William P. Rhodes


Carroll County IL Biography



There is no business in the city of Savanna better represented than that conducted by the five Rhodes brothers, of whom the subject of this sketch is the eldest. The other members of the firm are Henry C., Thomas B., John B., and Richard G. They are the most extensive dealers in lumber, grain, farming implements, and live-stock, of any concern in the county. They also carry on a branch store at Mt. Carroll for the sale of lumber and coal, which is conducted by Thomas B. Rhodes. This company of five brothers was organized and incorporated in July, 1884, since which time they have done an extensive business, and have become widely and favorably known. They also own and operate a large grain elevator, with the capacity of 40,000 bushels, and have, likewise, a planing-mill, thoroughly equipped to prepare lumber for all building purposes, and capable of turning out 3,000,000 feet per year. This mill was established in 1884, and is run under the firm name of Rhodes & Bowen. The company’s large business has been conducted with skill, and has won the success that is usually the reward of earnest and united effort and upright dealing.

The history of this corporation dates back to the summer of 1874, at which time, our subject and his brother, Henry C., established themselves, with but limited capital, in the lumber and grain business at Savanna. This start was made under very unfavorable circumstances, neither of the parties having the slightest experience in the trade. The city, too, at that time, was decidedly quiet so far as business was concerned, its present active prosperity having commenced since then. The place numbered less than 1,000 souls, and some of its now principal streets had to be mowed with a scythe to keep down the weeds of summer. Besides all this, there were two other competing lumber men in the place – one with plenty of capital, and twenty-seven years of experience at Savanna. Under these unpromising circumstances, our two plucky and wide-a-wake young men began their business career. But by absolute integrity in all their transactions, they have acquired the very best class of customers, and have established a business which is very gratifying to themselves and to their friends. Their aim is to buy and sell the very best of everything, even though it cost a little more money, rather than to contend with competitors, and, by making injudicious cuts in prices, be compelled to furnish their customers an inferior article. That this policy has been appreciated is amply proven by the business they are doing today.

The policy which these young men started out with they have faithfully adhered to, and they have acquired, not only a considerable share of this world’s goods, but their well-known character for integrity has gained them unlimited credit, not only at home, but any place where they may have an occasion to transact business. They are now the owners of a large number of houses and lots, and other valuable property, in the city of Savanna and elsewhere.

William P. Rhodes, our subject, was the second child and eldest son of his parents’ eight children, and was born in Savanna, Sept. 6, 1850. His parents were thoughtful and intelligent people, and gave to their children careful home training. School facilities at the time were rather limited, and after getting such education as he could in his native county, our subject entered a college at Notre Dame, near South Bend, Ind., and there remained until he had acquired a good education. On leaving college, he first located in Wisconsin, but after a short time went to Winona, Minn., and was there engaged in the grain business for two years. His father naturally desired to have his sons close by him, and he encouraged William to come back to Savanna and open a lumber-yard and grain-market in company with his brother, Henry C., and this, as stated, was the beginning of the present prosperous business. The advent of the other three brothers into the firm dates back about five years. Their parents were John B. and Mary J. (Pierce) Rhodes – the father a native of Hanoverton, Columbiana Co., Ohio, who came from the latter place to Illinois in an early day, and located where the city of Savanna now stands, before the place had been incorporated as a village. He is a man of extremely active temperament, and during his life in Savanna has been connected with many business enterprises. Shortly after locating here he entered the mercantile line; afterward we find him engaged as a captain of a Mississippi River steamboat; later, he resumed merchandising in Savanna. At present he is engaged in the grocery trade there with his son, Richard G., and is now seventy-one years old. A man of great intelligence, his reminiscences of early days in this section of the country are extremely interesting. When he first located here the country was new and unsettled, and life was for a time a hard struggle. Early in the history of the county he was elected Sheriff, and, as one of its first Tax Collectors, was compelled to call upon every resident of the county.

After taking up his residence here, the elder Rhodes was united in marriage with Miss Mary J. Pierce, who was the first white child born in Savanna, the year of her birth being 1829. She died in Moline, Ill., in 1877, aged forty-eight years. Her father, Aaron Pierce, came from Ohio in the twenties, and settled in Savanna, whose site was then an unbroken prairie, and he was one of the original proprietors of the ground whereon it is located.

Mr. Rhodes, of whom we write, was united in marriage, at Hanoverton, Ohio, Sept. 7, 1887, with Miss Hattie Pearce, who was born in Hanoverton, Aug. 22, 1863. She was reared and educated in the place of her birth, and was given a careful home training by her parents, Herod and Ann (Schooley) Pearce, the former of whom died at Hanoverton at an advanced age, and the latter is now residing in Savanna with her daughter, and is aged sixty-eight years. Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes have one child – Lucille A.

Mr. Rhodes, for so young a man, is occupying a prominent position in the city of Savanna, both in business and social circles. A number of the leading offices in the city government have been offered him, which he has almost invariably declined. He, as well as his father and all of his brothers, are stanch Republicans, but none have ever been attracted by the allurements of public life. He affiliates with the Masonic fraternity, being a member of the Blue Lodge and Chapter at Savanna, also of Savanna Lodge No. 164, I. O. O. F. His wife is a member of the Methodist Church. Still a young man, Mr. Rhodes has before him, undoubtedly, a bright future – the qualities which have thus far brought him success being such as will secure for him a leading position among the business men of this portion of the county.

Transcribed & Contributed by Carol Parrish from Portraits and Biographical 1889 Pg 807

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