S5.3 – Robert, Betsey and Squire Dixon

“In Death Not Divided”, as the obituary for Robert and Betsey begins, and as in life so in death.

Todmorden District News, April 5th 1907

The obituary tells you quite a lot about this couple. Robert was a native of Burnley, who married his wife Betsey Stephenson there in 1869. They had known each other for quite some time; in fact, their first child, Mary Hannah, was born in 1865! Why the delay in marrying is not known, but they did marry, and went on to have four more children. Squire was their youngest, born in 1876. He was also the only one of their five children to die before they did.

Squire died in early 1883 aged 6 of tubercular meningitis. Quick medical lesson: tubercular meningitis is when the tissues of the brain and the spinal cord become tubercular, and this is caused by a pre-existing infection with mycobacterium tuberculosis developing further, for reasons which are hard to predict – interestingly, or terrifyingly, one third of the world’s entire population is infected with mycobacterium tuberculosis. It accounts for 6% of all meningitis cases, and curing it takes 9-12 months of continuous intensive treatment. And that’s today…in 1883, little Squire didn’t stand a chance.

Back to his parents. Robert’s father Henry, a weaver in Burnley, died when he was young. His mother remarried, to a Speak, and perhaps that’s how Robert became familiar with the Gauxholme/Shade area of Todmorden despite continuing to live in Burnley. Meanwhile Betsey, five years his senior, was born in Walsden at Clough Holmes and grew up there and at Knowlwood with her family of power loom weavers. In 1861 she was working as a servant for the Crowther family at Pexwood, and in 1871 she, Robert and their children Mary Hannah and James were back in Walsden at Cable Street.

Robert was a clock maker and repairer and had a stall on the indoor market, and also ran a “Watch, Clock and Jewellery Club”. He would have gotten along well with the Rohrer family later on, many of whom are also buried at Christ Church.

As we see from the obituary, the Dixons took their retirement and went back to Burnley after Robert became unwell following an attack of dropsy. Their retirement was short-lived, and Robert died aged 61, and Betsey two days later aged (apparently) 68. They were laid to rest on the same day, April 1st 1907, next to their son.

Most records show Betsey’s name as Betty or Betsy, but we don’t know which spelling she preferred as we can’t see her stone – it is under the school. It’s recorded as Betsey but many of those rough transcriptions from the 1980s are riddled with simple errors like that and we cannot be certain unless we see it.

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