Jacob Dodson was an African-American member of John C. Fremont's group of explorers who traversed Nevada in the mid-1840s. As such, he is, with Peter Ranne, one of the first known persons of African descent to enter the territory now known as Nevada.
Dodson, a free black, was employed as Fremont's personal valet as early as 1843. In this role, he accompanied Fremont on his 1843–44 expedition that crossed over into northern Nevada and, after passing through Sutter's Fort and much of central California, returned through southern Nevada and what later became Las Vegas on the way back to Missouri. The financial report for that journey makes special mention of Dodson: "Jacob Dodson, a free young colored man of Washington city, who volunteered to accompany the expedition, and performed his duty manfully throughout the voyage."
Dodson also accompanied Fremont on his 1845–46 expedition that led through the Great Basin along the Humboldt River. Throughout these travels, Dodson seems to have been an indispensable companion to Fremont. Frequently, he would be included in scouting parties of just a few men. For example, in February 1844, Dodson and Fremont left the others for a two-day reconnaissance trip in the region around the Carson Pass, where they fell through ice at one point.
Dodson was still with Fremont in 1847, and he was one of only two men to accompany Fremont on the famed Los Angeles–Monterey–Los Angeles trip in the spring of that year in which 840 miles were covered in eight days. Dodson seems to have remained with the Fremont family until at least 1857, when he is mentioned in a letter written by Jessie Benton Fremont.