William Earl Dodge, Philanthropist
William was a descendant of Richard Dodge, who came to this country in 1638, 9 years after his brother, William, arrived on these shores.
William Earl Dodge (September 4, 1805 - February 9, 1883), was a New York businessman, referred to as one of the "Merchant Princes" of Wall Street in the years leading up to the Civil War. He was also a noted abolitionist, and Native American rights activist and served as the president of the National Temperance Society from 1865 to 1883. Dodge represented New York's 8th congressional district in the United States Congress for a portion of the 39th United States Congress in 1866-67 and was a founding member of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).
William was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the second son of David Low Dodge Jr. and Sarah Cleveland. David Low Dodge Jr. was the founder of the New York Peace Society.
William Earl Dodge married Melissa Phelps (1809-1903), the daughter of Anson Greene Phelps and Olivia Egleston. In 1833, William and his father-in-law founded the mining firm Phelps, Dodge and Company, one of Americas foremost mining companies.
Dodge County, Georgia, was named for William Earl Dodge. A consortium of businessmen led by William purchased large tracts of timberland in this area following the Civil War. They built the Macon and Brunswick Railroad, connecting Macon to what was then a remote area of the state. Dodge County was formed in 1870 and Eastman, the county seat, was established at the railroad's Station Number 13. William visited the area to dedicate a two-story courthouse that he donated to the county. Dodge's sons later administered the timber businesses in this area. The consortium's ownership of these lands led to land wars which resulted in nearly fifty years of court cases.
Dodge was active in the post-Civil War Indian reform movement. He joined Peter Cooper in organizing the privately funded United States Indian Commission in 1868 and helped institute Ulysses S. Grant's Peace Policy toward the Indians. In 1869, Dodge toured Indian Territory, which is present-day Oklahoma, and Kansas as a member of the government-sponsored Board of Indian Commissioners. He met and discussed U.S. Indian policy with representatives of the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Kiowa tribes. He lobbied for the prosecution of the U.S. cavalry commanders responsible for the 1870 Massacre of the Marais in Montana, which left 173 Blackfeet dead. He also unsuccessfully campaigned to establish a cabinet level department for Indian Affairs. He used his influence in Washington on behalf of Indian educational programs and the General Allotment Act of 1887. A monument to William E. Dodge stands outside the New York Public Library
A grandson of William's was Anson Phelps Dodge who was the subject of one in a Trilogy about St. Simon Island written by Eugenia Price. Read about Anson Phelps Dodge.