Whenever I passed this modest home opposite the New Philadelphia High School I always wondered why, among all the wood frame houses on the street, there was this lone brick home. Had the third little pig lived there? No, but the family that did played an important part in the construction of countless Tuscarawas County buildings and some still stand today as a testament to their work.
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.
The Dick family arrived in Tuscarawas County at the end of the 1840s with the arrival of stonemason Jacob Dick (1827-1885) and his wife Elizabeth Saum (1829-1905). The two were both born in Germany and married there before their immigration the United States. According to Elizabeth’s obituary, the couple made their way to Cleveland before heading southward along the canals and eventually settling in New Philadelphia. Jacob found plentiful work in the growing city and the couple acquired property on South Broadway where they started a large family.
Between 1849 and 1865 the Dick family grew to include eight children, though one child did not reach adulthood. There were six sons in the family and all, except the youngest, trained as stonemasons and bricklayers with their father. The growing city demanded their services and the family, under the name of Dick & Sons, undertook many important building projects. Among their many projects were repairs/additions to the old courthouse, the schoolhouse in Bolivar, and a number of private homes in the city of New Philadelphia.
Among the family of bricklaying sons was Jacob’s third son, Peter Dick (1851-1900). Peter, like his brothers, trained with his father as a young man and in 1874 married Catherine Thomas (1855-1915). The couple welcomed three sons between 1875 and 1886, but only Charles E. Dick (1875-1941) survived to adulthood. It was likely Peter, undoubtedly with the help of his family, that undertook the construction of the brick house on the 300 block of West Ray Street sometime in the late 1870s or early 1880s.
Jacob Dick’s sons continued their success in the construction business after the death of their father in August 1885. Now operating as Dick Brothers, they were involved in the construction of numerous building projects throughout Tuscarawas County. When the New Philadelphia Brewing Company expanded during the 1880s, it was the Dick Brothers who undertook the brick and stone work. Among a myriad of projects, they constructed a number of brick schoolhouses throughout Tuscarawas County, a foundry on South Broadway in New Philadelphia, a number of brick kilns, and a variety of work for the county and city. Basically, if there was brickwork to be done in the county from 1870 onward, the Dick family of craftsman likely played a role.
The house that Peter Dick constructed on West Ray Street was only one of two brick homes on the block at the time. Built as a story-and-a-half, gable end house and in the popular Italianate style of architecture. While the decorative eave details have long-since disappeared, the tall, narrow arch-top windows, deep eaves, and surviving decorative details on the small porch covering the front door all speak to this style. The earliest depiction of the house is found on the 1910 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map for the city of New Philadelphia and shows the inverted ‘T’ shape of the house, but without the later addition of an enclosed side porch on the east side. Peter Dick and his family were living in this house possibly as early as 1880 when the family is recorded as residing on West Ray Street in that year’s census records.
Not surprisingly, given the success of the Dick Brothers bricklaying operation, Charles E. Dick followed in his father’s footsteps. Charles trained with his father and uncles and, in 1898, married Mary Ornetta Ross (1875-1954). “Nettie” and Charles were living in his parent’s home when they were recorded in the 1900 census record. Less than a year later Peter Dick died from liver disease and was interred in the Dick family’s plot at Fair Street Cemetery. A few years later Peter’s widow Catherine married a Cleveland man named William Schmidt (1863-aft. 1910) and the couple moved to Cleveland. The home on Ray Street was now exclusively that of Charles and Nettie Dick and their three children.
Charles and Nettie Dick raised their three children, a son and two daughters, in the home on West Ray Street from 1900 until the 1920s. Charles continued to work alongside his family members as they, during the first decade of the 1900s, undertook a number of building construction and repair contracts. They likely played a part in the construction of the new high school built across the street from the Dick home in 1913-1914. There are very few references to the Dick family’s bricklaying activities after 1910 however, as the children of the family pursued other occupations.
One of the last projects that Charles E. Dick did oversee after 1910 was the brickwork and masonry on the new Sacred Heart Catholic Church on North Second Street, New Philadelphia in 1927. Charles also oversaw the laying of the building’s cornerstone at a ceremony held in August of that year. A year later, following the untimely death of one of their daughters in 1928, Charles and Nettie took in her young son and raised him in the house on West Ray. Charles E. Dick died in the fall of 1941, the victim of an automobile accident, and a year later Nettie sold the house on West Ray Street. Twelve years later Nettie died at the age of 79 and was buried alongside Charles in the Calvary Cemetery in New Philadelphia.
The Dick family of brickmakers, including Peter and Charles Dick, constructed brick buildings all across Tuscarawas County from the 1860s into the first quarter of the 20th century. Many of the county’s brick schoolhouses were built by the family and thousands of children attended school in buildings built by their hands. The Dick’s little brick home on West Ray is out of scale with the contributions of this enterprising family.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.