John M. Hodgson

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

The following is text of the first draft of a letter written by Gerald to Gordon G. Carlson, a Roseburg, Oregon, lawyer, January 10, 1958. It had to do with litigation over Uncle John”s estate.

John M. Hodgson grew up in the state of Iowa. He was the third child and second son in a family of six children. My father, Delwin W. Hodgson, was second child and oldest son. Uncle John was the first of our family to come west (about 1900). Prior to coming west, he married a Norwegian immigrant girl named Inga, who spoke broken English and had Old Country ideas and manners, characteristics which she never completely lost. Inga was either unable or unwilling to have children, so their marriage was without issue.

They homsteaded in Ferry County of this state in the community known as Barstow. They lived there a number of years, adding two more adjoining homesteads to their property. Later they moved to Colville, county seat of adjoining Stevens County, where they lived when I first knew them (I was born in 1913). Perhaps I had better interpolate at this point that I have no direct personal knowledge of most of what 1 am writing here. Most of what I am writing was told to me by my father, by other relatives, or were matters of general public knowledge.

After moving to Colville, they accumulated a large amount of real estate, mostly rural. John engaged in various activities, including a dairy and a second-hand store. He rarely stayed with anything very long, usually sold out to someone else at a profit.

Verelle Robinson, who later became his second wife, was left a widow by her first husband, Sam Robinson Sr. She had five children at this time, of which the two boys, Sam and Ray, were the youngest. She then married a man named Cosselman who is said to have been a religious fanatic who gave so much of his income to the Church that his family suffered. During her marriage to Cosselman, she gave birth to a daughter whom she named Naomi. Sometime prior to 1930, she left her husband and moved with her three youngest children to a farm belonging to Uncle John, in Ferry County.

Inga sued John for divorce in 1930 and obtained her decree. An approximately equal division of property was achieved at this time, leaving each of them with a considerable amount of money and real estate. Inga sold out her real estate and finally moved to Medford, Oregon, where she was still living at this time last year (1957) under the name Ina H. Renker.

Through the 1930’s, John lived intgermittantly in Ferry County, moving his unofficially adopted family from one farm to another as he bought and sold. Mrs. Cosselman eventually obtained a divorce from her husband through the courts of Ferry County. In due course, John recovered possession of his original homestead (he had sold it at least twice). He moved his ‘family’ there and went into the business of commercial gardening. By this time, both boys were old enough to do quite a little work, and they entered into a semi-partnership with Uncle John. Each boy owned cattle and other property separately. Ray, I remember, sold cream in his own name. And as Mrs. Buxton [Verelle’s daughter, Ailene] put it, “John and the two boys sat around the table after a selling trip and divided the money like three old misers.

John finally married Verelle at Post Falls, Idaho, in 1936. It has been stated that this action was inspired by financial and legal reasons and that he once transferred his entire property to his wife’s name for a short time. For these statements I cannot vouch.

Shortly before John moved away from this state which was, as nearly as I can remember, in 1938 or a little later, he sold out all the property he possessed in this region except the ten-acre tract just above the Barstow Bridge. Supposed to belong to Naomi — I think. Neglected today.] of which you have been informed. He retained this, partly as a speculation, and partly as a place to live while he made up his mind what to do next. He built a small house which burned down some years after he left. He had, at the time of sale, nearly a thousand acres of land in the Barstow vicinity, most of which he acquired before his marriage. He also had at least some property in Oregon at this time. He divided his Barstow property in two parts, selling one part to one Art Wagner for (as near as I can remember) a cash price of $3500. The other part he traded to one Homer Saxton for a dwelling house in Spokane and, I think, some other considerations of which I am not informed. He claimed to have sold the house in Spokane later for $12,000. Sam broke his business association with Uncle John at about this time, married, and went into business for himself. So far as I know, Ray kept up his association with John till he went into the service during the war. Of the succeeding years, I know very little except that he changed his address frequently, that he continued to deal in real estate, and that he engaged in other activities such as farming, carpentry, poultry raising, and produce peddling. Eventually, he settled at Sutherlin, the two boys and their oldest sister, Ailene, settling there also. My brother Lloyd visited him there shortly before his wife’s death and John told him at that time that he owned seventeen houses in the Sutherlin vicinity.

Now I suppose you wonder just where I come in? The fact of the matter is that I don’t, to any great degree. I never knew him well enough to feel any great affection for him, though I always though of him as a fascinating personality. After his departure for Oregon, I started a correspondence with him which I kept up in more or less regular fashion till the time of his death. I started this correspondence partly on my father’s account and partly because I took a real personal interest in his wanderings. So far as I know, I was the only one of his kin who wrote to him with any regularity. Perhaps my interest pleased him. The first intimation I had that John had remembered me in his will came from the stepchildren. Sam told me on a visit here that John had “sure remembered” me in his will. He didn’t say to what degree, and I didn’t ask. John didn’t discuss it with me when I visited him a year and a half before his death. His only direct reference to it was in a letter written for him by his housekeeper and it only stated that he was favoring me in his will.

[Final Note: Under the terms of the last will which John himself instigated and approved, he left half his estate to is various nieces and nephews “at the descrection of Gearld N Hodgson.” His deathbed will left everything to his stepchildren. After settlement and cost. I received $800 and some cents $300 of this. I divided with other heirs. I was out at least $100 in personal expenses.]


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