Bean, Dixon, 2nd Lt. – Co. A, NY 74th National Guard

Dixon Bean was born October 15, 1834 in East Aurora, Erie County, New York. His father was British-born Milo Inigo BEAN (1805–1862) and his mother was Ann KEMP (1805-1888), also from Sussex, England.

As a young man in Erie County, Dixon worked as a clerk in several stores, primarily dry goods. On December 10, 1858, Dixon married Harriet Louise ABBOTT. They welcomed daughters Nettie Louise BEAN in about 1859 and Adelaide “Addie” Margaret BEAN on July 4, 1863.  However, Dixon was not there for Addie’s birth as he had enlisted in Buffalo on June 19, 1863 in the New York 74th Infantry Company NATIONAL GUARD as a Second Lieutenant.  Two of his brothers, William Milo BEAN and John C. BEAN enlisted as well.

BEAN-OnlyKnownPic-2His first action was in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, under the command of Colonel Watson A. FOX, to assist in repelling a Confederate raid into Pennsylvania.  Colonel Fox’s September 1863 report to Major General Randall, Commander of the NY National Guard, is full of fascinating details of the movements and activities of Dixon’s regiment. []  Colonel Fox reported that the regiment left Buffalo by train June 19, 1863 and arrived the next day in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where “it had rained heavily throughout the night, completely flooding the camp.”

The next day the men were issued uniforms, camp equipage, and “450 Springfield rifled muskets, in very bad order, not one musket in order, having been used by nine-months’ Pennsylvania Volunteers

Eventually there were 12,000 Union soldiers in camp ready for their orders.

On June 26, 1863 the whole brigade left Harrisburg by train and arrived at Mount Union, some 86 miles from Harrisburg. Several of the Units of the 74th guarded various bridges and aqueducts that “were threatened by the enemy, and their destruction would have cut off all communication between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg; hence this place was held to be very important, and the utmost vigilance enjoined to guard it.

On July 2, 1863 word was received, that a railroad bridge was threatened by Confederate General Imboden’s 500-man cavalry. Dixon’s Company A was detailed with that guard duty.

On July 5, Dixon’s unit was again on the move. They were ordered south to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania where the unit ran so low on rations that they were forced to only draw half rations of hard-tack for three days.

On July 9, the unit proceeded south to within a half mile of Clear Spring, Maryland where they were told that Union cavalry were having a skirmish with Imboden’s rebel cavalry.  Confederate General Lee’s army was 7 miles away, and General Imboden, with 10,000 cavalry, infantry, and artillery, was encamped within 2 ½ miles. The Union forces and the Confederates briefly clashed before the rebels made a “precipitate retreat. Three of Captain Payne’s command were severely wounded; one of them died the following day. Four of the enemy were wounded, and a rebel major’s horse was shot from under him.”

That night Dixon and the rest of the Union soldiers encamped by a spring in the woods.  Dixon’s regiment was completely out of rations by this time and they “were generously supplied by citizens of the town, a portion of which was paid for by the colonel.”

For the next few days companies under the command of Colonel Fox guarded the many mountain passes and water crossings to alert the Union army of any rebel movements and to prevent surprise attacks, and they even succeeded in capturing a few Confederate prisoners.

July 12, 1863, Colonel Fox and his men were ordered to Loudon, Pennsylvania to relieve a regiment that was to join the Clear Springs Union forces in keeping the Confederates firmly at bay.  After camping only one night in Loudon, Dixon’s unit and the others received word that they were to proceed  “with all possible dispatch to New York City.” Mass rioting had erupted over the draft there. Dixon and his men took several trains from Loudon through Harrisburg, Reading, Allentown, and Easton, finally arriving on July 17 in New York City.

The 74th A Company under Lieutenant John C. Nagel was ordered to protect Hotchkiss Shell Factory on 17th Street. The Draft Riots lasted three days; 120 people were killed and over 2,000 were wounded.

On July 19, Colonel Fox wrote:“ Company A, Lieutenant John C. Nagel, and Company B, were sent up the Hudson River, stopping at all places on the way, to Sing Sing, returning to New York City 21st instant,  performing important duty at these several points in quelling riots.”

