CLINTON, Maine — The descendants of Charles Loring and Effie Etta (Estes) Dickey of Clinton and Canaan, who were the parents of 22 children, are planning a family gathering for Saturday, Aug. 23, in the Fellowship Hall of the Brown Memorial United Methodist Church in Clinton.
Charles and Effie were married on Aug. 18, 1881, in Clinton; Charles was just shy of 23 years old and Effie was only 14 — she was often referred to as a “child bride.” Between 1881 and 1889, the Dickeys lived on the Hill Road in Clinton where their first eight children were born. In January 1890, the family moved to Canaan where the remainder of their 22 children were born.
Charles once noted, “I moved up to these hills with eight young children in January in a snowstorm. When we arrived, neighbors took in the children to keep them warm, or they might have died.”
All their children, 14 girls and 8 boys, were single births; they all lived to maturity, married and had children of their own. Eighteen of the twenty-two children lived into their 70s, 80s and 90s – a remarkable feat given the era. In addition to raising their own large brood, Charles and Effie also helped rear several of their grandchildren. This family may hold the record in the United States for having the most children, all born singly.
This large family was well-known; newspapers from around the country ran articles about the family. During his last year in office, President Theodore Roosevelt offered Charles Dickey a free tract of land in the Midwest, but Charles politely declined because “it was too far away from Maine.”
In 1910, Charles told a reporter that to provide for his family, it took 14 barrels of flour, 115 bushels of potatoes, and 23 cords of good hard firewood. They also “lay down” 500 pounds of pork each autumn, which served as their winter’s meat. Effie Etta would rise at 5 a.m. and bake 9 loaves of bread and 2 large cakes for the day’s consumption.
The Dickeys exchanged butter and eggs produced on their farm for other groceries and for cloth to make their clothing. Mrs. Dickey sewed all the family’s clothing, drafting her own patterns. They also brought in another $150-$300 each year by selling blueberries picked from their large bog. In addition, some money was made from the sale of livestock and timber. Mr. Dickey referred to his wife as the “business manager” of the family.
During a 1908 interview, Effie Etta stated that they had many opportunities to give their children out for adoption. But, although they were poor, they were never “too poor to keep our babies, bless heaven.” Mrs. Dickey reported that it was she who selected all the children’s names. She always addressed her children by their first and middle names and taught each child, at an early age, to learn the full names and birth dates of their siblings.
The first family reunion, held in 1914 at the homestead in Canaan in 1914, on Charles and Effie Etta’s 33rd wedding anniversary, was organized by their adult children. Twenty-one of their children were present. That first reunion was immortalized by several photographs, one of which is the only one known in existence that shows all members of the family together, except for Emma Mae, who had passed away the year before. At the second reunion in 1915, a number of the boys helped their father gather in the oats.
Each year following 1914, a reunion was held, for several years at the Canaan homestead and eventually at Bang’s Beach in Sidney. By the time the reunions were held at Bangs Beach, the family had grown. Seventy-nine grandchildren were born through the 22 children, along with the addition of many great-grandchildren. Picnic lunches, swimming, dancing in the large pavilion, games of horseshoes and baseball were enjoyed by all at Bangs Beach.
At the reunion held in 1931, on the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary, it was reported that 106 family members were present. An original poem written by their daughter, Nina Eudora Davis, was read, and the parents were presented with $50 in gold, “in appreciation for all they did for their children.”
None of the 22 children are living, and many of the grandchildren have passed away. A reunion has not been held for several years. However, on this auspicious centennial anniversary of the first reunion, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren are organizing another get-together in an effort to keep alive the memory of this remarkable couple and their children.
This year’s events will commence at 9 a.m. with a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave sites of Charles and Effie at the Village Cemetery (located along the easterly side of Route 100, just southerly of Clinton village). The graves of Charles and Effie are located behind the Soldiers’ Monument. Visits will be made to the grave sites of other ancestors and relatives buried in the same cemetery. Those wishing to place flowers at the graves of these other family members are encouraged to do so.
After visits to the grave sites, the family will reassemble in the Fellowship Hall of the Brown Memorial United Methodist Church on Church Street in Clinton to share family anecdotes and photographs. Those coming for lunch are asked to bring enough food for the number of people in their party, all of which will contribute toward a potluck meal.
A slide-show is being planned; the slides will undoubtedly generate many stories and recollections. In addition, scanners, a copy machine, and lap-top computer will be available for scanning pictures and copying documents. Family members are asked to bring original pictures and documents to share; those items can be scanned into the lap-top computer, from which copies may be shared. Everyone is urged to bring a thumb-drive or CD so they may easily upload copies of pictures to those devices and take them away for their personal use.
A booklet written in 2011 for “The Friends of Brown Memorial Library” by Cheryl Dickey-Whitish (daughter of Ralph Dickey, granddaughter of Everett Dickey) will be on hand for purchase; it contains two Dickey-related stories. Copies of genealogical information and other stories will also be available for viewing. Forms will be offered for recording your own extended family history. Maps marked with notable “Dickey” sites will be presented. A game of trivia and a list of unanswered questions are being prepared. Write down and bring your own questions!
Because this family has grown so large with each successive generation, contact information for many cousins has been lost. Thus, family members are asked to please contact your siblings, children, cousins, etc. and pass this information along to them.
For additional information and answers to any questions, please contact Cheri
(The above article was written through collaboration between Donna-Mae (Wyman) Bean and Cheryl Dickey-Whitish. Donna-Mae lives in Sidney with her husband, Orland E. Bean. She is the granddaughter of Fannie Blossom (Dickey) Brooks, the fifth-born of the Dickeys’ twenty-two children. Her husband is the son of Hilda Bernice (Dickey) Bean, the twenty-second of all the children. Cheryl lives in Clinton and is the granddaughter of Everett Onward Dickey, the ninth-born of the 22.)