Francis Dodge

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A letter from Francis to his son, Francis

GEORGETOWN, December, 1828 -

DEAR FRANCIS:--l feel constrained to write down some things which suggest themselves to me as being proper and important for your government and guide. Remember they are from your father who feels the greatest possible interest for your welfare and happiness, and nothing will give him more pleasure than to see and know that your conduct through life is unexceptionable, and on the other hand, any bad habits or bad acts would produce the keenest and deepest misery.

" At the first, therefore, think that you, being the oldest son, are to set an example for your younger brothers who will expect and claim any indulgences that you may be permitted, and who will be more easily led along the right path if you first mark out and walk it. I will award to you so far, general good conduct, and your attending church and refraining from drinking, swearing, etc., is highly approved of, as also a great many other good acts, and I do not believe you have yet mixed with bad company or been guilty of any bad acts, and I now undertake to write, more to prevent your getting into bad habits than to get you out of them, an ounce of prevention being better than a pound of cure. My plan for you in life is to stay with me as assistant, and bye and bye, to have share of the business, and to continue in it after I leave off, by declining it or by death, and I hope you will be quite able to get a good living by the same sort of business I have pursued.

"In all your intercourse with the world in business, be very particular to be always just, and deal on the strictest principles of honesty and fairness, and mix all with an obliging and friendly feeling. I recommend through life, indeed I order it, that you refrain altogether from securities of any kind; depend upon it, more injury is done to society by being bound for one another than all the good it ever did by ten-fold, and ruin oftener arises from that cause than from any other. The course that I wish and expect you to take with your time, is to be regular at your business and attentive, and that you fill up your leisure time at the store and house in some studies, say historical reading, geography, the Bible, and such like useful and lasting information, and in teaching the children, etc., all of which will reward you ten-fold. I shall not expect you to go out at night, except to some respectable families and then to name your intention to some of the family, and the more seldom you go out in reason the better. In going, divide your time around among your acquaintances to avoid any idea that you be more attached to one than another, and always return in early hours, never keeping company with swearers, drinkers, gamblers, Sabbath breakers, or any one fond of or addicted to any vices. Leave them instantly and to themselves. I shall also insist that you form no matrimonial engagements without the consent of your parents, and not until you are twenty-five years old at least, and not until you are in some business by which you can maintain a family. And withal remember that an honest, steady, prudent, industrious, unambitious life will insure a good living and probably riches, honor, and all that makes this life comfortable. Recollect that I have eleven children, and to clothe, feed and educate them and provide for the whole family must and does, cost a very large sum yearly, and that while I am in business I am liable to losses to the extent of all I am worth in the world; therefore, it will be altogether uncertain how much I shall be able to leave, if indeed anything, and whatever it may be, as it will have to be divided among so many, no great amount can fall to the share of any one. It follows that I must and it is my duty to economize and avoid all extravagances in dress or any other way, and I call on you as the oldest son to set the example and not to spend unnecessarily one dollar more than will make a decent and comfortable appearance without meanness. Let these things rest on your mind and keep them and read them over now and then and let me have the pleasure to see you conduct yourself according to what has been written, so that I can rejoice in your continued and continual good conduct.

"Yours truly,



Obituaries for Francis Dodge

The esteem in which he was held by those who knew him best, is shown by the following, taken from the National Intelligencer, mostly copied from the Georgetown Independent:


It is due to our esteemed neighbors of Georgetown to place in our columns the subjoined interesting retrospect of the worthy men who gave an impulse and steady advance to her prosperity and value to her social circles.

[From the Georgetown Independent]


"The hand of the diligent maketh rich"

"The late Francis DODGE, Esq.. though not a native of this place, yet it was his permanent home by adoption. As a merchant he was widely known and respected. Owing to his ability and the extent of his business, he exercised a controlling influence over our commercial transactions. By perserverance, careful guardianship over his own affairs, and foresight he became one of our wealthiest and most prominent citizens. For a long term of years he was the representative of his fellow-townsmen in our Corporate Councils. Upon all matters of public interest connected with the welfare and prosperity of the town, his judgment, sound and discriminating, was consulted, and seldom was his decision upon any question overruled. As the author of the "sinking fund" scheme he is entitled to our grateful remembrance - a scheme which has in a few years liquidated some ten or fifteen thousand dollars of our funded debt, and which, in its future operations, is expected to liquidate it entirely.

"The sinking fund is progressing with the most encouraging success, and, if properly sustained by the corporate power, as I am sure it will be, it will accomplish its great work of extinguishing our debt in less than twelve years, without withdrawing a dollar from the treasury, and without imposing the slightest burden upon the pockets of the people."

-Mayor's -Message, May 7, 1851.

With a mind strongly prudential, and always acting with marked integrity, he had strong claims upon the confidence of those by whom he was surrounded. We need not say that these claims were liberally regarded and freely acknowledged. In the midst of his usefulness, he was called by an All-wise Providence to throw off the mortal coil, and enter upon that state of existence when the mortal assumes the immortal and the all-glorious body of the blest.

Upon his demise our corporate authorities were not remiss in their duty to this eminent citizen. The following is the communication of the Mayor to the assembled Boards of Common Council and Board of Aldermen:


GENTLEMEN:-I have to perform the melancholy duty of announcing to you the decease of Francis DODGE, Esq. His long and honorable career as a sagacious merchant, his uniform identity with enterprises for the advancement of the public good, his considerate and unobtrusive acts of benevolence, his exemplary purity of private life. and valuable services in our Corporate Councils, with but few and temporary intermission, for the last forty-five years, call for your marked recognition and profound respect.