Dixon and his company then started home to Buffalo. On July 23, they were met in Buffalo “by a magnificent reception, the citizens turning out en masse, crowding the streets to such an extent that it was with the utmost difficulty we were able to get through them.”

There were parades, bands playing and speeches and even a beautiful banquet “prepared and tendered by the ladies of Buffalo.”

Dixon’s regiment remained there in Buffalo at the state arsenal until he was mustered out on August 3, 1863 and returned home.

It is worth mentioning what Colonel Fox’s report had to say in conclusion about the Civil War service rendered by Dixon’s and the other New York National Guard units under his command.

Too much praise and credit cannot be accorded for their faithful attention to duty, and readiness to second me in every effort to render my command efficient and acceptable to my superiors. I cannot close this without a just and deserved tribute to the men, who, at an hour’s notice, left their homes and friends, business pursuits and pleasures, and, throughout this campaign, were ever ready to perform any duty, however arduous, without a murmur or complaint. My regiment is made up for the most part of middle-aged and young men, engaged in active business pursuits, and the personal sacrifices made by them cannot be estimated, and are not appreciated by the community. I am proud of my regiment, and esteem it an honor to command such a body of soldiers, who, by their strict devotion to duty, have reflected so much credit upon themselves, their noble city, and the State, which they so faithfully represent. 

   I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant, Watson A. Fox, Col., Comdg. 74th Regt. New York National Guard

Dixon was called up one more time and served his second commission from November 16  to December 13, 1863. He served in Buffalo “for the protection of the frontiers of the State.” Family lore says he was guarding food supplies.

After the war, Dixon returned to his work in Buffalo as a sales clerk in dry goods at C.W. & E. Pardridge & Company, specializing in carpet sales. Dixon and his family moved to Chicago just after the Great Fire of 1871 to continue his sales work with Pardridge.

By 1873, Dixon was head of the carpet department for Field & Leiter, which became the predecessor of Marshall Field & Company after Levi Leiter sold his portion of the business. Dixon established the carpet department and was the first buyer for Marshall Field & Company, and is also the individual credited with convincing Marshall Field to start sending out traveling salesmen, a relatively new idea at that time.

Dixon’s beloved wife Harriet Louise died on October 30, 1874 at only 38 years of age.   A mere two months later, their 3-month-old baby Harry Bean died.  Dixon had little time to mourn as he had his two daughters to care for and his busy career with Marshall Field.

On December 15, 1880, Dixon married his second wife, Harriet Pamela WARE. Harriet had two daughters from her first marriage to Calvert Spencer Rebanks: Mabel, age 5, and Grace, age 3, whom Dixon took in as his own. Both girls used the surname BEAN until their marriages.

About 1880 Dixon resigned from Marshall Fields and started his own carpet company called Bean & Hughes. While still residing in Chicago, he diversified his income and interests. He bought a Denver Colorado clothing store, and even took up some mining interests.

On September 2, 1883, Dixon and Harriet had a son of their own whom they named Dixon Lawrence BEAN.

Unfortunately, Dixon’s second marriage was not a happy one, and on March 23, 1899, Harriet filed for divorce. It is not clear if the divorce was ever finalized, for they are married on the 1900 census and have Harriet’s children from her previous marriage and their son, Dixon Bean, Junior living with them. However, I suspect there were bad feelings between Dixon and his second wife, for when I found one of Harriet Ware’s descendants, she told me that her family had burned everything associated with Dixon BEAN.

BEAN-GraveMarkerDixon died at age 70, in Springfield, LaPorte, Indiana at the home of a “Mrs. Bogart”, whom he was reported to be visiting. His body was returned to his daughter Nettie in Chicago and he was buried in Oakwoods Cemetery next to his first wife, Harriet Louise BEAN and son, Harry Bean.  Although he was a prominent Chicago citizen and certainly not poor, no gravestone was ever placed on his grave.  All clues suggest that there was some lingering resentment of some kind.  However, Dixon’s business success and his proud Civil War service are worthy of praise and remembrance.

Submitted by great granddaughter, Christine Ordway Klukkert


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