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He was educated for the ministry and was a teacher for forty years.
At the age of sixty-one years he and his family came to Millburn with the thought of retiring in the new land. The Dodge home was located one and a quarter miles south of Millburn, a short distance west of Hwy 45 on the south side of what is now Sand Lake Road. It was rumored it was a "station" for the Underground Railroad. The intersection was called Dodges Corner for many years. James M. Dodge's home was about 1/2 mile west on Sand Lake Road, south side of the road. House is still in use.
New England Bradford blood in his veins and since 1620 the Bradfords had been helping build America. He carried forward this tradition in a new land as a Pilgrim father on a new frontier.
The Reverend William Bradford Dodge and his wife, Sarah Dole Dodge, became members of the Millburn Congregational Church, November 17, 1844, by letter from the Howard Street Church, Salem, Massachusetts.
Millburn Church was organized in 1840, by a traveling missionary, Rev. Flavel Bascom, and had been served by various pastors on no regular schedule. The church needed a leader, and the Rev. Dodge became the first resident pastor. He was not formally installed until June 1, 1847, when the new "meeting house" was dedicated. Worship services had been held in a little log building which served as school and church up to this time. For eighteen years he ministered to the church and its people, and fathered a spiritual community.
He became endeared to all and was affectionately called "Father" Dodge. He served as Sunday School superintendent for many years as well as pastor. He was loved by every man, woman, and child. "Father" Dodge was a temperance and antislavery advocate. He had been president of the first Anti-slavery Society in his home town of Salem, Massachusetts. He entered heartily into all reforms as they claimed his attention. The work of the Underground Railroad was one that especially claimed his sympathy. It is believed that his home here was one of the "stations" where the slaves, on the road to Canada, were harbored, and then sent on to some other place a little nearer the desired land of liberty. Tradition has it that no one talked much about the railroad which left no tracks.
February 18, 1846 "Father" Dodge was named as president of the Lake County Anti-slavery Society.
Everything that affected the life of his people concerned "Father" Dodge. On numerous occasions he had seen smoke and flames that spread the news of a disastrous fire. In a few hours a farmstead was leveled, and years of saving and slaving were nullified. "Why not share one anothers losses and so fulfill the law of love?" reasoned "Father" Dodge. As a result the mutual Insurance Company of Millburn was formed in 1855. It was organized March 12 of that year and operated without a charter until 1865, at which time it received a special charter under which it operates today. It has the distinction of being the oldest mutual company in the state of Illinois.
As a result of failing health "Father" Dodge asked to be relieved of his duties as pastor of Millburn Church, the request was granted and in November 1862 he retired.
It is not too much to say Millburn owes more to him than any other man. Many years of faithful service in the formative period left its impress which nothing can erase. He passed away April 1, 1869 and was buried in Millburn Cemetery. No descendants living here now.
Dodge, William Bradford Family:
William Bradford Dodge born 1783 died 1869
Sarah Dole Dodge, wife born 1781 died 1890
William B. D. Gray entered the ministry and left the area.
To return to William A. Gray - he married Sarah Alvord, a Millburn girl, October 1847 and they made their home in Waukegan for several years. There he devoted his time to mercantile pursuits. They had three children: Charles (1850), Sarah Elizabeth (1853) and George (1860). Charles worked and received training in printing in the commercial department of the "Waukegan Gazette" and the "Chicago Inter - Ocean."
Next we hear of him he was made editor of "The Riverside Press", Appleton, Minnesota (1880).
Later that same year his parents came to make their home four miles out of town.
One December day he (the father) walked into town as he often did to assist in getting out the "Press". During the afternoon one of those sudden blizzards came up. In town it did not seem too bad so he set out for home. Darkness came early and the storm shut out all traces of the track. He wandered on and on until at last, within a half a mile of his own door exhaustion and despair struck him down. Folks in town did not realize how bad the storm was and folks at home supposed he had stayed in town. At last folks realized he was missing and a searching party set our to find him. They found him where he had fallen in the snow, dead from exhaustion. New friends there and old friends here were saddened by the news.
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