My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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JOHN RIFE. In the career of Mr. Rife, one of the leading men of Miami Township, Greene County, is finely illustrated the results of perseverance and industry. He began at the foot of the ladder in life, without other resources than the physical strength with which nature had endowed him and the determination to be somebody in the world, socially and financially. He possesses a large amount of “pure grit,” and seldom undertakes anything of which he does not make a success. He believes that there is always room at the top, and has a most healthy respect for the America institutions which enable any man to rise, no matter what may have been his condition or antecedents.

Coming of substantial ancestry and a native of Pennsylvania, Mr. Rife was born near the famous battle ground of Gettysburg, September 24, 1832. He never attended school a day in his life, but this would scarcely be suspected, as he first managed to learn to read, and by keeping himself posted in regard to current events, and having a natural adaptation to business, he is found to be an exceedingly well-informed man, not in the least behind his neighbors, many of whom enjoyed liberal advantages in their youth. He commenced paddling his own canoe at the age of sixteen years, chopping wood in the mountains, and even then gave to his father the greater part of his earnings. At the age of seventeen he began an apprenticeship at blacksmithing and served two years.

In the spring of 1852 Mr. Rife emigrated to Ohio, and hired out to a man to chop wood at thirty-three and one-third cents per cord. He was strong and robust, and usually put up his three cords per day, nearly every day until harvest time. He then cut wheat at sixty-two and one-half cents per acre, and made over $2 per day. This was before the days of reapers and mowers, and when wheat was cut with a cradle. After harvest he worked at his trade for William Cowan, of Springfield, remaining with him until September following. In the meantime he put the iron on a carriage, which is still being used and in good condition.

We next find Mr. Rife in Springfield, Ill., keeping his eyes open to what was going on around him, and listening to the speeches of Douglas and Lincoln during the campaign of 1852. Next he crossed the Mississippi and for a time sojourned at Dubuque, Iowa. Then returning to Illinois, he spent the winter at Naples, working at his trade. In March, 1853, he returned to Pennsylvania, remaining there until the following August. Next, starting out once more for the West, he established himself at Logansport, Ind., where he worked at his trade through the winter and in the spring came back to Ohio.

Putting up a blacksmith-shop in what was known as the Gillett neighborhood, Mr. Rife worked at his trade until harvest time, then went into the wheat fields again, working for William Kelly on the Clifton and Springfield Road one month. Later he associated himself in partnership with S. H. Marshall, at Pitchin, Clark County, and they operated a blacksmith-shop until Mr. Marshall went West. Mr. Rife then took Samuel Hatfield as a partner, but not long afterward sold out and became the employe of his partner.

In 1858 Mr. Rife went to Selma, Clark County, Ohio, where he worked at his trade until 1862. Being troubled now with an affection of the eyes, he determined upon a change of occupation, and leased twelve hundred acres of land from the Taylor heirs in Greene and Clark Counties. He operated this successfully for five years, then sub-leased it and afterward effected a sale in behalf of the heirs.

In April, 1866, Mr. Rife purchased the land which he now owns and occupies. The original tract embraced two hundred and twenty-eight acres, to which he subsequently added one hundred and seventy-six acres. He settled upon it in 1867, and has since maintained his residence there. He has deeded one hundred acres to his son Stephen K., and also one hundred acres to George, but has sufficient remaining, in addition to his possessions in Kansas, to defend him against want in his old age. The home farm was originally a part of the well-known Randolph tract, owned by Richard Randolph, a relative of John Randolph, the old hero of Roanoke. Mr. Rife put up all the buildings on the place, and effected all the other improvements thereon. In accomplishing this no small outlay of time, labor and money has been involved, but he has reason to feel well repaid for his labor and his investment of capital, as he has a substantial and comfortable home, and one which forms a fitting monument to his industry and perseverance.

For nearly thirty-four years Mr. Rife has been accompanied on the journey of life by a very estimable lady, who in her girlhood was Miss Mary J. Kitchen, and to whom he was joined in wedlock September 25, 1856, at the bride’s home in Clark County, Ohio. Mrs. Rife was born August 11, 1836, in Clark County, and is the daughter of Abraham and Matilda (Jones) Kitchen, the former a native of Warren County and the latter of Greene County, this State. For over seventy years they were residents of Clark County. Both died in 1888, Mrs. Kitchen in the month of April and her husband in June following. They were the parents of eight children, five of whom are living and who are residents of Clark County, Ohio. Mrs. Rife was given a good education, and followed the profession of a teacher some time before her marriage.

Ten children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Rife, the eldest of whom, a son, George W., married Miss Jenny Garlough, is the father of three children and lives at the homestead; Stephen K. married Miss Ada Stormont and lives in Harper County, Kan.; they have two children; John B. and Frederick F. are unmarried; the former is at home and the latter lives in Harper County, Kan.; Anna and Frank A. died at the ages of three and eighteen years respectively; Mary M., William C., Maggie B. and Lee E. remain under the parental roof. Mr. and Mrs. Rife are prominently connected with the United Presbyterian Church at Clifton, in which Mr. Rife officiates as a Trustee, and in which his son, George W., is a Ruling Elder. Mr. Rife is a teacher in the Sunday-school, and his daughter Mary is secretary of the same.

For fifteen years Mr. Rife has been a member of the School Board of Clifton, officiating as President and Treasurer. He was for some time the Trustee of Miami Township, but finally resigned. He has held many positions of trust and responsibility in the adjustment of property, serving as executor of the Rakestraw estate, which he settled up satisfactorily, and he was also administrator of the estates of William Tennyhill and James A. Johnston, of Bath Township. He was elected foreman of the jury at Cincinnati which tried Hopkins, of the Hopkins and Harper Fidelity Bank, in the winter of 1888-89. This case attracted universal attention throughout the country, being one of the most important of any which has come before the public in connection with the wrecking of a bank, and in which the guilty parties were convicted and sentenced for a term of years.

The father of our subject was Daniel Rife, likewise a native of the Keystone State, and born about 1795 near Gettysburg. He was reared to farming pursuits, which he followed all his life, he was married in 1829, in his native State, to Mary Foreman, who was born in Adams County, Pa., in 1800. They spent their entire lives in their native State, the mother dying in 1870 and the father about 1875. Of this union there were born five children, viz.: Catherine S., who died in Pennsylvania when about thirty years old; John, our subject; Peter and David, both residents of Pennsylvania, and Samuel, who lives in Illinois. There were also born to the mother five children by a previous marriage. Besides the farm on which he resides, Mr. Rife owns three hundred and twenty acres of farming land in Harper County, Kan., and which is occupied by his son. There also he has fine improvements.

Mr. Rife was reared under the wing of the Democratic party, but sojourned in Kansas during the border troubles, and the scenes which he then witnessed had the effect to convert him into a thorough Abolitionist. He then joined the Republican party, remaining with it until the fall of 1888, when his warm interest in the temperance movement led him to identify himself with the Prohibitionists. He is totally opposed to the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors, and could he have his way about it they would soon be swept from the face of the earth.

A lithographic *portrait of Mr. Rife will be found elsewhere in this volume.

*A portrait was included in the original printed volume.

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This family biography is one of the many biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890. 

View additional Greene County, Ohio family biographies here: Greene County, Ohio Biographies

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