The Dick Family Mystery
The Dick family’s short presence in Punta Gorda’s early history is a mystery.
Angie Larkin tellls of the Dick family arrival in her book In Old Punta Gorda. The Dick family came to Punta Gorda in 1884 by covered wagon from Texas. They spent their first night in what is now the parking lot of Punta Gorda Waterfront Hotel and Suites. However, they didn’t stay long. In the 1880 Census they resided in Chambers, TX and in the 1900 US Census they were in Galveston, TX.
The Dick family was large
John and Amanda had 18 children, which included three sets of twins. All the children were born in Louisiana or Texas, and came to Punta Gorda with their family. Later all but Raphael (Ralph), Kate (Katie or Sissie) and Lillian (Lillie or Lilly) would return to Texas.
A very international family
John Monroe Dick’s father was Irish of Scottish descent and his mother, Helena, was Greek. John was born on a ship traveling between England and Greece. He came to the United States at the age of 13 with his older cousin Nathaniel aboard the ship Pocahontas, and lived with cousins in Baton Rouge.
John went to medical school but preferred farming and oversaw his cousin’s cotton plantation called ‘No Mistake’ at Yazoo County, Mississippi.
Love and marriage
In 1846, at the age of 23, John fell in love with and married 14-year-old Amanda Williams who was renowned as the most beautiful southern belle in all of Mississippi. Amanda’s parents were Benijah Williams and Melinda Sparks Williams originally from Georgia. Amanda and John were married at ‘No Mistake’ on April 2, 1846. They lived in Louisiana during the Civil War and relocated to Texas by 1870.
Together they had 18 children
- 1847: Twins James and Nathaniel (died at childbirth)
- 1849: Helena (died at age 7 in Yazoo County, MS)
- 1850: John Dick, Jr (died at age 8 in Cameron, LA)
- 1852: George Washington Dick
- 1854: Benijah Nimo ‘Nimmy’ (murdered in 1884)
- 1856: Emma
- 1857: Lorenzo Quenton (died at 1-year of age)
- 1859: Jefferson Davis
- 1860: Thomas Jackson ‘Tump’ Dick
- 1862: Robert E. Lee
- 1865: Raphael ‘Ralph’ Semmes
- 1866: Kate ‘Sissie’ (died in Punta Gorda by dog attack)
- 1869: Twins Amanda and Frank Profundo
- 1871: Twins Lillian and William M
- 1872: Matthew (died nine days after birth)
Captain Dick of the Confederacy
John served four years during the Civil War as as a ship pilot of a Confederate schooner. He served under General Forrest at the battle of Mansfield and realized the opposition’s offer to negotiate a surrender was a trick to set them up. He warned his commander “the negotiations will not attain the desired end.” Instead, the Confederate troops hid in a ditch and then ambushed the Union army, forcing them to retreat to the river.
John also worked as a scout and a spy, and was a friend of Jefferson Davis, after whom he named a son.
From his obituary: “Capt. Dick possessed in a marked degree the lofty moral and intellectual qualities that especially distinguished those old pioneers who linked their destinies in a struggle for personal liberties and freedom in the enjoyment of rights of property. Serious and thoughtful in disposition, gifted with strong powers of perception and analysis and thoroughly conscientious in decision of every issue involving right and wrong, through a loyal adherence to the principles of Democracy, he contributed a service of great value to our new Commonwealth. He was loved for his virtues and admirable social qualities as a man and a neighbor, equally as he was admired for his able services contributed for the upbuilding of those communities which during his long useful life enjoyed his citizenship.”
Amanda applied for a pension for widows of soldiers who are in indigent circumstances in 1908 when she was 83-years-old.
Memories of Florida
Daughter Amanda Dick Parker of League City, TX recounted her memories of Punta Gorda in a 1956 newspaper interview. Her family had arrived in Tampa in March of 1884. From there they went to Palmetto by steamboat. They’d been in Palmetto about a week when they met the nephew of Trabue (now Punta Gorda) town founder, Colonel Isaac Trabue who told her father about the new town. They hired a man named Mr. Hogg to drive their six horses and wagon over land to Trabue, while the family arrived via a schooner. Her father purchased property on Alligator Creek across from a large Indian mound. Their property later became the Allapatchee Lodge. Amanda had a close and loving relationship with Colonel Trabue’s wife Virginia. “They took a great liking to me,” she remembers. “They wanted to take me to the World’s Fair with them. My parents would not let me go, and I was so disappointed that I cried myself sick.” Amanda doesn’t mention her sisters Lilly or Kate, and doesn’t explain why the family ever left this “beautiful place, with plenty of fruit trees and bee trees” where “we would get up early, saddle our horses and roam the country.”
Did any Dicks remain in Punta Gorda?
The only Dick family members we believe remained in Punta Gorda were:
- Lilly Dick, who married her sister’s widower, Alfred (or Alford) Sloan. By the 1900 Census Alfred and Lilly had moved to Fort Myers with their children Celia L. (Katie and Alfred’s daughter), William Decater (or Decator) and Hugh Plant. The Sloan boys and their father ended up in Washington and are buried in Seattle. It appears Lilly may have died in California.
- Years after his death, Raphael “Ralph’s” wife Rose Curry Dick and their daughter Maude returned to Charlotte Harbor from Texas and stayed.
We still have many questions about the Dick family who were early, short-term residents of Punta Gorda. What brought the Dick family to Punta Gorda to begin with and why did they turn around and go back to Texas? What happened to Katie and Alfred’s daughter Celia?
Learn more about Katie Dick on our Haunted Punta Gorda Pub Tour starting in October 2018.
Resources: Ancestry.com; In Old Punta Gorda by Angie Larkin; Trulia.com