Dodge has his day in J’town

JOHNSTOWN – A clamor of musket and cannon fire could be heard throughout the city on Saturday, as people gathered to commemorate the life and legacy of Gen. Richard Dodge.

“I’m very proud to be a part of this day,” said Fred Humistch, a descendant who attend the event. “It’s a great feeling.”

The General Dodge Day celebration took place with help from the Johnstown Historical Society at the Colonial Cemetery on West Green Street, where Dodge is buried.

An early settler of Johnstown, Dodge started his military career by enlisting as a fifer in the Revolutionary War. As the war progressed, so did his rank.

After the war ended, Dodge became a man of many trades: fur trader, supervsior, mason and Johnstown’s first postmaster.

Dodge was called back for duty during the War of 1812, this time as a general. He commanded the Patriots’ fourth brigade, which comprised the 10th, 11th and 13th regiments in the Mohawk Valley.

He arrived at Sackets Harbor on Sept. 21, 1812, with his detachment of the Mohawk Valley Militia. He made Sackets Harbor his headquarters until the end of the war. Dodge was present during the Battle of Sackets Harbor on May 24, 1813.

He returned to his wife, Ann Sarah Irving Dodge, in Johnstown as a brigadier general. Ann was the eldest sister of the famous author Washington Irving. She was the mother of Dodge’s six children.

Bernadette M.J. Weaver, a Johnstown native with a passion for local history, coordinated the dedication of a new grave marker for Dodge.

Weaver said she grew up on Smith Street, near West Green Street. She said she visited the cemetery often and was always curious about the history of the people buried there. This eventually led to her discovery of Dodge’s broken grave marker.

“I found where his grave marker should be and his stone wasn’t there. It was broken off,” she said. “It really bugged me, so I said, well, he was a veteran, so let me see if I can get it replaced. I started making inquiries and found out that the [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] replaces them.”

Weaver did the necessary paperwork with the VA, verifying that Dodge was a veteran. However, she also needed consent from a descendant of Dodge.

Humistch, a South Carolina resident and a descendant of one of Richard Dodge’s brothers, said he saw Weaver’s request for consent in a Dodge Family newsletter.

“I responded to Bernadette Weaver telling her I didn’t know if I qualified, but I’d be more than happy to help,” Humistch said. “She said that I qualified, so I wrote a letter to the VA requesting the headstone and she said within four weeks that they had it. So it was very, very quick.”

Throughout the ceremony on Saturday, Humistch and his son Isaac discovered a distant relative who also was related to Dodge.

Col. Robert J. Gang III is a first cousin five times removed from Richard Dodge. Gang, from Syracuse, had never met Humistch until Saturday. He said they exchanged email addresses Saturday and plan to stay in touch.

“It’s important to know your local history,” Gang said. “It’s also important to remember the veterans, no matter what era they’re from.”