughter, Samuel Fowler Dickinson was not a reclusive type.

Source: <http://wra-pastandpresent.blogspot.com/> -------------------- Along with Noah Webster founded Amherst Academy and Amherst College.

Amherst Academy was founded to provide religious instruction. A typical school day began with prayer, continued with instruction in various academic disciplines, and then concluded with more prayer.

His work with Noah Webster may have led to the family lore that we were descended from Noah Webster, a link for which I have found absolutely no evidence.

He was the grandfather of Emily Dickinson. -------------------- this family tree is one big MESS

WGA -------------------- Of Amh. Grac. D. C. 1795, was an eminent lawyer in Amh., representative and Seantor in General Court of Mass., rem. 1833 to Cincinnati, O., and thence to Hudson in the same State. Died ae. 62.

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Hon. Samuel Fowler Dickinson's Timeline

1775
October 9, 1775
Amherst, Hampshire, Massachusetts
1795
1795
Age 19
1802
March 1, 1802
Age 26
1803
January 1, 1803
Age 27
Amherst, Hampshire, Massachusetts, United States
1804
October 7, 1804
Age 28
Rocky Hill, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
1806
December 16, 1806
Age 31
Amherst, Hampshire, Massachusetts, USA
1809
February 10, 1809
Age 33
Rocky Hill, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
1811
August 16, 1811
Age 35
Amherst, Hampshire, Massachusetts, USA
1814
February 17, 1814
Age 38
Amherst, Hampshire, Massachusetts, USA
1816
March 11, 1816
Age 40
Amherst, Hampshire, Massachusetts, USA