Alexander Dodds

Page 245 - Alexander Dodds (deceased) was one of the citizens of Grand Rapids who contributed greatly to the commercial development of his city and among his achievements which stand out are not only industrial triumphs but also victories won in the name of religion and humanity. On both side of his family he was of Scotch descent. His grandfather, also named Alexander Dodds, was born in 1770 near the village of Kelso, Scotland. He married Jane Wilson and in 1833 came to the United States in a sailing vessel, the hazardous journey occupying six weeks. He and his family settled in St. Lawrence county, New York, two and one-half miles from the village of Gouverneur, where he lived to see his children settled on fine farm in that locality. His wife died in 1857 and he in 1864. The year 1835 witnessed the advent of another Scotch family to St. Lawrence county, New York. They were the Witherstons, who had arrived in America after a journey occupying eleven weeks on the water. A daughter of this family, Jeanette, married John Dodds, a son of Alexander Dodds, and they took possession of the homestead farm. To them were born two sons, Alexander and William A. and a daughter, Jean Elizabeth. Alexander Dodds was born in December, 1845, and was educated in the schools of his home community. At the age of twenty-one he took up the machinist’s trade and in December, 1867, he came to Lansing, Michigan, were he began manufacturing wood working machinery in partnership with L. L. Houghton, also a native of New York state. He continued to that work until May, 1878, when he came to Grand Rapids to enter the employ of the Buss Machine Works, with which he was associated four years. In 1882, he purchased an interest in a machine shop at Front and Pearl streets, and by the end of that year was able to buy the entire plant. Though money was not plentiful that year and the great freshet nearly ruined him, he was not to be discouraged. He moved his shop to Canal street in 1884 and his business prospered. He again encountered reverses which would have disheartened a man of less strength of character, for on March 10, 1887, thirty feet of embankment gave way under his building to such an extent that it was partially wrecked. But his stubborn Schotch blood refused to recognize defeat in this guise for he immediately set to work to get his machinery out of the wrecked building. His enterprise and determination attracted the attention of the bankers of the city, who offered any financial assistance that might be needed. Though he did not expect the need of such assistance, nevertheless the display of confidence in him on the part of the bankers, gave him renewed courage with which to carry on his solitary fight. He rented a part of the George W. Gay building and resumed operations, but the rapid growth of his business soon necessitated larger quarters. Accordingly, he leased ground on Front street and erected a one-story building twenty-eight by sixty feet. His business continued to grow so rapidly that in 1892 he acquired a portion of the Dean property and erected a building four stories high and twenty-six by ninety-four feet in size. His company prospered until 1893 when, it seemed to him, nearly all his debtors made assignments. He succeeded, however, in weathering the storm and in paying his own obligations promptly. Business in the city began to recover from the slump through which it had gone, and the Dodds company was in excellent condition to take advantage of the change in conditions. With the return of business to a more healthy condition,, his enterprise began to grow rapidly. In 1907 he was enabled to double his output by the construction of another four-story building. Still the company continued to expand and within another two years Mr. Dodds realized the need of help in the management of the great concern. On December 1, 1909, it began operation as a corporation under the style of Alexander Dodds Company, the name under which it still goes. Not all of Mr. Dodds’ tireless energy was spent in the development of his business, however, for he was always active in church and Sunday school work. Though his parents were Presbyterians, he embraced the Baptist creed, becoming affiliate with the Fountain Street Baptist church. He was one of those instrumental in the formation of a second Baptist church in 1883, and still later, he and twenty-five other formed the Scribner Street Baptist church. At the time of his death, October 15, 1925, he was a leader of the adult Sunday school class. Mr. Dodds’ long and eventful career was exemplary of the best type of American citizen, and through his long struggle for success which carried him over apparently insurmountable obstacles, he gained the respect and admiration of the people of Grand Rapids as well as his business associates. On November 10, 1888, he married Mrs. A. J. DeLamarter. He was a member of the Masonic order since 1869 having been a member of the Commandery and Thirty-second Degree Mason.

Transcriber: Pat Frey
Created: 27 February 2003