William Edward Lodge was a prominent attorney, real estate dealer, newspaper publisher, and active spokesman for the Democratic party. He spent his adult life in Monticello, Piatt County, Illinois, where he built a successful law practice specializing in collections, loans, and land sales. Lodge also served as an attorney for several railroads. His wife, Frances Piatt Lodge, was the granddaughter of James A. Piatt, for whom the county is named.
The Lodge collection contains the records of a law practice that spanned the second half of the nineteenth century. The Lodge papers, which make up most of the collection, consist primarily of a wide ranging, incoming business correspondence. Little outgoing correspondence is found in the collection. Important correspondents include Samuel Allerton, Joseph G. Cannon, John A. McClernand, William McReynolds, and Virgil S. Ruby. Notable businesses that dealt with Lodge included David Bradley and Co., the Chicago and Paducah Railroad, Deere and Co., R.G. Dun and Co., the Illinois Central Railroad, W.W. Kimball Co., the Martindale Law and Collection Agency, Pearsons and Taft, Rand, McNally and Co., and the Wabash Railroad. Lodge also corresponded with several collection agencies, lending institutions, and a host of other attorneys.
Other items found in the Lodge papers are a valuable collection of Civil War letters and a plethora of documents and business records. Set off separately are the papers of the Bruce Morris Reynolds family of Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, and the papers of Edwin B. Hale of Cleveland, owners of extensive land holdings in central Illinois. The Lodge collection also contains the papers of three of Lodge's four partners, James L. Hicks (1888-1901), Harvey E. Huston (1870-1886), and Hamilton C. McComas (1859-1862); correspondence of Piatt, Hubbell & Co., operators of a Piatt County grain elevator in the 1870s; and correspondence of George Hatch, a central Illinois livestock dealer of the 1850s and 1860s. Francis J. Brooks, a Monticello motion picture projectionist and local historian, collected and preserved the material in the Lodge collection.
The Piatt County Historical and Genealogical Society received the material in this collection from the estate of Francis J. Brooks, donating it to the Library in 1987 and 1990.