by Henry Lane Hull
Here in the Northern Neck we have various classifications for our residents, the two most recurrent being Born-Heres and Come-Heres, the latter defining those who have settled here from elsewhere.
Coming from the Eastern Shore, my Good Wife refers to herself as a Brought-Here. A fourth category might be that of the Come-Backs.
Henry Dawson is a prime example of that last grouping. A native of the Northern Neck, he went off to make his career in the steel industry in Maryland, but upon retiring he returned to his roots at Remo. Henry was the son of Lawrence Dawson, known to all by his nickname, “Tuesday,” who was the younger son of Jeremiah Dawson, about whom I have written previously as the builder of “Dawson Hall.”
Tuesday lived in a small cottage adjoining Dawson Hall. He and his brother, Arnett, known as Jerry, were commercial fishermen. They were exceedingly generous, frequently bringing part of their catch to neighbors. As they grew older, one day Tuesday told me he worried about Jerry being able to continue pulling the nets and said that if he were stricken out in the Chesapeake Bay, he did not think he could be able to bring them into port.
In a strange twist of fate, a few months later, in 1972, the reverse happened and Tuesday was stricken and died in the boat, which indeed Jerry was able to bring in by himself, but he never fished again. Tuesday’s cottage remained vacant for 15 years, until his three sons divided the property upon coming back to live in the Northern Neck. Ben and Clarence received lots on either side of the home place and Henry took the cottage.
He immediately set out to build an addition by himself, which quadrupled the size of the original dwelling. Ben and Clarence built on their two lots, thus making a sort of “Dawson Village.” Henry was industrious to the extreme. He and Clarence were quintessential “good neighbors,” always willing to help those around them in any way they could. They started by assisting in mowing lawns in the neighborhood and before long they were cutting much of the grass between Remo and Mila.
Fifteen years ago Henry lost his wife, Marjorie, but he continued to live in his home and think of helping his neighbors with their chores, which had blossomed into getting groceries, taking folks to the doctor and being available whenever needed. For Henry, nothing was a task too great.
Creativity was another of Henry’s strong points. At the entrance to his driveway and to Clarence’s he built small stone bridges, as he did not like the appearance of the raw concrete gutter piping. He had no plan of construction, but could envision what he wanted and follow through with a level of precision worthy of an engineer. I told him that he had made medieval-style bridges across a moat, which meant that his home was his castle.
Always busy, Henry went on to set up an antiques and thrift shop at an abandoned store on Route 200. He filled it with interesting objects and for several years enjoyed the new venture of shop-keeping. He did not concentrate on making a fortune from it, but on meeting new people and making new friends.
When my Good Wife and I told Henry we were expecting the first B.E., he said he knew the child would be born on his birthday, September 15. The topic recurred in every conversation and I fully understood that Henry truly meant what he said. When his prediction proved to be accurate, Henry was ecstatically happy and each year he and the B.E. would celebrate together, along with the late Jim Stone, who had been born on the same day as Henry Dawson.
Each year September 15 was an important date for Henry, and ironically it was the date of his death. In every respect Henry was a Northern Neck Original, a good citizen who embodied the best of the traditions of the area and happily kept them alive throughout his lifetime.
Henry Jeremiah Dawson, September 15, 1931–September 15, 2018. R. I. P.