Dodges of Post Mills, Vermont
Taken from "History and Folklore of Post Mills, Vermont" by Jessie A. Baldwin
George Peabody [Judith(7)( m. Thomas Peabody), Jeremiah(6),yJeremiah(5), Phineas(4), John(3), John(2), Richard(1)]
The Peabody Library in Post Mills, Vermont, has a strange and fascinating history. This library was the gift of a famous and very wealthy philanthropist who lived most of his adult life in England, where he was a favorite of Queen Victoria.
George Peabody was born in South Danvers, Massachusetts, on February 18,1795. Years later in 1868 this town was renamed Peabody in his honor. He was one of eight children born to Thomas and Judith Dodge Peabody. His father died early, leaving his family in debt and with little means of support. George had only a few years of formal schooling, as he was apprenticed to the keeper of a country store when he was only eleven years old.
His introduction to Post Mills came when at fifteen years of age he spent the winter with his grandfather, Jeremiah Dodge, one of the first settlers of Post Mills. The Dodges lived where the Bushways do now. The house, which was burned about forty years ago, was long known as the Fred Turner place. George Peabody must have had a very happy time with his grandfather and his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Eliphalet Dodge. There is no record of George Peabody ever coming to Post Mills again, but in 1866 when he gave the money for the library he stated that the motive for the gift was "gratitude for the kindness shown him during his early life by my revered uncle, Eliphalet Dodge, and his excellent wife," residents of Post Mills.
At nineteen he became a partner of Elisha Riggs, a successful Baltimore merchant. He traveled to New York, Philadelphia, and England on business for the firm of Riggs and Peabody. From this time he became his family's main support, paying for the education of his younger brothers and sisters, and later of his nephews and nieces.
After 1837 George Peabody remained in England for the rest of his life except for a few brief visits to the United States. In 1843 he started his own firm of George Peabody and Co., brokers and international bankers. He was exceptionally successful and began to plan many of his wide ranging philanthropies. In 1854, in order to have more free time to devote to his many charitable plans, he admitted Junius Spencer Morgan to partnership. This was the beginning of the famous Morgan banking company.
George Peabody has been called the first great American philanthropist. In 1862 he founded the Peabody Homes in London as housing for the poor. Here 20,000 persons of low income families live to this day. Queen Victoria in appreciation for this gift of one and a half million dollars presented him with a miniature portrait in enamel of herself. It is now in the vault in the Peabody Institute Library in Peabody, Massachusetts.
To note a few of George Peabody's gifts to the United States, we must mention the multi-million dollar Peabody Education Fund in 1867 for improving education in the South. He founded and endowed Peabody Museums at Harvard, Yale, and Salem, Mass.; a Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore; and in that city also a Peabody Institute Library. He gave five other Peabody Institute Libraries in Thetford, Vt., and in Danvers, Peabody, Newburyport, and Georgetown, Massachusetts.
George Peabody died on November 4, 1869. He was accorded the great honored funeral in Westminster Abbey. His body was returned to the United States on the H.M.S. Monarch, England's newest and largest warship at that time, escorted by U.S.S. Plymouth. George Peabody was buried in Harmony Grove Cemetery family lot, in the town of his birth. Among those attending the final church service were Queen Victoria's son, Prince Arthur; the governors of Massachusetts and Maine, Charles Francis Adams; a Harvard delegation led by Charles W. Eliot; and t ri of Peabody's various institutes and funds.
It is to this famous man, noted for his intense interest in and generous education, that Post Mills owes the gift of a Peabody Library. In August, George Peabody offered to give the village of Post Mills the sum of $5,000 to buil equip a library. This offer was gratefully accepted and a resolution was passed be called Peabody Library in his honor. On September 15, 1866, the first meet the Post Mills Peabody Library Association was held and the following trustee elected: Rev. Charles Scott, Dr. William Dodge, Daniel Dodge, George Dodge, Josiah Coburn. A month later Josiah Coburn and George Dodge were chosen building committee. Harvey Dodge, a younger cousin of George Peabody, sold for $400 the building lot, which was almost opposite his home, the brick house where Walter Straws lives today.
Mr. Peabody sent a long letter in September, 1866, to Rev. Charles Scott, giving great detail his wishes for the library. That letter is in the library records and the following quotations are from it:
"Of the $5,000 which I propose giving for the purpose mentioned, I have placed $1,500 in the hands of Samuel T. Dana, Esq., of the firm of Dana, Dana and Co., South Market St., Boston ... for building purposes or for the purchase of books ... For $1,500 for the remainder I have employed Mr. H. G. Somerby of London to purchase standard and useful books as the foundation of your library." (Many of these original books are still in the library.) 'It is my wish and a condition of my gift that . . . the sum of $2,000 shall always remain invested ... in United States bonds or other safe securities ... It is my wish that the privileges of the library shall be enjoyed ... by the inhabitants of the two school districts ... in the village of Post Mills; and ... to others who ... may reside near them and may be in the habit of doing business at the Village of Post Mills.
"And wishing, as I have ever done, to encourage and cherish a spirit of harmony and good feelings among all, it is my desire that at no time shall preference or distinction be made in the selection of books, or in any matters connected with the library on account of any political party or religious sect; and it is my wish that whenever a minister or ministers of the gospel are, or may be, settled in Post Mills Village, he or they be upon the library committee . . .