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About My Second Great-Grandpa Nick Dawson

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

By Stephanie Dawson Morris

The story of the murder of Nick Dawson is told in the book Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol I. In the chapter “An Independent Free Man,” John James “of Alvarado” recounts his early days on the Texas prairie when Nick Dawson and his family, from Woodford County in Kentucky, were his neighbors.

Nicholas Henry “Nick” Dawson, born February 3, 1838, in Woodford County, Kentucky; murdered July 12, 1870, in Wise County, Texas.

In this multi-part series, Stephanie Dawson Morris updates the Dawson family history, revealing the undaunted character that defines  Dawson men from John Singleton Mosby to the Dawson Massacre and beyond.

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One story I remember is that great grandpa Nick Dawson was shot 29 times with arrows before he died.  I have never been able to substantiate that, except for the story in the paper when they found the old pioneer cemetery. The story said he was “mutilated” when they found him.

I also remember hearing there was a saddle that was covered in silver conchos. The saddle was on the horse he was riding.  It was a gift from the townspeople for his services. I don’t know what kind of “services.”  Anyway, I asked what happened to the saddle. I heard it was cut up and divided among the Comanche who killed him.

Supposedly, that was how they found which of the Comanche were guilty. They still had the pieces of silver on their person.  Of course, I cannot verify this either.

Samuel “Sam” Houston Jr. 1793-1863. His father, Sam Huston Sr. 1745-1807, fought with Daniel Morgan’s Rifles in the American Revolution, besides the numerous rebel Baptists preachers who were supported by Frank & Jesse James father, John M. James. In Texas, Sam Huston Jr. commanded Jackson Bunyan Bradley, the father-in-law of John James “of Alvarado” who was Nick Dawson’s neighbor.

Sam Houston’s son, Samuel Houston III 1843-1894. It is unlikely Sam Houston attended the funeral of Nick Dawson since Sam Houston pre-deceased Nick. However, it is possible that Sam Houston III may have attended. During the Civil War, Sam Houston III was incarcerated in Camp Douglas Union Prison in Chicago together with David Hunt James and Richard Skinner James who were captured with John Junt Morgan.,

It was said that Sam Huston was greatly saddened by Grandpa’s death and attended the funeral…again, I don’t know if this is true.

Another story was that he and Great Grandma Mary had several children, as you know. They also had taken in an Indian child by the name of Blueberry.  Well, the story has it that while Grandpa Nick was away from home Blueberry had come flying through the door of the cabin and told Grandma that Indians had surrounded the cabin and were going to attack and raid.

Mary Elizabeth Morton Dawson 1833-1915, wife of Nick Dawson

Grandma had the lanterns all lit inside the cabin. She had all the children put on hats and jackets. They held sticks as if they were guns. Then they walked back and forth in front of the windows.  Grandma then would have them exchange clothing and walk in front of the windows of another room. So, on it went, to trick the Indians into thinking there were a lot of people in the house guarding it with weapons.  Apparently, the ruse worked because the next morning the Indians were gone. There was a sign of them having been there.

I do know that great-grandmother Mary filed for a government stipend to recover the value of the horses, saddle, and money of about a hundred dollars, or so.  It was some kind of recovery act. I did find the application.

She also applied for a Confederate Widows Pension which was signed with an X as Mary could not read or write.

Mary Dawson pension application
Pension application of Mary Dawson

Mary Dawson pension affidavit
Information affidavit of Mary Dawson’s pension application

Witness affidavit in Mary Dawson’s pension application. As the spouse of Frances Elizabeth “Fanny” Dawson, signatory Judge Griffin Ford was a son-in-law Nick and Mary Dawson. His son William Walter “Willie” Ford is a grandson of Nick and Mary.

None of us, still living, know what happened to the 1200 acres, or so, that were awarded to Grandpa Nick for enlisting in the Texas Rangers/Militia.  We assume it was sold to provide for the children.

RELATED: 

Belle Star’s visit to John James “of Alvarado” shortly after the murder of Nick Dawson.

Dawson DNA Project

FREE eBook: The Ancestry, Descendants, & Kinship of Nicholas Henry “Nick” Dawson


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Daily updates from the family of Frank & Jesse James with stories, photos, & two searchable genealog

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