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Gallant Dickenson and Amos Lawrey
Gallant Duncan Dickenson and his son-in-law Amos Giles Lawrey came to Monterey, California in June 1847.
Sometime after their arrival, they took the clay from the grounds of the present high school on Hermann Drive in
Monterey and fired them into common brick in a crude kiln. The bricks were transported to Decatur Street, where
Dickenson built his tiny two-story house. Before the house could be finished, the gold rush called and they never
returned to Monterey to finish the house. Though it was not the first brick building in California, it may have
been the first brick house built of kiln-fired bricks in California.
Dickenson was born in Pennsylvania in 1806. He came from a wealthy planter family and was reared in Virginia. In
1828, he married Isabella McCrary and they had four sons and two daughters. They had lived in both Tennessee and
Missouri before coming to California. The Dickensons and Amos Lawrey had joined the Donner Party on their overland
trek to California, but their party made it over the mountains before it snowed. Amos Lawrey rode ahead by horseback
to Johnson's ranch to get help and provisions. In November 1846, the Dickensons arrived at Sutter's Fort in
Sacramento. During the Mexican-American War, Dickenson and Lawrey went to Santa Clara to join Aram's garrison in
the conflict. In June 1847, they moved to Monterey.
Two years later, Dickenson went to Tuolumne County to hunt for gold, leaving his namesake at Dickenson Gulch.
By April 1849, the Dickensons were living in Stockton, where Gallant ran a small hotel and became involved
in politics. In 1849, his two daughters married, Margaret Elizabeth married
Amos Giles Lawrey and Lucy Jane married N. B. Stoneroad, which are said to be the first American women
married at Stockton. After the hotel burned in May 1851, the Dickensons moved back to Tuolumne County and purchased
the Horr Ranch and Horr's Ferry on the Tuolumne River, about eight miles east of Waterford. The ferry was renamed
Dickenson's Ferry (now Robert's Ferry). There he embarked in farming and sheep raising until his death in 1870.
Amos and Margaret Lawrey had two daughters and a son. They later settled in Pacific Grove.
In Monterey, Dickenson's house was purchased by Patrick Breen in 1851. It was later owned by Maria Garcia who
ran a popular restaurant known as "Garcia's Spanish Food." Today, this house is preserved in the Monterey State
Historic Park and is being used as a museum about the first brick building in Monterey.
Monterey's first brick house made of Dickenson-Lawrey brick.
Dickenson-Lawrey bricks on the side wall of his brick house in Monterey.
Common brick is light orange, orange red, and light brown, showing the various firing stages. Visible white, yellow,
and gray clasts on the surface, which are up to a half inch across. Rough surface texture with abundant holes
and pits. Irregular edges and rounded or broken corners. No lip present. Fine lines or mold marks are
visible on the sides running longitudinal or at angles relative to the top edge. Top face display longitudinal strike
marks. Bottom face is smooth and pitted. Hand-molded, water-struck, soft-mud process. The brick is light and
porous and weathers easily. Length 8 1/2 - 8 3/4, width 4 1/4 - 4 3/8, height 2 1/8 - 2 1/4.
Dickenson-Lawrey bricks showing the face.
Dickenson-Lawrey bricks on the corner of the brick house.
Alta California. San Francisco, CA, September 8, 1847.
Copyright © 2004 Dan Mosier
Bonta, Robert. Minute Book A - Court of Sessions (Civil), San Joaquin County, California, 1850-52. San Joaquin
Historian, v. 14, no. 1, January-March 1978.
Buxton, Barb, written communications, 2011.
California Department of Parks and Recreation. Historic Monterey Path of History Walking Tour. 1989.
Hoover, Mildred B., Rensch, Hero E., Rensch, Ethel G., Abeloe, William N., and Kyle, Douglas E. Historic Spots
in Califoria. Stanford University Press, 1990.
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