Friday, May 14, 2010

The Rhinehart Years (circa 1845-1863)

Ever since the discovery that Einsel is a bit of a misnomer for our house (Einsels were the second owners of the home), I’ve been trying to learn more about the house’s first owners, Noah and Rebecca Rhinehart.

Noah’s story begins in Fairfield County, Ohio on June 13, 1820, when 21 year old Jacob Rhinehart married 16 year old Susannah Leslie. Noah, the couple’s first child, was born 11 months later on May 26, 1821. In June of 1822, Jacob Rhinehart purchased the land on which his son would later build the stone house that is the focus of this blog. When the family relocated to their new land they were among the very first white settlers to this region. (The township and county were not even formally organized until two years later.) But the young family’s new beginning was cut short sometime in late 1822 or 1823 when Jacob Rhinehart was accidentally killed while helping at a neighbor’s barn-raising. His widow remarried and moved "back east", but she left her young son behind to be raised by strangers.

Noah may have been raised as an orphan, but when he married Rebecca Huddle in 1845 he gained enough in-laws to more than compensate for his own absent kin. Rebecca had been born in Fairfield County on April 21, 1824, the eldest of eighteen (yes, 18) children born to Benjamin & Anna (Seitz) Huddle. In an 1892 biographical sketch one of Rebecca’s brothers says of their father, "He had received only the elements of a common-school education when he was required to take his place on the farm." In 1829 Benjamin and his growing family "moved to this county, where he purchased a tract of new land…Possessing but little means, he had a hard struggle but eventually came off victor…He owned over 400 acres of land besides a hotel…which shows what can be accomplished when willing hands clasp those of industry and frugality." Anna (Seitz) Huddle came from a rather large and illustrious family herself, one in which the sons had a penchant for becoming "Old School" ministers in the Baptist Church.

23 year old Noah Rhinehart and 20 year old Rebecca Huddle were married on March 2, 1845, quite probably by Rebecca’s uncle, Elder Lewis Seitz, who served as pastor to the local Primitive Baptist congregation for over sixty years. Although researching the Rhineharts has failed to provide any direct reference to our stone house, I’m guessing that Noah and Rebecca’s marriage in 1845 probably provides a fairly accurate date for the home’s construction.

The second half of the 1840s was a busy time for the young Rhinehart family. Noah and Rebecca welcomed their first child on April 9, 1846. They named their new son Benjamin, presumably in honor of his maternal grandfather, Benjamin Huddle. Two daughters were added to the family in the next two years; Lydia in 1847 and Amanda in 1848. Noah and Rebecca’s fourth child, Martin, was 3 months old when the family was enumerated for the 1850 census. The census taker that year noted that Noah Rhinehart was able to read and write, and recorded that Noah was employed as a farmer. The family’s real property was valued at fifteen hundred dollars.

Noah and Rebecca’s youngest child was born in the summer of 1852. They named this son Jacob, presumably in honor of Noah’s father who had died 30 years earlier. Sadly, the Rhinehart clan enjoyed only one year with all five children under their roof. Three year old Martin Rhinehart died in November of 1853. The small stone that marks his grave is in the second row of the Primitive Baptist cemetery, less than ½ a mile across the fields northwest of the Rhinehart home. The remainder of the 1850s passed quietly for the Rhineharts, but the 1860s would bring tragedy for the family, and before the new decade was three years old, Noah and Rebecca would sell their home and leave the county in heartbreak.

The decade opened ominously, with the death of Rebecca’s father on January 28, 1860. Fifty-six year old Benjamin Huddle was survived by his wife and numerous children, ranging in age from 35 down to 12 years of age at the time of their father’s death. In August of 1863, Anna Huddle was laid to rest beside her husband. But for Noah and Rebecca, the greatest heartbreak had occurred in May of 1862, with the death of their eldest son, Benjamin. An account of Benjamin's death was printed in the newspaper of a neighboring town:

"On Wednesday last a son of Mr. Noah Rhinehart, about 16 years of age, hung himself in his father's wagon shed. He went to work deliberately, taking the wagon lines, attaching them to some projection, putting them over his neck, and tying his hands with his teeth, he swung himself off into eternity. Suicide by one so young is a rare occurrence in this country."

The picture at the beginning of this post shows Benjamin Rhinehart's headstone, with his parents' home visible in the background. He is buried beside his brother Martin, both one row behind their grandparents, Benjamin & Anna Huddle.

Understandably, Noah and Rebecca were unable to continue living in a house now filled with such devastating memories. In 1863 they sold the property to Noah Einsel and moved onto 100 acres of land near the Miami River in Shelby County, Ohio where they would remain until their deaths, Noah passing away in 1897 and Rebecca ten years later. Newspapers in the county of their youth and early married years made mention of Rebecca's death only briefly, noting that several of her siblings made the trip to Shelby County for her funeral.

Before closing this post I want to include a post-script of sorts sharing my own thoughts. First, I've held off publishing this post for about two weeks. Finding the newspaper account of Benjamin Rhinehart's death was something of a shock, and I hope that if any member of the Rhinehart family ever stumbles across this blog that they will not be unduly pained by what they read here. My intent here is to tell the story of a house and, as this post makes painfully clear, any building (or family) that has stood for over 160 years has surely witnessed pain as well as joy. The first question I had back when I learned that our house had an owner before the Einsel family was "But why did they leave?". After all, Rebecca Rhinehart was not even 40 when she and Noah moved to Shelby County. At the time, I could not understand why a still young couple would go to the work to build a house like this and then to leave it behind so soon. I understand now.

But while learning about the Rhineharts has provided answers to some questions, it has raised still other questions. Questions such as - Which local family raised young Noah Rhinehart? And was there an earlier home on our property, possibly built by Noah's father Jacob Rhinehart? And of course there is the question that we will probably never learn the answer to, the question I'm sure Noah and Rebecca asked themselves all those years ago in their grief - Why?

Learning the Rhinehart family's story has not lessened the affinity I feel for the house they built. The house has always had a quiet peaceful feeling to me, and that has not changed since learning of the tragic death that occurred here. There are only two buildings on the property that remain from the Rhinehart era - the springhouse and the house itself. The "wagon shed" is long gone, and I do admit I'm rather glad for that.

One week from today will mark the 148th anniversary of Benjamin Rhinehart's death.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful story, thank you! I'd love to get some of your documentation - there are several new facts here I'm excited to learn!

    I want to confirm your thoughts about Noah's wedding - Lewis Seitz did indeed officiate at their wedding - saw it in a book in Sidney yesterday.

    I look forward to continuing the adventure with you!

    Jim Rhinehart