MR. J. H. C. HODGE.
One of Dorset’s Oldest and Highly Esteemed. Citizens.—A successful Farmer and a Shrewd Horse Trader.
Our portrait this week is one of the Oldest and best known citizens of Dorset—J: H. C. Hodge.
Mr. Hodge is a son of Lucy Kent and James Abel Hodge. His father came from Woodbury, Conn., when Dorset was but a wilderness, and made himself a home there. He opened a store with Asa Farewell in the building which is now the residence of William Weeks. This was the first store in Dorset village.
H. C. Hodge was born December 29, 1810, in a house on the place now owned by Henry B. Kent; but the house long ago fell into decay.
In 1813 his father was keeping the tavern in Dorset, but moved to South Dorset in 1815, and Mr. Hodge distinctly remembers this event although he was but four years of age. He also remembers that about this time he saw a leather harness for the first time. The draw parts were collars, the traces were chains fastened to the whiffletrees and the breechings of both horses were fastened to the neck yokes. A rope was tied between the horses to hold their heads together, and the lines were ropes. He remembers, too, when a young man of 16 years, of using such harness. He tells us of his visit to the first grist mill he ever saw. This was in South Dorset, and was managed by Deacon Bostwick.
Mr. Hodge began going to school in 1815, while living in South Dorset. Hardly had he commenced his term when the school house was burned. The committee made arrangements with a Mr. Richardson to hire a room in the old carding mill there (another of Mr. Hodge’s interesting haunts in those early days) and there the term was finished.
When eight or nine years of age his parents moved back to Dorset, onto the H. B. Kent place, and here Mr. Hodge lived until the death of his father and mother. She died in 1825, he the following year, 1826.
In 1829, then nineteen years of age, he earned the first one-horse wagon he ever saw in Dorset. It was quite unlike those in use nowadays, and he soon traded it for a horse. Shortly after this he learned his trade, that of blacksmithing, and worked at it till 1840.
January 7, 1832, he was married to Arrimintha Williams of Pawlet. She was born in Waitsfield, Vt. Two children were born to them—a daughter who died in 1834, the year of her birth, and a son, Albert, in 1835, who is now a resident of Manchester. For a few years after his marriage he lived at Rupert street, working at blacksmithing; then he went to Pawlet, where he remained four years. His next residence was in his native town, where he worked a year making door-latches. The year of 1840 found him residing on the Mrs. F. E. Hatch place in Dorset village.
It was in 1840 that he heard Daniel Webster’s famous speech on Stratton Mountain. Great was the political excitement at that time—Martin Van Buren, then president of the United States, had been renominated by his party, and the Whig candidates were Harrison and Tyler. Vermonters were all wide awake at this election, and when the great Daniel Webster accepted the invitation to address a mass meeting at Stratton, many hundreds climbed the mountain to hear him speak. Mr. Hodge was one of the number. It certainly must have been well worth the time spent to have heard the speech, although but the first sentence is remembered: “Fellow citizens, I have come to meet you among the clouds.”
In 1848 Mr. Hodge rented his ‘black-smith shop, thinking he would like to change his occupation, and hired out to peddle tin for a party in Bennington, at $20 per month, and he furnished his own horse. This he did, paying $75 for it. Hardly had he completed his purchase when he had an opportunity to trade. Always ready for trading, a satisfactory arrangement was soon made by both parties and horses were “swapped,” Mr. Hodge getting $5 by the trade. He left Bennington Monday; Thursday night found him four and one-half miles beyond Pawlet on the road to Middletown. Here another trade was made with $40 more to Mr. Hodge’s advantage; and next day still another, this time the “boot” being $45. Saturday night found him with his family, but on Monday morning he was ready to start again. Another trade awaited him—and the last. He made $15 this time but liked the horse so much he kept the animal until he was through peddling.
In 1850 he sold the Hatch place and moved into the hotel at Dorset village, “keeping the tavern” for a number of years—and a cold-water tavern, too; but he did a good business. In 1852 he was elected collector and constable of the town, and held the office six years.
In 1854 he was engaged as clerk by Reed & Sheldon, who owned a store where J. M. Armstrong is now situated. His next home-seeking move was on the old turnpike road, west of the village, first living at the Henry Farewell place, later building a house on Stannard Hill, and then purchasing the Alfred Field place in 1860. From the thirty-five cows he kept during his residence there he made 4,000 pounds of cheese, which he sold at Granville, N. Y., for twenty cents per pound. After a time he had an opportunity to sell the farm at an advance of $800 from the purchase price, and was not slow in closing the bargain. In November, 1866 or 1867, he sold the thirty-five cows for $40 per head. From there he went onto the farm now owned and carried on by Charles Jones, moving there in the spring. That season he bought six cows at $60 each, and after milking them all summer sold them in the fall at the price for which they were purchased.
Mr. Hodge’s residence on the Jones farm was not long. He lived on the George Baker place a short time, and then made an extended trip to the West, spending some time in the vicinity of St. Paul. On his return, he purchased the farm near the cheese factory. This was his home twenty-two years, and here Mrs. Hodge died, April 18, 1884, aged eighty years and twenty days. April 3, 1893, he married Miss Josephine R. Green. In 1899 he sold his farm to Miss Cecelia de Nottbeck of New York City, and Mr. and Mrs. Hodge moved into Dorset village, where they are happily and comfortably sit.
Mr. Hodge’s mother was twice married, her first husband being Dr. Cabel. He had one sister, two brothers and three half sisters. None of his near relatives are now living except his son, one cousin, Miss Lucy Kent of Dorset, and his granddaughter.
Mr. Hodge is, as he always has been, greatly interested in town, county, state and national affairs. He keeps well posted on current events, being a subscriber to many periodicals. He has read and been a subscriber to the New York Tribune since its first issue.
Mr. Hodge’s memory is indeed acute; his conversational powers are excellent and his step free. He has always been a strict temperance man and a strong republican. He was born in the time of James Madison’s administration—while the country was yet young—and he has lived to see its marvelous development. Several of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were then living.
Mr. Hodge is ninety-two years of age now, but with his excellent health he bids fair to live yet many years. From this sketch it will be seen that he has been a hard-working, industrious man from boyhood. He has always been respected by his neighbors and has a large circle of friends, who frequently call on him, listening, with pleasure, to his tales of days gone by. Mr. Hodge, in these later years, has kept pretty close to his own hearthstone. He has truly been a good citizen and an honor to the community in which he has passed his life.