Dodd City, Texas - 150 years
By Andy & Sherri Weeks
Jul 3, 2023
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September 8,1873 - 2023

8th in a series By Andy & Sherri Weeks

James Franklin Sadler

James Franklin Sadler, aka J. F., was born near the current town of Dodd City on Oct 12, 1851. His parents were John and Nancy A Stephens Sadler. His mother was born in Missouri in 1835. His father was born in Tennessee in 1820 and was a successful farmer owning around 1,000 acres in Fannin and Lamar counties. John also began a mercantile business around 1872. His mother Nancy descends from the Stephens line who founded Stephensville (Lannius) of which many were successful in farming and the mercantile business. This practically made it inevitable that J.F. would be a business merchant at some point in his life.

James Franklin Sadler, early merchant in Dodd City

J. F. received the best education that could be had locally, which gave him many of the skills he needed to pursue his business ventures. He even taught school for a while early in his life. He learned farming on his father’s farm but may have learned the mercantile business with some help from his mother, Nancy. Many of the Stephens clan were successful in the mercantile business as well as land speculation, etc.

In February of 1874 John married Mary Matilda Wiley. On the 1880 census the couple have one child listed and J. F.’s occupation is grocer. As executor of his father’s will he was allowed to do what he thought was best with the mercantile business John had started in the early 1870s. Perhaps this was a continuation of that business.

The Dodd City Spectator, Nov. 21, 1884

The above ad shows that J. F. acquired a partner named Daniel Webster Sweeney and is a dry goods merchant with a line of sewing machine in 1884. J. F. was also politically ambitious and was elected a state representative from Dodd City for Fannin and Lamar County from Jan. 11, 1887, to Jan 8, 1889. By 1888 he has new partners in his brother William Newton Sadler from Honey Grove and well respected and Republic of Texas citizen James F. Lee as the below ad shows us. J. F. also puts his house up for sale by the Dodd City school in 1888 with the intent of building new or perhaps moving to Bonham as his ambitions grow.

The Dodd City Spectator, May 11, 1888

Austin American-Statesman Jan 8, 1893

J. F. was very active in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Dodd City and was ordained an elder on Dec. 2nd, 1888.

Two of his children, James Franklin Jr. and Alma were baptized in the faith July 7, 1889, along with two of their cousins, Georgie and Myrtle Moore, the same day.

In 1891 a new bank was formed in Bonham called Bonham National Bank. Again, J. F. Sadler and D. W. Sweeney have become partners as two of its board of directors. His business continues to grow, and the Sadler Brother’s buy their own building in Dodd City but were about to fall into hard times. By 1893 bankruptcy had become imminent and the brothers were forced to provide a deed of trust to stave this off. They were able to work their way out of bankruptcy and remained in business for several more years.

J.F. also had local political ambitions and would run for Fannin County clerk in 1894 while still operating his store in Dodd City. He wins the election, and it is about this time that he moves to Bonham. He serves as county clerk for about 4 years while still running the store in Dodd City and finds time to help patent an “axle Skein” with R.L. Pinley in 1896.

Starting various business ventures is a trend that will continue most of his life. By 1900 J. F. and Mary have had 9 children, 6 of which are still living. He lists his occupation as selling farm implements. He will start a fire insurance company in 1901 so now has several businesses running simultaneously.

J. F. will be living in Weatherford by 1909 and managing the Weatherford Telephone Exchange. His son Ernest works as a lineman there as well. His business interest seems to peek about this time. The store in Dodd City is still running and planning to expand with an implement line. He plans to move his family to Yoakum, Texas just East of San Antonio. It is another railroad boomtown having a roundhouse and maintenance facility located there employing several hundred employees. J. F. acquires the J.A. Graves Co. there and invests $25,000 in additional goods to stock the store with. This move from Weatherford never happens and he is forced to liquidate much of the inventory in Yoakum by Nov. and Dec. of 1909. He then buys a Funeral/Furniture company in Weatherford to go along with his other businesses. He was an active businessman most of his life.

Even though James' business ventures took him all over the state he remained connected to Dodd City through his enterprises there at least thru 1909. He also remained faithful to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church with him and his wife serving in some capacity regardless of where they lived.

James Franklin Sadler dies on May 16, 1917 and is buried in Greenwood City Cemetery at Weatherford Parker County Texas.

MORE DODD CITY HISTORY: Millard Brent’s “The History of Dodd City, Texas” available at: FC Historical Museum. Online: Fannin GenWeb;
Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas @ The Portal to Texas History; Shiloah/Dodd City Cumberland Presbyterian Church Minutes 1875-
1897 @ Ancestry;