Lewis J. HODGE finds an appropriate place in the history of those men of business and enterprise in the state of Illinois whose force of character, whose sterling integrity, whose fortitude amid discouragements, whose good sense in the management of complicated affairs and marked success in establishing and bringing to completion schemes of trade and profit have contributed in an eminent degree to the development of the vast resources of this noble commonwealth. His career has not been helped by accident or fortunate circumstances, by wealth or family or powerful friends. He is, in the broadest sense of the term, a self-made man who has been both the architect and builder of his own fortunes, and now, having retired from active life, is enjoying the fruits of his former toil.
A native of Monroe county, Ohio, Mr. HODGE was born January 1, 1841, and is a son of James and Margaret A. (WILSON) HODGE. The father was born near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the mother's birth occurred on the ocean while her parents were on the voyage from Nova Scotia to this country. The grandfather, Samuel HODGE, was a soldier of the war of 1812, and removed from Pennsylvania to Ohio at an early day, where he resided until called from this life. James HODGE became a builder and contractor, and in 1853 removed to Illinois, settling in Magnolia. Two years later, in 1855, he came to Wenona and erected a planing mill here, carrying on the business until his death, February 7, 1887. His widow died November 30, 1900. They were the parents of eight children, of whom three are now living: Lewis J., of this review; George L., a resident of La Salle, Illinois; and Mrs. Eva McCLANAHAN, of Chicago.
Lewis J. HODGE is indebted to the public school system of Wenona for the educational privileges he enjoyed, and after putting aside his text-books he worked with his father in the planing mill until after the Civil war broke out. He had watched with interest the progress of events in the south and noted the threatening attitude of certain southern states, and on the 25th of July, 1861, unable to content himself longer at home while the Union was imperiled, he enlisted in the Forty-second Regimental Band and served with the Department of the Missouri until honorably discharged at St. Louis on the 24th of February, 1862. He went with Hunter to relieve Fremont at Wilson's creek and was on active duty in the southwest.
Following his discharge Mr. HODGE returned home and was appointed assistant postmaster at Wenona, serving under S. J. TAYLOR during the years 1863 and 1864. He then formed a partnership with his father in the planing mill and lumber business, which connection was continued until the fall of 1878, when he sold out. After the failure of John A. McCall & Company, bankers in 1878, he turned his attention to the banking business, establishing the Howe, Hodge & Ralston bank. He was thus identified with the financial interests of the county until 1881, when again he sold out. About this time he became interested in the development of the rich coal resources of this part of the state and in the sinking of the coal shaft and was associated with the work until after the mine was opened up and had been in operation for a period of about two years. He then disposed of his interest in that line and established the First National Bank of Wenona, of which he was president for a number of years, when it was transformed from a national bank into a private concern under the name of L. J. Hodge & Sons. He was then connected with his sons in the business until he sold out to them, and they are still conducting the bank under the firm style of Hodge Brothers. The father has since lived retired save that he has operated to a considerable extent in land, and now gives his supervision to his property interests, owning large tracts of land in Illinois and Iowa.
On the 20th of December, 1864, was celebrated the marriage of Lewis J. HODGE and Miss Harriet E. HOWE, a daughter of Peter HOWE, by whom he had two sons, George O. and John W. H. HODGE, who constitute the banking firm of Hodge Brothers. The wife and mother died December 3, 1889, and on the 25th of June, 1893, Mr. HODGE was married to Susan A. WRIGHT, by whom he has one son, Paul L. He owns and occupies a beautiful home in Wenona, in which he is now living in comfort. He has helped to build up this section to its present prosperity, having taken an active interest in its business development, whereon depends the welfare and growth of any community. He stands today in his mature years a strong man strong in the consciousness of well spent years, strong to plan and perform, strong in his credit and good name and a worthy example for young men to pattern after, as showing what intelligence and perseverance may accomplish in the way of success in life.
Extracted July 2011 by Norma Hass from
Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties