UPDATED 04/28/2020: See Ancestry DNA updates below this story.
Rufus with daughter Frankie (middle) circa 1906The origins and lives of Rufus and Sarah Dodge probably make them one of the most mysterious, confusing, and intriguing couples in my family tree. They have definitely caused me the most grief in my digging, but in Sarah's case, the most rewarding when I found answers.
Rufus H. Dodge was born on 16 Dec 1825 in what is believed to be Harpersfield, Ashtabula, Ohio.1, A His parents are unknown and Harpersfield is based off a mysterious entry in a long passed relative's family tree.2
Family record believes that Rufus Dodge and Sarah Bryant were married on 11 Jun 1844 in Sharon, Mercer, Pennsylvania.2, D Sharon was just up the road a few miles from Pulaski, Lawrence, Pennsylvania, Sarah's mother's location on the 1850 census.E
Dodge Family 1860 CensusTogether they lived in what’s written as Springfield, Mahoning, Ohio in 1860 where Rufus was working as a Day Laborer.12, F They would have 3 daughters, Harriet Adaline, Frances Jane and Georgia Anna. Rufus and Sarah liked to use nicknames and nicknamed their daughters Hattie, Frankie, and Georgie.
By 1863, Rufus is officially documented in the profession of stage coach driver in Springfield13 and later referred to as a Teamster. Rufus would have driven paying customers from town to town like a long distance taxi. It is believed he held this profession much longer than noted.G Stage coach driving was dying by the mid 1860's as the railroad was taking the passenger market away from stage coaches. The logical transformation was for Rufus to become a teamster. Teamsters would drive supply wagons pulled by horses from town to town making him the trucker or semi-truck driver of the 1800’s.
Soon after (somewhere between 1864-1865), the Dodge family relocated from Petersberg and moved to North Ridgeville, Lorain, Ohio (known as "Ridgeville Township" until 1960). The Dodge family was living here by the summer of 1865, when eldest daughter Harriet married Joseph Wilford.14
In the summer of 1868, Harriet would pass away from consumption15 (now known as tuberculosis) and her daughter Adela Harriet Wilford, who is just over a year old, would come to live with her grandparents Rufus and Sarah.
1870 Dodge Family CensusIn 1870, the U.S. Census was take in North Ridgeville on the 20th of August. The Dodge household was counted with Rufus, 43, as head of household, wife Sarah, 42, daughter Frances, 7, and granddaughter Adela Wilford, 3.16
On the 1880 census we find Rufus, 53, and Sarah Dodge, 51, living in (North) Ridgeville, Lorain, Ohio with daughters Frances J., 17, Georgie A., 7, and granddaughter Adella H. Wilford, 13.17
In 1884, daughter Georgiana would also pass away of Erysipelas in what the local paper called a “painful sickness of 3 or 4 days”. Georgie was only 12 years old. The paper went on to say “She was a favorite in school, and her schoolmates draped her desk and seat in mourning, and erected a beautiful arch of flowers over them.” 18
Sarah Dodge died on 18 Jan 1897 in North Ridgeville, Lorain, Ohio1 at either 67 or 69 years (depending on the year of birth you use). She was buried on 20 Jan 1897 19, 20 in what is believed to be Ridgeville Center Cemetery in North Ridgeville, Lorain, Ohio. (Ridgeville is unable to verify a burial plot, even with my certificate of purchase, as their burial map died with the original sexton and no headstone can be found for Sarah. This most likely means Sarah was either buried with a temporary wooden headstone that decayed or without a headstone in an unmarked grave on the cemetery grounds. It's possible she was buried next to her mother Harriet Harris who has a permanent headstone.)
After Sarah passed away, Rufus moved to Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio.20 Here he joined his daughter Frances, 38, her husband George Christian, 41, and his seven grandchildren, Edward, 16, Fredrick, 14, Lucille, 12, Stanley, 10, Lester, 7, Mona, 4 and Howard, 2, at their house on 11 Gregg Street in what was written as ward 42.21
Sometime between 1900 and 1907 the Christian family, relocated to Medina, Ohio and bought a home at 240 North Huntington Street. Here Rufus lived out the final years of his life surrounded by his daughter and grandchildren.
Death of Rufus Dodge (1907)Rufus died of pneumonia on 23 Feb 1907 in what his death record listed as Granger, Medina, Ohio.22 The local paper, The Medina Gazette, listed Rufus as being buried "at Weymouth” 23 in what I can only conclude to be at Weymouth Cemetery in Weymouth on the north end of Medina. (I have traveled to Weymouth Cemetery multiple times and, in the same fashion as his wife, I have been unable to locate a grave site for Rufus Dodge. I contacted the township hall and they were unable to help as someone walked out with the cemetery burial map in the 1960's and never returned it. In the same vein as his wife, if he is on cemetery property it is most likely he is also buried in an unmarked grave.)
