Ambrose Dixon appears in 1649 as having been transported to Virginia by Richard Bayly, of Northampton County;1 and it is certain that he became a resident of Northampton County, for in March,
1651/2, we find that he signed "The Engagement tendered to ye Inhabitants of Northampton" by which promise was made "to bee true and faithfull to the Commonwealth of England as now Established without Kings or House of Lords."2 In 1652 we find a Mary Dixon transported into the colony of Virginia by Ambrose Dixon and Stephen Horsey, of Northampton County.3 This was evidently Ambrose Dixon's wife, whose baptismal name we know to have been Mary.
Ambrose Dixon was a "caulker" by trade,4 no doubt finding extensive demand upon his abilities in a section of country where watercraft were so numerous. However, his life was evidently a quiet one, given to the pursuit of his trade, until the exercise of his religious principles brought him into conflict with the colonial authorities, and thence quite prominently into the records.
Ambrose Dixon, with the rise of Quakerism in Virginia, gave whole-hearted allegiance to the faith of the "Inner Light," whose guidance brought him to the insurmountable barricade of the Virginia law against Quakers.
In November, 1660, Ambrose Dixon, Thomas Leatherbury, Henry White, Henry Voss, and Levin Denwood, were brought before the court of Northampton County for breach of the law concerning Quakers. Ambrose Dixon was arraigned for having met with and spoken amongst the people called Quakers, while fearlessly (and perhaps stubbornly) he "acknowledged the same." Leatherbury and White also in conflict with the authorities "for breach of ye law concerning Quakers" were "found guilty." Voss, while professing to be transporting Quakers out of Virginia and "up ye Bay [i. e. to Maryland] delusively causes ye sd Quakers to be sett ashore at Nuswattocks [in Northampton County]." The court proved the charge against Voss. Denwood was also brought in for "breach of ye law concerning Quakers."
The tender-hearted court "remitted executing ye rigor of ye law" and for the present discharged Dixon, White and Leatherbury from payment of sheriff's and clerk's fees in the cause, but "left them to ye Marcy of ye Honble: Govr & Council for ye present." Voss, for his offence was "referred to ye Censure of ye Honble Govr." Denwood was ordered to give security for his good behavior in the future and to pay
sheriff's and clerk's fees "and for further Censure is referred to ye Honble ye Govr & Council."5
So it was that Ambrose Dixon had the distinction, for "conscience sake," of being before the highest tribunal of a temporal power there to "witness" to his faith in the supremacy of the "King of Kings."
That Ambrose Dixon (with his fellow religionists) was carried before "ye Honble: Govr & Council" of Virginia there can be no doubt; but the nature of "ye Marcy," or lack thereof, extended by that highest court of the colony to these offending religionists does not appear as the records of the General Court for the period have long since disappeared. No doubt, however, the censure which Dixon (and his companions) received was, in quality, thoroughly in keeping with the law against Quakers, and the spirit of a tribunal thoroughly in sympathy with the terms of that law.
As early as November, 1658, Ambrose Dixon, in company with Levin Denwood, Captain William Mitchell, and Stephen Horsey, were subjects of an order of vestry in Northampton County demanding that they pay to the Reverend Mr. Teackle, minister of the parish, the usual dues. The refusal of these persons to do this had caused Mr. Teackle to complain of them to the court which granted him judgment against them, except in the case of Captain Mitchell, "who pleads his privilege as a Burgess." In January, 1661/2, when the delinquents in payment of minister's and other parish dues, in Hungar's Parish, were ordered by the Northampton Court to make payment of amounts that appeared to be due by them from the year 1654, Ambrose Dixon was among those who were returned by the authorities as non est inventus.6
Before this January, 1661/2, when he was returned to the court as non est inventus, we believe that Ambrose Dixon had made his exit from Northampton County in Virginia through the open door of the province of Maryland's toleration of such dissenters and religious rebels, and had entered, with his companion, Stephen Horsey, the settlement at Annemessex on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland. At any rate, we henceforth find Ambrose Dixon living at "Dixon's Choice" in Annemessex, loyal and undaunted in his spirit of Quakerism.
Ambrose Dixon's home on "Dixon's Choice," on the south side of the Great Annemessex River, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (in later years Somerset County), was the center for Quaker activities in this area at the time of its settlement. Dixon was "a receiver of many Quakers his house ye place of their resort and a Conveyor of our ingaged persons out of the County [i. e. Northampton-Accomack]," writes the caustic Colonel Scarburgh.
Ambrose Dixon was truly the guide and guard of his brother "Friends" seeking refuge in Annemessex. He was a rugged soul, absolutely loyal to the faith which he embraced and an imcomparable leader among the Quakers in the Annemessex settlement, and later in Somerset County. The "Inner Light" unquestionably led him by a steep and rough way through this earthly life. Let us hope that "beyond this life" the Light guided him to more pleasant paths. It is interesting to note that what was evidently the first Quaker "Meeting House" erected in Somerset County was built on Dixon's land (see ante, page 91) and that in the "God's Acre" surrounding it Dixon's body was interred when his earthly journey came to an end. "Ambrose Dixon, Senr died and was buried at the meeting house in Anemessix the 12th day of Aprill Annoq Dom one Thousand Six hundred eighty & Seaven."7
Ambrose Dixon married Mary (whose surname is now unknown), who was evidently a widow Pedington, as Dixon, in his will (dated April 7, 1686) devises property to "my wife's son, Henry Pedington." Ambrose Dixon and Mary, his wife, together with their children, lived at "Dixon's Choice" on the south side of the Great Annemessex River, and adjoining Stephen Horsey's plantation, "Colebourne." For years "Dixon's Choice" remained in the Dixon family and in the old graveyard on the place many generations of the Dixon connection have been buried. This old graveyard, which has been carefully preserved by the family up to the present time (1935), is located about a mile west of Marion P. O., in Somerset County.
Ambrose Dixon, during the course of his life, amassed a comfortable property in Somerset County in fertile lands and several Negroes. He evidently devoted his time to farming and his religious interests, avoiding political and official life. In November, 1666, Ambrose Dixon
appears as one of the first "surveyors for ye highways" in Somerset (see ante, p. 72). In November, 1666, Ambrose Dixon, Ambrose London, Paul Marsh, and Roger Woolford, were elected delegates to represent Somerset County in the Lower House of the General Assembly of the province to be convened March-April, 1671. However, when the Assembly met only Marsh and Woolford appeared as Somerset's delegates.8 No explanation has been found as to why Dixon and London did not attend and qualify as members of the Assembly.
Ambrose Dixon and Mary, his wife, had issue: (1) Thomas Dixon (died 1720), married Christian Potter; (2) Elizabeth Dixon (died 1687), married Robert Dukes; (3) Sarah Dixon, married Edmund Beauchamp; (4) Grace Dixon, married John Richards; (5) Mary Dixon, married Thomas Cottingham; (6) Alice Dixon, married Henry Potter; (7) Hannah Dixon (1666-1667). pp302-306
Source: Old Somerset of the Eastern Shore of Maryland