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Leonidas Dodson papers


Leonidas Dodson papers
Dodson, Leonidas
Collection number:
1.00 linear feet
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
State of Maryland and Historical Collections
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

This collection consists of the journals of Leonidas Dodson (1822-1889), banker, teacher, and prominent citizen of Easton, Maryland. The journals are a rich source of information about local and national events, and about Dodson's church, civic, and work responsibilities. They consist of diary entries, extensive quotations and transcriptions, a number of laid-in materials, and information of Dodson's death. Subjects covered include church and religion, disease and death, crime and justice, politics, temperance, the Civil War, and slavery.

Important Information for Users of the Collection


This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

Leonidas Dodson papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.

Alternate formats:

Digital copies of the letters in this collection are available at in the University of Maryland's Digital Collections.


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

Leonidas Dodson was among the prominent citizens of Easton, Maryland, in the nineteenth century. Dodson was born on October 12, 1822 in the town of St. Michael's in Talbot County to William Dodson and Amelia S. Brown. As a young man he taught for several years in the Female Department of the primary school in St. Michael's before moving to Easton in 1854. There he held a number of positions at Easton National Bank, eventually becoming a teller. A devoted Methodist, Dodson served the church as a trustee, Sunday school teacher, chorister, and lay preacher. He was also an active member of the Masons and the Odd Fellows. Family legend held that Dodson taught Frederick Douglass to read while working for his mother's cousin Thomas Auld, who at one time owned Douglass. This seems unlikely, as Douglass only lived with Auld for nine months in 1832, when Dodson was eleven and Douglass fifteen. It is, however, possible that Dodson met Douglass and observed the cruel treatment that Thomas Auld meted out to his slaves. Dodson married Eleanor Jane Jefferson (1821-1867) in 1846, and together they had seven children, of which three survived. The youngest of these, William Patterson Dodson, was one of the first Methodist missionaries to Africa. After Eleanor's death, Dodson remarried and had four children with his second wife, Salina Virginia Barnett (called "Jennie" and "Ginnie" in the journals). Two of Dodson's children with Barnett survived. At the time of his death on November 20, 1889, Dodson had five living children. A Dodson family tree is available online.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The journals of Leonidas Dodson cover the years 1842 to 1889, with the greatest number of entries during the period of 1849 to 1872. Dodson did not have a consistent subject focus for his journal. During the Civil War he reported almost exclusively on war news, while at other times entries were devoted to the health of his family or to church activities. Death, both losses in his family and in the community, often spurred him to write, reflecting on mortality and religion. Generally speaking, the topics covered in the journal include church and religion, disease and death, education, crime and justice, family life, politics, temperance, the Civil War, and slavery. Dodson laid in newspaper clippings on subjects of national importance such as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, or personal meaning such as an announcement of his daughter's wedding. He also transcribed poetry that he admired and in some cases had memorized. After his death, his widow laid in obituaries, a printed copy of a eulogy, and some small flowers from his casket before writing briefly on her own feelings at his death.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the papers of Leonidas Dodson from Carmen D. Valentino in 1984.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by Thomas L. Edsall, June 1987. Revised by Sarah Heim, August 2003.

Processing note:

The volumes of the journal were arranged in chronological order. Where newspaper clippings were laid in, the pages have been interleaved with acid-free paper.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Henry Allen.

Arrangement of Collection

The collection is organized as 1 (one) series.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Journals, 1842-1899 (1 linear foot)

Series I consists of nine volumes of diaries kept by Leonidas Dodson during the years 1842 to 1885. The bulk of the entries cover the years 1849 to 1872. Dodson made entries sporadically, sometimes writing every few days, sometimes letting months (and, in later life, years) pass without comment. Topics addressed include church activities and religion; the Civil War, its antecedents, and results; trials and the law; elections; slavery; education; and temperance. Though Dodson was inconsistent in writing about his wives - his first wedding is not mentioned at all, and his second wife does not appear until the day before the wedding - he noted the births and other important events in the lives of his children, sometimes returning to the journal after years of silence to do so. In his religious reflections, his dead children appeared frequently, with hopes for their eternal happiness and regret for their loss. Dodson was especially affected by the tragic deaths of two of his children. His second daughter, Ethelinda (1852-1854), died from complications of measles that Dodson felt sure could have been prevented if the doctor had been more attentive. Joseph, his youngest son from his first marriage, died in 1871 at age eleven in a firearms accident. On a happier note, Dodson was proud to record his son Leonidas, Jr (Lonny) being apprenticed to a druggist and William being apprenticed to a carriage maker. William's departure for missionary work in Africa caused Dodson both pain and pride, as he recorded in his last entry in 1885. Especially in the first years of keeping his journal, Dodson recorded detailed accounts of church services and religious classes he attended. His religious concerns were primarily centered on his own feelings and behavior, but organizational issues in the church and wider moral issues such as temperance also appeared in his writing. During the Civil War, Dodson kept careful account of the national news and the local response to it. Though not himself a slaveholder, he hired slaves from others for short-term work, but he felt deep ambivalence about the institution of slavery. The sight of a family being broken up on the auction block caused him pain, and the death of a young slave named Emily who he had acquired to care for his daughter Ethelinda led Dodson to an impassioned declaration - if only to his journal - of the common humanity of free white men and black slaves. Yet he also made reference to the preferrability of slaves to "indifferent free Negroes" and expressed uneasiness about the possible results of the Fifteenth Amendment. Dodson was apparently a Democrat, as he always made careful note of the time and place of the Democratic National Convention. In addition to the predominant diary material, the journals include extensive quotations and transcriptions of literature, newspaper articles, correspondence, lectures and sermons, student essays and school attendance correspondence, notes, and certificates. Finally, the last volume includes pasted-in newspaper clippings concerning Dodson's death, as well as Virginia Dodson's handwritten memorial to her husband and dried flowers from his casket. Arrangement of the volumes is chronological.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Journal (Online), 1842 series 1box 1folder 1
Journal (Online), 1843-1850 series 1box 1folder 2
Journal (Online), 1851 series 1box 1folder 3
Journal (Online), 1852-July 1853 series 1box 1folder 4
Journal (Online), August 1853-September 23, 1854 series 1box 1folder 5
Journal (Online), September 28, 1854-February 24, 1856 series 1box 1folder 6
Journal (Online), March 3, 1856-1863 series 1box 2folder 1
Journal (Online), 1864-1872 series 1box 2folder 2
Journal (Online), 1873-1889 series 1box 2folder 3

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