A fire licked the home of memories, back in 1947. My father recalled being summoned by the farm’s bell, and dashing up the pasture with his dad to watch a chimney fire consume the Dodson Home Place, built in 1860 just off of Butcher’s Creek, Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Family Bibles, photographs, letters and clippings; beds, clothing, sheets, tables, books, piano – all gone in a matter of hours. Family and friends gathered food and clothing to comfort the Stricklands, and others shared photographs – like this one – that the memory of Oakview and her history might not be buried in the ashes of that tragedy.
Born on 15 August 1856 in Regiment 22 of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, Lillie Dodson was one of ten children: Greene, Virginia, Harvey, Henry, Dora, Molly, Adlaide, Rebecca Eulelia (Lillie), Edward, and William Rowlett (Bud). Her parents, James H. and Sarah Jane Rowlett Dodson, farmed land just off the Boydton Road south of The City.
Mr. Dodson was a planter and slave owner. Miss Rowlett moved with her parents from (Chesterfield County, Virginia) and settled on land adjoining the Dodson plantation. They were united in marriage in (1844) in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.
Mr. Dodson built the old Dodson home and moved into it when Lillie was three years old, about 1859. She said she could remember walking across from the “Old House,” climbing over the felled trees, carrying her dolls. The house had not been completed, and as the War soon started, he never did finish it.
Mr. Dodson gave each of his children a tract of land for a homestead. He gave the Dodson house and a certain number of acres to the three unmarried daughters, Dora, Molly and Lillie.
…Soon after moving to Virginia with his parents in 1870, Clifton Sayles paid court to Lillie Dodson (a neighbor girl). Her parents were still living, and twas too soon after “The War between the States: ended; feelings still ran high. For Clifton’s father, Ira Sayles, had been a Captain in the Federal Army, and Lillie’s brother, Greene Dodson, had been killed while serving in the Confederate Army; consequently Lillie’s parents did not favor the suit, and Clifton married another girl.
This wife, Anna McCullough, died sometime after the census date of 1900, and Clifton again paid court to Miss Lilly, who had remained single.
Clifton Duvall Sayles, born April 11, 1851, in Alfred, N.Y., and Rebecca Eulelia (Lillie) Dodson were united in marriage January 9, 1901 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Born to this union: Anna Florette, born December 4, 1901.
At the time of her marriage, Lillie traded her share in the home with Ed, for his share, called the “Old House” tract, and she later sold it. Ed, Dora and Molly remained single and continued to live at the Dodson home until their deaths in the 1920s (at which time the land was bequeathed to the adopted son, George Strickland.)
George …was a real son to them. He continued to care for and look after them untill their final illnesses and deaths. He called Ed “Master Ed” and said Aunt Dora and Aunt Molly and called their sister Aunt Lillie. In appreciation of the love and care George bestowed on (them) Ed Dodson deeded George Ricks Strickland the old Dodson home place.
Around 1920, George Strickland drove a wagon over to the Sayles home and paid court to Florette. They were married September 28, 1921 in the Baptist parsonage in Chase City, Virginia by the Rev. H. L. Williams. Four sons were born to this union: George Sidney, Clifford Ricks, Paul Warren, and Norman Scott. The family survived the depression by returning to the Dodson farm.
At around the same time, Clifton Sayles died, leaving Lillie a widow; she moved in with her daughter and nephew to help raise the four boys–and made certain that cookies were a regular part of their diet.
Source: Strickland, Anna Florette. Some Genealogical Facts of the Strickland-Sayles Family. Chase City, VA: Handwritten, March 1976.
How did they get to Mecklenburg County, Virginia? What resources could they count on? How did they meet prospective spouses? Why did they stay when so many residents of southside Virginia were moving on west?
Discovering an online source of original documents has been one of the most important moments in my budding genealogical life. Footnote.com has diverse collections with new offerings being added regularly. The footnote viewer is by far the best image viewer anywhere. Stumbling onto this digital archive I whimsically started searching the Dodson side. Lo! and behold! A pre-Civil War document popped up in the Revolutionary War Pension Records. When viewed it became clear that this was just one piece of a 75 page file, filled with family information from the 1840s and 1850s.
Here’s what you can find out:
A pension for Revolutionary War soldiers and their widows was granted by Congress in 1832. Young men fighting in the Revolution were by then elderly men needing lots of neighborly attestation and official witness. Elderly men died and their widows petitioned to receive the awarded funds; their claims of marriage also needed neighborly attestation AND male family intervention since women could not own property or evidently handle money.
In the pension application pulled by my Dodson query were details about William Rowlett and Rebecca his wife–both mentioned in my Grandmother Strickland’s family history as the parents of Sarah Jane Rowlett Dodson who married James H. Dodson in 1844. The Edward Dodson attesting to the validity of William’s claim of service and Rebecca’s identity was both neighbor and Justice of the Peace in Mecklenburg County. Further footnote documents, newspaper articles and register reports suggest that this Edward Dodson is my great-great-great-grandfather. In later papers James H. Dodson acts as agent for his mother-in-law, Rebecca Rowlett. These are my peoples! This file records some keystone information, in addition to personal details.
