This beautiful gravestone stands in the Broad Street Cemetery in Salem, MA. It is placed over the resting place of my maternal 5th great grand aunt, Susannah “Sukey” Oliver Dix.
The stone includes several classic images:
- The weeping willow at the top of the stone, a symbol of mourning, grief, sorrow, lamentation.
- The urn, a depiction of the soul, immortality or penitence.
- The columns, which symbolize that the deceased lived a noble life.
Sukey was born in Stoneham, MA, the daughter of Capt. James Oliver and Abigail Bryant. She married Benjamin Alexander Dix in 1799. Benjamin worked as a “housewright” in Salem along with Sukey’s brother, James Oliver. Housewright is the Colonial term for a builder. They did everything toward the construction of a house, including chopping down the trees, carving the wood into boards, and shaping the boards to fit properly together to frame a house.
The inscription on the stone bears the tender sentiment:
In Memory of Mrs. Sukey Dix, wife of Mr. Benjamin A. Dix,
who died Sept. 12, 1811, Aged 29 years. And her infant child. The rising morning can’t assure, That we shall end the day; For death stands ready at the door. To snatch our lives away.
The Oliver family was struck by much tragedy. Capt. James Oliver is a rather elusive person. I know he was from Boston and born about the year 1750. He married Abigail Bryant of Stoneham, MA, in 1780. Abigail came from two prominent Stoneham families, the Bryants (Maj. Joseph Bryant) and the Osgoods (Abigail Osgood).
Capt. Oliver was a sailor serving aboard privateers during the Revolutionary War. He left Abigail at home with five children while was at sea. Abigail died in 1791, six months after the death of her youngest child, Joseph Bryant Oliver.
It is presumed that following their mother’s death, Abigail’s remaining children, Abigail (age 11), Sukey (age 9), James (age 6) and Sally (age 4) were raised by their grandparents in Stoneham, the Maj. Bryant and his wife, Abigail. The fate of their father, Capt. James Oliver, is unknown. Various researchers have speculated that his ship was taken captive by the British. He may have served in the War of 1812 and died in battle.
The Major named his daughter Abigail’s children in his will, leaving them equal shares of property in Middlesex County upon the death of his wife. Sadly, none of them would come into that inheritance …
- James died in 1808 at age 24, leaving behind a wife and young boy.
- Sukey died in 1811 at age 29, probably in childbirth. Sukey and Benjamin had already lost their 1-year-old child, Benjamin, ten years previous. When Sukey died, she was buried next to her son.
- Sally died in 1812 at age 25, leaving a husband and at least one child.
- Abigail, the eldest child, married Cornelius Wheeler and bore him 10 children. Cornelius died in the War of 1812. Read more of Abigail in this post.
Interestingly, Sukey’s husband, Benjamin Dix, ended up marrying his sister-in-law, the widow of James. Her name was Mary. They were wed about a year after Sukey’s death. Benjamin Dix died in New Orleans in the year 1822. It’s not certain why he was in New Orleans, but he died intestate, leaving Mary and their child nothing. His estate was declared insolvent.