NOTE: Rufus' family and origins are officially unknown. The only actual family we know if is a man named Daniel Dodge, died 30 Jan 1898 listed on the family bible's death records page. All other information is unknown... A relative of Rufus' daughter Harriet's husband Joseph Wilford (son-in-law to Rufus) is said to have moved to Ellis County, Kansas near a J.R. Dodge. This got me to track a Sgt. Daniel Dodge of Kansas, b.1834, veteran of the Civil War and native of NY. Married wife Emiline A. Fields in Scioto, Ohio 1 Apr 1855 and had 1st son John W. there in 1856. (Some accounts also list Rufus as being from NY). While complete speculation, it is a lead on a Daniel.
UPDATE: Ancestry DNA has provided leads on Dodge relatives via their ThruLines™ program. This program combines DNA results with family tree data to suggest ancestors you might not otherwise have direct evidence of (note: this is dependent on the accuracy of other peoples' family trees and works best with multiple DNA matches from different lines providing similar results). ThruLines™ has made the connection to a Tyler Dodge & Ester Graves possibly being the parents of Rufus Dodge. This connection is made via a sibling of Rufus' named David Daniel Dodge. While none of this is concrete proof, David was born in New York about 1815 and the family was noted as residents of Greenfield, Erie, Pennsylvania by the 1830 census and later nearby Girard. This places them within reasonable distance of the mythic Harpersfield as Greenfield was 60 miles and Girard was 35 miles away.
Esther Graves' family connection is further solidified by another ThruLines™ link. Esther's father was Nathaniel Graves, son of Jesse B. Graves. Nathaniel had 2 sisters, Jemima and Zilpha Graves. As a descendant of Rufus Dodge, we share DNA with descendants of both Jemima and Zilpha. There is one match to Zilpha and 2 separate matches to Jemima.
While this in itself is not proof, it's about as close as you can get with the minimal number of resources in the area from the early 1800s. The only hope right now is that a document is uncovered or more descendants of the Graves family provide further proof to this connection.
Tyler Dodge (suggested - see update above)
Ester Graves (suggested - see update above)
Sarah C. Bryant, 02 Apr 1829 - 18 Jan 1897
- Harriet Adaline "Hattie" Dodge, 29 Mar 1847 – 31 Jul 1868
- Frances Jane "Frankie" Dodge, 29 Jun 1862 – 09 Jul 1943
- Georgia Anna "Georgie" Dodge, 21 Jun 1872 – 25 Oct 1884
A Harpersfield, Ashtabula is sourced from an old family tree provided to my grandmother Kathryn Winkler from her cousin Betty Davis (of Welker Winkler)... A few Dodge families were living in Harpersfield in the early 1800's. Rufus' death record lists Parkersfield, Ohio as his birthplace, but no such town seems to have ever existed and daughter's death record instead lists Pennsylvania as birthplace. I believe Ohio is accurate based on the bulk of census records and a civil war draft registration claiming such. It would seem Parkersfield is a miss-understanding, hearing, remembering or transcription error of Harpersfield.
B Sarah's daughter's death record references her maiden name yet incorrectly lists her birthplace as North Ridgeville, Ohio. An uncited local obituary also lists her maiden name and provides a nickname "Sally" as well, however possibly in error. There is confusion about her year of birth that 1827 conflicts with her sister. It's likely Sarah was actually born in 1829. Not only is there a gap between Sarah's siblings that can place her here, but census records, where the information was likely to come from her directly, seem to average 1829 as her year of birth as well..
C Sarah's youngest sister Helen states her whole life as being born in Ohio while all other siblings state they were born in NY.
D No state records exist to back this up as marriage records weren't kept in Mercer County until 1880's.
E The Dodge family is missing on the 1850 census. I've checked everywhere and no amount of search combinations, misspellings or wildcards across Ancestry, FamilySearch or HeritageQuest can come up with a result. I've also manually browsed through Pulaski without luck.
F Occasionally, I see records listing Petersberg instead of Springfield, it appears Petersberg is small town about 3 miles south of Springfield along the Pennsylvania border. It's common a slightly larger town that may have jurisdiction over the smaller village or township will get listed in some records instead of the actual location of residence.
G The rapid decline of stage coaches makes it harder to believe he just suddenly decided in the 3 years following the 1860 census to join a quickly dying field. Especially when his brother-in-law "Frank" had been a stage coach driver for 30 years, and would have been able to deter him and explain how work was drying up.