Our Back Rhodes Genealogy Pages


The following links are also associated this person:
Probate records of Adam Rhodes in Champaign Co., OH
1874 Reverend Ebenezer Rhodes, of McLean Co., IL
1899 Rev. Ebenezeb Rhodes, of McLean County, IL
1874 John H. S. Rhodes of McLean County, IL
1874 Jeremiah Rhodes of McLean County, IL

By Mrs. W. J. Rhodes.

From: Transactions of the McLean County Historical Society
By McLean County Historical Society (McLean County, Ill.), Ezra Morton Prince
Published by Published for the McLean County Historical Society by Pantagraph Printing and Stationery Co., 1899
page 404-409

He was born in Holland, 1780, and came with his parents while quite young to America, and settled in Maryland. About the year 1800 was married to a young and educated widow lady, a Mrs. Mary Starr, of Maryland; he moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania, and from thence to Ohio. He was a soldier in the war of 1812, and acquitted himself with credit. And right here I wish to correct an error I find in "The Good Old Times of McLean County." It states that Reverend Rhodes and family, and son, John H. S. Rhodes and family, came to Sangamon county, Illinois, October, 1823, and thence to McLean county in 1824. This is a mistake, as verified by his children and many others, also according to the record in the old family bible owned by J. H. S. Rhodes, Rev. Ebenezer Rhodes and family and son John and family came to Sangamon county, Illinois, 1822, and thence to McLean county, April, 1823, when they settled in Blooming Grove.

In submitting to you this paper, I wish to say I think it will be more of an eulogy than a history of Reverend Rhodes, for he died as early as 1842, making his sojourn in this county embrace twenty 1 years of the earliest pioneer history of McLean county. Most all of the people of that day with whom he was acquainted have, too, been laid away in the silent city of the dead, so that almost all means of procuring accurate information of deeds performed, to any great extent, is forever gone.

Arriving in Blooming Grove, April, 1823, he commenced to build himself a home. All around him was wild, undomesticated, unimproved, uncultivated, uncivilized. He was financially poor,with naught but muscle, brain, character, and will; these set down in so propitious a locality as Blooming Grove, all obstacles in the way of progress had to soon succumb. The log cabin was built with its great fireplace which took in a backlog four feet long, the puncheon floor was laid, which was soon worn smooth by the constant treading of the many busy feet, by the broom and scrub broom, for I am told that the great grandmother was cleanly and neat beyond criticism.

Breaking of sod and plowing was soon done, seeds were sown, land cultivated, and as he had now done his part, nature soon yielded an abundant harvest, which proved the wisdom of locating in so productive and sightly a locality. As soon as the rude cabin was built and the tenants ensconced therein, the family altar was set up for he had not forgotten the God of his fathers. Queen Victoria when once asked the secret of her successful reign, laid her hand upon the bible and said, "A firm belief in and close adherence to its precepts have guided all my actions."

So with the Reverend Rhodes, he came to this country with the law of God written in his heart, he carried it in his hand, he proclaimed it with his mouth, remembering that "righteousness exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people."

When the labors of the day were completed and they sought their couch for rest, the vesper concert to lull them to sleep was the hooting of owls, the howling of wolves, the screaming of panthers, or perchance, the war cry of the savage red man; yet they were happy in their little log cabins and sang of God's goodness and mercy to men, for a soul filled with the love of God can sing as no one else can sing.

"Not as the conqueror comes they, the true hearted, came;

Not with the roll of the stirring drum, and the trumpet that sings of fame:

Not as the flying came, in silence and in fear;
They shook the depths of the desert's gloom with their hymns of holy cheer."

As soon as three or four families could be gathered together they met in private houses for worship, and often Mr. John Hendrix and Reverend Rhodes would read, sing, and pray together, the former a Methodist, the latter a Baptist.

While not engaged in his out-door pursuits, of evenings and rainy days, he was engaged in his old cherished avocation, that of cabinet maker. He made his own cupboards, bedsteads, tables, chairs, etc., soon the cabin was comfortably and handsomely furnished with his own handicraft: he also made the reels and wheels on which the women spun their flax, cotton, and wool.

A great many people pride themselves upon their ancestry, and they glory over the blood that pours through their arteries. In their line there is a senator or a president,or perchance a king, or a queen, but I come to you with no boasted earthly lineage, but of one who was the meek and humble follower of the meek and lowly Savior, of one who had entered the kingdom of God, and thereby had become a Child of the Ruler of All Nations, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God."

