Page 669-670, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Butler County, Kansas by Vol. P. Mooney. Standard Publishing Company, Lawrence, Kan.: 1916. ill.; 894 pgs.


James B. Dodwell of El Dorado, is a pioneer business man of Butler county. The career of Mr. Dodwell is considerably out of the ordinary and of unusual interest. He was born in New York City in 1845, and was left an orphan when a baby, and reared by the Children's Aid Society until about ten years of age, when he was bound out to a woman named Carolina Hawley. His new home was anything but pleasant, and his lot was that of the orphan boy who received no kindness, few advantages, and his recreation was mostly work. He almost welcomed the Civil war which broke out about the time he was sixteen years of age. It gave him new hopes and aspirations to have some place to go, when he ran away from his unhappy home.

Enlisting in the army was considered quite an ordeal for most men and boys at that time but young Dodwell hailed with delight an opportunity to escape from his unpleasant and irksome home, and serve duly organized and appreciative military authority. He accordingly ran away from home and enlisted in the Fifty-sixth regiment Illinois infantry. He was too young to go in the ranks as a regular soldier, and became drummer boy in the regimental band. He participated in a number of important engagements, notably among which was the battle of Shiloh, and he was with his regiment in numerous skirmishes. Later he joined the First regiment Illinois light artillery, Captain Bonton, in charge.

After having served his country faithfully and well for nearly four years, he was honorably discharged from the army at the close of the war. In 1865 he went to Kalamazoo, Mich., where he served as an apprenticeship for three and one-half years at the harness maker's trade. Mr. Dodwell worked as a journeyman in Kalamazoo and became foreman of one of the leading harness shops of that city in a short time. In 1871, he resigned his position there and came to Butler county, Kansas. Athough[sic] he was a first-class harness maker, there was not much demand for that class of work here on the plains in the early days. The country was sparcely settled and even then most of the settlers had oxen instead of horses, and the equipment of an ox team created no demand for a harness maker. No one but a blacksmith and a carpenter need apply in equipping an ox team. Therefore Mr. Dodwell was unable to find employment at his trade and proceeded to work at whatever else he could find to do. One of his first jobs in this county was cutting cord wood at 50 cents per cord. He then drove stage for a time on the line between Florence and El Dorado. He found this to be a very unpleasant job on account of the cold and frequency of blizzards in the early days. He recalls rescuing J. T. Nye, from freezing to death in a blizzard, whom he found in a dazed condition from the extreme cold, and took him to the stage station and gave him shelter. Mr. Nye afterwards became probate judge of this county.

Mr. Dodwell's first work at his trade in El Dorado was in the em-


ploy of Bob Roberts. Later he became a partner of Mr. Roberts, and eventually bought Mr. Roberts's interest in the business. Later Mr. Dodwell bought two lots and built his present place of business, where he has since been successfully engaged in the harness business. Mr. Dodwell is one of the old time business men of El Dorado, and for over forty-five years has been an important factor in the commercial life of El Dorado, and Butler county. Mr. Dodwell is well known to William Allen White, and is said to be Watts McCurty in "A Certain Rich Man," of which Mr. White is the author.

Mr. Dodwell was married in 1875 at Plainesville, Michigan, to Miss Rebecca Jane Decon, and to this union three children have been born, as follows: Louis, Carthage, Mo.; Leona, Carthage, Mo.; and Lee, Carthage, Mo. All of Mr. Dodwell's children have received a good education and are high school graduates, and are prosperous. Mr. Dodwell is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and belongs to the Presbyterian church.

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