DIXON, CHARLES, gentleman farmer, merchant, office holder, judge, and politician; b. 8 March 1730/31 in Kirklevington, England, son of Charles Dixon and Mary Corps; m. 24 June 1763 Susanna Coates, and they had eight children; d. 21 Aug. 1817 in Sackville, N.B.
Charles Dixon apprenticed as a bricklayer under his father and followed the trade at nearby Yarm until the age of 29, when he purchased a paper factory at Hutton Rudby. He engaged in this business with considerable success until 1771, but, growing discouraged by “the troubles that were befalling my native country” and attracted by the accounts of Nova Scotia circulated by agents of Lieutenant Governor Michael Francklin*, “I came to a resolution to leave all my friends and interests I was invested with, and go to Nova Scotia.” Dixon, his wife, and four children were among the first contingent of Yorkshire emigrants to Nova Scotia, a group of 62 who sailed from Liverpool on 16 March 1772 aboard the Duke of York.
Following a short stay in Halifax, the Dixons arrived at Fort Cumberland (near Sackville, N.B.) on 21 May 1772. Dixon was aware of the poverty and distress pervading the region but, believing they were “largely due to indolence and lack of knowledge,” he purchased a farm of 2,500 acres at Sackville. Some of this land he worked with his sons, selling his surplus produce in Halifax; part was let out to tenants. Appreciative of the region’s agricultural potential, he encouraged both the Yorkshire and the New England residents to improve the productivity of the Tantramar area by constructing more dikes and reclaiming salt-marsh. With supplies purchased in Halifax he also established a small retail business.
Dixon took a moderate stand against the revolutionary enthusiasm sweeping Nova Scotia in 1775–76. Though in December 1775 he signed the memorial from the inhabitants of Cumberland County expressing their determination not to fight against the rebels, he later claimed he had done so “for Quietness Sake.” Because raising local militia to defend the province might increase political tensions and aggravate the labour shortage in Cumberland, he proposed in a letter to John Butler* on 14 Jan. 1776 that the rebel activities of John Allan and Jonathan Eddy be checked by a force of British regulars. In June of that year the Royal Fencible Americans, a provincial unit, manned Fort Cumberland. Also in June the Nova Scotia Council replaced rebel sympathizers with loyal supporters in county government, appointing Dixon a justice of the peace and a judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. Although his home was sacked and his family harassed during Eddy’s siege of Fort Cumberland in November, he strenuously opposed retaliation against rebel participants following Eddy’s defeat, claiming such a policy would “soon terminate in the destruction and ruin of the whole country.” Thereafter Dixon complemented Joseph Goreham*’s military endeavours with his judicial office and his agricultural leadership in securing peace and prosperity among the inhabitants of Cumberland County.
Following the separation of New Brunswick from Nova Scotia in 1784, the colony’s newly appointed Council made Dixon collector of customs for Sackville. He was defeated in his bid for a House of Assembly seat in the 1785 elections, but when a committee of the house rejected the election of Thomas Dickson because of voting irregularities, it awarded one of the four Westmorland County seats to Dixon; he held it until his retirement from provincial politics in 1792. Little is known of his record in the house, but along with Amos Botsford, a fellow member for Westmorland, he was a supporter of James Glenie. Throughout his political career Dixon was also active in county government, acting variously as justice of the peace, commissioner of highways, surveyor of highways, assessor, and overseer of the poor.
Like the majority of the Yorkshire settlers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Charles Dixon was a Methodist and a man of deep religious conviction. Educated in the Church of England tradition, he had been converted to Methodism in 1765, one year after hearing Thomas Seccombe, a follower of John Wesley: “His preaching was such as I never before heard, for his word was with power, it made me cry out in the bitterness of my soul, what must I do to be saved?” At Sackville, Dixon worked industriously to establish his adopted religion. To this end, he strove to set a Christian example by freeing his black slave Cleveland, whom he had purchased at Halifax for £60, offered financial assistance to the needy, helped build the first Sackville meeting-house, and donated land for a parsonage, providing in his will for its maintenance. He died at his home on 21 Aug. 1817, survived by his wife, three sons, and four daughters.
Dixon family papers are in the possession of Jean Dixon (Sackville, N.B.); many of the documents have been published in History of Charles Dixon, one of the earliest English settlers of Sackville, N.B., comp. J. D. Dixon (Sackville, 1891). Mary Phillips (Hitchin, Eng.) has compiled genealogical records of the Dixon family.
PAC, MG 9, A12, 11, vol.3. PRO, CO 217/52: 110. “Calendar of papers relating to Nova Scotia,” PAC Report, 1894: 363. N.B., House of Assembly, Journal, 1786–92. Brebner, Neutral Yankees (1969).