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Leonidas Dodson papers

 Collection 0045-MDHC

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. There are records of Dodson enslaving a woman named Emily for an unknown amount of time. Subjects covered include church and religion, disease and death, crime and justice, politics, temperance, the Civil War, and slavery.


  • 1842-1889

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


1.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of 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.

Biographical / Historical

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 goes that Dodson taught Frederick Douglass to read while Douglass was enslaved by Dodson's mother's cousin Thomas Auld. This seems unlikely, as Douglass was enslaved by 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 the people he enslaved. 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. There are records of Dodson enslaving a woman named Emily for an unknown amount of time. It is not known if he enslaved other people, but there are records that Dodson hired people who were enslaved by other local families, an agreement where the enslavers received the payment not the enslaved people who were doing the labor for the hiring family. These agreements allowed Dodson to benefit from the enslavement of people without being their enslaver himself. At the time of his death on November 20, 1889, Dodson had five living children.


The collection is organized as one series.

Series 1

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

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

Existence and Location of Copies

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

Processing Information

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.

Guide to the Leonidas Dodson papers
Processed by Thomas L. Edsall.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2003-08: Revised by Sarah Heim.
  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Jennie A. Levine.
  • 2017-06-06: Finding aid checked and revised following ArchivesSpace migration by Emily Flint.
  • 2018-03-09: Finding aid reviewed and minor edits made by Caitlin Rizzo.
  • 2021-05-06: Hannah Frisch added additional information to the collection abstract and biographical note, as well as the series note scope and content note, regarding Dodson's history as an enslaver. She also revised language regarding enslavement and added more information and context regarding some of the people he enslaved or enslaved people whom he hired.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742