The Life of Daniel Dobbins
Dobbins served in both the Navy and United States Revenue Cutter Service; during his service time he took part in both World Wars. During 1812 he oversaw construction of ships at Erie Pennsylvania that Oliver Hazard Perry used during the Battle of Lake Erie.
Dobbins quickly responded that Presque Isle was the ideal location, thanks to its deep harbor which provided safe passage for ships both during construction and fighting the British.
Early Life and Education
Daniel Dobbins was born in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania on July 5, 1776. As early as 1795 with a surveying party he visited Lake Erie where he eventually settled permanently.
Hamilton sent Dobbins a letter instructing him to travel immediately to Presque Isle and arrange for the necessary timber and supplies needed to construct four gunboats, as well as receiving sketches of these ships he was to construct.
Dobbins convened a town meeting upon his return to Erie at the mouth of Garrison Run. Wearing work clothes, he stood on an old stump while leaning against an oak tree that had been felled.
He told them that only by building an effective fleet could America win its war against Britain.
After graduating from Glencliff, Dobbins went on to play linebacker for Iowa State University where he earned first team All Big 12 honors his senior year and helped lead them to win both the Houston Bowl and Independence Bowls.
Dobbins traveled to Washington in 1813 and briefed Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton on the surrenders at Mackinaw Island and Detroit and the strength of British fleet on Lake Erie. Hamilton directed that Dobbins be given command of Presque Isle harbor station USRC station.
Dobbins was honored to serve on both boards: McKendree Alumni Association Board and, by proxy, Board of Trustees. During his 32 years on both, including three terms as Chair from 2007-15. His love of McKendree became an incentive to serve its students, faculty, and community with pride and generosity.
Achievement and Honors
Dobbins wrote to President James Madison after returning from battle and reported on Lake Erie. In return he received a stipend and funds to build four gunboats at Presque Isle harbor.
His time with the American Navy spanned decades as he served various capacities both in Washington and on lakes. Additionally, he was involved with multiple businesses in his region.
Dobbins was a native of Pittsfield who graduated with honors from McKendree University, along with his wife Mickey who worked as an admissions counselor there, both earning bachelor’s degrees in 1981. Devoted to McKendree, Dobbins served on its Board of Trustees for 32 years – eight as chair from 2007-15 – eventually receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree at its Commencement ceremony.
Daniel Dobbins lived with his mother and stepfather in Lewiston, Pennsylvania as a boy, becoming one of the first members of his family to experience Lake Erie and its waters firsthand.
Mary Dobbins was an intelligent woman, yet too generous in her lending practices. She often loaned money from the military fund to officers in trouble – which often resulted in court martial for their officers, including Mary’s own son being court-martialed as a result.
Late in 1812 Chauncey traveled north to Presque Isle, an isthmus connecting Lake Erie with an excellent natural harbor. There he met Dobbins who sought to secure command over Lakes; instead he was transferred for coast and blockade duty until Zachary Taylor won the presidency in 1848.
Dobbins serves as President of Fiber Bond Corporation in Michigan City, an air filtration products manufacturer with decades of experience and an impressive track record. He is renowned for his philanthropy efforts and unfailing support of his alma mater.
Dobbins worked closely with Oliver Hazard Perry in building the fleet that would defeat the British on Lake Erie. Unhesitantly he suggested Presque Isle for ship building; Presque Isle boasted fine oak trees which could keep their ships safe from attack in Erie’s bay.
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