Waterville Historical Society

your connection to the past

The Waterville Historical Society collects, preserves, provides access to, interprets and fosters an appreciation of history that has an impact on the Waterville, Ohio and surrounding area.

Canal Builders ----- Dodd and Steedman

Some of Waterville’s more prominent citizens came to this area because they obtained contracts for construction of some portion of the Miami and Erie Canal. Contracting partners Elijah Dodd and James B. Steedman were among these. Yes, that James B. Steedman – publisher, politician, forty-niner and Civil War hero – whom Toledo claims as their own. Elijah Dodd was an experienced contractor having completed a section of canal near Harrisburg, PA. James Steedman was his soon to be brother-in-law, a young man of varied interests, great charisma and perhaps a bit impetuous. The two came to Waterville in 1837 and stayed at the Columbian House until settled. Steedman soon moved to Napoleon to take over a newspaper publication and was married in Defiance in 1838 to Sarah Miranda Stiles, a sister to Dodd’s wife. The portion of the canal in their contract included the critical dam at Providence that created the slack water pool to provide water to the level stretch of canal between Providence and Toledo. The original dam was of wooden crib design, with stone abutments similar to the dam upstream near Defiance. This dam remained in place until the current concrete dam was built in 1908 by John Weckerly. The timber remains of this old dam can be seen just above the concrete dam when the water is very low. Dodd and Steedman were also paid $300 to build the canal overflow near Roche de Boeuf, sometimes called “the cascades.” The remains of this overflow can be seen at the east end of Farnsworth Park along the walking path.

James Steedman purchased the 160 acre Roche de Boeuf farm on River Tract 39, which covered the high ridge opposite the rock and down across the flood plain to the river. Years before in 1794 this was the site of General Anthony Wayne’s Fort Deposit. In 1838 Steedman was also in the publishing business in Napoleon and in the 1840s became involved in state government. In the 1850s he was in charge of the entire Miami and Erie Canal. He was also involved in the Ohio Militia movement and was instrumental in forming and naming the Waterville militia unit, the Brady Guards. Steedman apparently could not resist the call of adventure in 1849 when gold was discovered in California. He went west and left this family in the care of Elijah Dodd. When he returned he gratefully gave the farm to his brother-in-law and the area has been known as the Dodd farm ever since. Steedman, as we know, became a famous general during the Civil War and lived in Toledo before and afterwards. Not so well known is that his first wife Sarah Miranda Stiles Steedman and his eldest son, Lewis and his wife Edith are all buried in the Wakeman Cemetery. James B. is buried in Toledo’s Woodlawn Cemetery along with his second and third wives. His Civil War statue resides in Riverside Park along Summit Street.

Elijah Dodd remained in Waterville on the Dodd farm the rest of his life and was involved in mercantile enterprises as well as working the farm. He was twice elected sheriff of Lucas County and did live in Toledo for a time. Elijah died in 1876 and left the farm in charge one or more of his four sons who remained in Waterville. He is buried in Wakeman Cemetery. Elijah and his first wife Malvina Stiles had six children. She died ca1850 and he later married Mary Jane Wardley. Four children of this marriage survived childhood. His eldest son, Caleb was Captain of the Brady Guards and entered the Civil War with the unit as part of the 14th OVI for their 100 day enlistment into Northern Virginia. When that unit returned to Toledo, Caleb joined the Quartermaster Corps where he served through the War. Caleb died in Nashville, TN in 1865 while in service of his country. Urban growth overtook the Dodd farm in the 1900s as family homes and the village limits spread south.

P.O. Box 263,  Waterville, OH  43566            whs43566@outlook.com

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