The Dodge Family

Frank Dodge came to Michigan from Oberlin, Ohio, where he had made a career in railroad work and later the hotel business. He came to Eaton Rapids, studied law, and was admitted to the Michigan bar in 1877. He became well known because of his work on a Saginaw Valley labor case representing lumber mill workers. He was a progressive leader of the Democrats, aligned with reformer William Jennings Bryan, and served in the Michigan House of Representatives and as a commissioner of the United States Court. His work with the Knights of Labor resulted from his connections to work on legislation requiring a ten-hour work day when he was in the legislature. He is credited with successfully defending against an attempt in the 1920s to repeal Michigan's law against capital punishment.
Frank L. Dodge
Frank L. Dodge
Abby (1861-1947) was a musician and held a prominent social position in the community. She was named for Abigail Rogers, who was a leading advocate for higher education for women in Michigan and founder of the Michigan Female College. Abby and her siblings were educated at this college just a few blocks from their home. As young women, Abby and sister Eva studied music in Germany for three years. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a charter member of the Matinee Musicale Society. We are told she attended the Boston School of Cooking, which was a center for the study of the latest scientific information about food and diet and publisher of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. She died at the house at the age of 86.
Abby Turner Dodge
Abby Turner Dodge
After they married in 1888, Abby and Frank purchased the house from Marion Turner and hired a local architect, Darius Moon, to enlarge and re-design the house to accommodate eleven family members. The result was an 8,600 square foot, three-story Classical Revival house, with a decorative copper roof cresting, stately Ionic columns and two elegant porches. The magnificent interior was adorned with beveled and French leaded glass windows, large classical doorways, quarter-sawn oak with egg-and-dart trim, and the 12-foot high, embossed tin ceilings. It was on the cutting edge, moving away from the Victorian period. Here they hosted family gatherings, weddings and heads of state.
Dodge Family Portrait

Dodge Family Anti-Slavery Connection

The Turner-Dodge House is conducting on-going research to learn about the two generations of owner families for which the house is named who contributed so much to the establishment of the City of Lansing and to the State. In February 2004 a document from the period when Frank L. Dodge was in the legislature surfaced some impressive family connections that further illuminates his character.

According to this newly discovered biography printed around 1884, Frank Dodge's great, great uncle on his father's side of the family was Nathan Dane, an attorney and framer of The Northwest Territory Ordinance, leading to the establishment of Michigan. As the document puts it, "the immortal Webster gave great praise for the master foresight he (Dane) displayed in incorporating into its measures a clause prohibiting slavery. Thaddeus Stevens, the eminent Pennsylvania Legislator, and also distinguished as an opponent of slavery, was of this same line."

Frank L. Dodge was well known and highly admired for this same sort of foresight and progressive thought. These characteristics clearly come from a family heritage which supported reforms for both African Americans and for women. His mother, Angeline, was a daughter of Bradstreet Stevens who helped establish Oberlin College in 1834, providing a liberal education for both sexes and all colors, and in which students might assist to defray their expenses. Angeline attended Oberlin, becoming among the first American women to be college educated.

In 1868, at the age of 14, Frank Dodge left Oberlin to engage in railroading and traveling and in 1871 went to Eaton Rapids to work in the hotel business with his father two years. In 1876 he took up the study of law and according to the biographical document, mastered the three year course in two years. He became active in the Democratic Party and in 1882 he was elected the State Representative from a normally Republican District which included Ingham County. The biography went on to say, "Though he is the youngest member of the House, from the eulogistic tone of the press, Republican as well as Democratic; from the number as well as the wide import of the bills he introduced, and the skillful and clever manner in which he acted the pilot, and the admirable and diplomatic style of his argument in his replies to their opponents, carrying at once emphasis and confidence and a deep conviction of the merits of the (41) measures. Though youngest member, he is acknowledged an adroit leader of the minority." (Article apparently from a book published by Chapman Brothers of Chicago.

The Portrait and Biographical Album of Ingham and Livingston Counties Michigan contains identical 'artwork' - artwork around letters etc.)

Frank L. Dodge and The Saginaw Valley Mill Strike of 1885

Dodge gained national prominence representing Thomas B. Barry of the Knights of Labor who was charged with conspiracy in the Saginaw Valley labor strikes in the mid 1880s. Dodge knew Barry from when they worked together in the legislature to pass legislation to limit a work day to 10 hours. Strikers worked 11 to 12 hours per day six days a week, leaving time for little else and with injuries most often happening at the end of these long shifts. The new legislation had a loop hole for employers, they need not institute the 10 hour work day if employees could be persuaded to wave this right.

The strikes were part of a movement to win a 10-hour work day and the workers not only did not want to wave this right, they wanted it to be instituted in the spring, while the law was not to take effect until September. They had suffered pay cuts in the past year and they wanted these changes without further reduction in pay.

The state militia and the private Pinkerton forces of the mill owners were called out to quell the strikes. (The Police Chief and Sheriff were both members of the Knights of Labor.) In the end the combination of force, loss of wages and loss of jobs to replacements wore the mill workers down. The situation ended for the time being when the lumbermen eventually left Michigan for Canada after stripping the state of its Pine, though the strike has been judged by some historians to be the most important strike of the 19th century in Michigan.

The conspiracy case was appealed by Dodge to the Michigan Supreme Court based on irregularities in the lower court proceedings. The three-judge panel ruled against the strikers but was split, with Judge J. Sherwood dissenting. The dissenting judge went to great pains to lay out in the decision his objections because he wished to demonstrate that the defendants' counsel's objections were consistently overruled unfairly.

Included in Sherwood's points was that the attorney for the mill owner who commenced the suit and assisted in the jury selection was also employed as assistant to the prosecuting attorney and paid by county funds. This occurred in circuit court over the objections by Dodge to the outrageous conflict of interest. Judge Sherwood also found that there was no conspiracy because it was not proven that the leaders of the strike intended to commit wrongful acts and that the counsel was not given full opportunity to prove this point.