Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) in Fredericksburg

George L. Dixon (1818–1907)

George Lewis Dixon was a Baptist minister in the Fredericksburg area. Born with slave status, he and his family fled from Fredericksburg to Washington, D.C., during the American Civil War (1861–1865). After the war ended, Dixon returned to Fredericksburg, where he was elected pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church and was active in the local Republican Party. Dixon was representative of a unique generation of African American leaders, largely self-educated preachers, who inspired their communities to rebuild and expand antebellum churches and adapt them to the changing needs of their communities in a post-slavery society. He died in 1907. MORE...

 

Dixon was born into slavery on May 2, 1818, probably in Port Royal, Caroline County. His mother was Katie, or Catherine, Dixon; the name of his father is not known. Dixon moved to Fredericksburg about 1840, and during the next twenty years he hired out his labor as a drayman and a waiter there and in Richmond. On August 7, 1846, he married a woman named Mary Ann (surname unknown) at Chatham, the Stafford County plantation where she was enslaved. They had at least eleven children, of whom one daughter died in childhood.

In 1856 the Dixons appeared on a list of members of Shiloh Baptist Church, also called the African Church, in Fredericksburg. George Dixon may have purchased his freedom in the years before the Civil War, but after Union forces occupied Chatham in April 1862, the Dixon family fled to freedom in Washington, D.C., with other members of Shiloh Baptist Church. While living in Washington and working as a waiter, Dixon may have attended religious and educational classes and church services with other members of his home congregation. He was reportedly ordained in 1865 at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, in Washington.

Returning to Fredericksburg in 1865, Dixon was elected pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church. A gifted organizer, preacher, and fund-raiser, he led efforts to restore the war-damaged church. To raise money he traveled and preached in the North and as far south as New Orleans, and he also organized railroad excursions to nearby Guinea Station, in Caroline County, and to Washington, D.C. In 1868 the church received $400 from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to repair the basement, which the bureau had been using as a school since 1865. Dixon was representative of a unique generation of African American leaders, largely self-educated preachers, who inspired their communities to rebuild and expand antebellum churches and adapt them to the changing needs of their communities in a post-slavery society.

Dixon's influence extended beyond the church, and he used his position to solicit aid for people in need and to urge African Americans to exercise their right to vote. He also encouraged the black community to foster good relations with its white neighbors. Known for being a partisan in the pulpit, Dixon advocated education, political participation, and such community-building activities as Emancipation Day celebrations.Recognizing Dixon's prominence in the Fredericksburg area, in March 1867 an officer of the Freedmen's Bureau identified him as one of six influential Spotsylvania County African American men eligible to hold office under Reconstruction. The following month Dixon represented the county at a meeting of black and white Republicans who had gathered in Richmond to prepare for the upcoming convention to write a new constitution for Virginia as required by federal Reconstruction legislation. A Fredericksburg newspaper reported in June 1869 that African American voters favored Dixon as the Republican candidate for Spotsylvania County's seat in the House of Delegates. The white-majority convention, which Dixon attended and opened with a prayer, nominated instead a white Republican, who withdrew. Dixon then served on a small committee to select a replacement candidate. He continued to attend local Republican meetings and in 1876 sought election to the city council, although he and the other six African Americans on the ticket received only a smattering of votes. As late as 1902 Dixon's name appeared on a list of registered voters in Fredericksburg.

During Dixon's pastorate, Shiloh Baptist Church increased from about 100 members in 1867 to more than 500 members in 1870, and the church operated a Sabbath school with more than 100 students. Dixon resigned as pastor in 1878 after he admitted to committing adultery. Restored to good standing in 1880, he took charge of Cathedonia (later Macedonia) Baptist Church, at Guinea Station. During the 1880s and 1890s Dixon continued preaching at churches in Caroline and Spotsylvania Counties and in Washington, D.C., and sometimes traveled to raise money for his congregations. In 1888 he preached at the dedication of Second Baptist Church in Fredericksburg.

In 1869 Dixon joined the recently established Virginia Baptist State Convention and became a member of its executive board. The African American organization worked to raise funds for struggling churches and Sunday schools and advocated formal education for clergymen. As a member of the Sabbath School Committee in 1869 Dixon recommended establishing a Virginia Baptist State Sabbath School Union, of which he served multiple terms as a vice president during the 1870s. Throughout that decade he also sat on various committees of the state convention, including those on education, missionaries, and mission fields. Dixon served as vice moderator of the regional Mattaponi Baptist Association in 1887 and on its executive board at various times between 1890 and 1906, by which year he had become an honorary board member.

After his wife died on July 11, 1902, Dixon moved to his daughter's home in Philadelphia, where he died on July 13, 1907. Following a funeral at Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site), he was buried alongside his wife in the African American cemetery in Fredericksburg.

Time Line

  • May 2, 1818 - George L. Dixon is born to Katie, or Catherine, Dixon, probably in Port Royal, Caroline County.
  • ca. 1840 - George L. Dixon moves to Fredericksburg.
  • August 7, 1846 - George L. Dixon marries Mary Ann at Chatham, the Stafford County plantation where she is enslaved. They will have at least eleven children.
  • August 1856 - The Dixon family appears on a list of members of Shiloh Baptist Church, in Fredericksburg.
  • 1865 - George L. Dixon is reportedly ordained at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, in Washington, D.C.
  • 1865 - George L. Dixon is elected pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church. During his pastorate, the church increases in members and operates a Sabbath school with more than 100 students.
  • March 1867 - An officer of the Freedmen's Bureau identifies George L. Dixon as one of six influential Spotsylvania County African American men eligible to hold office under Reconstruction.
  • 1868 - Shiloh Baptist Church receives $400 from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to repair its war-damaged basement.
  • June 1869 - A Fredericksburg newspaper reports that African American voters favor George L. Dixon as the Republican candidate for Spotsylvania County's seat in the House of Delegates.
  • 1869 - George L. Dixon recommends establishing a Virginia Baptist State Sabbath School Union.
  • 1870s - George L. Dixon sits on various committees of the Virginia Baptist State Convention and serves multiple terms as a vice president of the Virginia Baptist State Sabbath School Union.
  • 1876 - George L. Dixon seeks election to the Fredericksburg city council, but receives only a smattering of votes.
  • 1878 - George L. Dixon resigns as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church after admitting to committing adultery.
  • 1880 - George L. Dixon takes charge of Cathedonia (later Macedonia) Baptist Church, at Guinea Station.
  • 1887 - George L. Dixon serves a vice moderator of the regional Mattaponi Baptist Association.
  • 1888 - George L. Dixon preaches at the dedication of Second Baptist Church in Fredericksburg.
  • 1890–1906 - George L. Dixon serves on the executive board of the Mattaponi Baptist Association.
  • 1902 - George L. Dixon's name appears on a list of registered voters in Fredericksburg.
  • July 11, 1902 - Mary Ann Dixon, wife of George L. Dixon, dies.
  • 1906 - George L. Dixon is made an honorary board member of the Mattaponi Baptist Association.
  • July 13, 1907 - George L. Dixon dies in Philadelphia.

References

Further Reading
Fitzgerald, Ruth Coder. A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania, Virginia. Fredericksburg, Virginia: Unicorn, 1979.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    OBrion, C. G., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. George L. Dixon (1818–1907). (2019, October 23). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Dixon_George_L_1818-1907.

  • MLA Citation:

    OBrion, Catherine G. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "George L. Dixon (1818–1907)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 23 Oct. 2019. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: October 17, 2019 | Last modified: October 23, 2019


Contributed by Catherine G. OBrion and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography