JOSEPH RHODE (JONATHAN JOHN) (1819-1886)
HIS LIFE AND TIMES
ANCESTORS AND BIRTH
Joseph Rhode's grandfather was John Rhode, who came to America sometime about 1776 to 1780, and settled in South Carolina, where he married Mary Lewis. John Rhode left South Carolina about 1814 along with three of his sons, Thomas, Seymour and Caleb, settling in Ohio until about 1820, when the whole family moved to Indiana. Two other sons, William and Jonathan, had left South Carolina about 1810.
Joseph Rhode's father was Jonathan Rhode, and his mother was Mary Harriet (Anderson) Rhode, who, according to family tradition, was a first cousin to William Starke Rosecrans, one of the Union Generals of the Civil War. Joseph Rhode was the fifth child of eight children: Hester, Daniel, Allice, John, Joseph, Hannah, Caleb and Seymour. Joseph Rhode was born in 1819 in Ohio; this was about a year before the Rhode clan loaded up their wagons and moved farther west to Indiana.
JOSEPH RHODE MARRIES ELIZABETH GRAY
Joseph Rhode married Elizabeth Gray in Indiana on 11 July 1839. Her father was John Gray, who was a soldier in the War of 1812. Her grandfather was William Gray, an Englishman who immigrated to South Carolina about 1761. William Gray fought in the Revolutionary War.* He was killed in the Battle of Kings Mountain, fought at Charlotte, North Carolina, 7 October 1780. The battle pitted 1100 British soldiers against 1000 American backwoodsmen. The British losses were 200 killed and 664 taken prisoner. The American losses were 28 killed and 60 wounded. (See Chapter 6 of the History of the Gray Family.)
*Lineage Book Vol. 75, page 3, of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mrs. Calla Wattles Fenton, descendant of William Rhode, Serial Number 74009.
TREK TO THE OZARKS*
About a year after his marriage to Elizabeth Gray, Joseph Rhode, along with his parents, his four brothers and two sisters with their husbands, trekked in 1840 to the Ozarks in northern Arkansas. Farming in the hilly country of the Ozarks did not prove successful. Joseph and his brothers however, had exciting tales to tell their descendants in the years to come of their prowess and success in bear hunting.
Two children, Mary and Harriet, were born to Joseph and his wife Elizabeth in Arkansas. In the summer of 1843 the whole Rhode tribe left the Ozarks to return to Indiana, except Joseph's older brother Daniel, who remained in the Ozarks and then moved to Iowa in 1847. A short time before leaving the Ozarks Joseph's mother had passed away (1843).
*See the detailed story of the Ozark trip in the life of Jonathan Rhode in Chapter 2.
GRUBBING OUT NEW FARMS IN INDIANA
When the Rhode clan returned to Indiana, they rejoined the four brothers of their father, Jonathan. These brothers, William, Thomas, Seymour and Caleb, with their families, had been busy in the meantime grubbing out and improving their farms. Soon after his return to Indiana from the Ozarks, Jonathan Rhode, the father of Joseph, passed away on 23 November 1845. Joseph and each of his brothers and sisters' husbands purchased timber land and started to grub out farms again from the white oak forests. At that time the land was poorly drained; there were many ponds and sloughs which caused malaria. Nearly every family had the "ager" (ague) from time to time.
DANIEL RHODE SETTLES IN IOWA IN 1847*
"Joseph's oldest brother, Daniel, had remained in the Ozarks of Arkansas for about two years and then in 1847 trekked to southwest Iowa, which was afterwards called Fremont County (organized in 1849). Daniel Rhode first located near Big Springs at the edge of the bluff north of Hamburg where the Odd Fellows Park is located. This was before the Oberlin Colony had located in Civil Bend in October 1848. Daniel Rhode then filed claims to a large tract of land a few miles west of what is now the town of Tabor. On his way to Iowa he drove a hundred head of steers and sold them to the Mormons, who were enroute to their new location in Utah, now Salt Lake City. The cost to Daniel Rhode was about $8 a head; he sold them at $80 to $100 per yoke."
*Quoted from "Reminiscences" published in the Tabor Beacon for January 1939.
JOSEPH RHODE AND BROTHER JOHN TREK TO IOWA IN 1851
Joseph and John Rhode had heard from their brother Daniel of the great opportunities in western Iowa. The spirit of adventure and lure of good land to be homesteaded farther west seized them. So they sold their farms in Indiana and started for the West. Both brothers of course took along their families; with Joseph was his wife, Elizabeth, and their four small children: Mary, 10 years of age; Harriet 9; Dora 5; and Martha 1, the last two having been born in Indiana.
Of this trip Rev. Jacobs writes:
"This was in the days before there were any railroads. They had two large covered wagons, each drawn by four yoke of oxen, which the brothers drove. They were followed by two horse wagons, driven by their wives. Household goods and farming tools were loaded in the wagons. They also had along ten cows. It took over two months to make the journey of six hundred miles from Indiana to western Iowa. There were few if any bridges; the streams had to be forded or ferried. Illinois and Iowa were sparsely settled at that time, and they would travel for days without seeing a house."
[Hal Hatcher provided the following item entitled "Rhode Family Has Been Here 76 Years" from the Tabor Beacon News for 18 August 1927.]
"Sunday August 14th marked the 76th anniversary of the arrival of the families of John and Joseph Rhode.
"These men and their families left their homes in Indiana on May 10, 1851. They sent their stock cattle on ahead and came themselves with two wagons each, a freighter drawn by four yoke of oxen and a covered wagon drawn by a team of horses.
"1851 was a very wet year, and as there were no bridges they had to go to the head waters of many of the streams, and at night when camp was made they could often see the camping place of the night before.
"Of the family who were living at that time only three are now living. Mrs. Elizabeth Eccleston of Los Angeles, daughter of John Rhode; Mrs. Harriet McCormick of Tabor, and Mrs. Martha Loveland of Riverside, California.
"Mrs. McCormick has lived in this county continuously since 1851. J. C. Rhode and Walter Rhode are the only immediate descendants of John Rhode now living in Fremont County, and S. T. Rhode of Randolph, Mrs. McCormick and R. P. Rhode are the only Joseph Rhode descendants. These men settled the farms now owned by Walter Rhode and Mrs. Will Johnson."
[In 2005, Jack Camenga provided photographs of Harriett (sic) Rhode McCormick and S. P. McCormick (above). At this point, we return to Ellis G. Rhode's manuscript.]
SETTLING IN IOWA
In midsummer of 1851 Joseph and John Rhode with their families arrived in Fremont County, near what is now the town of Tabor, in western Iowa, where they were greeted by their older brother, Daniel, who was waiting for them. John Rhode bought a timber claim from John Hughes for $600. Joseph entered land from the government for $1.25 per acre, the amount asked during that early period; and, as they were among the first settlers, they had their choice of land. It is interesting to note that they did not choose the broad flat prairie land of the river bottoms but settled on rolling land partially timbered. The reason for choosing the rolling timbered land was that they needed timber for buildings and fences, as well as the protection from winter storms that such a location afforded. No doubt these were good reasons at that time for such a choice. However, in later years the bottom lands were more valuable.
PIONEER DAYS IN IOWA
The early days of 1851 in Iowa were pioneer days. Joseph Rhode was now thirty-two years of age. His life so far had been spent in the front ranks of agricultural pioneering as it advanced westwardfirst in Ohio, then in Indiana, then in the Ozarks in Arkansas, then back to Indiana, and then to the far West, as western Iowa was called at that time. This last settlement in Iowa was to be his permanent home.
After Joseph Rhode had selected his land, there was much to be done before winter set in. First, he had to construct corrals for the cows, horses and oxen. Next, a log cabin to house his family had to be built. The three brothers worked together on their cabins, as their farms adjoined. The log cabin had one room only. The fireplace was made of logs and mud. Some of the land had to be made ready for the crops that were to be planted the coming spring.
Roving bands of Indians were often troublesome. While the Indians had been removed to reservations in nearby Kansas and Nebraska, they often came over to the Iowa side of the Missouri River to hunt and trap. One day when Joseph Rhode had been out hunting, he returned home to find the Indians looting his granary and insisting that his wife Elizabeth give them her store of bacon and hens. Martha (Rhode) Loveland, a daughter, writes:*
"I so well remember the incident about those Indians being so very cross and ugly to our dear little mother, who was alone with Seym and me, who were not yet of school age (about 1854-1856). They just walked in and did not even knock. You know they can be so very quiet and pussyfooted when they want to be.
"That time they asked for meat, and mother went to her cupboard and brought out a large platter of boiled meat, of course it being for our family dinner, when they would all come home hungry. But no, they pointed to the smokehouse and ordered her out there; so she took a box and stood on it and started to take down a side of bacon, but they shook their heads angrily and said 'big meat,' so of course she began to hand down hams and shoulders.
"But just then dear Daddy (Joseph Rhode) appeared on the scene with his gun, and were the Indians surprised? and were we glad. He told them to drop the hams and shoulders, and then he pointed down the road and said 'Puc-a-chee,' which in the Indian language meant 'beat it,' and believe me, they did as they were commanded.
"I well remember how I was very much afraid the Indians would leave some of their papooses, as they were strapped on boards and leaned against the logs in the woodpile; but they took them and went off on the run, much to our great joy.
"Father was always kind and generous with the Indians, but he would not tolerate such acts as taking advantage of a frail little woman, for dear mother never weighed a hundred pounds. Yes, those were sure rich pioneer days."
*Letter to Ellis G. Rhode, 1935.
[Dr. Rhode notes that Martha Loveland's narrative affords insight into her culturally influenced perceptions of native Americans.]
Wild game in the early days was plentiful; wild turkeys, geese, ducks, prairie chickens, quail and cottontail rabbits abounded. Deer provided venison for the table and buckskin for garments. On Thanksgiving Day wild turkey was roasted for the family dinner. Coon, mink, muskrat, and skunk provided useful furs for caps and mittens. The Missouri River was only ten miles to the west, and fish were easily and often caught for the family table.
In July 1856 Dorothy (Gray) Rhode, wife of Jont Rhode (Seymour John) wrote from Hamburg, Iowa, to her parents in Indiana.*
(See the fascinating letter in Chapter 2, wherein Ann Miller Carr has quoted the entire letter from a typescript copy made by Elsie Jane Smith. Search for "els," Dorothy's misspelling of "else.")
*Copy of letter furnished by Guy Rhode of Ranchester, Wyoming, to Ellis G. Rhode.
Much of the family larder was supplied by the hunting skill of Joseph Rhode with his muzzle-loading rifle and shotgun. When sons Seym and Charles were old enough to handle guns* they spent much of their spare time providing game for the family needs. In 1870-1880 there were still buffalo on the plains of nearby Nebraska and Kansas; Seym and Charles made trips to hunt these animals. Every family had a supply of tanned buffalo hides that were useful for overcoats and bed coverings in the winters.
*Charles H. Rhode's old muzzle-loading shotgun was in the possession of Ellis G. Rhode.
THE THREE BROTHERS PROSPER
The three brothers, Joseph, John and Daniel, became large landowners and were prominent and prosperous citizens of Fremont County. Each lived in log cabins for a number of years, later building large residences to house their large families. The rural school that their children attended was known as the "Rhode School," as for years most of the scholars came from the three Rhode families.
JOSEPH RHODE BUILDS NEW MANSION
For eight years Joseph Rhode and his family lived in the old log cabin, until there were eight children in the family. In 1859 he finished building the finest mansion in all of Fremont County. People came from miles around to see this stately and commodious two and a half story house. It was built of wood native to the local area, much of it being black walnut and oak. The interior was all finished in black walnut. The sills in the foundation were hand hewn from oak and walnut logs. Sam McCormick, who was by trade a carpenter and who later married Joseph's daughter Harriet, helped build the new house.
Moving into the big new house was a great event in the lives of the Joseph Rhode family after living so many years in the cramped quarters and primitive accommodations of the old log cabin. This house was a landmark in Fremont County and was in constant use for 85 years. (In 1946 it was sold for $4OO and torn down for the black walnut and oak lumber used in its construction.)
Joseph's wife, Elizabeth, lived to enjoy the new home for only four years. It was a deep satisfaction to her, however, that at last her family had adequate room and the conveniences that the new mansion afforded after a lifetime of keeping house and caring for her family in the rude log shelters of the frontier.
THE CHILDREN BORN TO JOSEPH RHODE AND WIFE ELIZABETH
Mary, born in 1841, and Harriet, born in 1842, were born in the Ozarks in Arkansas; Dora, born 1846, John Wesley, born 1848 (died in infancy), and Martha, born 1850, were all born in Indiana. The following were born in the log cabin on the Rhode homestead near Tabor, Iowa: Seymour, born 1852; Esther, born 1854; and Sarah, born 1857. The last two children, Charles, born 1860, and Elizabeth, born 1863, were both born in the new house on the Rhode farm. All except John Wesley, who died in infancy, lived to marry, and all raised families of their own, except Elizabeth, who married but had no children.
[Hal Hatcher provided the following biographical sketches of Daniel T. Rhode and Seymore (sic) T. Rhode. Mark Kellam identified the sketches as appearing in A Biographical History of Fremont and Mills Counties, Iowa, published in Chicago by Lewis in 1901.]
Daniel T. Rhode
Among the agriculturists and stock-dealers of Green township who successfully carry on the business to which they give their attention is numbered, Mr. Rhode, whose name introduces this record. He was born in Warren County, Indiana, December 18, 1838. His father, John Rhode, was a native of Ohio, born in the western part of that state in 1817. When a boy he went to Indiana and afterward to Arkansas, where he remained for four years, after which he returned to the old home in the Hoosier state. He was of German lineage, for the great-grandfather of our subject came to the new world from Germany.
The grandparents of our subject were Jonathan and Harriet (Rosencrans) Rhode. The latter died in Arkansas about 1842, and the grandfather subsequently returned to Indiana, where his death occurred about 1845, having reached an advanced age when called to the home beyond. They reared five sons and two daughters, who have families. Two uncles and two aunts of our subject lived and died in Indiana, while John, Daniel and Joe Rhode all came to Iowa, John and Joseph having arrived in the state in 1851, while Daniel preceded them, having removed from Arkansas to Iowa in 1847. He was among the early settlers in the vicinity of Hamburg and before 1851he came to Fremont county and filed claims to a large tract of land, thus becoming the owner of eighteen hundred acres. He was one of the wealthy men in the country for his time. He entered nearly all the land at one dollar and a quarter per acre and took an active part in reclaiming the primitive prairie for purposes of civilization, his improvement of his property promoting the general prosperity as well as his individual success. On coming from Arkansas he drove one hundred head of steers to Iowa, where he sold them to the Mormons who were en route to Utah. The purchase price was about eight dollars per head and he sold them at from eighty to one hundred dollars per yoke, thus realizing a handsome profit. The Rhode brothers were prominently known in Fremont county as leading business men and the name has been inseparably connected with the history of this portion of the state. The mother of our subject bore the maiden name of Polly Cobb and was born in Lawrence county, Indiana, in which state she gave her hand in marriage to John Rhode.
Our subject was their first child and at the time of his birth the father was but twenty-one years of age. In their family were four children, the second being Elizabeth, the wife of Josiah Eggleston, who is living at Puget Sound, Washington, and has three children. Hannah is the wife of Mr. Buffington, a farmer of Nebraska, living in the Niobrara river country. Her first husband was Mr. Tarpening and she has three children. The fourth member of the Rhode family was a son who died in infancy. The mother died in Indiana, about 1825, and the father was again married, in Lawrence county, that state, his second union being with Miss Martha Scott, by whom he had eight children, five sons and three daughters. The eldest, Joseph, died at the age of fifteen years, and with the exception of two others all were married.
Great changes have come since John Rhode and his brother Joseph traveled to Iowa in the true emigrant style, with two large covered wagons, each drawn by four yoke of oxen, and two horse wagons, while each of the brothers also had five cows. As they crossed Illinois in the spring their wagons often got stuck in the mud, at which times they would double the teams and thus extricate the wagons. They were two months in making the journey and arrived in Fremont county in July or August. The two brothers located near their brother, Daniel, and the father of our subject paid six hundred dollars to John Hughes for his timber claim. He secured timber land, which everybody considered the most desirable, the prairies being regarded as comparatively worthless, as there was not timber to fence them. Then, too, on the prairies it was so cold and bleak that the settlers feared that they might freeze to death. Several of the pioneers did die upon those broad open stretches of country. About six years before his death, John Rhode buried his second wife. He passed away about 1896, upon the farm where he located in 1852, living then in a log cabin. About 1857, however, he had erected the present large frame house. At one time he was the owner of eight hundred acres of land and at his death he was still in possession of three hundred acres having given the remainder to his children, to whom he either donated land or money.
Daniel T. Rhode, whose name begins this record, was reared upon his father's farm. He was thirteen years of age when he came to Iowa, and here he remained until the 1st of May, 1859. He was of the number who started for Pike's Peak, on the discovery of gold there, but after spending one summer in that country he returned home. While en route he saw a number of buffaloes and killed three in one place. He remained with his parents until the spring of 1862, when he returned Pike's Peak, Colorado, remaining for eighteen months, during which time he worked on the stage route, building log houses and barns. He then went to Idaho, where he engaged in mining gold for three months, and then returned with ten thousand dollars of the precious metal. In one day he secured gold to the value of fifteen hundred and twelve dollars, having in one pan eighty-two dollars. This fortunate find came to him just at the right moment, for he and his partner were almost destitute of funds when they discovered the mine, in what was known as Stinking Water Gulch. They accidentally discovered the gold by digging at the side of a boulder, and Mr. Rhode still has in his possession nuggets which he found and which are worth from fifty to one hundred and twenty-seven dollars.
When twenty-nine years of age, on the 21st of March, 1868, Mr. Rhode was united in marriage to Miss Sarah C. Taliaferro, who was born in Missouri, a daughter of James and Catherine (Holland) Taliaferro, the former a native of Missouri and of French ancestry, while the latter was a native of Ohio. Unto our subject and his wife have been born eleven children, three of whom died in childhood. The others are Dora, the wife of Charles Delaney, by whom she has two children; Clara May, who is the wife of George Plank, and has two children, both of whom are now in Oregon; Wilbert, who died at the age of twenty-six years; Alonzo, who is a farmer of this neighborhood and has a wife and one son; Maggie, the wife of Alonzo Kempton, also a resident farmer of Green township; Curtis, a young man of twenty-one now in Oregon; Albert, who died at the age of fourteen years; Pearl, Richard and Daniel, aged respectively, seventeen, fourteen and nine years; and Ruby, who died at the age of four years.
Mr. Rhode is six feet in height and weighs two hundred and fifty-three pounds, and we seldom meet a man of greater strength or endurance. Of strong domestic tastes, his greatest enjoyment comes to him through his associations of home. He is today the owner of four hundred and eighty acres of land, of which one hundred and fifty is timber. He also has ten acres and a good residence in Tabor. He has recently purchased two thousand acres in Kansas, upon which he has placed his son Alonzo. He carries on general farming and in addition successfully follows stock-raising, keeping on hand twenty-four horses, while annually he feeds and sells one hundred head of shorthorn cattle. He has the most of his land seeded down and has grown from six to seven thousand bushels of corn in a year. His fine timber is largely black walnut. Fine modern improvements may be seen on his place, including his mammoth barn, which is forty by seventy-two feet, with sixteen-foot posts. It is all built of hewed frame timbers from his woods and has an eight-foot basement. Everything about the place is neat and thrifty and up to date.
In his political views Mr. Rhode is a Republican, having supported the party since casting his first presidential ballot for Abraham Lincoln. He has served as school director and road commissioner, but has never been an aspirant for office, preferring to devote his time and energies to his business affairs, in which he has met with creditable success.
Seymore T. Rhode
The history of Randolph would be incomplete without the mention of Seymore T. Rhode, who is a representative of an honored pioneer family and is one of the most prominent and influential business men of the town, being the senior member of the firm of S. T. Rhode & Company. His birth occurred on the 23rd of June, 1852, in the county which is still his home, his parents being Joseph and Elizabeth (Gray) Rhode, both of whom were natives of Warren county, Indiana, in which place they were reared and married. The paternal grandfather, Jonathan Rhode, was born in Ohio and was of German descent, his father having come from Germany to America. He located first in South Carolina, where he served under General Marion in the commissary department in the Revolution. He was a farmer, operating his plantation by the aid of the slaves that he owned, but becoming disgusted with the slave traffic he disposed of his interets in the south and went to Ohio.
Jonathan Rhode, the grandfather of our subject was reared to agricultural pursuits in the Buckeye state, and at an early period in the development of Indiana he became a resident of that state, where he carried on farming. He married and became the father of seven children, namely: Daniel A.; Elsa, the wife of William Cobb; and John, both of whom were agriculturists; Joseph, the father of our subject; Hannah, the wife of R. McCord; Caleb and Seymour. The parents were both members of the Society of Friends, and the kindly spirit so characteristic of that sect was exemplified in their lives.
Joseph Rhode, the father of our object, was married in Indiana and there began farming and subsequently he and his family accompanied his father's family on their removal to northwest Arkansas, in 1840. A few years later, however, they returned to Indiana and in 1851 they came to Fremont county, Iowa, where Joseph Rhode entered land from the government, developing and improving the farm upon which he remained throughout the remainder of his days. He became an extensive agriculturist and stock-raiser and dealer, being one of the leaders in this line of business in the community.
In politics he was a stalwart Republican and was recognized as one of the leaders of the party in his portion of the state, his influence being used with telling effect in support of the principles in which he believed. He took a deep interest in the war, but ill health prevented him from going to the front. His fellow townsmen, recognizing his worth and ability, frequently called him to public office and he was chosen to represent Fremont county in the state legislature. He also served as a member of the county board for a number of years and filled many minor offices, exercising his official prerogatives in support of every measure which he believed would contribute to the general good. He was instrumental in securing the passage of the act for an assessment upon vacant lands owned by speculators. Of strong mentality, he viewed each question that came up for consideration, not only from the standpoint of to-day but of the future as well, desiring that all his official acts should prove of not only immediate good, but of continued benefit. He was liberal, charitable, enterprising and public-spirited, and his life, in purpose and in act, commanded the confidence and genuine regard of all with whom he was associated. He died January 17, 1886, and the community thereby lost one of its most valued citizens, his neighbors a faithful friend and his family a considerate father. His wife had passed away many years before, her death occurring in 1863. She was a daughter of John Gray, who settled in Lawrence county, Indiana, in the pioneer days. His father was killed at the battle of King's Mountain in the Revolutionary war. The Gray family is of Scotch-Irish descent, and John Gray died in Lawrence county, leaving ten children, namely: William, Jacob, Lidia, Dorothea, Wesley, Ephraim, James, Mrs. Elizabeth Rhode and Hamilton.
Unto Joseph and Elizabeth (Gray) Rhode were born ten children: Mary, who became the wife of L. O. Baker and died in 1880; Harriet, the wife of S. P. McCormick; Dorothea S., who became Mrs. Reed and died in 1882; John, who died in childhood; Mrs. Martha F. Loveland; Seymore T., of this review; Mrs. Esther R. Hurst; Sarah, who is the widow of Dr. William Matthews, and is living in Colorado; Charles H., of Cass county, Iowa; and Elizabeth A. of California. After the death of his first wife, Joseph Rhode, the father of our subject, married Mrs. West, a widow and a daughter of Deacon Kinney, of Ohio. Their children were Edith, who became the wife of A. A. Failing and Mrs. Lucy Stevens. Their mother having passed away, Mr. Rhode married Mrs. Snow, a widow, and a daughter of D. M. Paul, of Thurman, Iowa. Two children graced this marriage, Guy and Ray, who are living on the old homestead with their mother. [In 2005, Jack Camenga provided a photograph of Edith and A. A. Failing. Jack also supplied a photo depicting Sarah Rhode Matthews, identified as "Gammie" at the far left, and Joseph Rhode Matthews, second from the right (below). Jack provided a picture of Sarah with her grandchildren (below). Further, he offered a photo of Joseph Rhode Matthews (below).]
Seymore T. Rhode has spent his entire life in Fremont county. He remained under the parental roof throughout the period of his minority and acquired a common school education. He afterward rented a farm for two years and then purchased a half interest in a drug store at Tabor conducting the enterprise for eighteen months, when he sold out and became an equal partner in a hardware and grocery store of that place. Again, after two years, he sold out and then came to Randolph, where he spent a year and a half as a salesman in a general store, owned by Mr. Barbour. On the expiration of that period he went to Silver City, Mills county, Iowa, where he followed clerking for a year and a half in a hardware and grocery store. He was married in 1880, and the following year he came to Randolph where he purchased an interest, with Mr. Ashbaugh, in a hardware and implement business. The following year that association was discontinued and Mr. Rhode entered into partnership with Isaac Johnson, in the conduct of a hardware, lumber and agricultural implement business, which they carried on until 1893, when Mr. Rhode purchased Mr. Johnson's interest and incorporated the business under the style of S. T. Rhode & Company. The firm now buys and ships grain and does a general trading business of considerable volumes.
On the 24th of October, 1880, Mr. Rhode was united in marriage to Miss Violet Alensworth, who was born in Ohio, February 17, 1854, a daughter of John and Mary Alensworth, who came to Mills county, Iowa, in 1875. Her father was a farmer but after coming to this state retired from active business and died in Mills county in 1879. His wife, who was a consistent member of the Methodist church, survived him until 1893. The father was twice married and the children of the first union were William, James, Anna, Kate and Rebecca; while of the second marriage the following were born: Albert, who is now an engineer in Nebraska; Violet; Lewis, a farmer of Mills county; Estella, the wife of W. Adamson; and Emma, the wife of S. H. Earl. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Rhode have been born six children; Elsie, born February 20, 1881; Ethel, born July 6, 1883; Joseph, born August 8, 1886; John, born March 22, 1888; Edward, born June 28, 1892; and Dorothea, born September 22, 1896.
Mrs. Rhode is a consistent and worthy member of the Methodist Episcopal church; while socially Mr. Rhode is a Mason, belonging to both the blue lodge and the chapter. In politics he is a stalwart Republican, unwavering in his allegiance to the party, but he has never sought office. His attention has been exclusively given to his business affairs, and through the legitimate channels of trade he has acquired a handsome competence. There are no startling or exciting chapters in his life record, but his history is that of a man who has ever been faithful to his duty, to his family, to his neighbor and to his country.
[The biographical sketches end here.]
LIFE ON THE FARM IN THE EARLY DAYS
Farming in the early fifties was slow and cumbersome as compared to modern farming with gasoline tractors and labor-saving farm machinery. Oxen were used for plowing and hauling. Much of the farm work was done by hand. Tools were few and crude. From Indiana the Rhode brothers brought plows, harrows, hoes, hand rakes, spades and scythes. This represented the equipment of the most prosperous farmer in the early pioneer days of the 1850s.
The land the Rhode brothers settled on was rolling and partially wooded. There were some open meadows covered with buffalo grass that was ready for the plow. In other places brush had to be cleared from the land. This land of course was virgin soil, never having been plowed. The plow used was known as the walking plow. It was a single plow with handles that the plowman grasped to guide its course. Harrows were made by driving spikes or setting teeth on a series of rails fastened together.
Oats and wheat were sowed by hand. In harvesting, the grain was cut by hand with a device called a "cradle," which was a large scythe with a framework to collect the grain in bundles as it was cut. The bundles were bound by hand, using straw for bands. The McCormick reaper did not come into general use until about the time of the Civil War. There were no threshing machines. The grain was first separated from the straw by flailing, which was pounding the grain by a short stick of wood tied by a piece of rope to a longer stick that was swung by the flailer. The grain was then separated from the hulls by winnowing, or pouring the grain and hulls on a windy day from a basket, the wind blowing the hulls to one side. Hay was cut with a scythe; after drying it was raked by hand with forks and piled in haycocks which were afterward pitched on to the wagon and hauled to the haystack or to the barn.
Corn was planted by hand. The whole family helped in harvesting or husking the corn in the fall. As the wagon went slowly down the row with many stops, two or three rows on each side were husked and thrown into the wagon. Someone had to husk the down row behind the wagon, which was the hardest job. So they usually took turns, and no one was anxious for his turn. Selected ears of corn were hung in the barn to dry and be used for seed the following year. Corn was fed to stock in the ear. Corn to be shelled had to be done by hand, a laborious process. Corn and wheat were taken to a mill and traded for cornmeal and flour. The mill was located on a river and employed water power to grind the grain.
Rails were used for fences. Barbed wire was not invented until 1875. However, rail fences were popular for a long time after that, where rails were available. Even today one can find rail fences in use in wooded regions.
Every family raised a large garden providing an abundance and variety of fresh vegetables. Large amounts of garden products were canned or put down for winter use. The root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, were stored in a cave or cellar where they would not freeze in the winter. Apple orchards were planted, which later provided a plentiful supply of apples. Mention has already been made of the abundance of game that supplied much of the fresh meat. Hogs were butchered; the hams and sides were smoked in the smokehouse with hickory wood. The cows furnished fresh milk; the cream was skimmed from shallow crocks and, after souring, was churned by hand in a dasher churn to make butter. Sorghum cane was taken to a neighbor who operated a small mill. The stalks were fed into rollers operated by a horse hitched to a sweep, the horse walking around in a circle. The roller crushed out the juice, which was boiled down in shallow pans, making molasses. The children made molasses candy by boiling down the molasses and adding peanuts. Soap was made by letting water drip through a barrel of ashes; this ash water was put in a large iron kettle, holding some twenty-five gallons, wherein the ash water was boiled with hog fat, which made soap. This soap was really potent. When hardened, it was cut in cakes.
In the woods were to be found a variety of good things to eat; black walnuts were gathered under the trees after the first frost in the fall. Shucking the walnuts stained the hands, and the smudges did not come off for days. Hickory nuts grew on the shagbark hickory trees. Wild grapes and plums made fine jelly, and wild gooseberries made wonderful pies. Paw-paws were considered a great delicacy. The children loved to eat wild chokecherries, which puckered their mouths and blacked their teeth. Wild blackberries grew along the fence rows, where one often got into poison ivy with bad results.
There was plenty of work on the farm from early to late for the adults. The children had their chores to do when they came home from the Rhode country school: filling the woodbox, gathering the eggs, feeding the farm stock, and many other chores. During the summer vacation, there was farm and garden work, hoeing and weeding to keep them busy. The farm supplied plentiful and nourishing food, and outdoor work whetted their appetites. Even with their many duties, the children found time to play. The boys often went hunting and fishing. They all gathered berries and went nutting. There was the old swimming hole in the creek nearby, which was a fine place to be on hot summer days. They made pets of the young calves, colts and sometimes even the pigs. On the farm there were always a number of dogs and cats. There were horses to ride; all the children, of course, knew how to harness, drive and ride horses.
Farm work entailed long hours of physical labor, but there were rewards of tasks accomplished, of crops growing in the spring, and the harvest in the fall. In the long winter evenings the children would gather around the fireplace, cracking nuts, popping popcorn, and parching sweetcorn, while mother was busy with her spinning wheel and father rested in his homemade chair. Before going to bed father always read a chapter in the Bible to the family. The last thing was that the children demanded a story, of which Joseph Rhode had a large fund, especially bear stories that the children loved; these bear stories were supposed to be true stories of bear hunting by the Rhode brothers in the Ozarks. The following are some of the Joseph Rhode stories.
"One time an old sailor came by the farm here and asked for a job for a few days. Back of the house was some land that needed plowing. As one of the oxen had died, I hitched up Nancy, the mare, with the remaining ox. I started the sailor out on a furrow, but, not long after coming back to the house, I heard a great commotion. I could hear the sailor shouting, 'Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!' So I shouted back, 'What's the matter?' Then the sailor answered, 'The larboard ox is on the starboard side, and Nancy is tangled up in the rigging.'"
"Another story, Daddy," the children would beg, as children usually do. He would begin: "Well, in the early days when we mowed the grain with the scythe or cradle, the neighbors usually helped each other out. So a number of us were mowing the wheat of a neighbor who was known for his stinginess. The men had been busy mowing wheat from sunup to sundown. All the grain we had cut was still on the ground. Just as we were quitting at sundown, the old man cocked his head to one side, put his hand behind his ear as if listening, and said, 'Hark! hear him tunder? Gather and shock, boys, gather and shock.' Now there was not a cloud in the sky, but thinking the old man must have heard distant thunder, the men started binding the loose bundles and then setting the bundles in shocks, working in the long twilight until darkness came, making the grain safe from a possible rain. It did not rain, and the next day the men wondered if the old man had really heard thunder. Well, along about sundown the next day as the men were finishing the mowing, the old man acted again as if he were listening and said again, as the day before, 'Hark! hear him tunder? Gather and shock, boys." We knew for sure now that the old man had been playing a mean trick on us, and we were in no mood to be fooled again. I stepped up to the old man, shook my fist under his nose, and said to him, 'Now, you played a dirty trick on us yesterday, but you can't get away with it again today. We don't hear any thunder, and neither do you. You can gather and shock your own grain, and after this you can do your own mowing as well."
"Now a bear story, Daddy," the children would say. Father Joseph would answer: "Well, all right, but this will be the last story and then to bed, all of you! I remember one time we five brothers went bear hunting in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The dogs finally trailed a bear to some caves in a ledge of rock below where we were. We let your Uncle Daniel down over the ledge with a rope that we carried. It was not long before we heard a shot followed by more shots, which seemed to come as fast as the old muzzle-loading rifle could be reloaded. Then the shooting stopped, and, after what seemed to be a long time, we began to get very much worried as to what had happened to Uncle Daniel. Perhaps an old she-bear had attacked him and this very moment was chewing him up. There was only one thing to do: one of us must go to his rescue. It was decided that I should go, so strapping a gun on my back and sticking a long knife in my belt, I was just starting to go over the cliff on the rope when there was a tug on the rope, which was the signal to haul it up. When we pulled, there was something heavy on the end of the rope: either a bear or Uncle Daniel. When we finally got it up to the edge of the cliff, it was a great fat bear tied on the end of the rope. After untying the bear, we lowered the rope to pull up Uncle Daniel, and what do you think? Instead of Uncle Daniel there was a second bear on the end of the rope. The third time, we lowered the rope. Now we would haul up Uncle Daniel and hear how he killed the two bears, but were we surprised when we hoisted up the rope and, on the end, honest to goodness, a third bear! We began to wonder if Uncle Daniel had killed all the bears in the Ozarks. Our arms ached pulling up those heavy bears. Well, we let the rope down again and pulled it up the fourth time. Something heavy was on the end again, and what do you suppose was on the rope this time? (The children would chorus, 'Another bear!') No, this time it was really Uncle Daniel, all safe and sound without a scratch on him. Now, skedaddle to bed, every man Jack of you!"
ELIZABETH (GRAY) RHODE, PIONEER WIFE AND MOTHER
Elizabeth Rhode's life exemplified the highest and noblest traditions of the pioneer wife and mother. She shared the adventures and hardships of the frontier with her husband, Joseph. With him she made three long laborious overland treks to new frontiers, cooking the meals over campfires. On the two-months trip from Indiana to Iowa, she drove a team and cared for her small children. Twenty of her twenty-four years of married life were spent in log cabins, with their inconveniences and the backbreaking toil of pioneer living and caring for a large family.
The fireplace in the Rhode log cabin on the homestead near Tabor, Iowa, was used for heating and cooking. Homemade tallow candles served for light. Water was carried from the spring. Mattresses were stuffed with straw. Furniture was made by hand. Clothes were fashioned from flax and wool, carded and spun during the long winter evenings. In the early days Elizabeth planned on going to town but once a year. Sidney was their trading center at first. The yearly trip was a great shopping event. So careful was she of her meager household equipment that she expected her sewing needle to last her for a full year and, on this annual visit to the village, purchased a new one. In later years her children often spoke of the skill and dexterity of her busy fingers. One may well wonder how a woman of her small size could accomplish all the many things she did. Her daughter Martha said that she was a frail-looking woman, weighing less than one hundred pounds.
She bore and cared for ten children, who always remembered their mother Elizabeth for her high ideals, her faith in the Bible, and her affection and care for each of them. There were thirty grandchildren, not one of whom she lived to see. The last four years of her life were spent in the fine new house she and her husband Joseph had dreamed of so many years while living in log cabins. To Elizabeth, the new house was a source of great pride and gratitude that at last her large family had ample room and conveniences.
In 1863 shortly after the birth of her last child Elizabeth, who was named after her mother, Elizabeth (Gray) Rhode passed away from blood poisoning from this birth. She is buried beside her husband in the Rhode family plot in the Tabor, Iowa, Cemetery.
Elizabeth (Gray) Rhode's favorite chapter in the Bible was the sixth chapter of Matthew. Her favorite verses in this chapter were the 3rd, 19th and 20th verses, in which are found the following passages:
"When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth."
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, / But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal."
