Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Julia Dodge Papers, 1855-1861

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, October 2009

Summary Information
Title: Julia Dodge papers
Creator: Webster, Mary, b. 1838
Inclusive dates: 1855-1861
Extent: 13 items
This collection consists of letters from a young Massachusetts girl who had recently migrated to the Nebraska frontier. She described her life in the west, encounters with Indians, and the activities of her brother, Grenville Dodge, in the Civil War.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2000. M-4081.11.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Julia Dodge Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized chronologically.


Julia Mary Dodge was born in Danvers, Massachusetts, in 1843, to Sylvanus Dodge, postmaster and merchant of South Danvers, and Julia Theresa Phillips. In 1855, Sylvanus followed his sons Grenville Mellen Dodge and Nathan Phillips Dodge, out to Elkhorn, 25 miles outside of what is now Omaha, Nebraska, and close to a Pawnee Indian settlement. Julia and her mother joined their family on the Elkhorn farm at the end of 1855. After problems with local Indians and family illness in 1857, the family moved to the more densely settled Council Bluffs (Iowa), next to Omaha. Julia married James B. Beard on September 29, 1868, in Pottawattamie, Iowa; they had two sons and lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Fort Worth, Texas.

Julia's brother Nathan established himself in the local banking business. Her brother Grenville was a distinguished general during the Civil War and later served as a United States congressman from Iowa. He also played an important role in the development of the eastern half of the transcontinental railroad.

The recipient of the letters is likely Julie's cousin Mary Amanda Webster, daughter of Walter Russell Webster and Rebecca Phillips, born in 1839 in Salisbury, New Hampshire.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Julia Dodge papers hold 12 letters from the young Julia Dodge, written between 1855 and 1861, to her friend, and possibly cousin, Mary Webster. She wrote about her life on the western frontier and described the cold winters, her log cabin home, the beautiful woods and rivers close by, her studies, and her home life. She also mentioned numerous encounters with Indians including seeing them at local stores, catching them steeling food from the Dodge farm, and offering them food and clothes to trade. Other topics covered in her letters include Civil War news from her brother Grenville; the Council Bluffs Concert Hall fire of 1860; and her time with toddler Lettie Dodge, Grenville’s daughter. One letter, dated March 27, 1861, described Julia’s brief attendance at a "Young Ladies Institute" in Alexandria, Virginia, which she found pleasant, but she left the school before graduation.

Subject Terms

    • Council Bluffs (Iowa)
    • Dodge, Grenville Mellen, 1831-1916.
    • Dodge, Nathan Phillips.
    • Elkhorn (Neb.)
    • Frontier and pioneer life--Iowa.
    • Frontier and pioneer life--Nebraska.
    • Pawnee Indians.
    • Dodge, Julia Mary, b. 1843.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   6, Small Collections  
    Julia Dodge papers [series]
    Folder   7  
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Denver Public Library has a collection of the Dodge family papers, which holds correspondence and diaries of Julia's brothers Nathan and Grenville Dodge.