It is time to restart the discussion about the First Fried Clams, and discover the truth. If you google “fried clams” you will quickly see that there is no definitive starting point at which clams were served fried in the United States. The date of 1865, however, is entirely incorrect, and they were, in fact, served several decades earlier.
I found a wonderful notice on page 3 of an old newspaper, the Boston Commercial Gazette, published in Boston MA on July 26, 1832.
“A FISH FEAST
WILL be served up at DODGE’S Fish House, South Boston, THIS DAY, July 26th. Fried Fish, Fried Clams. Fish Chowder, Clam Chowder, &c.
Likewise at 5 o’clock a fine Green TURTLE SOUP. Coaches will leave the Mansion House, Milk street, every house during the day, and Boats will leave Russia wharf, every half hour for the above place.”
Of course we have no way of knowing exactly how these were fried– coated like our modern delicacies, or instead, fried au naturale. Dodge’s Fish House disappeared from South Boston [Charlestown] long ago. The best I can figure is that this establishment, also used as a tavern (Dodge’s Tavern of course), sat on First Street near the water. The owner, Ephraim Dodge, often advertised in the newspapers, and that he sat on one of the popular coach routes. And in fact, he owned the route for a while.
According to the History of South Boston, Dorchester Neck, Now Ward XII of the City of Boston, by Thomas C. Simonds, page 224: “Omnibuses–The first public conveyance from the city proper to South Boston was owned by Ephraim Dodge. As early as 1829, he commenced running a hack, taking passengers from the city to any part of the place in which they desired to be left. Broadway not then being in good condition for wheels, his route lay over the old bridge and up Fourth street. His first attempt to use the main street was frustrated by the sinking of his carriage to the hubs of the wheels in the soft clay. The patronage he received soon warranted him in purchasing two omnibuses, which run to and from the city once every hour. The fare on this line of coaches was nine-pence.”
He appears to have ceased his business about 1839 when he had competitors who drastically undercut his fares.
The History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts, Now called the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, 1637-1888 by Oliver Ayer Roberts states:
EPHRAIM DODGE (1820) was an innkeeper in South Boston. He was ensign of a company in the Third Regiment, Third Brigade, First Division, in 1820 and 1821, and was commander of a company in South Boston from 1822 to 1824 inclusive, when that section was set off as a company in itself. By 1829 Mr. Dodge (1820) commenced running a hack from South Boston to Boston proper, which was the first public conveyance between those districts. He soon purchased two omnibuses and put on the line, running to and from the city every hour; over the old bridge and up Fourth street. In 1838 the Warren Association established an opposition line, and having reduced the fare to six cents, Mr. Dodge (1820) “the enterprising pioneer in the business,” discontinued his coaches. In less than two years the association sold out.”
Probably this is the Ephraim-6 Dodge, son of Ebenezer & Mary (Dodge) Dodge b. 12 July 1772 in Newburyport MA; m. in 1797 to Hannah Symonds of Topsfield MA, dau of Jonathan and Hannah Symonds. The Genealogy of the Descendants of John White of Wenham & Lancaster, Vol 1 by Almira Larkin Wade states that he lived in Danvers until 1803, then moved to Henniker NH where he died 2 June 1862, aged 90. I believe this is the same Ebenezer Dodge who owned Dodge’s Tavern in South Boston (now Charlestown) MA and served up some of the earliest fried clams in New England. [See likeness from the Dodge Family Association]. [Their tombstones in the Henniker NH cemetery]
Their children were Asa, Israel P., Carlton S., Samuel, and Helena Dodge. The descendants of these children are numerous. Some settled in Charlestown MA, but many resided in the Henniker, Weare and New Boston, New Hampshire area. They live there still.