You wouldn’t have heard about the fellow whose name is in this post’s title if I hadn’t learned about the cousin at work. Francis’s brother, Charles, and Charles’ wife are the great-great grandparents that I share with my new-found family member. In looking up some information on Charles, I was reminded of the story of Francis.
At the top of one sheet of photo-copied paper from the early days of that technology, the copier-smeared words “Father’s Family Record” appear in my great grandmother’s handwriting. Below, in chronological order, are the birth dates of 11 siblings, including my great-great grandfather and Francis. Francis is the only one whose death date is also listed. The entry reads, “Francis Marion Dixson born 19 Aug 1841 Died 12 of March 1862 age 20yr 6mo & 21days”. That was the sum total mention of him on paper. The rest, I had to get verbally from my grandfather (Charles’ grandson), born 38 years after the death of Francis.
I wish I’d thought to ask if Francis was named after “The Swamp Fox” of Revolutionary War fame; I suspect he was. The only remembered trait of Francis was that he was fleet of foot. So much so, in fact, that he would race other men, while gamblers bet on the outcome. He had an unusual style of running with his head down, looking at the ground just before his feet, rather than looking ahead like most runners do. (One of his great nephews has that same style.) Sadly, that style would be his undoing.
Family tradition has it that, for whatever the reason, while the rest of the country was embroiled in Civil War, Francis went to California, perhaps to escape that war. Whether he had gainful employment there, I never thought to ask. He DID, however, keep running footraces. In his final race, he may never have seen the thin wire that some competitor or gambler had stretched across the track, probably just for him. If he did, he saw it too late. The unknown scoundrel who strung the wire probably never dreamed that Francis would fall so hard that he would break his neck and die, but he did. And so ends the sad, and all too short, story of Francis Marion Dixson. © 2012