Dodge Guest House, Circa 1870, Suomi

Built by William Earl Dodge (1805-1883) for use by executives of the Georgia Land & Lumber Company circa 1870, this is the oldest known house in Dodge County*. One of the “Merchant Princes of Wall Street” and a former New York congressman, Dodge’s association with the area came at the invitation of William Pitt Eastman (1813-1888), a New Hampshire industrialist with large landholdings in Georgia and the namesake of the town of Eastman. Eastman brokered a deal with Dodge to have the county named for him in exchange for Dodge’s funding of a courthouse. The only time Dodge ever visited the area was when the courthouse was dedicated. His sons administered his timber interests in Georgia and this community (present-day Suomi) was named Normandale for Norman Dodge. It was the site of the company’s massive lumber mill and once boasted a population of nearly 600.

Throughout the 1870s Dodge’s Georgia Land & Lumber Company purchased, through questionable deeds, 300,000 acres of prime virgin timberland in the area. Hundreds of rightful owners were evicted from family lands and for 44 years a series of armed conflicts, assassinations, and protracted court battles embroiled the local folk in what came to be known as the Dodge Land Troubles. At least 50 people lost their lives during this turbulent period and by the time the debated deeds were finally settled in 1923, putting an end to the Dodge Land Troubles, the land was completely barren. Though owners slowly replanted or converted their lands to agricultural use, animosities remained.

*-A nearly identical house located next door (now demolished) was the home of company agent Captain John C. Forsyth, who was assassinated there at the height of the Dodge Land Troubles in 1890. A group of about eight local men hired a notorious North Carolina outlaw named Rich Lowery to carry out the deed. The conspirators were found guilty in a trial which garnered attention in all the national media, but Rich Lowery was never found, believed by some to have been murdered by some of his co-conspirators and disposed of in a cypress swamp.

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under --DODGE COUNTY GA--, Normandale GA, Suomi GA

7 responses to “Dodge Guest House, Circa 1870, Suomi

  1. Tommy Moore

    My daddy, born in 1905 , said that when he was young Dodge County was known as a wild place. He said he remembered a local man(Lowndes County ) being wanted for murder and one of the locals said “ he’s gone to Dodge County, they’ll never get him now! I remember in the 50’s hearing that small planes flying out of the Macon airport would not fly over Dodge County! They might be mistaken for a government plane looking for outlaw peanuts grown outside the government allotment program. Don’t know if that was true….

  2. Rosemary Smolinski

    I grew up in this house in the 90s, it is always great to see others interested in the history that went with it!

  3. Lisa Walker

    Sad history. Thanks for sharing

  4. Inez Adams

    Brian thanks for mentioning a little history about William Dodge from New York. At his hands (figure of speech) he caused many heartaches, headaches and all other kind of aches to these poor folks living in Dodge County. He was one mean money hungry man. I have read the history of how he treated these folks, having them turned out of their homes, how he had the ones that fought for their property killed. Taxing them right out of what the worked hard for. The history book on Dodge County and Eastman Georgia is very informative. I really enjoy your pictures. Just had to put my two cents in about this since I read the book and took a harsh disliking to this man named Dodge. Thanks, Inez Adams

  5. gajoe42

    The protagonist in Eugenia Price’s Beloved Invader is Anson Green Phelps Dodge. He is the son of a timber baron who has rejected his father’s expropriation of the timber resources of south east Georgia. Would I be correct in assuming the connection between this house, the Dodge family and the Priced novel?

  6. Deborah Coleman

    What an interesting story behind the Dodge House! I enjoy all of your old, historical pictures. Thank you for posting them.

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