Dodge Center and Family Enterprises

The following story, taken from the November 1989 issue of the Dodge Family Journal,  is about a family of Dodges that originated in Hamilton, Massachusetts.  At the end of the story, there will be some biographical information on this family that is very interesting. This story was written by James H. Dodge who is the great,great grandson of Francis.  A portion of the information that he gathered, came from "A, Portrait of Old George Town" by Grace Dunlop Ecker.

Frances Dodge (Robert(5), Isaac(4), Robert(3), William(2), William(1))


The Dodge Center retail and office complex is located on the Georgetown waterfront at K Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C. Built for $10,000,000 in late 1975, this complex tower above the old Dodge Warehouse complex. The Dodge Warehouse is the result of hard work by Francis Dodge, Sr. and his brother Allen.

Frances Dodge, Sr. moved from Salem, Mass. in 1798 at the age of 16. Georgetown was later incorporated into Washington, D.C.

James H. Dodge, Association member and Great-Great Grandson of Francis, Sr. has kindly supplied the information for this article, a portion of which is derived from "A, Portrait of Old George Town" by Grace Dunlop Ecker.

Until 1893 or 1894, the very interesting old house where Francis Dodge and his large family lived for years remained as a fine landmark in Georgetown. This home which was originally owned by Nicholas Lingan, the brother of General Lingan, was purchased by Francis Dodge in 1810. Francis had moved to Georgetown in 1798 to join his brother Allen who was established in a prosperous coastwide shipping trade dealing largely with the West.

One of the first experiences young Francis had after his arrival in 1798, was one afternoon when he returned from a row up the river. As he was mooring his boat, he noticed an elderly gentleman hurrying down the street and out onto the wharf. The gentleman asked if the ferry was in yet, and when the boy turned to answer him and looked into his face, he saw that it was General Washington. Francis replied that the ferry had gone and, noting the terrible disappointment of the great man, offered to row him across the river in his own little boat. The General gladly accepted, and during the crossing asked the young man his name. "Francis Dodge, sir," the boy replied, at which the General exclaimed, "By any chance related to Colonel Robert Dodge, who served so gallantly with me during the War"? "Yes, General, he was my father." "Oh, indeed!" said he, "I am greatly pleased to know you, young man. You must come to Mount Vernon some time to see me."

Whether or not Francis Dodge got to Mount Vernon before the General's death the following year, I do not know, but for over forty years his grandson, Colonel Harrison H. Dodge, was the honored superintendent there.

Young Francis was taken into his brother's counting house, and a few years later, in 1804, was sent to Portugal to investigate trade conditions in Europe.

In 1807 he married Elizabeth Thomson, a daughter of William Thomson, of Scotland. They first resided below Bridge (K) Street, west of High (Wisconsin Avenue),probably in Cherry Lane, where lived also, according to tradition, Philip Barton Key, the Maffits, and other families of distinction.

Mr. and Mrs. Dodge had the usual large family of those days, six sons and five daughters, and all grew to maturity. While they were still small children, however, the British came to Washington, causing great alarm to the citizens of George Town also. Mr. Dodge apparently sent his family out somewhere near Rockville, for this is a letter he wrote to his wife at that time. It gives an interesting picture of those exciting days.

Aug. 26,1814,
12 o'clock A. M.

Dear Wife:

We have positive information that the British have left the City on the Baltimore Road, and passed the toll-gate last night. Some of their pickets are still around the city.

We believe they are either going to their shipping on Patuxent or direct to Baltimore; or that they received information of an intention to attempt to cut them off. At all events I am satisfied you would be perfectly safe here, and much more comfortable than where you are. I wish yourself, the child, Emily, Frank, and Isabella, to come home and bring, if you can, one bed. Peggy and Betty can come if they please.

Not one Englishman has been in this town or within sight of Ft. Warburton below. They have burnt all public property in the city. It was a dreadful sight. The rope-walks in the city are destroyed. The General Post Office and Jail stand. I hope they will not return here again and can't think they will, they behaved well.

The town was very quiet last night and I got a good sleep for the first time. I hope you are well.

Yours affectionately,
F. Dodge.


Aug. 27, 7 o'clock A. M.

After preparing yesterday to send this, William came and advised to postpone till today. You ran all come now in the stage, bringing all the books and what else you can.

We have no news today but expect the British are near their shipping. We have escaped wonderfully.


Francis Dodge's father was a personal friend of Rev. Manasseh Cutter, and therefore had the advantage of being educated by and under the influence of that eminent christian statesman. Frances joined his older brother, Allen, fisrt as a clerk, and afterwards as a partner in trade at Georgetown.   A few years later, his brother returned to Massachusetts because of the health of his family, and Francis continued trade by himself extended it to the West Indies.   That he was a thorough business man is shown by some of his correspondance.   To see a picture of Frances and his sons, read the letter and memorials to him after his death, and see the list of his children, click here.

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