DODD, CHARLES, ship’s captain and fur trader; baptized 29 Nov. 1808 in New Buckenham, England, son of John Beck Dodd, surgeon, and Mary Cobbold; m. 22 Nov. 1842 in Fort Vancouver (Vancouver, Wash.) Grace McTavish, daughter of John George McTavish* and Nancy McKenzie, and they had seven children; d. 2 June 1860 in Victoria.
Charles Dodd apparently first went to sea in 1827. Although little is known of him for the next few years, he seems to have gained the experience necessary to sign on with the Hudson’s Bay Company brig Nereide as second mate in May 1833. The vessel arrived at the HBC’s Columbia district headquarters at Fort Vancouver in April 1834, carrying orders to conduct a maritime trade along the northwest coast. In defiance of these instructions Chief Factor John McLoughlin ordered the ship back to England with a cargo of lumber and salmon. In 1835 Dodd was assigned as second mate to the recently built steamship Beaver, under Captain David Home, sailing from London in August for Fort Vancouver. This vessel was the first steamship on the north Pacific and was destined to play important and varied roles in the history of British Columbia. Promoted first mate upon arrival in April 1836, Dodd was initiated that summer into the HBC trade as the Beaver undertook its first trading cruise along the northwest coast.
From 1837 to 1840 Dodd served as first mate aboard the Nereide. Plagued with mutinous crews and frequent desertions, the ship carried supplies to forts Simpson (Port Simpson, B.C.) and McLoughlin (near Bella Bella, B.C.), sheep for the farms at Fort Nisqually (near Tacoma, Wash.), and lumber to the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands. Dodd’s next appointment was as first mate on the barque Cowlitz. In December 1841 Sir George Simpson, governor of the HBC, boarded this vessel for a tour of the northwest coast as part of his journey round the world and was impressed by the character and ability of Dodd. When the vessel arrived at Fort Stikine (Alaska) in April 1842 it was discovered that the officer in charge, John McLoughlin, son of Chief Factor McLoughlin, had been fatally shot in a drunken fray. After order was restored and the sale of spirits discontinued, Simpson placed Dodd in charge, on a three-year contract to begin 1 June. Dodd, a teetotaller, had no qualms about enforcing the ban on liquor. Early in 1843 David Manson* was sent to take command of the post. Dodd remained as assistant but was once again placed in charge following Manson’s transfer in early 1844.
In the spring of 1845 Dodd was relieved of his land assignment and placed in command of the Beaver which, as a result of Simpson’s 1842 decision to close forts McLoughlin and Taku (Alaska), played an important role in the collection of furs from the northern Indians by the company. In addition, the steamer carried supplies for Fort Simpson and conducted an exchange of furs with the Russian American Company at Sitka (Alaska). Dodd, therefore, was doing double duty – commanding a ship and trading in furs. None the less, although highly respected for his “zeal and judgement” by his superiors, such as Chief Factor James Douglas*, he was not adequately compensated for his services. In 1851, owing to lack of promotion and difficulties in obtaining good crew members because of the gold finds in California, he resigned from the HBC and settled in Victoria with his wife and family. The HBC, however, had considerable difficulty in finding qualified officers for its now all-important marine service, those available being either “drunkards or incapables,” and Simpson persuaded Dodd to return to the Beaver early in 1852, promoting him to chief trader in June.
Dodd stayed with the Beaver until 1859, when he was transferred to the larger, newly built steamship Labouchere, and continued to serve in the HBC coasting trade. In January 1860 he received an official expression of gratitude from the Legislative Assembly of the territory of Washington for recovering the scalp of Colonel Isaac N. Ebey who had been murdered in August 1857 on Whidbey Island (Wash.) by northern Indians in reprisal for the murder of a chief by American naval forces the previous autumn. After two years of careful searching, Dodd had finally succeeded in locating and purchasing the scalp, for six blankets and other items, and it was then returned to the Ebey family.
Promoted chief factor in February 1860, effective 1 June, Dodd did not live long to enjoy his honours. On 2 June he died of a kidney infection at Victoria. Dodd Passage and Dodd Rock, near Port Simpson, B.C., as well as Dodd Narrows at the south end of Vancouver Island, are named in his honour.
PAM, HBCA, A.6/20: f.294; A.6/25: f.96; A.6/35: f.30; A.11/72: f.46d; A.12/5: f.346d; A.32/28: ff.33, 35; B.223/b/20; 27; C.1/208; 243; 257; 610; C.3/14: f.15d; D.4/43: f.38d; D.4/71: ff.340, 346d; D.5/31: ff.221–221d; Charles Dodd file. Catholic Church records of Pacific northwest (Munnick). HBRS, 4 (Rich); 6 (Rich); 7 (Rich). Helmeken, Reminiscences of Helmcken (Blakey Smith and Lamb). George Simpson, Narrative of a journey round the world, during the years 1841 and 1842 (2v., London, 1847). British Colonist (Victoria), 5 June 1860. Walbran, B.C. coast names. Lewis & Dryden’s marine history of the Pacific northwest; an illustrated review of the growth and development of the maritime industry . . . , ed. E. W. Wright (2nd ed., New York, 1961). Derek Pethick, S.S. “Beaver”: the ship that saved the west (Vancouver, 1970). Rich, Hist. of HBC. W. K. Lamb, “The advent of the Beaver,” BCHQ, 2 (1938): 163–84. B. A. McKelvie, “Colonel Ebey’s head,” Beaver, outfit 287 (summer 1956): 43–45. Sylvia Van Kirk, “Women and the fur trade,” Beaver, outfit 303 (winter 1972): 4–21.