All his human endowments were consecrated to religious and moral ends: he was brave and fearless, possessing a great amount of stern inflexibility of character ready to meet all emergencies; he was wholly unostentatious, this was readily observed in the plain yet neat manner in which he garbed his person; he was meek and humble, never parading his virtues; he was often solicited to hold offices of trust and honor, but always unhesitatingly declined. Had he known his noble deeds would have been brought before the public as I speak of them today he would have chided rather than have been pleased. ''How beautiful are the feet of them who preach the Gospel of Peace and bring glad tidings of good things."

In 1819 or 1820, Rev. Ebenezer Rhodes was ordained a preacher of the gospel of Separate Baptist denomination. But by careful and prayerful research of the Word of God he became convinced in his own mind that all creeds and articles of faith were superfluous, that they kept many from acknowledging their Savior who already believed the Bible, but who could never subscribe to the doctrines of the creeds. Therefore (according' to a manuscript I had in my possession) as early as 1824, Reverend Rhodes made a statement of his resolution on paper, in his own handwriting, which reads as follows:

' 'The Church of Christ at Blooming Grove agrees to take the direction God has given us for our rule of faith and practice. September 27, 1824."

Hence the organization of the first Christian church ever organized in this county. I have frequently been told there were seven charter members, and names were added from time to time as they expressed desire for membership, until I think there were forty or fifty  names added to the list. Reverend Rhodes preached to the people of this and adjoining counties for many years, or until 1841. when his health retarded his work in this line, for all these services he never received one cent, and never thought of receiving one cent. He preached in Hittle's Grove, Cheney's Grove, Sugar Grove, Long Point, Big Grove, Twin Grove, Dry Grove, head of Mackinaw, and various other places too numerous to mention.

Reverend Rhodes performed the first ceremony which united in wedlock the first white couple ever married in McLean county, October, 1824, Mr. Thomas Orendorff to Miss Mary Malinda Walker.

There is now and has been for twenty-four years a neat and comfort able house of worship and a prosperous organization within one-half mile of the place where the first organization was consummated, and in this county at the present time there are twenty-seven Christian churches—one at Anchor, Arrowsmith, Carlock, Chenoa, Colfax. Ellsworth, Money Creek, Normal, Normal (colored), Belleflower, Blooming Grove, Bloomington, Bloomington Mission, Blue Mound, Buck Creek, Oneida, Saybrook, Shirley, Gridley, Heyworth, Holder, Leroy, Lexington, Lytleville, Twin Grove, Weston, Stanford. And if I may be allowed one step farther will say, according to the statistics from the New York Independent Symposium, January 30, 1895, the Disciples of Christ (Christians) increased in the United States since 1890, 229,960, or thirty-five percent. The Church of Christ now numbers about one million members, are increasing more rapidly than any other religious body in the United States, is dedicating three houses of worship every two days. It has over six thousand ministers, forty colleges and universities, five hundred general state and county missionaries, and has missionaries in India, China, Japan, Turkey, and other lands of the Old World.

But to return: the settlers were obliged to go long distances to mill, and took large loads. They went first to Attica on the Wabash river, a distance of 120 miles. Afterward they went to Green's mill, on Fox river, near where Ottawa now stands, about eighty miles distant- Reverend Rhodes had considerable of the spirit of public enterprise. The year 1824 was marked with some improvement. He and his son, John H. S., built a grist mill, the grinders being made of niggerheads, from the prairie.

In 1832 he and his son, Samuel, built a saw mill on the land now known as the Catholic cemetery, west of Bloomington, on Sugar Creek, which they ran by water for two years. They made the mill, dug the race, and ran it together. But young Aaron Rhodes was drowned there while swimming in the pond, and this sad event so disheartened the old gentleman that he tore down his mill shortly afterward and sold his saw and the iron works with it.