I LOVE footnote! The site’s multiple collections can be sorted by time frame, name, place, and date; and the search engine, though requiring some patience, is quite good. Within the viewer an historian can read documents and make annotations and/or comments so that subsequent readers get even more from the document. The site also has the capacity to store, organize and share your family’s documents, including your uploaded photos and documents.
Follow me to footnote.com! But be prepared to get lost in time!
We, descendants of George and Anna Florette Strickland, are of the “Dangling Dodsons”, those Dodsons for whom there is no definite connection to the lineage of Charles Dodson, Sr. of Richmond County, Virginia–the progenitor of many, many American Dodson branches.¹
Our American connection begins with a William Dodson, Sr. and his wife Elizabeth, most probably from England and most definitely early settlers of Henrico County, Virginia. In 1688 William Dodson and James Franklin transported eight negroes into the colony. Under the Colonization Act an individual was due certain acreage based on the number of persons for whom passage was paid. Thus the men were granted 360 acres on the north side of Swift Creek, in Bristol Parish, (later Dale Parish, Chesterfield County) which they subsequently divided between them. William (before 1668-1746) and Elizabeth had three children, William II, Thomas and Stephen. William and Thomas both remained in Chesterfield County, while Stephen (?-1755) migrated with an unknown wife to Amelia County, Virginia where together they had two known children, Edward, Sr. and John.
By 1772 Edward, Sr. moved to Mecklenburg County, Virginia where he purchased 95 acres on the little fork of Allen’s Creek adjoining John Hydes spring branch. On 31 January 1785 he purchased from Alexander Boyd an additional 280 acres near the first tract. This ancestor died before 11 January 1808 when a deed¹ was recorded in Mecklenburg County transferring his heirs’ title to the 375 acres to his wife Frances during her natural life. The nine children from this union were:Sally, William, Elizabeth Dodson Beavers, Martha, Nancy (Ann) Dodson Roffe, John, Edward, Mary and Francis.
Edward, Jr. then married and had eight children with an unknown wife(wives).²Stephen, Sarah, Martha, Frances, Lettice, Rebecca, William, and Edward, the third, who married Mary Green in 1814.
Just a wee bit of a problem with this scenario.
On 21 September 1812 a will ³ was presented to the Mecklenburg County court for a Francis Dodson in which he/she listed the following children:Edward Stephen William John (dec’d) Francis Lettice H Rebecca W Sarah Martha Elizabeth Hudson Ann Roffe Polly Rowlett
The last list of children combines the first two lists. What’s up with THAT? One conclusion is that Rev. Silas Lucas invented a generation of Edwards. Another conclusion is that the 1812 Will lists names without properly identifying children from grandchildren, and the Register Reporter listed an assumption not a fact. My d kay s conclusion is that I don’t have enough information to make a conclusion.
I need transcriptions!! Lots and lots of transcriptions! Then cross checks with tax and census lists. Ultimately I will have to create a name index with associated dates…..take road trips……conduct on-line searches……request documents from Mecklenburg County…….and use my Stress Reduction Kit frequently!
Someday I will have a solid connection with this Edward Dodson of Amelia County. For now I have to be content starting my register report with Edward the Younger, who married Mary Green, daughter of William Willis Green, on 7 June 1814, the Rev. James Meacham presiding in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.
to be continued………..
¹,² Williams, Sherman. The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia: a History and Genealogy of Their Descendants. Easley, SC: Southern Historical, 1988. Print.
³ Register Report, “Descendants of Francis Dodson” by the Cox family.
Much of my family’s history was shaped around the American Civil War, so I have been eagerly anticipating the crisis’ Sesquicentennial. Photographs and documents, long held in private collections, are being sought for public collections, like that of the Civil War 150 Legacy Project at the Library of Virginia. Public documents, long preserved and accessed on site, are being digitized and shared on-line. Case in point, Ancestry just announced the assession of several new collections like the US Draft Registration Records and the US Confederate Pensions Collection, 1888-1958.
I discovered that my great-great-grandfather Ira Sayles had blue eyes and dark hair from his 1862 registration in the 130th Regiment NY Volunteers. And I confirmed that great-great-grandfather Francis Marion Minor of Greene County, Pennsylvania was drafted in 1863–but sent a substitute. In the Confederate (Widows) Pensions File of 1888, I discovered that great-great-granduncle Benjamin Franklin Dodson of the 34th Virginia Infantry (Mecklenburg County) was shot through the brain by a Union minnie ball on 6 July 1864 in the lines outside of Petersburg.
I am fascinated by the number of features in this Ancestry collection that prompt the user to explore beyond ancestral information. For instance, this timeline at the bottom of the page begs the reader to review events and examine how ancestor records fit in–pictures, timelines, graphs are often so helpful in this regard.
The events of the Civil War affected my ancestors’ life choices: a carpetbagging Clifton Sayles was prohibited from marrying young Lillie Dodson until after parents died and they were middle-aged. The Minor and Dodson family farms were ferociously tended, defended and passed on as coveted assets–safe havens for subsequent generations faced with their own economic crises. In taking the time to study the Civil War, I have deepened my understanding of my country and my family, past and present. I harbor this hope that I am building a shared memory with other family historians/genealogists, and that this common understanding of our country’s past might inform a more powerful, insightful understanding of our country’s present. Maybe, just maybe, this genea-community can be a force for creative, civil discourse as our country navigates the current economic, political and social crises.