The Dodge Family Association

The Tragedy of Dodge Hollow 
by George Woodbury
Andrew(5), Thomas(4), Andrew(3), John(2), Richard(1))
(Dodge Journal, August 1985)

The story below appeared in a New Hampshire -newspaper (date unknown) and was supplied to us by Lucretia Dodge of Nashua. The Andrew Dodge mentioned in the story is #629 in the Dodge Family Genealogy by Joseph Thomson Dodge.

A mother and three of her children lost their lives when the great storm swept "Dodge Hollow" one nightmare night in 1848. It was the greatest single catastrophe to strike the river community. As was emphasized at the triple funeral, "The Hand of God lay heavily upon Cornish."

"Dodge Hollow" is a narrow ravine that opens to the northwest of Cornish Flats. It already had an evil reputation before Captain Andrew Dodge took up his farm there. In 1821 a violent summer storm - probably off shoot from an aberrant West Indian hurricane - struck from the southeast. The ravine acting like a funnel compressed the storm as though directed through a giant wind tunnel. No one lived there then, so no one was injured but hundreds of trees were broken off or literally torn up by the roots with the incredible fury of the wind.

Captain Andrew Dodge, who originated in Woburn, Mass., had won his commission in the war of 1812. He was a good farmer but vexed with "woman trouble." "Incompatability" would be the modern expression. He and his wife just could not live together. Divorce was almost unknown in those days. They simply agreed to separate. Mrs. Dodge lived in Hartland, Vt., and the Captain took up a farm in the ravine which soon acquired from him the name of "Dodge Hollow." Their three children were grown up and married and off on their Own.

In 1848 Captain Dodge was 77 years old and not as spry as he had been. He and his housekeeper lived alone in the Hollow rather apart from near neighbors. His son, Andrew Dodge Jr., who was a prosperous mechanic in Boston, Mass., thought that the hot summer in the city was hard on his wife and their brood of five and that a summer in the country would do them good and also help the old man run his little farm.

So Captain Dodge, his housekeeper, his daughter-in-law and her five small children were packed into, the small cottage farm house in the Hollow that fateful summer.

On the 27th of July, 1848, there had been signs of a "weather-breeder" all day. The air was oppressive, swallows were diving low to the ground and the maple leaves were showing their pale undersides as they stirred in the up-draft. It felt like a thunderstorm which would have been seasonable - but there were no dense black thunder heads piling up in the Northeast as there should be. On the contrary the sky was a uniform dirty yellow. "Might be wood fires, up country," Captain Dodge concluded as he went about his ordinary chores.

They were sitting down to supper when it started. At first there came smatters of rain, each drop landing with a splat and making a spot as big as a half dollar. With a low distant scream the wind whistled up the Hollow from the southeast. The rain became a deluge and driven horizontally by the mounting blast of wind, hit the gable end of the cottage house like a fire hose.

Rain drove around the window sash, then the panes smashed inwards under the blast. The windows on the lee side instantly were blown out of the building. But there were heavy Indian shutters in the casements and the terrified Dodges pulled them shut against the mounting storm.

It was an honestly built and well constructed house. Like all houses of the time it was built on a "full frame" with heavy supporting timbers, joined and braced and cross braced like a barn. The heavy eight by eight chestnut timber creaked and groaned as they moved under the terrific impact. When the gusts let up the heavy timbers returned to position only to be strained again. A crack opened in the roof boards. With a rending barely audible above the storm half the roof tore off and vanished into the darkness. IT WAS impossible to make a light. The uproar which had now reached a sustained demonical scream made speech impossible. No one really knew what happened.

The following morning which dawned fair, sunny and clear - just as though it had never thought of storms - brought neighbors to the Hollow to see how the Dodges had fared. Captain Dodge's house was a low jumble of splintered timbers. It was as though a giant foot had trodden it flat. Cries and moans from the wreckage showed some had survived, and in a frenzy of haste they explored the ruins.

Captain Dodge emerged unscathed and so did his housekeeper. One of his grandsons was found unconscious but still breathing - almost scalped by a brick from the chimney. Mrs. Dodge Jr., and three of her children were found crushed under the heavy timbers, but in her arms, sleeping comfortably was her new baby who had been shielded by his mother's mangled body.

"The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" was Andrew Dodge's only comment of the disaster when the word reached him.

Yankees seldom slop over emotionally. The triple funeral conducted by Rev. Nahum p. Foster, drew a bigger crowd than the Baptist Church could accommodate and had to be held out of doors.

Not long afterwards, Andrew Dodge Jr. married again and began another impressively numerous family.

Old Captain Dodge rebuilt on the same location and died there years later, in 1860 at the ripe age of 89. The baby, Asahel, who survived the hurricane, grew up, ran away to sea and eventually lost his life falling from a topmast yardarm in mid-ocean.

His brother, Lemuel, the almost scalped, moved south and became so impressed with the southern way of life, he joined the Confederate Army when the Civil War broke out and rose to the rank of a Major in the command of the wild Texan, Ben McCullough. After the war, 1866, he returned to "Dodge Hollow" in Cornish once, but returned south again and all-trace of him was lost.