In 1840 he met with an accident which (anally resulted in his death. He was in the timber cutting down a tree. It fell on him, breaking his thigh and mashing the knee of the other leg. After this he always went on crutches and died two years later. Although Reverend Rhodes was philanthropic and generous for those early days of hardships, yet his mantle of charity was to fall upon him who should live after him, John H.S. Rhodes. I beg for this brief digression, as it will be my only opportunity' of showing how the eldest son had imbibed the spirit of benevolence and charity which the father so largely possessed. John H. S. Rhodes was so unassuming, so unaffected, so unostentatious, so meek, so humble, so natural, always the same, yet some people who did not well know him may have thought him close and penurious, but I think no one was ever turned from his door empty banded; the poor were sought after and provisions made for their comfort, and from personal knowledge I can say, at the time of his death as I assisted in inventorying all his papers, he gave thousands of dollars in charity, and donations to public institutions, as Bloom- ington Wesleyan University, Eureka Theological College, etc. And there were 810,000, in notes that had become outlawed; his sons had often urged him to collect some of those notes; he replied, "No, the people are poor and need it more than I. I suppose when they get the money to spare they will pay me." He lived out the principle that "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Come now all you people of this county, all prowess, all literature, all civilization, all religion, and help pay a tribute of honor to the first pioneer preacher of McLean county, Rev. Ebenezer Rhodes.

Reverend Rhodes,believing the success of a republican government depends mainly upon the education of the people, that unless the citizens are intelligent a free government is always in danger, and that it is the character of the citizens that makes states and unmakes them, and as character is mainly formed by education, he believed it to be of first importance that all should be well educated, not alone an education of the head but of the heart also. Therefore with this principle so strongly rooted in his convictions, he donated freely to houses of worship, and houses of learning; yet notwithstanding the numerous means and instrumentalities for eradicating ignorance, ungodliness, vice, and immorality, yet when his earthly labors ceased there were many who sat under the' sound of his voice still living without Christ, or hope in the life to come.

The principal cause of this state of things was attributed largely to the habit of intoxicating drinks, which has always prevented the progress of truth, and religion, in proportion to the extent of its use. As to the extent of its present use, we have but to open a newspaper and read of its terrible crimes, in every column, yet in the face of Christendom, it is nourished, it is cherished, it is licensed, it is made legal. How long, oh Lord, how long. A learned physician once said the Devil first binds with a hair, then with a chain, and we read further;

"We are not worse all at once,
The course of evil begins so slowly,
And from each slight source, an infant hand
Might stop the breech with clay,
But let the stream grow wider, and philosophy
Aye and religion, too, may strive in vain
To stem the headlong current."

For the abolition of strong drink Reverend Rhodes was indefatigable in his denunciations, not only of strong drink, but also of the use of tobacco, and every other practice that defiled the man, that was demoralizing,that hindered the progress of Christianity. I have every reason to believe that his great and godly efforts to annihilate these sinful practices, were so diffused and so permeated the minds and hearts of a greater portion of the people of that day, that these principles have been handed down to after generations and by Divine guidance those coming after have taken it up, and are still battling for God and humanity. May God speed the day when their work may prove effective and their prayers answered.

In all his disseminating gospel truths he was a staunch and unswerving advocate of the abolition of the slave trade. He believed slavery to be an abomination in the sight of God. So strong were his convictions in this direction that a good old brother, who had been a slaveholder, presented himself for membership in the church, but Reverend Rhodes supposing he still advocated slavery refused him admission. Thus early, in this and adjoining counties in the midst of hardships and suffering, obstacles and oppositions, which would astonish as much as they would instruct us, he did much in turning the current of feeling, and awakening a sense of justice in this portion of the state, at least, which though ever so meager was to aid in finally bringing about the abolition of slavery. But he soon realized that his days were numbered, that his earthly pilgrimage was fast drawing to a close. In the year 1842 he slept that sleep that knows no awakening, till the great trumpet shall sound, calling the dead to arise and come to judgment. The bed on which the dying man of God lay was surrounded by a large, loving, and affectionate family of wife and children, and many friends. His last admonitions were, "Live pure, Christian lives and meet me in Heaven with all the redeemed." As we have already learned, while living he sought not alone to amass worldly possessions, although at the time of his death he owned several hundred acres of land and several thousand dollars in money, yet his spiritual progress always kept pace with his material prosperity. His mind reached out after the infinite, is was not satisfied with the things of time and sense. It sought perfection, infinity, eternity.

Death removed the tenement of clay, but his good works with all their hallowed influences will live on forever, and how the scene brightens even more when revelation-is appealed to. As the ark of the testimony is opened a voice is heard to say, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."