History of Harmony Mission – Part 5: The Story of Rev. Nathaniel Brown Dodge

Rev. Nathaniel Dodge was born in Winchester, New Hampshire June 5, 1781. He was a school teacher, served in the War of 1812 and a preacher in a Congregational Church in Underhill, Vermont for eight years. On March 22, 1803 he married Sally Gale and they had eight children.

When the United Foreign Missionary Society decided to organize a mission family to go to Missouri to establish a mission for the Osage Tribe Nathaniel Dodge applied. He went to New York on March 3, 1821, where they were organizing the people to go to establish Harmony Mission. He was appointed as the superintendent of the group. This was the first Osage protestant mission west of the Mississippi River.

As superintendent he had to hold worship services on the journey, record all the happenings each day, (to be sent to the headquarters in New York), collect donations that were received from people at the towns where they stopped on the river journey, make sure that everyone did their jobs and were safe, make business deals and talking to the Osage to let them know what their purpose was for the mission. The missionaries received no salary and were provided with necessary items only sent to them by the mission society or from their relatives that sent things they needed.

Rev. Dodge, his wife and their seven children, left on the mission journey on March 3, 1821 and they arrived on August 8, 1821 at Halley’s Bluff. After arriving on the Osage River near Halley’s Bluff, he had a meeting with the Osage tribe and they told Dodge the area where he could go to look for a location for the mission. They picked out the location that was about a mile up the Marais des Cygnes River to the north of where Papinville is now located. He also had several church services before leaving to the location to start building cabins and other structures. Some of the Osage attended the services, which pleased the missionaries.

Rev. Dodge served as the superintendent for eight years and later moved to Independence, Mo. In 1830 the band of Indians that had moved from Harmony Mission to the Neosho River area in Kansas wanted Rev. Dodge to come and establish a new reservation one half mile west and north of the present town of St. Paul, Kansas. This Mission was named Boudinot Mission and was located about two and one-half miles west and north of the present town of St. Paul, Kansas.

Recorded in the book “The First Protestant Osage Missions 1820-1837” by Graves, he wrote this about Rev. Dodge: Rev. Dodge could see that the Osage, because of their distance from Harmony, were gradually withdrawing their children from the school and that the end of that station as an Indian mission and school was drawing nearer and the only way he could follow his chosen calling among the Indians would be to follow them to their new homes. That too appeared to be the only way by which he could preserve the good already done to his Indian friends, which, if not continually nourished, would soon vanish. Like a good soldier, he again went forth to do his best.

Rev. Dodge left this mission in 1835 and moved to Balltown (in Vernon county south of Rich Hill) where he preached and farmed. Rev. Dodge and his wife Sally had eight children,( one child was born in Missouri), which all grew up in the Vernon County area. He died on September 3, 1848 and is buried in the Little Osage Cemetery where Balltown was located. At the time of Rev. Dodges death, Balltown was in Bates County. Bates and Vernon were as one county until 1851.

Submitted by Phyllis Stewart  (Activity Director for Papinville Historical and Cemetery Association)

Information taken from : “The First Protestant Osage Missions 1821-1837 “ by Wm. W. Graves

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