San Joaquin County
JONATHAN HOLT DODGE
The qualities which have contributed to success in new countries have always been characteristics of the family represented by the late Jonathan Holt Dodge, a California pioneer of 1850. The genealogy shows the undoubted antiquity and gentle blood of his English ancestors, several patents granting coats of arms, or confirming preceding grants, being preserved in the family to this day. As early as 1635 the first American ancestor, Richard Dodge, came to the new world and settled at Beverly, Massachusetts, where he took an active part in the early struggles of the Colonies, and assisted in the founding and maintenance of one of the greatest institutions of learning in the United States, Harvard College. Others of this lineage bore an active part in the Revolutionary War.
Jonathan Holt Dodge was born in Lamoille County, Vermont, July 21, 1819. He made the most of educational advantages in his boyhood and later gained a broad information, which gave him the power of initiative in the new conditions of the country. In early life he started out to make his own way in the world, and following the tide of emigration he came to McHenry County, Illinois, where he was living at the time of the discovery of gold in California. Eager to avail himself of this new opportunity, to make a fortune in the great unknown west, Mr. Dodge settled up his affairs in Illinois and on Christmas Day, 1849, with his boyhood friend, J. H. Cole, he left for California. They went to St. Louis and there took a steamboat for New Orleans, arriving January 17, 1850. The government steamer, commanded by Capt. David Porter, on which they took passage February 12, 1850, conveyed Mr. Dodge and Mr. Cole to the Isthmus of Panama. There they hired natives to carry their luggage across to Panama, where they embarked on the sailing vessel Greyhound, which anchored at San Francisco, forty-seven days later.
After their arrival they went to Sacramento by steamboat and then journeyed to the south fork of the American River, six miles from where gold was first discovered at Coloma. Meeting with little success in the mines, and realizing the wonderful possibilities in the great interior of California, they soon decided to take up lands in the San Joaquin Valley, and on December 3, 1850, they settled in San Joaquin County. After a partnership of seven years with J. H. Cole, in which a large section of land was held jointly, Mr. Dodge purchased in his own name a large tract near the Calaveras River, a part of the famous Pico Grant. This became one of the grain ranches so conspicuous here in the early days of California.
On November 8, 1859, Mr. Dodge was married to Miss Emily Bray, who was born in Lancastershire, England, and was descended from an old and prominent family. The first dwelling of Mr. and Mrs. Dodge was a picturesque log house. It was on the property at the time of Mr. Dodge’s purchase and was the first house in the county. The house was built by Dr. J. C. Isbell, a pioneer of 1846. A frame building brought around Cape Horn on a sailing vessel was added to the log structure and this continued to be the Dodge home until in 1866 Mr. Dodge erected a large, substantial residence. It is of considerable interest to know that General John C. Fremont on his way from Sutter’s Fort made this site his camping place on March 26, 1844.
In addition to the cultivation of grain, stockraising formed a very important part of Mr. Dodge’s business, and he became well known for the thorough-bred horses, cattle and sheep held in his possession. In connection with this business, he purchased in Merced County a ranch of several thousand acres. Mr. Dodge became interested in grape culture and planted a large vineyard of imported grapes, one of the first in the county. This experiment proved successful and encouraged many others to enter this industry for themselves.
Always public spirited, Mr. Dodge did much to contribute toward the welfare of the county; where for so many years he made his home. He was a staunch friend of the cause of education and was instrumental in establishing the first school in that locality. He gave the use of the old log house for that purpose and soon after donated the site for a schoolhouse and contributed largely towards its erection and maintenance. Especially kind was Mr. Dodge in assisting others less fortunate than him to gain a foothold in the new country. By all who knew him he was held in high esteem and respect of which he was so eminently worthy.
It is to men of the caliber of Jonathan Holt Dodge that California today owes much of its present prosperity and greatness. Though so successful in his early life in California Mr. Dodge later became over-confident in his investments and met with reverses. His death occurred July 20, 1893. A portion of the former property, together with the family residence, now remains in possession of his daughters where they maintain their home, located on the Waterloo-Lockeford Road at the crossing of the Calaveras River. The children of the Dodge family were as follows: Henry L., Clara, now Mrs. M. T. Noyes; Florence, deceased; Emily M., Anna L., and Charles Holt, deceased.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: Tinkham, George H., History of San Joaquin County, California , Page 476. Los Angeles, Calif.: Historic Record Co., 1923.
© 2011 Gerald Iaquinta.