D is for Ralph Dodge

Thanks to Judy Pearson (nee Dodge) for writing this post for the A-Z challenge.

Blue links will take you to the digitized images  from Libraries Tasmania website. Clicking on image in post will take you to the original at Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (TAHO).

DODGES FERRY was part of the early settlement of the Pitt Water area and its name leads to the story of RALPH DODGE who was born in 1791 on Norfolk Island. He was the son of William Dodge, Superintendent of Convicts and Charlotte Simpson Hall (both arriving in the colony per Second Fleet ‘Lady Juliana’) and also to the new settlement on Norfolk Island in 1790. They had 3 children, the second son born 1793 did not survive and Sarah who was born in 1795 was a few months old when their father left the Island to return to New South Wales and eventually back to England, leaving his family behind. Charlotte became the partner of Hugh McGinnis with whom she had another 5 children, marrying in Van Diemens Land in 1810. Sarah was baptized as Sarah McGinnis.

Ralph was 17 years old when in 1807 the Norfolk Island settlement was disbanded and the inhabitants, productive farmers most having gained their freedom and with young families, were all relocated to Van Diemens Land. Ralph Dodge and the McGinnis family first had small plots of land at Clarence Plains (Rokeby), but the whole family eventually moved to fertile land near the Carlton River on Chaseys Creek, pioneering and contributing greatly to that community. Ralph owned a farm he named ‘Lovely Bottom’ and established the packhorse mail run through to Richmond and on to Port Arthur. In 1841 he built the rendered slab Carlton Post Office and was the first Postmaster at Carlton. This served the community until 1949 with many family members becoming Postmaster, including his step-brother John Hall McGinnis and later, his brother-in-law William Morris, whose daughters also served in the position.

Originally home of Ralph Dodge, TAHO, NS1553-1-417

Ralph married Charlotte Morris in 1824 and they had a family of 11 children. In 1831 he bought another farm property on the shores of Pitt Water opposite the sandy point of Seven Mile Beach and this home later became ‘Ferry Farm’ and by 1832 he operated a rowing boat ferry service across to the sandy point opposite. This service enabled early settlers of the district to cross the bay which gave them access to a much shorter route to Kangaroo Point (Bellerive). This transport was known as “Dodge’s” ferry, and his name became a destination, a name unique to our history and to the Southern Beaches of Tasmania.

Ralph with his island heritage and seamanship skills was recorded in 1832 as having saved an English sailing ship with 200 women immigrants on board, which had been driven towards Pitt Water and certain disaster in a violent storm. Ralph Dodge died in 1871 after a life which made the best of his opportunities by then owning over 2,000 acres of land including the four farm properties which he left to his four sons. Two of the sons operated the ferry boats until the completion of the Sorell Causeway in 1874. In the late 1930s part of the ‘Ferry Farm’ property along the attractive foreshore of Dodges Ferry Beach, was sold in allotments for seaside shack development. Thus beginning a new era and the evolvement of the continually growing Dodges Ferry of today.

I grew up with the knowledge that my childhood was special because of the bond I felt for the place and the life I was able to live when at my beloved Dodges Ferry. I have felt a fierce protection of its environment and watched and experienced many changes in this beautiful location by the sea, and now in my 80s I have fulfilled a lifelong dream to write a book telling the early life of my great-grandfather and through the years of ‘The Dodges Ferry I Knew’.

PS: The book is available through the Sorell Historical Society. Also check this post for other places to purchase the book.

5 thoughts on “D is for Ralph Dodge

  1. I had ancestors in Tasmania in the early 19th century. I know the basics about Tas history but do have lots to learn. I enjoyed reading about this slice of history

  2. Love that you are telling stories and not just focused the dates. Stories are where it is at! Finding so much cool stuff through #AtoZ.

  3. Comment from Ebony on Facebook group

    My parents now own what was once called ‘Ferry Farm’
    They have fully restored the original farm cottage, it is an amazing building. Such interesting history – a survey map included

    Author of post then replied
    It was a lovely old place and I often admire how it looks now. This survey map is ambiguous (as they often are which Archives have explained) in that it shows Geo Wise original grant purchased for Ralph Dodge’s Ferry Farm built in 1832. The property next door was granted to Ralph Dodge in 1864 and was his Lagoon Farm, sold back to Crown in 1919 and E.J. Okines became Soldier Settler there in 1923, fully purchasing in 1942. My book tells all the early Dodge history of the area if you are interested in learning more.

  4. Those early pioneers were a determined lot. How wonderful to have such an intimate connection to the place. Thanks for sharing the story.

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