AMHERST, N.S. – The great-great-grandchildren of Father of Confederation R.B. Dickey visited the Cumberland County Museum in Amherst on Aug. 10.
“Over the years Mary and I have visited Amherst on many occasions to visit the museum and the cemetery to see our great-great-grandparents,” Laleah Carscallen, who attended the celebration with her sister Mary Burnel and brother Almon Carscallen, said.
“About 39 years ago we were having a picnic lunch on great-great granny’s grave with my sister’s oldest son, and two people walked by and gave us a look that showed they didn’t approve that we were having lunch on granny’s grave,” Carscallen said. “Mary called out after them, ‘We’re having lunch with great-great granny and I don’t think she minds.’”
The three Dickey descendants currently live in Ontario. Laleah and Almon live in Ottawa and Mary lives in Orillia.
R.B. Dickey was born in Amherst in 1811 and passed away in Amherst in 1903.
His great-great-grandchildren recently contributed many R.B. Dickey artifacts to the museum, and on the day of the celebration loaned a portrait of R.B. Dickey’s wife, Mary Blair (Stewart) Dickey, to the museum.
“In 2017, my mother, the great-granddaughter of R.B. Dickey and Mary Blair Stewart, died at the age of 101, and I was left with the task of dealing with a mountain of papers, letters, and photos,” Carscallen said. “Mary and I had a long discussion about what to do with all the material we had about the Dickey’s and the Stewart’s and it seemed to us that offering it to the museum was the right thing to do.”
Their mother was born in Halifax in 1916 and passed away in Ottawa 2017.
“My mother loved Amherst, she was devoted to her father James Dickey, R.B.’s son, and loved all her Dickey relations, so I’m sure that she would approve that these items have come home to their roots,” Carscallen said.
Their grandmother, Mary Hill Dickey, was born in Winnipeg in 1884 and died in Halifax in 1979. Carscallen talked about some of the tragic stories their grandmother told them about the family.
The first was about R.B.’s son, Frank Stewart Dickey, who was born in Amherst in 1864 and died in 1892 in Halifax.
“R.B. Dickey’s youngest son had a history of mental illness and suffered from depression for a great deal of his life,” Carscallen said. “At the age of 28 he went to the shore of, we’re not sure if it was a lake or the ocean, but he took off his clothes, folded them neatly, walked into the water and drowned himself.”
Another tragedy befell Mary’s brother’s three daughters.
“On the Stewart side, Mary Blair’s brother had three little girls and all three girls died within a week of each other around 1875. They died of diphtheria,” Carscallen said.
The mother was distraught.
“She’s sitting out in her parlour looking out the window at the snow where she could see little footprints, and she turned to her sister-in-law and said, ‘this is all that’s left of my children, their footprints.’”
The Aug. 10 garden party ceremony featured certificate presentations from Sheila Christie, the deputy mayor of Amherst, and from Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the MLA for Cumberland North and, also, a recounting of the history of R.B. Dickey from Leslie Childs, a member of the Amherst Heritage Trust.
Carscallen said her family was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the town.
“We weren’t expecting a garden party, the horse-pulled carriage rides, and all the people who showed up,” said Carscallen. “I want to thank the people who organized this event, people like Leslie Childs. She did an amazing job.”
Robert Barry Dickey
Born Nov. 10, 1811, in Amherst
Educated at Truro Grammar School, Windsor Academy
Began legal studies at 15-years-old with Alexander Stewart
Called to the Nova Scotia bar in 1834
Called to the New Brunswick bar 1835
Bought 14 acres of land in Amherst in 1836
Built home on his land, which is the current home of the Cumberland County Museum
Married to Mary Blair Stewart in 1844.
They had five children, three boys and two girls
Made Queens Court Counsel in 1863
Served in the Legislative Council of Nova Scotia from 1858 to 1867
Supported confederation in 1867
Died July 14, 1903, in Amherst