Ab Dickson’s Filling Station
, Navarro County, Texas


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Photos submitted by Carl W. Matthews


Dawson, Texas

Submitted by Carl W. Matthews


The small structure on the corner south of the Methodist Church has stood on Main Street, Dawson, Texas for more than eighty years. It remains in remarkable condition as does a large concrete “storm cellar” located just north of the structure. 


During the 1920s the structure was


 “Ab Dickson’s Filling Station.”


Absolem Dickson was born in Dawson in1885 . son of James Dickson and Amanda Dawson. Amanda Dawson was the youngest child of Brit and Susannah Cannon Dawson.   James Dickson was a son of Milton and Jane Graham Dickson who had migrated from Tennessee to Western Navarro Co. Texas in the 1870s.   Other children were daughter, Jimmy, who married Ray French, and Etta who married Robert Franks.


James Dickson died c1890 and Amanda married John Thomas “Uncle Tom: Fread whose family had migrated to Texas from Illinois.   Uncle Tom and Aunt Mandy lived for many years directly across Main Street from The Methodist Church. ….the present residence of Sue Comer.     Their children were Homer who married Nina Coleman, Don, Jack who married Mrs. C J Loveless,, and Emma  who married Tim Roundtree.


Automobiles had begun to be seen in the Dawson area by 1910, but demand for gasoline was not great.   Old area pictures often show fifty-five gallon barrels on the porches.of General Merchandise stores….one for gasoline, one for “Coal Oil.”    Gasoline from the barrels was pumped by hand into measured cans and poured into the gas tanks of automobiles.  When the demand for gasoline increased, “The Filling Station” was constructed.   The solidly built brick structure had a small room at the rear…well lighted with windows..and..with a fireplace to keep the place warm in winter.    A front canopy accommodated a single automobile.


A large underground tank, installed at the side of the building, was filled from time to time from a Magnolia Oil Co. truck driven by Charlie Lowrimore.   A heavy chain always dangled from the truck to the ground….a precaution against lightening strikes.


Ab Dickson had installed a new gasoline pump that stood, perhaps, seven feet tall.   A glass container was located at the top and on its side were numbers one through ten.    Midway down the pump was a steel door…behind which was a large hand lever that pumped gasoline from the underground tank into the glass container that contained exactly ten gallons and was always filled before gasoline was dispensed.   Customers who ordered three gallons watched as the level in the glass container dropped to the mark indicated by the number three.    Gasoline was moved by gravity flow from the glass container…through  the hose and nozzle…into the automobile gas tan….without benefit to an electric pump.


The gasoline tank on Model T Fords, the most popular automobile  in Dawson, was located immediately under the front seat and the gas cap was located at the center.   Drivers and any front seat passengers were required to exit the automobile to permit Ab Dickson to remove the seat cushion…open the cap…insert the nozzle of the gas hose…and drain the glass container down to the amount of gasoline ordered.    When more than ten gallons were ordered, the container would be drained of the first ten gallons….refilled..and drained down to what had been ordered.


Ab Dickson was a congenial person…a “Hail Fellow well met” type.     A stop at The Filling Station provided a time of social interaction…exchanging community news.    Everyone liked Ab Dickson and he liked everyone.


Ab Dickson died one winter in the late 1920s of pneumonia and the station was closed.  Several attempts were made  in the 1930s and 1940s…None were successful until the 1950s when Billy Kendall opened the station and continued operation for many years.


The property….probably the entire block…. was owned in the 1890s by Robert Harve Matthews 1814-1894.   He had married Elizabeth “Bettie” Priddy 1856-1921 in 1884. Their only child, a son, was born and died in 1886 and is buried with Robert Harve at the Spring Hill Cemetery.  


Robert Harve had a large house constructed in the middle of the block and a huge barn at the rear of the house.  The date was, probably, the late 1880s or early 1890s.  Bettie remained a widow for at least sixteen years after Robert Harve’s death.  She was remembered as a beautiful and astute businesswoman and may have had the structure built on the corner of her property and leased it to Ab Dickson.


Bettie was remarried at some point after 1910 to Dan Simms, eight years her junior.   Dan Simms had been previously been married to Mary Jane “Puss” Slaughter Wheelock,  widow of George Ripley Wheelock.    Mary Jane…born 1839 was twenty-five years older than Dan Simms.   She was, also, a daughter of Robert Harve’s sister, Minerva Kathrine Matthews who had first married Francis Slaugher, then Dr. George Washington Hill.


Bettie Priddy Matthews Simms died in 1921 and left her considerable estate to Dan Simms. The property now occupied by The Methodist Church may have been purchased from Dan Simms.    Dan Simms lived until 1946 and the estate passed to a third and younger wife who lived in Dallas, Texas.    It is assumed that the surviving wife began to dispose of the Navarro County properties at that time.


The property on Main Street….the large house that sat next to the Methodist Church, the barn, the storm cellar, and the “Filling Station,” were sold at some point after WWII to Elmer Hagle who had resided for many years in the Brushie Prairie Community.   It was near that time that Billy Kendall opened for business and continued operation into the 1960s.


More recently, the structure housed “The Hair Station,” a beauty salon operated by Arlene Bell.    “The Hair Station” was incorporated into a new structure on Hiway 31 that housed the Rogers Hardware.


Once, during the early 1930s, the body of an unidentified black man was found dead in an abandoned automobile near the Jimmy Graham home west of Dawson.   The man had been murdered.  W W Wolf picked up and embalmed the body.    Several days passed without any identification and the body lay in the unused Filling Station.    Black residents sat with the body…day and night….until it was discovered that the man was a black undertaker from Austin.   He had picked up a white hitch hiker who murdered him…took his wallet and his car.


The murderer abandoned the car at the Graham corner when it ran into a ditch…walked to Dawson….threw the murdered man’s wallet…sans money…into a well across the street from The Green Hut and continued to Corsicana.  The man was, later, apprehended.


Today, the structure stands empty,

 but it remains a Dawson Landmark.

perhaps, deserving of a

Texas Historical Marker.



Pictures forthcoming


Carl W Matthews



Navarro County TXGenWeb
© Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox