Enduring Legacy of Mary Moore Dickson Long (1797-1866)
By Deborah Burkett
In full disclosure, the above mentioned pioneer is my paternal 4th great grandmother. Never knew her until I began researching my family history for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. By all accounts she must have been something.
Born into a prominent family October 13, 1797 in Lincoln County, North Carolina, Mary "Polly" was reared and later married in Davidson County, Tennessee. She is buried in Tyler, Texas. The saga of her life between those two points--her birth and death--is a quite a story and one worth telling. It encompasses the War of 1812, a trek in a covered wagon and land grants in the Republic of Texas.
Mary was the daughter of James Dickson and Agnes Nancy Moore. Her father moved the family to Davidson County, Tennessee where he became its first county judge and was serving in that capacity at the time of his death.
On April 6, 1815, Mary married Benjamin Alexander Long, born May 22, 1788, in Virginia. There would be six children: James Dickson Long (my direct ancestor--he's my 3rd great grandfather), Richard Brown Long, Margaret Isabella Long, William Thomas Long, Sarah Adeline Dickson Long and Nancy Jane Long.
Mary's husband, Benjamin, and her brother, Captain Ephraim G. Dickson, served in the War of 1812. During the Battle of New Orleans under the direction of General Andrew Jackson, Benjamin was wounded and captured on the 23rd of December. In 1814, Benjamin was at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, fighting alongside Sam Houston. His father, Richard Long (1758-1848), had served in the American Revolution and Mary's paternal grandfather was a general in that same war.
One can only image what conversations Mary was privy to. Talk of revolution, patriotism, duty to a new country. All these principles were ingrained in her, ready to be summoned when she needed them the most. Seemly everyone she was close to had answered the call-a call that required courage and resolve-resulting in decisive action. When her husband died and a new life beckoned--Mary answered the call of the west, utilizing those same attributes she had witnessed in her family. She made the trek in a covered wagon with her younger children. As I said she must have been something!
A few of the details surrounding Mary's journey are: Benjamin Long was fond of military life and prominent in local military circles. He took an active interest in the old State Militia and "always bore a conspicuous part on muster days. On one occasion he was the commanding officer at a county drill. Due to wounds suffered in the War of 1812 and the excitement and heat of the day, he overtaxed himself and died".
Mary and their children joined a wagon train leaving Tennessee for the Republic of Texas, arriving in Nacogdoches about 1836. "While waiting to secure a land grant from the Mexican government, Mary and the children lived with her cousin, James Pinckney Henderson, who later became the first governor of the State of Texas".
Mary Long "assisted in establishing Texas independence…as a widow with six children she came to the frontier, purchased land and cultivated it. Her sons, especially James Dickson Long, were active in fighting Indians and Mexicans". James would also serve as Secretary of Board of Trustees at Larissa College, a prominent school in Cherokee County prior to the Civil War.
From the late 1830s to 1851, several of Mary's daughters married. On October 20, 1842, Nancy Jane Long married William Josiah Smith in Nacogdoches County. By 1860, Mary Long and the William J. Smith family lived in Smith County (south Tyler) in separate households. They settled on land that Mary had acquired as a land grant; making the second land grant issued in her name.
This is the connection to the Smiths who are buried in the Smith Cemetery in Tyler, where Mary lies. Betty Batey and her husband were responsible for getting the historical maker erected in 2004 at this small cemetery located off the Old Jacksonville Hwy. The marker credits Mary for the land and cites her pioneer efforts. One of her sons, Richard B. Long was elected sheriff of Smith County in 1854 and served for three years at which time he was appointed district clerk. At the outbreak of the Civil War he left Tyler and served with honor and distinction. Later he became Postmaster of Smith County, Texas.
Yes, quite a story. The legacy of Mary Moore Dickson Long lives on, especially in my heart.
- Mary's grave
- State Marker Smith Cemetery
- photo of Mary