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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Achievement (03/08/12)

TITLE: Before His Time
By darlene thompson


In 1848, it was very

unconventional that a white woman and

a black man would marry but that is

exactly what Elizabeth Peeler, a white

woman, and John Dickson, a black man

did. They had one son, Isaac. With

the end of the Civil War, Isaac was

set free from slavery. Although the

war was over, another uprising began.

The family was terrorized by the Ku

Klux Klan of Cleveland County, North

Carolina. Elizabeth knew Isaac needed


Along with his newly coveted

freedom, Elizabeth shoved a letter into

her son's hand. It was signed by the

county clerk with seven other

signatures. The letter read, "We the

undersigned citizens have bin {sic}

acquainted {sic} with Isaac Dixon for

years past and found him to be an

honest and upright man." This letter

was Isaac's passport to a new life.

In 1868, Isaac left Cleveland

County and moved to Morganton, North

Carolina. He met Cordelia Reed. In

1870, they married. Isaac and his new

bride moved to Asheville. Shortly

after their arrival, they had their

first child, Mary Jane.

Isaac met Reverend Jarvis Buxton,

the Episcopal priest for Western North

Carolina. Buxton founded Freedman's

Chapel, a mission for newly freed

slaves. The Dicksons found a spiritual


Through the church, Dickson met

Reverend David Buel. Buel hired him as

a butler. Dickson worked hard and

saved his money. In 1886, he purchased

the former slave quarters of Thomas


As Dickson accumulated money, he

purchased a number of homes near his

own residence. He rented these houses

to others that had been slaves. Soon

the area became known as "Dicksontown."

As an experienced entrepreneur,

Dickson sold coal, kindling and

groceries. Although he and his wife

had 10 children, Isaac found time to

serve his community. On August 31,

1890, he hosted the first public

meeting for the Young Men's Institute.

The organization promoted social and

economic opportunities for African-

Americans. In addition to the YMI,

Dickson donated money regularly to

black colleges in North Carolina.

He helped found Venus Lodge No.

62, the first Masonic Lodge for

blacks in Asheville. He facilitated

the purchase of buildings on Market

Street and acted as their treasurer

for 25 years.

One of Dickson's greatest legacies

was his development of Asheville's

public-school system. Wealthy

residents sent their children to

private schools and didn't want to pay

taxes to support public education.

Former republican congressman

Richmond Pearson campaigned for public

schools. He urged black residents to

support the proposal. He promised a

black representative on the school

board and no sharp rise in taxes.

In July 1887, the black

community supported and passed the

proposal by a mere four votes.

Pearson kept his promise and appointed

Dickson to the school board.

In addition to his own

enterprises, Dickson worked as a

janitor for Frederick Rutledge &

Company,an insurance firm, until his

death in 1919 at age 78. He and his

family are buried in Riverside

Cemetery in Asheville.

Today, few Ashevillians know the

name Isaac Dickson. The YMI remains a

vital asset for blacks in Asheville.

Just outside the downtown area is Isaac

Dickson Elementary School, a living

tribute to him. It has been a leader

among elementary schools in the nation.

From slave to entrepreneur to educator,

Dickson was a man before his time. His

accomplishments helped Asheville rise

from pioneer days to a modern city in

the "Land of the Sky."

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This article has been read 286 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 03/19/12
That is quite an achievement. Not sure what happened to your formatting. So sorry. Thanks for sharing!
C D Swanson 03/21/12
What an amazing man and an amazing story! Thank you for sharing this intensely interesting entry. It touched my heart as I am sure it will others.

Nice job. I loved the way you set it up too! Thank you.

God Bless~
C D Swanson 03/22/12
A hearty Congratulations!
God Bless you~