Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On the Trail of Samuel Rhoades/Rhodes

There is a family legend in my husband's family about his grandfather, Andrew Lewis Rhodes. The tale goes that sometime in the late 1880s or early 1890s, Andrew and his brother Harley were placed in an orphanage by their mother, Ida M. (Dewey) Rhoades/Rhodes. The variations in the spelling of the surname are "explained" in this story, which relates that Andrew was not a good speller as a little boy, and he wrote his name "Rhodes" rather than "Rhoades" upon entering the orphanage. Why the boys were placed in the institution -- located somewhere around Chillicothe, Ohio -- is not revealed in the tale.

The bit about the name spelling seems a bit specious, for a couple of reasons. It is unlikely the child would have signed himself into the orphanage; his mother would have done that. I have no idea what sort of speller Ida was. The second reason this portion of the tale, at least, seems bogus is that in Andrew Lewis Rhodes's Railroad Retirement file, he spells his father's name as "Rhoades" on one document, and "Rhodes" on another. If he was a poor speller as a child, he did not lose the habit as an adult! His own name, however, he consistently signed as "Rhodes."

The photograph at right was found among Andrew Rhodes's effects.  I found it in Andrew's wallet, which we had in a box of other items.  On the back, Andrew identified the seated man as his father, Samuel.  The man standing next to him, with his hand on Samuel's shoulder, is unidentified.  To me, they appear a couple of rough-looking characters.  I cannot determine what the light patch on the standing man's hat is, but I wonder if it was not a police badge or a Pinkerton badge.  I have not been able to find out anything about the circumstances under which this photo was taken.  Were they both cops or private security?  Was the standing man a cop, and is that the hand of an arresting officer on Samuel's shoulder?

This could have a bearing on why the boys were placed in the orphanage.  Ida Dewey Rhoades/Rhodes was apparently alone at that time, with no means of support, and put the boys in the orphanage so they could be cared for.  She subsequently remarried, and Harley, at age 15, is with Ida and her second husband and their own three children, in the 1900 census.   Andrew, who would have been 18 in 1900, has so far not been located in that census, 

Andrew, in his Railroad Retirement file, lists his birthplace as Pike County, Ohio.  In an earlier census, 1870, there is a Samuel Rhoades in the home of his father Levi Rhoades, and not far from this household is a Dewey family with a daughter, Ida M.  My thought is that this is probably Andrew's parents as youngsters.  I need to corroborate that, but have not yet found, for instance, a birth record for Andrew.  It is the right county, however.  I also am on the track o a marriage certificate for a Samuel H. Rhoades and Ida Mary [sic] Dewey, recorded in the Pike County records as microfilmed by the LDS church.  The film is waiting for me at the Jacksonville Public Library, but I have not yet, due to illness, got a chance to view it.  Again, it is the right county, and the right time frame.

Harley Rhoades died in Florida in 1947.  I have found him and his wife in a couple of city directories, as well as seeing his death listed in the Florida death index.  Andrew came to Florida as well, and married in Lakeland.  Later, he came to Jacksonville in the course of his work as a Pullman conductor, and died there in 1966.

Though the trail is obscure, I feel that I am on the track of Samuel H. Rhoades/Rhodes, and will lay him to heel one of these days -- perhaps as the standing man in the photo did so long ago.  That is a story I really want to uncover!

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