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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography - John Weeks Dodge

SOURCE: "Early History and Pioneers of Champaign County, Illinois," by Milton W. Mathews and Lewis A. McLean, editors of the Champaign County Herald, published by the Champaign County Herald, 1886


JOHN WEEKS DODGE, one of the oldest and most highly respected citizens of Rantoul, came to this vicinity in the spring of 1856, and purchased 1,000 acres of wild prairie land, which he began to improve, and upon which he spent some $5,000 in fitting the soil for the raising of winter wheat. This, however, proved an unfortunate investment, and together with his ill-health, induced him to abandon farming and take up his residence in Rantoul, where he established a drug-store, which he carried on successfully for about eight or nine years. Subsequently he opned a land-office, and during a business of four years' standing had operated in 50,000 acres, the commissions from which yielded him quite a little fortune. In 1873 he retired from active business, and is now enjoying the fruits of his labors, surrounded by all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life. In addition to his town property he owns a good farm not far from the limits, embracing 235 acres of valuable land, which he rents for a stated sum annually. Mr. Dodge for many years has been prominent in the affairs of Rantoul Township, representing it as Supervisor on the County Board, and for a period of seven years was Assessor, at the time when the one township comprised an area equal to four. Under his excellent management the expense of this amounted to but $13.50. Subsequently, after the organization of Rantoul Township proper, its other territory being laid off into Ludlow, Harwood and Rantoul, he assisted in its organization, took an active part in the erection of the first and second school buildings, and was Director for many years. He served as Justice of the Peace seven years. He cast his first presidential vote for Jackson. The birth of our subject took place near Whitestown, Oneida Co., N. Y., on the 21st of November, 1808. His father, John DODGE, a native of New Hampshire, was born July 7, 1776, three days after the declaration of American independence, and died of old age at his home in Twinsburg, Ohio, in his seventy-ninth year. In early manhood he married Miss Hannah WEEKS, a native of Comfret, Conn., their wedding taking place in Oneida County, N. Y., in 1800. The WEEKS family was noted for its intellect and learning, the male members following professions generally. The family originated in England, and were among the earliest settlers of New England. The maternal grandparents of our subject removed from Connecticut to New York while young people, and soon after their marriage. Grandfather Dodge served in the Revolutionary War, and was killed at the battle of Bunker Hill. He had been married but a short time before his enlistment, and his wife was married four times afterward, becoming the mother of seventeen children. The family of John DODGE, Sr., and his wife included ten children, of whom all lived to mature years, and five are still surviving. The youngest is seventy-two years old. The mother died when forty-two years of age. The subject of this biography removed with his parents from his native State to Portage County, Ohio, when a boy of ten years, where he completed a good, common-school education, attending three months after he was twenty years old. Under the careful training of his father he also became a practical farmer. He remained under the home roof until twenty years old before he ventured to begin the establishment of a home for himself, but in the meantime had taken good care of his earnings, and was now ready to engage in farming for himself. Among his feminine acquaintances was Miss Susan BISSELL, a lady of fine abilities and excellent education, who had for several years been engaged in teaching, and her he chose for his life companion, their wedding taking place at the home of the bride's parents Aug. 21, 1834. They began life together on a farm, and fifteen years later Mr. Dodge had acquired sufficient means to engage in merchandising, which he believed would suit him better than the further pursuance of farm life. In passing it may be proper to note the fact that a large portion of his capital was accumulated by the labor of his hands, much of time at fifty cents per day. Mr. Dodge opened his first store in the little town of Twinsburg on the Western Reserve in Ohio, which he operated successfully for a period of seven years, after which he decided to try his fortunes in the Prairie State. Of the six children of Mr. and Mrs. Dodge three died in infancy; Orris B. is engaged in the manufacture of agricultural implements at Dixon, in which he has amassed a moderate fortune; Susan J. is the wife of M. J. BEARD, of Rantoul; Mary M. is the wife of A. P. NEAL, a druggist of the latter-named place. Mr. and Mrs. Dodge were connected with the Congregational Church, of which Mr. Dodge has filled the office of Deacon for several years. Mrs. Susan (BISSELL) DODGE, after an illness of several years, closed her eyes upon the scenes of earth May 11, 1873. She was a lady of most admirable qualities, a devout member of the Congregational Church, and the center of a large circle of friends, whose sorrow at her death was evinced in many ways, and especially by the large attendance at her funeral. In her home life and with her family she was the same kind friend and counselor, setting an example worthy of imitation by her children, and uniformly proving the sympathizer of her husband in his difficulties and rejoicing in his prosperity.

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