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Samuel Rodefer



A portrait of whom appears on another page of this volume, is one of the oldest and best known citizens of Boone County. He is a native of Virginia, having been born near Woodstock, Shenandoah County, in that state. His early life was marked by the toils and privations so characteristic of the sturdy people of that day and generation. At the age of eighteen years his father, Philip Rodefer, had the son bound to Henry Layman, for a term of three years, to learn the trade of carpentering. For his services in this vocation the young man was rewarded by being clothed by his employer and sent to school three months in the winter of each year. Two weeks of each year, however, in accordance with the terms of the contract, the son was to be allowed to assist in the harvesting at his father’s farm. He remained with Layman about one year and a half, but that gentleman removing to Ohio at the end of that time, the young apprentice was released from his contract. Following this experience young Rodefer worked in the country for a time, and subsequently went to Woodstock, where he worked for John Clower, Sr., at carpentering and cabinet making, which he continued for several years, receiving for his services the munificent salary of from five to eight dollars per month. In February, 1839, at the solicitation of his brother, James, who was four years his senior and had been living at Logansport, the subject of this sketch was induced to return to Indiana with his relative. He was then twenty-two years of age. On Sunday, the 10th day of March, 1839, the brothers started to the west, overland, having one horse between them, the two alternately walking and riding, in accordance with a mutual understanding. The journey was a long and tedious one, the monotony of the dreary march being relieved only occasionally by incidents which space forbids to be detailed in this brief sketch. Their route was along the National road, and they traveled at the rate of about thirty to thirty-three miles a day. Arriving in Montgomery County, Ohio, they rested two weeks with an uncle who resided twelve miles west of Dayton. Resuming their journey, they passed through the town of Marion, Indiana, and thence through the Indian Reserve to Peru, the younger brother there beholding for the first time a real, live Indian. They arrived in Rochester, Fulton County, April 17, 1839. The subject of this sketch soon after commenced work at cabinet making for Jacob Kitt. By hard labor and the most rigid economy the struggling young mechanic had saved up a sum of money amounting to $20 or $25, and while working at his trade there he made his first loan, which, by the way, was an unfortunate one, a scheming individual getting the hard earnings of the young man in exchange for a worthless note, an experience Mr. Rodefer frequently experienced in the latter years of an active business life, and while some of his transactions in after years may have cost him many times the amount of his first loss, none of them, perhaps, were ever so keenly felt.

In the latter part of December, 1842, Mr. Rodefer was united in marriage with Mary Ann W. Barlow, whose home was in Hendricks County, but who was then living with her sister, Mrs. Ruth J. Martin. To this union one child was born – December 27, 1843 – a daughter, who is yet living, the wife of John F. Gabriel, of Carthage, Mo. Mrs. Rodefer died July 7, 1844. In June, 1848, Mr. Rodefer was married the second time to Mary Brewer, of Greenwood, Ind., who lived with her sister, Mrs. Ponce, near Rochester, and the following year moved to Lebanon, then a struggling village. This wife died in December, 1849, in a house built by Mr. Rodefer on a lot which is now covered by the Globe Flouring Mills. In April, 1852, Mr. Rodefer was again married, his bride being Miss Talitha Campbell, of Johnson County, a lady of many virtues and accomplishments. She died June 27, 1866, leaving two daughters – Dora, a bright and promising girl, who died January 28, 1871, and Atha May, now the wife of Charles E. Wilson.

Mr. Rodefer’s residence in Lebanon has been marked by an active participation in business affairs, and his entire time is still devoted to his large business interests. By prudent investments, a close attention to details, correct habits, and a strict adherence to business rules, he has accumulated a handsome competence. He subscribes freely to every practical public enterprise, and gives freely to every deserving charity; and yet the manner of the giving is so modest and so unostentatious that the acts are not blazoned to the world. He is thoroughly in accord with the tenets of orthodox Christianity, and a liberal contributor to all churches of whatsoever name.

The poet of divine tragedy has aptly said that –

“The evils that men do live after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”

It is no exaggeration to say that the evils of the man of whom we write are fewer than those of most men of this age. Born midst the humblest surroundings, bereft of influential friends or relatives, thrown on the cold charities of the world and his own resources, and with only a meager [sic] education, he has successfully fought the great battle of life, armed as he was only with the inherent virtues of a strong will, a long head and a good heart.

The term “self-made” is often inappropriately used. As applied to the gentleman of whom we write, it is essentially true that he is thoroughly a self-made man. He never knew the vices of the modern youth – he never learned to swear or drink or to use tobacco in any form. Abstemious in his habits, sensible to the laws of nature, and having complete control of himself under all circumstances, he has passed the period allotted to man of three score years and ten in the full possession of every physical and mental faculty; and while the sun of his busy and eventful life has reached and passed its meridian, it still shines bright in the western horizon, but still hesitating to sink in the fathomless sea of everlasting rest, shedding its benign rays on the declining years of one who may at times seemed to have been severe in order that he might be just, but whose sympathies in all things were on the side of justice and mercy and righteousness; and when final and unprejudiced judgment shall come to be passed upon him by the future biographer it can be truly said:

“His life was gentle,
And the elements so mixed in him
That nature might stand up and say to all the world,
‘This was a man.’”

Source Citation: Boone County Biographies [database online] Boone County INGenWeb. 2007. <> Original data: Harden & Spahr. "Early life and times in Boone County, Indiana." Lebanon, Indiana. May, 1887, pp. 356-359.

Transcribed by: Julie S. Townsend - July 6, 2007