You are therefore assembled to make suitable arrangements for attendance at his funeral, and to give a becoming expression of your appreciation of the deceased's eminent merits, and the serious loss which has been occasioned by this mournful event.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. ADDISON, Mayor.

Hon. Board of Aldermen and Board of Common Council.

Space does not permit a copy of the resolutions which were passed by the corporation, embodied in the highest terms of respect. The corporate debt referred to above, and which was all paid off under his funding scheme, amounted to $130,000. When W. W. Corcoran, the noted banker, was negotiating his first loan with the United States Government, Francis Dodge, Sen., was the first subscriber, and for $30,000. In 1849, as a private banker, he issued quite a large amount of notes for circulation which were considered good. It was one of the satisfactions of his latter years that he had been able to do so much for the benefit of the town of his residence. How well it was appreciated did not appear until after his death. In the National Intelligencer of November 4, 1853, under the title of "Our Great Men," it speaks of Georgetown as "either the birth-place, permanent residence, or starting point of many eminent men," among whom it mentions George Peabody, who began business there; Elisha Riggs, a wealthy banker; W. W. Corcoran, a native of Georgetown, eminent for his wealth and his charities; Francis Dodge, Sen., and others. Space, however, does not permit a biography.


Biographical notes

Francis Dodge was m. in Georgetown, D. C., 19 April, 1807, to Elizabeth Thomson, b. 23 September, 1787, at Annapolis, Md.; d. 2 September, 1845, the dau. of William and Elizabeth (Peterkin) Thomson, who came to America in 1784, lived first in Philadelphia, then in Annapolis, and next in Georgetown, D. C., and had children, William, Elizabeth, George, Isabella, John and Mary. William Thomson, Sr., was son of James Thomson, born in Forres, Elginshire, Scotland, and m. Janet Laird. Children of Francis and Elizabeth Dodge were:

i. MARY BOARDMAN, b.3lMay,l808; m.2O July,1836,to Lieut.A.Hamilton Marbury, u. S. N., son of William Marbury, of Georgetown. Children: 1, Elizabeth Marbury, b. 20 March, 1837; 2, Anna Marbury, b. 8 Feb., 1839; 3, William Marbury, b. May,1842. The mother,a widow,d.28 May,1881.

ii. FRANCIS, b. 7 Nov. 1809; d. 12 March, 1881. This is the son to whom the letter (above) was written. M. 24 October 1833 to Jane E. Chapman, by Rev. John T. Brook. Children: Henry Henly, Francis, Elizabeth, Samuel Davidson, Ella Strachan, Margaret Davidson, Forrest

iii. EMILY, b. I Oct. 1811; was the first child born in the homestead on Stoddert street, purchased in 1810. She never married, but always lived in the same house, to be the pride and comfort of the whole family. She was benevolent and kind to the poor, always a faithful nurse to the sick at home, or among friends and neighbors, earning a place of honor and love by all who knew her. During her father's last illness, with his family assembled about him, he pronounced her "a noble example to all." She d. 30 March, 1891.

iv. ELIZABETH, b. 9 Nov. 1813; d. 15 July, 1840, unm.

v. ALEX. HAMILTON, b. 15 Oct. 1815; d. 4 Feb., 1878. Was named Hamilton after Hamilton, Massachusetts, but while at Princeton, added the first name Alexander against his father's wishes. M. 11 December 1838, Anna Howell, dau. Of Dr. Samuel Howell of Princeton, NJ. 9 children but the last four died young. The others were: Frank Thompson, Mary Howell, Elizabeth, Harrison Howell, Anna Howell.

vi. ROBERT PERLEY, b. 1 Sept. 1817; m. Caroline R. Heath. 5 children; James Heath, Catherine Jane, Emily Josephine, Carrie Roberta, Neenah

vii. WILLIAM, b. 8 Nov. 1819; m. Sarah E. Mason. M. 4 September 1844, Sarah E. Mason, dau. Of Richard B. Mason of Jackson City, VA. 4 children, William, Mary, Francis, Richard M.

viii. ALLEN, b. 21 Aug., 1822; res. Georgetown, D. C. M. 12 June 1849 Mary Ellen, dau. Of Phillip T. Berry of Georgetown. No children.

ix. ADELINE, b. 23 March, 1824; m. Charles Lanman, author and artist, 12 June, 1849. He was the son of Charles J. Lanman, of Norwich, Conn. No children.

X. VIRGINIA, b. 26 July, 1826; m. 12 June, 1849, Ben. Perley Poore, journalist and author, son of Benjamin and Mary Perley (Dodge)Poore, of West Newbury, Mass. Children: 1, Emily Poore, b. 19 March, 1850; d. 19 April, 1879- 2, Alice Poore, b. 27 Aug., 1854; m. Frederick S. Mosely, of Newburyport, Mass.; One son, Ben. Perley (Poore) Mosely, b. 20 Aug., 1881. Alice (Poore) Mosely d. 27 July, 1883.

xi. CHARLES, b. 1 Jan., 1828; m. Elizabeth G. Davidson, 12 June, 1849.

The marriage of the four youngest children of Francis Dodge was, at his request, and on account of his delicate health, celebrated on the same day.