Friday, July 11, 2008

George W. Dodge

George W. Dodge was born 1830 in New Hampshire, possibly the son of George (b. 1800) and Eliza (b. 1806).

The elder George Dodge, a New Hampshire or New York native married New York-born Eliza and settled in Rome, Lenawee County, Michigan sometime before 1840; they were still living in Rome in 1845 and in 1850 when George (elder) was working a farm. By 1860 George (elder) was reported as still living in Rome, married to Vermonter Susan (b. 1802).

George (younger) moved to Michigan sometime before 1850, presumably with his family although this remains uncertain, and in the late 1850s served in a variety of law enforcement capacities in Grand Rapids, Kent County. On May 29, 1857, the Grand Rapids Eagle reported that Dodge had recently been appointed police officer (or constable) for his ward, and, according to the Grand Rapids Enquirer on February 11, 1859, he was appointed Undersheriff, a post he held through 1860, and probably until the war broke out.

In 1859-60 Dodge was Undersheriff and residing on the north side of Allen Street between Summer and Winter Streets on the west side of the Grand river in Grand Rapids, and by 1860 he was a plasterer living with his wife Vermont native Lucy A. (b. 1823) in Grand Rapids’ Fifth Ward.

George frequently had occasion to team up with another local police officer, Constable Silas Pelton (who would also serve in the Old Third). The Enquirer reported on February 17, 1860, that “Officers Dodge and Pelton have arrested four persons who are supposed to be guilty of firing the dwelling house of J. Irwin. The ones arrested are now in jail awaiting examination.”

And on March 25 the paper wrote that “Officers Dodge and Pelton brought into town yesterday a number of the citizens of Courtland Centre, who are charged with assault and battery on one Chase, of that village. It appears that there is a dispute between said Chase and George W. Bush, in regard to a piece of land. Bush got possession last Fall, and kept it until a few days since, when, being absent for a short time, Chase entered the house, put Bush's furniture out doors, and took possession. The night thereafter, Bush, with three men, returned and broke the door open with an ax and put Mr. Chase and family out.”

George was 31 years old and still living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted as First Sergeant of Company F on May 13, 1861. He was quickly promoted to Second Lieutenant on August 11, 1861, and First Lieutenant on January 1, 1862.

George was shot in the right hip on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia and was reported absent with sick leave from July 3, 1862. In fact, Dodge, along with several other wounded officers from the Third Michigan arrived in Grand Rapids on June 17.

“They were received,” wrote the Enquirer on June 18, “by the Mayor and Common Council, the Firemen and Grand Rapids Greys, and a large concourse of our citizens, who escorted them to their stopping places. Their feeble appearance excited the warm sympathies of every beholder for these gallant men who have suffered so much in defense of the Government. Their noble deeds of daring excite the pride of every Michigander, and when this satanic war is over and history records the deeds of valor performed by Northern arms, the names of the Michigan volunteers will adorn its brightest pages, and first upon the record will stand in letters of gold the brave deeds of the noble Third.”

He was still absent in September, but promoted to Captain of Company D on October 20, replacing Captain Fred Shriver. George eventually returned to the Regiment and on February 2, 1863, Regimental surgeon Dr. James Grove certified that Dodge was “suffering from the effects of a gunshot wound in the right hip” and therefore unfit for duty and should be allowed to resign, which he did on February 5, 1863.

On February 13 George applied for and eventually received a pension (no. 23764), and by February 16 George was back at his home in Grand Rapids. In April he was elected city marshal, defeating Frank Boxleitner. He was living with his wife in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward working as a a plasterer in 1870.

Besides his work in local law enforcement, George developed a variety of business enterprises, one of which was speculation in western mines and he was splitting some of his time in Colorado -- by 1880 he was living reportedly part-time in Denver, although he was also reported as working as a contractor in Denver and living with his wife and children. . By 1884 George had developed substantial mining interests in Colorado. On July 28, 1884, the Grand Rapids Eagle recounted an interview with Dodge concerning his recent experiences in Colorado.

