Dear Mother: It has been some time since I have written and you will be anxious I know so I will spend a few minutes in telling you what I have been doing. I have been on guard daily for two days and was detailed in the quarter master's department for a week, which kept me quite busy. The rest of my time has been spent in resting and visiting other camps, as you know I have done no hard work for some time and my work with the quarter-master was in the nature of hard work. Five of us unloaded five car loads of cord wood in two days, and the other three we were hauling lumber to build a slaughter house for the regiment, and as it is all very rough lumber you can imagine the condition of my hands. They are all blisters and blotches but I don't care. I will get a pass outside the guard lines for three days in succession, also be excused from all drill duty for the same length of time. And now I have something of more interest than common to tell you and will soon have more substantial proof and explanation than anything I could tell you. Yesterday was Sunday I know, but for all that, I had a pass from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. and thought a more opportune time would not soon come for visiting the oldest city on the continent, rather in the United States, so as the day was bright and the sun was doing his best, I bought me a ticket and boarded the train for St. Augustine. We left the Union depot (which by the way is an imposing structure for this country) at 10 a.m., and as the long train loaded with boys in blue pulled across the long viaduct and bridge of the St. John's river, I could not help wishing that you and a host of others of my friends could be with me. The St. Johns is perhaps 1 1/2 mile wide where the railroad crosses, and one can look as far as the eye can see over a level stretch of quiet water lined with thick foliage; it is a beautiful sight. There are few interesting points between Jacksonville and St. Augustine except perhaps, the coaling stations for the railroad engines, which in this country are piled high with pine wood cut and split to the proper dimensions. These stations are found about every two or three miles apart, but the engines hauling the passenger trains are of modern patterns and have large coaling capacity, so it was necessary for us to stop but once to wood up. There are one or two quite picturesque places along the way, a couple of which I made an attempt to catch with camera but do not know if they will be worth the keeping. I do not know when I have seemed to go so fast on a railroad train. It seemed like they were running sixty miles an hour, but as the distance is not more than forty miles and it took us 1 1/2 hours to arrive I suppose we did not go so fast. We arrived at the old city at 11:30 and as we had only until 5:30 to spend we tried to make the most of our time. There are so many points of interest in the old town. Our first visit was made as most others are to the famous Ponce De Leon Hotel. While on our way we passed the Flager Memorial Presbyterian church built for and dedicated by Mr. Flager in the city of St. Augustine. It is a most beautiful structure and I was only sorry we could not view the interior but our time would not permit. The church has a fine lawn or plaza which is planted with immense palms, and enclosing it is a most expensive iron and stone fence. At last we arrived at the famous hotel which for magnificence can not be excelled. As I was unable to get any data I can not tell you its dimensions any more than to say it is the largest I ever saw and was a surprise in almost every way except in the foliage surrounding it. The main entrance is from the south and is made through two immense arches. I will have tour views of it if my films come out right. The next place of interest is the large hotel across the street called the Alcazar. It is built of Florida stone, though quite unlike its noted neighbor across the way, is a palace itself. It has an interior court planted with palms, ferns and all the various tropical plants; also a quiet stream of water with a rustic bridge, all of which will come out in the photographs. The Hotel Cordova was our next victim and while not as imposing as either of its neighbors is a fine structure, although it reminded me of some fine apartment buildings on Michigan avenue, Chicago. Our next visit was paid to the oldest church in America. It is called the Cathedral. The foundations were laid in 1535 if I am not mistaken. The walls have been preserved quite well although some parts of them have been rebuilt and the roof has been replaced a number of times. However the front wall including the portals where the fine bells are hung are original and have stood, so the inhabitants say, since that time. The church of course is Catholic and the altars are of fine marble, pure white, with the candles burning at the feet of the statue of St. Mary, where I suppose they have been kept burning since the foundation. Our attention was next drawn to the plaza and old slave market where traditions say Spanish slaves were bought and sold, and in latter times the colored people were the victims. How old the place is I do not know.
