An Appreciation of the late Richard Elisha Dodson
Written by Will Wood
In 1841 a party of three related families left their home in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire England in a sailing vessel aimed for the New World. In this party was Richard B. Parr and family; John Parr and family; and George Dodson, wife Esther Parr and children — John, George and a ten month old blue eyed baby. This baby boy beheld with wondering eyes the city of New York on July 4, 1841. On April 20, 1922 the kindly twinkling eye of Richard Elisha Dodson, pillar of strength and servant of God, closed on an active useful life of over 81 years.
This party made their way by boat, up the Hudson River and through New York State until they reached Whitby Canada where the late Wm. E. Dodson was born. Leaving Whitby the families separated and George Dodson took up land in Tilbury West. (ed note: on the Middle Road and The Gracey Sideroad).
In this forest grew up R.E. Dodson, and while a young many had the great misfortune to lose his right arm while hunting. This handicap would have ruined the lives of many but he was of a sturdier mental and moral character. He became a school teacher, and later resumed farming. Always an enthusiastic and earnest worker in the community, he became School Director, Justice of the Peace, Reeve and Liberal candidate for Provincial Parliament. Straightforward and frank, he would go down to defeat rather than swerve one iota from the right as he saw it. As a businessman he was a success accumulating considerable wealth.
He was an Elder in the Presbyterian Church (St. Andrews Presbyterian in Comber), but his stern religion was modified by hard headed common sense which recognized that men might walk various paths towards the same destination.
“How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord is laid for your Faith in excellent word”. Daily was his sonorous voice heard in a reading from The Book, his preference seeming to be for the Epistles of St. Paul, the stately Psalms and the writings of Solomon. The reading finished, he led his family to the throne of God “in whom we live, and move and have our being”.
His sorrow over the death of his oldest daughter in 1910 (Nellie Dodson Wallace) was softened by his satisfaction at finding her Bilble marked in many passages of consolation and hope.
Sociable and intellectual, he delighted in both a good story and a profound discussion. Hospitable, his latch string was always out and relative, friend, preacher, teacher, agent or tramp found himself received with fine discernment of true hospitality.
Ed note: Richard Elisha Dodson was my great great grandfather, father of Nellie Dodson Wallace cited in the above article. I found this article in scrapbook of my grandmother’s that I hadn’t seen before. I have only started learning about this great great great grandfather, but what I have read shows me that we likely would have enjoyed each other’s company very much. And what a coincidence that I discovered the above article about his life just this week — the anniversary of his death was yesterday, Which is also the birthday of his great great great grand daughter Lori Fenner Kujbida)
A bit more about Richard’s life: He was only a year old when the family left England. He was baptized in Godstone, Surrey, which was the place where the first public railroad in the world was constructed (the Dodsons were railroad contractors. After coming to Canada, the eldest son John Parr Dodson continued in the trade, working for the Great Northern Railroad in Barrie.)
Richard lived all of his life in Tilbury West (except when he was a tiny baby in England, that is). Having shot off his arm in his teenage years, he went into a career where the missing limb would not be an impediment to success. He studied to be a teacher in Toronto in 1861. After returning to Tilbury West, he was a teacher for 12 years at the Ruscomb School, which at the time was on the south side of the middle road just west of the Ruscomb River (farm of Diggery Hobbs). His wife, Emma Morris, lived with his parents on their farm, Royal Oak Farm, west of Comber near the Gracey Sideroad while he maintained his position. The distance of approx. 7 miles was too long a trip to be able to return every night. He would have been the teacher of my Great Grandfather Adam Fenner Jr., whose grandson William married my mother, Helen Wallace (Nellie’s grand daughter). Emma Morris, Richard’s wife, was a daughter of one of the founding families of Tilbury West. She was born in 1844, and passed away in 1922. She married Richard in 1868. Richard also ran for provincial parliament in the 1894 election under the banner of the Patrons of Industry, a Canadian farmers’ organization formed in 1890 that cooperated with the urban labour movement to address the political frustrations of both groups with big business (sounds pretty socialist to me — I like that). My Grandfather (Richard’s grandson) was also very involved in public service. Seems like it’s in the Dodson blood.