Biography of Ira H. Dodson

Ira H. Dodson. Among the families that have been identified with Champaign County for more than half a century are the Dodsons, represented by Mr. Ira H. Dodson, who still has a portion of the old homestead in Urbana Township.

Mr. Dodson was born in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, August 10, 1855,. a son of John and Elizabeth (McGee) Dodson. His father was born in Ohio and his mother in Indiana. In 1865 the Dodsons came to Illinois, locating in Urbana Township, where the father bought 192 acres of land. John and Elizabeth Dodson had two sons, Edward and Ira, and there was also a half brother, Henry Dodson, who served as a soldier in the Civil War. John Dodson was a notable character in Champaign County, where he lived for a great many years and where he died at the venerable age of ninety-two in 1908. He was one of the greatest wheat raisers in the county. His wife passed away January 16, 1917, aged eighty-two.

Ten years of age when the family came to Champaign County, Ira Dodson grew up here and attended district school No. 4 in Urbana Township. He remained with his parents, taking a helpful part in the management of the farm, and was a prosperous agriculturist before he married and set up a home of his own.

March 13, 1889, Mr. Dodson married Miss Carrie Bell Slayback. She was born in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, daughter of Wilson and Mary Ellen (Vance) Slayback. Her father was a native of Ohio and her mother of Illinois, and Mrs. Dodson was one of five children. She was educated in the public schools of Indiana, at Dayton School No. 4.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Dodson settled down and began their wedded life on his father’s homestead where he had spent his boyhood days. This homestead has received many pleasing improvements at the hands of Mr. Dodson. It is located on the Interurban Railroad, and while a country home it is accessible to all the advantages and conveniences of the city.

Mr. and Mrs. Dodson are the parents of one daughter, Martha. She was educated in the home district school, where she spent eleven years, and then completed her literary training in the Urbana High School and also took musical instruction.

The lives of Mr. and Mrs. Dodson have been closely identified with Champaign County for many years, and their efforts have contributed to the fulfillment of the old scriptural phrase of making a former desert blossom as a rose. Mr. Dodson has many memories of the time when Champaign County was a region of raw prairie and swamp, and the present condition of the county has been accomplished largely through the miracle of drainage.

The Dodson family located in Champaign County before the Big Four Railway was constructed, and their first home was on the original farm. The old district school was near by, and subsequently the district was divided and a new schoolhouse built on Mr. Knox’s land. Mr. Ira Dodson attended both of these schools. Among his early teachers the one best remembered by all the students was a Mr. Cunningham, who was distinguished by the peculiarity of his costume, consisting of a calico gown and slippers. Mr. Dodson attended his last school in the high school at Urbana, under J. W. Hayes.

Mrs. Dodson and her daughter are active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In politics Mr. Dodson has given his undivided support to the Republican party since he was able to cast his first vote. He has done more than merely vote and has used his public spirited efforts to forward the good things of the community. For six years he served as a director of the public schools and has always sought to make the local schools the best possible. Fraternally he is identified with the Knights of Pythias and the Modern Woodmen of America, and his wife is a member of the Royal Neighbors and the Pythian Sisters. Miss Martha Dodson has for years shown special interest in church affairs, her membership being with the Urbana Methodist Episcopal Church. Her working membership is just what is needed for every progressive church in the country.

The industry of Mr. Dodson has brought him abundant success and he now enjoys a large and complete farm of 108 acres. Progress has been the keynote of his life and his well tilled fields are ample evidence of that quality. He is also a very systematic and orderly man in regard to his farm work, and everything is done just at the proper time and in the manner best fitted to accomplish results.

His father, Mr. John Dodson, was for thirty years a successful mechanic in Indiana, being a blacksmith and wagon maker. He worked at his trade before the Civil War. Among other useful things which were made in his shop were the old-fashioned grain cradles. Mr. Ira Dodson has as one of his most prized possessions one of these old fashioned cradles made by his father. John Dodson also employed several hands in conducting his blacksmith shop in Indiana. His home was near a Dunkard settlement, and he made the old-fashioned buggies for the Dunkard people to ride in. It was many years before the Dodson family acquired their first self-binder for harvesting grain. Mr. Ira Dodson always associates the purchase of that modern farming implement with the year that General Coxey’s army marched to Washington, D. C. The army marched past the Dodson home. One other notable procession went by the Dodson place. At the time of McKinley’s inauguration a great horn, six feet across the bell, was made at Decatur, Illinois, and was carried past the Dodson place on the shoulders of six men. It was used in the great inaugural parade at Washington.

After coming to Champaign County John Dodson gave his principal time and attention to farming. He was an excellent manager and at the time of his death possessed 214 acres. He had drained this land, had improved it with good buildings and with trees, and today it stands as a monument to his industry. When he made his will he directed that his two sons, Edward and Ira, his sole heirs, should each choose a man, who in turn should choose a third, and this arbitration committee should divide the property equally between the sons. But wisely enough the two sons, working in complete amity and agreement, did the work of division for themselves and thus kept the entire matter out of court, avoiding any litigation or delay and much expense.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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