For many years Tabor College, located at Tabor, Iowa, was the center of educational and cultural activities in southwest Iowa. Tabor College was a Congregational co-educational school. It had a fine campus, brick buildings, and an excellent faculty, and it was highly rated. Tabor College was founded in 1866. Until it closed in about 1910, Tabor College gave excellent educational advantages to many ambitious young people largely from southwest Iowa. There were no high schools in this area in the 70s and early 80s, but there was a Tabor Academy founded in 1857, which gave education and training beyond grade school.
There is definite record that at least four of Joseph Rhode's sons and daughters attended Tabor College: Seym, Charles, Bessie and Martha. Probably some of the others attended also. The old roster of the Amateur Society* lists Charles and Bessie as being members of this literary organization (later called Phi Delta Literary Society), which was one of the social and self-improvement organizations of the college.
*The roster was in the possession of Ellis G. Rhode.
JOSEPH RHODE'S SERVICE TO HIS COMMUNITY
Charles Rhode writes:*
"My father, Joseph Rhode, was a large man of athletic build, standing well over six feet in height. His brothers Daniel and John were also large men. Joseph Rhode was the best foot racer, jumper, and all-around athlete in the whole county round. He had the record of being the strongest man at the log rollings in the neighborhood.
"Joseph Rhode was much above the average man in character and everything that goes to make a man above men. He took an active part in county politics. He was a county supervisor for years. Old settlers of Fremont County told me he broke the worst ring of grafters that ever infested a county courthouse. He was a man of fine judgment and was absolutely square in all of his dealings."
"His services to the community were honored by his being chosen as representative of his district to the Seventeenth General Assembly, or State Legislature, which met in Des Moines, lowa, from January to March 1878.**
**See the letter to Ellis G. Rhode, November 1933, from the Curator of The State Historical Department, Des Moines, Iowa, confirming Joseph Rhode's services as Representative.
"Joseph Rhode took a very active part in this legislative session. Whenever a number of representatives were standing on the floor at the same time seeking recognition of the speaker or chairman, it is said that Joseph Rhode was almost always given preference to speak.
"He was known far and wide by the name of 'Uncle Joe,' and, for many years in the fifties and sixties, he knew every man in Fremont County. In all public questions and enterprises, he was a leader and was always ready to stand for the right. In fact, he often let his own business suffer to attend to that of the public. He was an ideal man and had few if any faults."
*Letter to Ellis G. Rhode, February 1913.
A granddaughter, Stella (Loveland) Towne, relates: "During the Civil War, Grandfather Joseph Rhode was appointed as Captain of the Home Guards, one of his duties being to organize the help in harvesting the crops of families whose men folks had gone to war."
Rev. Peter Jacobs writes, "Joseph Rhode's family were all regular attendants at the Congregational Church at Tabor. As there were fourteen children of his own, and nine others who found a home with him, it required two spring wagons to bring them to church. When the first of the family were ready to be seated in their pews, the last ones would be coming up the steps."
JOSEPH RHODE MARRIED A SECOND TIME
In about 1865 Joseph Rhode married a second time to a widow, Mrs. Mary J. West, who had three children of her own, all of whom came to live in her new home. They were Arthur J. West, Alice West and Earnest West. Two children were born to Joseph Rhode and his second wife, Mary; they were Edith Rhode, born in 1866, and Lucy, born in 1868. The second wife was a grand woman; it is said she taught the children by her example. She had her hands full in bringing up the large family that now numbered fifteen counting her own. Harriet, one of the older daughters of Joseph, had been married in 1863. About seven years after her marriage to Joseph Rhode, Mary died suddenly of heart failure in 1872.
JOSEPH RHODE MARRIES A THIRD TIME
In 1879 Joseph Rhode married a third time to Mrs. Alice (Paul) Snow, who was born in 1847 in Indiana and died at Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1915. Alice Snow was a widow with three small children of her own: Luella Snow, Herschel Snow and Agnes Snow. Two children were born to Joseph Rhode and his third wife Alice; they were Oliver Guy Rhode, born in 1880, and Raymond Paul Rhode, born in 1882. [In 2004, Hal Hatcher discovered this notice in the 6 June 1911 "Tabor Topics" of the Mills Co. Tribune: "Mrs. Alice Rhode and Gerald Duncan with Misses Eula Snow and Nina Tipple left Friday (2 June 1911) for Sheridan, Wyo. Mrs. Tipple will spend the summer with her sister Mrs. J. E. West and the others will make Sheridan their home." The name "Eula" looks suspiciously like "Luella" and may be the correct spelling. Hal also found the full date of Joseph P. Rhode's marriage in the Fremont County, Iowa, marriage lists: 3 September 1879.]
Three other children, Thomas A. Rhode, Seymour J. "Little Seym" Rhode and Aletha Rhode, who had been orphaned by the death of their parents (Elizabeth Wolf and Caleb Rhode, cousin of Joseph) came to live under the paternal roof of Joseph Rhode. [In Chapter 2, Ellis G. Rhode refers to Elizabeth Wolf as Jemima Wolf.] This made a total of twenty-three children raised in the Joseph Rhode home.
JOSEPH RHODE PASSES AWAY IN 1886
In January 1886 Joseph Rhode passed away from heart failure at the age of 67 years. He was buried in the Rhode family plot in Tabor, Iowa, beside his first wife, Elizabeth. Thirteen of his fourteen children survived him. All were married. There were forty-four grandchildren.
Joseph Rhode, pioneer of the West, respected and admired by everyone in his community far and wide who affectionately called him "Uncle Joe," a leader in his community as a citizen and an office holder, a kind father and devoted husband . . .