CLINTON — The descendants of a Canaan family of 22 siblings are planning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their ancestors’ first family reunion with a revival of the tradition and by trying to get in touch with at least one descendant of each child of Charles and Effie Etta Dickey.
The reunion is scheduled for Aug. 23 at the Fellowship Hall of Brown Memorial United Methodist Church in Clinton, and the family has been trying to locate relatives any way it can – searching through old obituaries, reaching out to relatives and starting a Facebook page for the reunion.
“One of my cousins contacted me and said, ‘Hey, what do you think of having a family reunion again?’” said Donna-Mae Bean of Sidney. “It’s been awhile and this is an important year, so I said, ‘OK, let’s see what we can do.’”
Bean is the great-granddaughter of Charles and Effie Etta Dickey, who married in 1881 when Charles was 23 and Effie was 14. The couple had 22 children – 14 girls and eight boys – whom they raised primarily at their homestead in Canaan on what now is called Dickey Road.
According to family history, Charles once told a reporter that to provide for his family, it took 14 barrels of flour, 115 bushels of potatoes, and 23 cords of good hard firewood every year. They also would store 500 pounds of pork each autumn, which served as their winter’s meat. Effie would rise at 5 a.m. and bake nine loaves of bread and two large cakes for the day’s consumption.
The family sold butter, eggs and blueberries produced on their farm and exchanged them for groceries and cloth to make clothing, as well as sold livestock and timber to bring in money.
The first family reunion was held in 1914, on Charles and Effie’s 32nd wedding anniversary, with 21 of the children present. Most of them lived into their 80s and 90s, according to Bean, and family reunions continued to be held up to about the year 2000.
“The family has gotten so huge that we’ve started to lose touch,” Bean said. “We live all over the country, but we wanted to see what we could do to mark the 100th anniversary.”
Descendants of 18 of the 22 children have been located, according to Cheri Dickey-Whitish, a great-granddaughter of Charles and Effie. Three branches of the family have died out, and there is one branch that could not be contacted.
Charles and Effie are buried in the Village Cemetery in Clinton, and since the family homestead in Canaan has been sold, the family knew it wanted to have the reunion in Clinton, Dickey-Whitish said. They plan to lay wreaths on the graves of Charles and Effie before sharing photos and memories over lunch.
“It’s a way for us all to connect. There aren’t a lot of families with that many children who all survive. There were no twins, and most of them grew to be old,” Dickey-Whitish said.
Anyone with information about the family or who is related to the family is asked to contact Cheri Dickey-Whitish at 861-1603 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While Charles and Effie Dickey’s descendants are scattered around the country, the couple were Mainers until they died.
Bean and Dickey-Whitish noted that the couple could have had some high-level backing if they had chosen to leave their native state.
Late in his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt once offered Charles Dickey land for settlement elsewhere.
Charles politely declined the presidential offer of land in the Midwest.
“It was too far away from Maine,” he said.