From: A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans
by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. (Revised ed.) Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, ca. 1918.
William B. Rhodes, a resident of Dodge City for thirty-two years, was a pioneer cement contractor and builder in this part of Kansas. Prior to engaging in that business Mr. Rhodes had some extensive associations with the livestock industry, both in Kansas and in other sections of the country. His life has been a very busy one and he is still a factor in business affairs.
He was born in Brighton Township of Kenosha County, Wisconsin, April 22, 1850. His father, William Rhodes, was born in Yorkshire, England, a son of Thomas Rhodes. Thomas Rhodes married a Miss Green and their three sons were William, Thomas and John. When William was ten years of age his parents came to the United States and settled in Brighton Township of Kenosha County, Wisconsin. William Rhodes became a successful farmer and livestock man after retiring from business he lived in Burlington, Wisconsin, where he died June 30, 1916, at the advanced age of eighty-four. The maiden name of his wife was Catherine Burton, daughter of Robert Burton of East Cambridge, Massachusetts. She died in Burlington, Wisconsin, in 1912, at the age of sixty-seven. Their children were: William B.; Mrs. John Wombold, of Portland, Oregon; Annie, wife of C. G. Rasch, of Burlington, Wisconsin.
William B. Rhodes grew up as a farm boy. When he was twelve years of age his father entered the blooded stock business on what was known as the Durham farm. There he handled Shorthorn cattle, Cotesweld sheep and Clydesdale horses. Mr. Rhodes grew up in the atmosphere of fine livestock and became skillful in handling them before reaching his majority. As a young man he went west to Hebron, Nebraska, taking a train load of sheep to graze on the western prairies. The sheep business proved unsatisfactory and he then entered the cattle industry, but like many others suffered heavily from the cold winters when his stock had no shelter. Thus a variety of fortune brought him to a point where he was practically penniless, and one day, when he arrived in Kansas City, he had, in his own words, "only a pair of overalls, and glad to have even those." His knowledge of the cattle business secured him a position readily, though he was among strangers. In that city he met an old friend of former days who brought about an arrangement in a commission firm which caused Mr. Rhodes to be placed on the staff of assistant salesmen at $80 a month. That was all arranged for before the end of his first day in Kansas City, and he recalls it as one of the happiest days in his entire life.
Thus, in 1883, he began his work in Kansas as assistant cattle salesman for Metcalf, Moore & Company. He was active about the Kansas City stockyards and finally formed a connection which brought him out to Fort Dodge on September 20, 1885. Here he became foreman to look after the R. M. Wright cattle ranch and he was with that firm five years. He had charge of various cattle camps of Mr. Wright, those near Ford City, Wilrose, Panhandle and the Cox ranch, with headquarters at old Fort Dodge. When this business was sold to other parties Mr. Rhodes sought other employment.
About that time the custodian of Fort Dodge had been dismissed during the Cleveland administration, but his suggestion of Mr. Rhodes as a capable man for the place was adopted by the Government authorities, and thus Mr. Rhodes had the care and custody of the property at Fort Dodge for the United States Government until the reservation was turned over to the State of Kansas.
Since that time he has been a resident of Dodge City, and in 1892 he was appointed chief of police, a position he filled ten years. While Dodge City had become something of a town of peace and order as compared with the earliest days, there were many outbreaks of outlawry to require Mr. Rhodes' closest attention during his administration as chief of police.
On leaving the police service he engaged in the cement business. Mr. Rhodes had the distinction of laying the first cement walk in Dodge City. Cement was still an untried product in many respects, and this first walk was constructed with cement slabs. They proved unsatisfactory, and Mr. Rhodes then started paving the walks with green cement. There was a great deal of critisicm and much opposition, and some of his partners became disgusted or dissatisfied and severed their business relations. However, he had faith in the substance in which he worked, and in course of time he had demonstrated the value and permanence of cement and has since witnessed the gradual transformation of Dodge City into a cement walk town. The original walks here were of boards, following which some brick sidewalks were laid, but these were not ideal, and following Mr. Rhodes' experiments and demonstration cement has conquered the field. From cement walk construction Mr. Rhodes began making cement blocks and contracting for building. As a contractor he has the capital, the organization and the experience sufficient for handling almost any class of building, though the carpenter and other lines are turned over to special mechanics or contractors. In 1915 Mr. Rhodes established his factory on Second Avenue. Here he has equipment and machinery for turning out ornamental and finished cement blocks as well as plain construction material. His products have gone to many points outside of Dodge City. At Kinsley he erected the Cole furniture store, and his block material has been used at points all along the Elkhart branch of the Santa Fe, at Sublette, Hugoton, Sultana and Raleigh, and also along the main line at Cimarron, Wright and Spearville. Among his contracts in Dodge City are a part of the Rumsey Building, the blocks for the West shop, the cement work for the Riverside garage, the cement work for the John Rush imple ment house, the cement work on the Smith coal office, and he erected the Gluck Building of cement blocks. He also furnished all the blocks for a residence on Fourth Avenue and another residence near the standpipe in Dodge City, all the cement work for Grovier Produce Company, and the cement work for the Ham B. Bell garage. Mr. Rhodes was the first man in Dodge City to put in a river sand pump. Another distinction connected with his long residence here is the establishment of the first general merchant delivery service.
Mr. Rhodes has prospered in his business affairs, and his name is one spoken with respect and esteem all over this section of Kansas. In politics he is a republican voter, has membership fraternally only in the order of Yeomen, and is a Protestant but not a member of any one denomination.
On June 17, 1872, at Burlington, Wisconsin, he married Miss Mary Durgin. She was of New England parentage and was born in Wisconsin in 1850. Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes have three children: Robert D., Maude and Edmund. Robert D. lives at Burlington, Wisconsin, and by his marriage to Martha Lloyd has a daughter, Ruth. Maude is the wife of a physician at Ponca, Illinois. Edmund is a graduate of the Kansas University, was employed as a chemist by the Armour Packing Company at Kansas City and later at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is now a chemical engineer with the Mellen Institute of that city and is a member himself of that institute.