The Works Progress Administration

Biography of William R. Dodson of El Monte California

William R. Dodson for thirty-six years, proprietor of The Dodson Hotel, was born in Crawford County, Arkansas, in 1839. his father Gainaim M. Dodson, was a native of Halifax County, Virginia, who in 1833 went to Kentucky, where he married Miss Nancy P. Thompson, a native of that state, and later settled in the county in which the subject of this sketch was born. Mr. Dodson was reared upon his father’s farm until 1861, when the Civil War broke out, and early in that year he entered the service of the Confederate States as a private in the Arkansas Cavalry. He served with gallantry and distinction throughout that terrible contest, and rose through the successive grades of rank until he reached Captaincy. In 1864 he was severely wounded, having his left arm shattered while engaged in the Battle of Fayetteville in Arkansas. At the close of the war, Mr. Dodson emigrated to Texas and located in Levere County, where he engaged in farming and stock-growing. January 2, 1866, he married Miss Clarmond Jones, the daughter of William L. and Malvina F. (Camp) Jones. Her father was a native of Tennessee, and her mother of Georgia.

They came to California in 1868, and became residents of El Monte. Her father was well known throughout the valley, and was for years (prior to 1880 when he sold to his son-in-law, Mr. Dodson) proprietor of the El Monte (later “The Dodson”) Hotel. Mr. Jones died in 1874, while Mrs. Jones lived until 1897. [1]Of interest is the fact that the old hotel owned by Mr. Dodson was destroyed by fire in 1913, several years after he was its proprietor.

Mr. Dodson remained in Texas until 1868, when he came overland to Los Angeles county, locating at Downey, conducting a blacksmith shop until the spring of 1869. Then he purchased sixty-three acres of land lying in El Monte; upon this he commenced a career of general farming, making many improvements and placing his land under a high state of cultivation, and also establishing and conducting a blacksmith shop. In 1878, he rented the El Monte Hotel, the name of which he changed and conducted, under the name of “The Dodson Hotel”. In 1880 he purchased the property from his father-in-law, William L Jones, and made many improvements on the same. In 1882 he established in connection a livery stable. The Dodson Hall, a well-appointed building, 20 X 50 feet, two stories in height (with market in lower story), was erected by him in 1887. he was one of the most progressive and energetic citizens of El Monte for years, and made many improvements in the town, building several cottages and residences for renting. His farm, hotel, stables and other enterprises, he conducted himself. His genial and obliging manners, combined with his well-ordered and conducted hotel made the *Dodson Hotel well known and deservedly popular. His livery stable contained a complete outfit of vehicles and ten or twelve first-class horses, and was well patronized. In his farm operations he devoted considerable attention to improved stock. His cattle were Jersey and Short-horned Durham breeds. Among his horses were two fine stallions of Belmont stock. They were fine specimens and showed that as a stock breeder, Mr. Dodson was a success. For fifty years, he was a resident of the beautiful San Gabriel Valley; was well and favorable known as a strong believer in the future prosperity of Los Angeles Coutny, and was always ready to aid any enterprise that tended to develop the resources of his chosen section. In political matters, he was a consistent Democrat. In 1905, Mr. Dodson retired from active life and moved into a home on Lexington Avenue, where in about 1906, he was married to Minerva Blackley. Here he lived until his death in 1920.

Mr. Dodson was a member of the El Monte Lodge, No. 188, A.O.U.W. There were seven children born to Mr. and Mrs. Dodson, of whom May, (Now Mrs Dr. B.B. Mings) of El Monte, and Foster, now janitor of the Columbia Grammar School, are still living. Mr. Dodson’s second wife, the former Mrs. Blackley, died in 1931.

Source: C. D. Mayon, F. Brow, L. Stoddard, and C. Mudd; El Monte from the Pioneer Days. WPA Project No. N-5740, 1936. In record 19-187072. (California Historical Landmark No. 765: El Monte). On file at the SCCIC, CSU Fullerton.


1Of interest is the fact that the old hotel owned by Mr. Dodson was destroyed by fire in 1913, several years after he was its proprietor.

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