Dodge and Wilson Family
Meadow Brook was designed to be a family home. Read on below to learn about the members of the Dodge and Wilson family.
John Dodge, 1864-1920
John and his brother Horace (1868-1920) were natural engineers and machinists.
For a decade (1903-1914), the Dodge Brothers Manufactory supplied 60% of Ford’s automobile parts. They were instrumental to the success of Ford Motor Company.
John and Horace founded the very successful Dodge Brothers Motor Company in 1914.
In 1907, John married Matilda Rausch. The following year, they bought the first 320 acres of Meadow Brook Farms as a country retreat.
In 1920, both John and Horace were stricken with the 1918 Influenza and died within the year.
In 1925, Matilda and her sister-in-law sold Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company for a record-breaking $146 million.
Matilda Rausch Dodge Wilson, 1883-1967
Matilda Rausch was born in Canada and moved to Detroit as a toddler.
Though she came from humble beginnings, she went to secretarial school and learned not just typing and shorthand, but also financial and business management.
She began working as John Dodge's secretary in his early days with Ford; they fell in love and married in 1907.
After John Dodge’s death in 1920, Matilda married Alfred Wilson in 1925. They built Meadow Brook Hall from 1926 to 1929 on their farm property in Rochester.
Matilda was the first female lieutenant governor of Michigan in 1940. She was a national president of Women’s National Farm & Garden, was president of the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary for 24 years, was on the state Board of Agriculture, was director of a Detroit bank, built an orphanage and woman’s home, and served with many other charitable organizations.
In 1957, Matilda and Alfred Wilson donated their 1400-acre estate, all of its buildings (including Meadow Brook Hall) and $2 million to found what is today Oakland University.
Alfred Wilson, 1883-1962
The son of a Presbyterian minister, Alfred traveled around the Midwest in his early years as his father was transferred to different parishes.
In 1919, he moved to Detroit and with his brother, started the Wilson Lumber Company. They were most successful with their lumber mill in Florida during its building boom in the 1920s.
In 1925, he met Matilda at church. She admired him for his humor, friendliness, humility and for how he treated her children like his own. They married in June 1925 and soon broke ground for Meadow Brook Hall.
Like Matilda, Alfred was very involved in the church and various charitable and humanitarian groups, as well as helping to run Meadow Brook Farms.
Frances Dodge, 1914-1971
Frances is the daughter of Matilda and John Dodge.
In the 1930s, she brought a lot of life, glamour, and modernity to the estate.
She used her inheritance to start construction projects that provided a variety of jobs to people in the community during the Great Depression.
Frances was a world-renowned horsewoman who founded Dodge Stables on the property in 1933. She was an avid breeder and rider of show horses.
Frances is in the Horse Show Hall of Fame.
Daniel Dodge, 1917-1938
The son of Matilda and John Dodge, he loved planes, cars, and being outdoors. Dan often took camping trips with his friends and cousins.
Dan was very adventurous and enjoyed tinkering with engines and machines.
Like his father and uncle, he had a natural aptitude for machinery.
He founded a diesel engine company with great promise for making early diesel engines for automobiles, but unfortunately passed away in a tragic accident before the company got off the ground.
Anna Margaret Dodge, 1919-1924
Richard Wilson, 1929-2022
The son of Matilda and Alfred Wilson. He was adopted by Matilda and Alfred Wilson in 1930.
Richard was a talented athlete, excelling in track and football in high school and football.
Richard graduated with a BS in Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University and spent most of his career working as a manager for sister Frances Dodge's horse tracks in Michigan and Florida.
Barbara Wilson, 1931-2020
The daughter of Matilda and Alfred Wilson. Barbara was adopted in 1931 to be a playmate for Richard. The family only intended to adopt one child but Frances suggested he would need a friend on the isolated estate.
Barbara received a two-year home economics degree.
She also opened a popular country western nightclub called The Lumber Mill (in honor of her father) in Scottsdale, where she could work nights while still taking care of her children.
The Lumber Mill was where John Denver got his big break (fun fact: he also babysat her children!).