And now I come to the object of out visit, the old Spanish Fort, which it is worth the time and money of anyone within a reasonable distance to visit. The walls and almost every thing are intact just as they were when the Spaniards tortured their prisoners there. The stone steps being worn almost six inches deep in the center. The walls are built of Cokena, a kind of stone formed by small shells, sea water and sand, any quantity of which can be found on the sea shore perhaps one mile distant. I have read of inquisitions but never before realized just what it must have been like. We were led by the attendant into dungeon after dungeon of Spanish cruelty, the marks of the instruments of torture being still visible in the solid walls. Almost every instrument, rather victim was tortured beneath a cross even in the dungeon of dungeons, a space perhaps 12x20 feet by 10 feet in height, as dark as midnight and with six feet of solid wall on either side, entered through a space from the floor perhaps three feet high by three wide through a wall four feet thick. It was in this dungeon that was discovered within the last year two human skeletons tied by chains to the crosses were found. It is enough to make one's blood run cold just to go in as a visitor let alone thinking that perhaps hundreds of human beings have been thrown in there to breathe their last in utter darkness, and from which no sound of human voice could ever hope to escape. We were told that when they wished to dispose of the skeletons of their victims they dug a hole through the floor to where there was a bed of quick-sand where they were lost for all eternity. The entrance to this dungeon was guarded by four sets of heavy iron doors which by an ingenious arrangement could be unlocked only from the inside, and when they wished to visit this particular dungeon they began from the roof and dug down until they came to it, and after their mission whether for good or evil had been accomplished, the opening was closed with the most scrupulous care as to strength and secrecy. There are other dungeons, but they are hardly to be considered when you visit the last one. There are only four where prisoners were ever tortured. In the interior of the walls there is a court perhaps 200 feet square which was used as a parade ground, but now there are old cannon and cannon balls piled up; also two brass cannon.
Just inside the ramparts there is a moat 20 feet deep by fifty wide which was filled with water. The old draw bridge has been destroyed and there is at present a modern wooden bridge. Only a few of old doors to the prison cells remain. On the southeast side of the wall near the top there is a fig tree flowing out of the wall, a leaf of which I will send with this as a souvenir.
After my visit to the old fort I was not sorry I enlisted, and if ever the chance comes again I will give my life to crush out a nation of such savage and cruel a nature. I can not get the scene out of my mind. It is terrible. It was time to get something to eat by this time, so we went to view the ancient city gates which stand almost as near intact as when built. We took two snap shots of them and went for dinner. We were directed to a residence where we had a fine dinner with a family of New York people who were very pleasant. After dinner we went out for a sail and a sea bath, the equal of which I never saw. There is a fine beach where the breakers roll with great glee. After spending some 3/4 of an hour in the water we returned to the city and took the train for camp, well satisfied with our day's recreation.
There is not much news around the camp that I have not written. I am well as usual, but am getting anxious to know just what disposition will be made of the volunteer army when peace treaties are finally signed. I shall not go to Cuba unless they insist upon it, when of course I will have to. I think however that within six weeks we will see Chicago. Well I must close as drill call has sounded.
Love to all,
In the 1900 Census for Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, the date of enumeration is shown as June 6. We read that Arthur Dickey, born December 1873 in Illinois, was now head of family, married 9 months; occupation: Government Clerk; and had "lost no work the prior year." He had married Marion Murphy, about September 1899. They were now renting a house at 640 Lawnsdale Avenue in Chicago. There was a third person listed as a resident, Georgia Murphy, a sister of Marion; they were two of the five known children born to William Wallace Murphy (born 1837 in Pennsylvania) and Inez Atkins (born 1851 in Wisconsin).
Arthur and Marion Dickey were the parents of two known children: DOROTHY MAY, b. July 15, 1900, Illinois, and HELEN MARION DICKEY, born October 4, 1904, Illinois.
The following information on Arthur Merritt Dickey is taken from a copy of the Certificate of Death I obtained from California records: He was b. 12-14-1873, Grant Park, Illinois, son of Volney and Sophrona Patee Dickey. At the time of his death, July 5, 1938, he had been in California 14 years. (This would suggest that he left Oregon about 1924.) His occupation for 43 years: Clerk in the Post Office, with his last year of employment in this occupation being 1932. His last residence was 1129 N. Coronado Terrace, Los Angeles, California. (This is surely the same house he bought when he left Oregon; daughter Helen shows that as her address in 1929, and daughter Dorothy has this address when she is married in 1946!)
Sadly, Arthur's death was caused by injuries received in a vehicle accident on one of the public highways. His widow, Marion L. Dickey, died February 18, 1953. Birthdate: 12-14-1872, born in Madelia, Minn., daughter of William Wallace and Inez (nee Atkins) Murphy. Her last residence: 1039 Princeton Ave., Modesto, California. Both Arthur and his wife Marion are buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery, Glendale, CA.
Go to Arthur Dickey, "Pioneer History Index," for further information.
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