In February 1889, Beaumont Enterprise published
an obituary about a Black centenarian, nicknamed "Old Sock",
in an age when Black obituaries were usually printed only in Negro
"Old Sock" was already gray-headed when he moved to Beaumont
from a Louisiana sugar plantation about 1859. His given name was
Shicole, and following his emancipation in 1865, when he was already
past 70 years of age; he adopted the surname of Dickenson from his
Because of advancing age, "Old Sock" was no longer able to perform
hard work, such as farming, logging, or sawmill labor. Hence he
eked out a threadbare existence, running trotlines and fishing in
"Old Sock" became well known in Beaumont
during the 1880's. Almost every morning, he could be seen visiting
Long's Commissary, Wiess' Grocery, or another store, as he sought
to sell or trade his daily catch of catfish, perch, and bass. He
always carried an old sock, from whence his nickname, tied to his
belt, in which he kept his few coins and other valuables.
"Old Sock" lived in a one-room shanty across Neches River from Collier's
Ferry. Each morning he would run his trot lines before crossing
the river to sell his catch, and the remainder of the day, he could
be seen near the ferry, either pole-fishing from the bank or in
his old weather-beaten skiff.
Wherever he was seen, "Old Sock" was always singing in a mournful
tone and in a language that no one understood, but which was said
to be his native African tongue. One lady reported that his language
sounded like that of her mother, who years earlier often sang to
her in the Ashanti language from the Gold Coast of Africa (now Ghana).
It was generally thought that "Old Sock" was born about 1790, although
he did not know himself the exact year of his birth. He remembered
only that he was married with a family when he was captured during
tribal warfare and was sold into slavery. He was aboard a Spanish
slave ship near Cuba, captured by pirates, before he arrived at
Galveston Island in 1817, when there was only one house on the entire
island. Galveston Daily News of Feb. 12, 1889 observed that:
"...Shicole Dickenson, generally known in Beaumont
as "Old Sock," was drowned last week south of Collier's Ferry. His
boat was leaking and sinking, and he caught a limb, clinging to
it until he was exhausted and he drowned. He died singing in his
native African language, of which country, report says, he was the
son of a chief..."
"...He landed in Galveston
so long ago that he does not remember the exact year, but he says
there was one house on the island at that time. It is believed he
was nearly 100 years old. Some persons saw him drown, but could
not get to his relief..."
Other sources reveal that there was only one house on Galveston
Island in June 1817; only two months after Lafitte's pirates arrived
In early February
of 1889, the Neches River was at flood stage, and hundreds of logs
were floating in the river near Beaumont.
Hence it seems doubtful if "Old Sock's" body was ever recovered.