His home is at Breckinridge, in Summit County, 110 miles westerly from Denver, where he first went from here. Mr. Dodge says that he is now engaged in mining, and that he regards Summit County as being as fine a region for that industry as there is in Colorado. He shows Denver papers of the week before last in which new finds as rich as ever discovered in the State, within less than two miles from Breckinridge, are reported at length. He says that he has put all his own means into some mining properties, carbonates, and placer mines, and that his prospects are excellent for a handsome return. He shows specimens, assays, plats, etc., which seem to verify his sanguine expectations. When asked why he is here now he said that he had come back where he was best known, for a little help; that he needs more capital to put in tunnels and develop his mines, and has come here after it, knowing that there is wealth here, ready for a good investment, and that he can prove that his mines will pay any one who may become his partner as well as himself.

It is unknown if he ever received the capital he needed, although his continued to maintain his investments in Colorado, and in late April of the following year the Grand Rapids Democrat interviewed Dodge asking him about his mining interests in Colorado.

Mr. Geo. W. Dodge who, with Mr. John Long, is interested in gold and silver mines at Breckinridge . . . is in the city for a few days, and is very much pleased with the prospects ahead for them. To a Democrat scribe he recently said: ‘Breckinridge is 50 miles north of Leadville and about 100 [miles] west of Denver. We are interested in a mine about three miles from the town, and the vein of gold quartz is between 20 and 30 feet thick. It assays an ounce to the ton which, considering the thickness of the vein, is one of the finest. An ounce of gold varies from $16 to $20 an ounce in value. The silver vein pans out $147 a ton. This is also good. I think there will be from three to four hundred stamps put in near there soon. We will put in forty or fifty. The snow is about three feet deep out there now. Denver is a fine city in which it is claimed 100,000 people live, but I never could see where they all are. It certainly grew the fastest of any city I ever saw. Every room in blocks is occupied, but business is rather quiet there now.’”

Aside from his brief business trips he spent virtually his entire postwar life in Grand Rapids, and was a member of the Old Settlers’ Association, the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association and Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 5 in Grand Rapids.

On Saturday morning, July 27, 1889, Mrs. Dodge received a telegram that George was dying in Birmingham, Alabama, where he had gone on a business trip. She received another wire in the evening confirming that he had in fact died on Friday evening, but gave no cause for the death. Dodge had been suffering recently from “bilious colic, but had so far recovered as to be able to attend to his duties.” He was pursuing mining interests in the south, “when a relapse followed and speedily proved fatal. He knew that the end was near, and requested that his Masonic brethren here be notified of his condition, that his wife -- he had no other family -- be notified of his death.” It was reported that “his brethren in the South complied with his wishes,” and when he died in Birmingham, Alabama of bilious fever on July 26, 1889, his remains were sent to Grand Rapids in order to be buried with Masonic honors.

Grand River Lodge No. 34 greeted the body on Monday, July 29, and the following day conducted the funeral at his residence, 150 Sheldon Street.

The ceremonies were conducted by Grand River Lodge No. 34 F. & A.M., of which Mr. Dodge was an esteemed and respected member. He was also a member of Custer Post No. 5 G.A.R., and of the Old Settler's association, which organizations attended in a body. Rev. Kerr H. Tupper conducted the services at the house, and delivered a touching eloquent tribute to the memory of the departed. The pall-bearers were H. R. Naysmith, J. C. Simonds, M. G. Randall, F. J. Everhart, W. L. Bailey, and E. H. Fisher of the Grand River lodge, the latter four of whom are also comrades of Custer post. After the services at the house, the remains were taken to Oak Hill cemetery, where they were interred with Masonic ceremonies. Worshipful Master W. A. Smith reading the service. The deceased carried $2,000 insurance in the Masonic Mutual Benefit Association.

“Captain Dodge,” wrote the Democrat, “was well known and highly respected in this city. He was an expert and competent workman, the plastering and cornices on the city hall in this city and in Denver, Colo. being notable examples of his skill and exceptional integrity as a workman. It was said by those who worked with him that he was so constituted that he could not slight his work.” He was buried in Oak Hill cemetery: section 7 lot no. 53.

In July of 1890 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 298744).

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