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Early Chicago Resident Predicts that New Western States Will Become “granaries for those on the Sea board,” Mentions Theodore Parker, and Geneva Illinois
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I was reading some of Mr [Theodore] Parker’s writings by the bye the other day, and was very much struck with their earnestness. I was surprised too to find how much of the pure ore is contained in them…

A few years, and these new States will be granaries for those on the Sea board…. I had occasion a short time since to go to Geneva [Ill.]… and the whole country was like a garden... with your love for natural beauty, you would enjoy such a sight right well.

John Dodge writes to his first cousin Samuel Johnson, attending Harvard Divinity School, about family genealogy and goes on to discuss the remarkable growth of Chicago. Dodge served as the first secretary of the Chicago board of trade from 1849 to 1853, and in the 1850s directed the land department of the Illinois Central Railroad. Johnson, the recipient, eventually wrote three books on comparative religion that treated Eastern religions as equal with Christianity. His lecture on Theodore Parker was published posthumously as a book in 1890.

JOHN C. DODGE. Autograph Letter Signed, to Samuel Johnson, July 16, 1845, Chicago, Illinois. 2 pp., 7¾ x 9¾ in.

Inventory #25780       Price: $750

Complete Transcript

                                                                        Chicago 16th July 1845.

My Dear Cousin,

            I send according to promise all the information I could collect concerning the family. There are some dates which want filling up, and some names to be added—the descendants of your Aunt Eunice, and your own Brothers and Sisters, for instance—but this can be easily done, and with a little trouble a complete genealogical tree may be made out, and carried back still further than 1726. Aunt Cabot, Cousins Lucy or Susan, and, I should think, Mrs Judge Jackson, can tell who was the father of old George,[1] and when you see either of them I wish you would get this information, as well any other that relates to our early progenitors. I should like to know very well when they came to this country, and who they were, not that it is of any great consequence, but it is well that some one should know all these details, and as a matter of curiosity merely they are sometimes interesting—and then they may give habits of research and investigation. Aunt Cabot I fancy knows more about the family than any one who is now living, and her memory on some points is remarkably accurate—it may be on this.[2] Suppose some day you go to Newton and see her.

            I should be very glad to hear from you at any time, and know of your prospects, and how you succeed in the “search after Truth.” I was reading some of Mr [Theodore] Parker’s writings by the bye the other day, and was very much struck with their earnestness.[3] I was surprised too to find how much of the pure ore is contained in them.

            Do you think you shall ever visit this Western region? You would find it a great—a growing country—no one who has not seen it, can comprehend what it is. A few years, and these new States will be granaries for those on the Sea board. When I first came to this place some eight years ago, it contained two or three thousand people. Now there are more than eleven thousand, and from this you may judge of the general increase. I had occasion a short time since to go to Geneva, a place about thirty five miles from here, and the whole country was like a garden. I thought at the time that with your love for natural beauty, you would enjoy such a sight right well. I know I did, and I have seen so many of the most beautiful portions of the world, that little remains now than a desire to see that in which so many of my friends and kindred are dwelling.

            Give my love to your Father and Aunt Anne, and to all others of your family—to Eunice and Elizabeth[4] —and for yourself accept the best wishes for your well being and happiness from

                                                                        Your Aff Cousin,

                                                                        John C. Dodge

Mr. Samuel Johnson. / Salem.

[Address:] Mr Samuel Johnson. / Care of Doctr Saml Johnson. / Salem / Massachusetts.

[Docketing:] John C. Dodge / Chicago to Salem / July 23d 1845

Historical Background

In 1825, Chicago was a hamlet of fewer than 100 inhabitants. From 1825 to 1831, it was administratively part of Peoria County, and only in January 1831 was Cook County created. Many white settlers in northern Illinois fled to Chicago to avoid Black Hawk’s raiding party in 1832, overwhelming the small village with hungry refugees. The town was organized in 1833, with about 350 residents. It was incorporated as a city in 1837, and by 1840 had grown to 4,000 residents. For several decades thereafter, Chicago was the fastest-growing city in the world.

John Crowninshield Dodge (1809-1889) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the oldest of six children born to John Dodge (1784-1820) and Elizabeth Wait Dodge (1787-1829). By 1832, the younger Dodge was a merchant in New York City, but he moved to Chicago in 1837. In 1839, he married Sarah Lang Richardson (1809-1843) in Salem. After her death, he married Catherine Lucretia Prentiss (1817-1901) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1848, and they had at least one son. His second wife was a great granddaughter of General Lewis Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Dodge served as the first secretary of the Chicago board of trade from 1849 to 1853, and as an alderman of Chicago in 1851. He was a businessman with broad investments in railroads and insurance. He also directed the land department of the Illinois Central Railroad for several years in the 1850s and was involved in the platting and selection of the lands for the railroad.

Samuel Johnson (1822-1882) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the oldest of eleven children born to Dr. Samuel Johnson (1790-1876) and his first wife Anna Dodge Johnson (1796-1849). The younger Samuel Johnson graduated from Harvard College in 1842 and from Harvard Divinity School in 1846, but he refused to be ordained in any denomination. He took over the ministry of the Harrison Square Unitarian Church in Dorchester, but he left after a year because of controversy over his anti-slavery preaching. In 1853, he founded the non-sectarian Free Church in Lynn. After retiring in 1870, he wrote a series of three books on Oriental Religions, including those of India (1872), China (1877), and Persia (1885). These studies in comparative religion treated Eastern religions as equal with Christianity, and Johnson prophesied a Universal Religion. His lecture on Theodore Parker was published posthumously as a book in 1890. He also composed hymns with Samuel Longfellow, the brother of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Condition

Expected folds; tear from opening letter, not affecting text. Wax seal is still intact.


[1] Captain George Dodge Sr. (1726-1808) was the great grandfather of both the author and the recipient. George’s father was Deacon Joshua Dodge Jr. (1694-1772), who traced his ancestry back three more generations to William Dodge Sr. (1604-1690), who immigrated to Massachusetts from England in 1629.

[2] Lydia Dodge (1785-1863), the sister of John Dodge and Anna Dodge, married John Cabot Jr. (1782-1855) in 1809. Her son George Dodge Cabot (1812-1898) married his first cousin Harriet Story Dodge (1814-1881), who was John Crowninshield Dodge’s younger sister.

[3] Theodore Parker (1810-1860) was a Transcendentalist who openly broke with orthodox Christianity in 1841. After parting with the Unitarians, he began an independent congregation in Boston in 1845 that attracted thousands, including many famous writers, abolitionists, and other reformers.

[4] Elizabeth Johnson (1830-1893) was one of Samuel Johnson’s younger sisters.


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