Thursday, June 30, 2011

EmigranThursday - William Dodds and Mary Hunter Dodds

William Dodds Household, Washington Township, 1870 Census

Welcome to this week’s EmigranThursday featuring William Dodds of Washington Township, Columbiana County, Ohio. His biography appeared on page 303 of Brant and Fuller’s History of the Upper Ohio Valley with Historical Account of Columbiana County, Ohio published in 1891. Additional sources from and

  • William Dodds, merchant and traveling salesman, was born in December 1841, the son of James and Jane Dodds, natives of Scotland. William and his brother Andrew, left Scotland in 1862, came to America and went to Braidwood, Illinois where they were both miners. William came to Salineville before 1866 for in that year he married Mary Hunter, the daughter of Thomas and Margaret Hunter who came from Scotland ca. 1847. Soon after his marriage William went back to Illinois and the mines, but a year later came back to Salineville permanently. His health was poor and he retired for a while, then in 1874 engaged in the general mercantile trade and has been doing that ever since. Two of his three children are living: James H. and Maggie Blanch. Mr. Dodds is an earnest supporter of the Prohibition Party. He and his wife belong to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

I found no information on the William Dodds in Scotland and no entry for him or his brother in the immigration passenger index. I did find a birth record for Margaret Agnes Hunter born in Ayr to Thomas Hunter and Margaret Burnet on 28 October 1839.

The Hunter family appears in the 1850 Census in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, PA: Thomas (no occupation listed, 29), Margaret (30), Mary (9), Grace (7), John (5), Ellen (5), Joseph (4). Thomas, Margaret, Mary, and Grace were all born in Scotland according to the census; however, the birth places for the youngest three children appear to be Pennsylvania for John and Ellen and New York for Joseph. By the time of the 1860 census, the Hunter family had moved to in Washington Township, Columbiana County: Thomas (coal miner, aged 40), Margaret (40), Nancy (domestic, 19), Grace (domestic, 17), John (15), Ellen (13), Joseph (11), James (6), Margaret (4), and Ann (2). Thomas, Margaret and the eldest four children were born in Scotland. Joseph was born in New York, James in Pennsylvania, and Margaret and Ann in Ohio. In this census, twenty-year old Mary Hunter (b. Scotland) is a domestic in the household of the Wellsville dry goods merchant Alexander Wells. In the following census, 1870, Margaret (51) appears to be the head of household. Living with her were Joseph (miner, 20), James (miner, 16), Margaret (14) and Elizabeth (7). It would seem that Thomas Hunted died sometime after 1862.

The Hunter family seems to have participated in what is called step-migration – immigrants move from place to place until the reach their “final” destination. The Hunters probably docked in New York and stayed there for up to six years. It was common pattern for immigrants was to work for several years to earn enough money to move further west. They then journeyed to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania where Thomas probably found work in a coal mine as one of the people enumerated near him in 1860 was a coal digger. Whether he moved the family a bit further west for better opportunities in the coal mines in Columbiana County or whether Margaret Hunter moved the family their after her husband’s death can’t be judged by the available evidence.

In the Dodds household in 1870 are: William Dodds (miner, 28), Mary Dodds (keeping house, 29), James Dodds (2), Maggie Dodds (10 months), Andrew Dodds (miner, 26) and Anna Hunter (domestic, 12). Scotland is the indicated birthplace for the Dodd brothers. The ensuing census records provide no evidence of a third child, suggesting that he or she must have died young in between enumerations. In the 1920 census, the last one before William Dodd’s death on 7 September 1921, Dodd states that he immigrated in 1863 and became a naturalized US citizen in 1874. Mary Hunter Dodds indicates she immigrated in 1848.

What is interesting about William Dodds is that beginning with the 1880 census he not only indicates that he was born in Ireland, but that his parents were as well. Dodds (or somebody) reported that he was born in Scotland in 1870, but not 1880 or 1900. But the 1891 Columbiana County History it states he was born in Scotland, and the most likely person to have submitted the biography to Brant and Fuller was Dodds himself as the country histories were subscription books. The Naturalization index for Columbiana County indicates his country as “Great Britain” which does not clarify matters at all. Since he and his brother were both miners, an origin in Ayr is not unlikely. Operators of American coal mines were heavily reliant on trained men from Britain to work in the mines.

Why the change in his place of birth? Perhaps, at some point Dodds decided he did not want to tell the government (e.g. the census taker) where he was from. Another possibility is that he no longer had any affection for his native land, which might also be indicated by his affiliation with the Methodist Church, as opposed to a Presbyterian one. Of course, a third possibility is that the 1870 census and the 1891 biography are wrong. At the end of the day, I suppose only the Shadow really knows.

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