Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Author’s note: This is the second installment in “The Name is the Same But The History Is Different” series looking at local notables in Niagara County’s past. This week, meet two contemporaries named John Hodge, one from Lockport and the other from Niagara Falls.
The first John Hodge to be considered is the one who made Lockport his home for most of his life. This John Hodge was born in Jefferson County, N.Y., in 1839. He arrived in Lockport as a teenager in the early 1850s and worked a variety of odd jobs. Intent on becoming a lawyer, he entered the law office of Edward I. Chase in 1857, studying under him for the next four years.
Not finding the law to his satisfaction, young Hodge left the Chase office and began working as a clerk in the office of the Merchant’s Gargling Oil Company under a man named Morris Tucker. Hodge married Tucker’s daughter, who died not long after giving birth to a child who also died. Upon his daughter’s death, Tucker named Hodge as his sole heir.
When Tucker died in 1866, Hodge inherited not only his fortune but also his position in the company. Hodge was something of a genius when it came to advertising and soon made Merchant’s Gargling Oil a household name all over the country. With his earnings he was able to build the towered, mansard roofed Hodge Opera House at Main and Market Streets in 1871. When that burned down 10 years later, he built a slightly less elaborate version at the same location.
Hodge served on the boards of directors of many companies and organizations in Lockport and Niagara Falls. One of these was the Home of the Friendless, a home for widows and orphaned children of the Civil War. He purchased the former Washington Hunt mansion in Lowertown and donated it to the organization as their permanent residence. This establishment eventually became the Wyndham Lawn Home for Children.