Am I Here Because of Dried Beef? (Joseph Dickinson – 52 Ancestors #41)

There are some family stories that are so “out there” that you easily dismiss them. Then there are the stories that you desperately want to be true…

Joseph Dickinson, my 6th-great-grandfather, came to America around 1725.1)Alexander Harris, A History of Lancaster County (Lancaster, PA: Elias Barr, 1872), p. 160. In 1732, he married Elizabeth Miller in the Kennett Monthly Meeting in Chester County, Pennsylvania.2)Joseph Dickinson and Elizabeth Miller marriage, Kennett Monthly Meeting marriages 1718-1821, page 56, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Ancestry.com. Together, Joseph and Elizabeth had nine children, including my 5th-great-grandfather Gaius Dickinson (born in 1737).3)Gaius Dickinson, Genealogy of Berks, Exeter Monthly Meeting, p. 62, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Ancestry.com.

That part is pretty well documented. (Thank you, Quakers, for being awesome record keepers!) It’s this next part of Joseph’s story that is a bit lacking in documentation. According to A Biographical History of Lancaster County by Alexander Harris (Elias Barr & Co., 1872):

Dickinson, Joseph, emigrated to this country from Cumberland, England, by way of Ireland, about the year 1725. The ship on which he came a passenger having struck upon a rock, causing it to leak so rapidly that it was impossible to keep the vessel afloat, and was about given up as lost, and the passengers were preparing to meet their fate, when Joseph Dickinson volunteered to go down under the water, on the outside of the ship, and stop the leak, which hazardous undertaking he accomplished by inserting pieces of dried beef in the crevices.4)Alexander Harris, A History of Lancaster County (Lancaster, PA: Elias Barr, 1872), p. 160.

Shipwreck, by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1854. From WikiArt.

Shipwreck, by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1854. From WikiArt.

I know how tales get taller as they go on. I know that it’s more likely that Joseph’s ship did have some trouble, maybe even with a crack, and that Joseph (or some other ingenious soul) repaired it. But diving into the water to fill the cracks of a sinking ship with dried beef? My head tells me it likely isn’t true, but I have to admit that I wish it were. Talk about an great story!

And let’s think about this for a moment. For the sake of argument, let’s say that it is true that Joseph saved the ship in the manner described. That occurred around 1725. He didn’t marry until 1732. He didn’t have my 5th-great-grandfather until 1737. If Joseph’s ship had sunk, he wouldn’t have made it to America, wouldn’t have met and married Elizabeth Miller, and my 5th-great-grandfather wouldn’t have been born…

Is it possible that I owe my very existence to dried beef?

References   [ + ]

1, 4. Alexander Harris, A History of Lancaster County (Lancaster, PA: Elias Barr, 1872), p. 160.
2. Joseph Dickinson and Elizabeth Miller marriage, Kennett Monthly Meeting marriages 1718-1821, page 56, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Ancestry.com.
3. Gaius Dickinson, Genealogy of Berks, Exeter Monthly Meeting, p. 62, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, Ancestry.com.

10 thoughts on “Am I Here Because of Dried Beef? (Joseph Dickinson – 52 Ancestors #41)

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      I thought about that! I’m thinking Hugh Jackman would be good in the role. I’d have to direct, of course… 😉

      Reply
  1. cobyneill

    Not only would you or I have been born if that ship sunk, Richard Nixon wouldn’t have been alive either because he had those same ancestors.

    Reply
  2. Belinda Knight

    I am a Dickerson decendant, my Uncle tested Y-DNA at ftdna. He has a 65/67 marker match to a Dickinson. Amy is there anyone that has tested DNA from this Joseph Dickinson line that we can compare my line to ?
    Thanks,
    Belinda

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Belinda Knight Cancel reply