Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rhamanthus Menville Stocker (1848-1917)

                        Portrait from Volume II of the Twentieth Century Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania.

   Pennsylvania's Rhamanthus Menville Stocker is profiled today, and it is worth mentioning that he is one of the few strangely named politicians on the "Strangest Names In American Political History" list who wasn't discovered by your humble author. That honor goes to my cousin Christopher E. Scherman, who, during his spare time at college, located the incredibly useful Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections. Listed throughout this reference book were numerous instances of unsuccessful candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, of which Mr. Stocker is one. In addition to his failed congressional bid, Stocker was later appointed as U.S. Postmaster at Honesdale, Pennsylvania, serving until his death.
   Rhamanthus Menville Stocker was born in the town of Salem in Wayne County, Pennsylvania on October 5, 1848, being the son of Albert and Lydia Rebecca Peet Stocker, both natives of Litchfield County, Connecticut. Rhamanthus engaged in farm work as a young man and attended schools local to the Wayne County area, later studying and graduating from the Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. For most of Stocker's adolescence education was a prominent theme, as he taught grade school in Jermyn, Pennsylvania for several years (this according to the Commemorative Biographical Record.) This same work also relates that Stocker was among the first teachers in Wayne County to receive a "permanent certificate" to teach. Stocker would also teach Sunday school beginning in 1870, work that would see him teach "in eleven different schools" located in four different Pennsylvania counties.
    In the early 1880s Stocker turned his attention to law and politics, being elected to the office of Register and Recorder for Wayne County in 1881. He would serve as a township supervisor for Salem in the early 1880s, and after moving to the nearby village of Honesdale, entered the law office of Waller and Bentley, being admitted to the county bar in 1886. Stocker would later gain statewide distinction by helping to author and edit two works relating to the history of his Pennsylvania locale, these works being the Centennial history of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania (1887) and the History of the Presbyterian Society of Honesdale (1906). He is also recorded as being involved in the local newspaper industry, serving as the editor of the Wayne County Herald for over a year.
   In 1893 Stocker married Honesdale native Maretta Brown (1871-1956), and later had one son, Mortimer M., in May 1895. Stocker was 23 years older than his wife, who survived him by nearly forty years after his death in 1917. The rare photograph of Stocker posted below was discovered in the earlier mentioned History of the Presbyterian Society of Honesdale. The picture is part of an even larger group portrait depicting a group of elders of the church at one of their meetings.

                                                    R.M. Stocker as he appeared circa 1905-1906.

  Throughout the 1880s and early 1890s, Stocker continued in the practice of law in Honesdale, and was remarked by the Twentieth Century Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania as preparing "his cases carefully and manages whatever business that is entrusted to his care with fidelity." Stocker continued to operate his farm in Honesdale during this time period and in 1883 was a delegate to the Judicial Conference of Wayne and Pike County, Pennsylvania.

   In 1894 Stocker threw his hat into national politics, becoming the Democratic candidate for congressman for Pennsylvania's 15th district, being nominated by the Democratic party of his district on September 8th, 1894. When the final votes were tallied on November 6,1894 Stocker ended up on the losing end, with victory going to incumbent Republican Myron Benjamin Wright. In a strange twist, Wright never got the chance to begin his new term in the House, as he died exactly a week after the election on November 13, 1894.  The results below show the final vote tally for the aforementioned election.

   On February 19, 1895, a special election was held in Pennsylvania to fill the seat left vacant by Myron Wright's death. As you may have guessed, Stocker was once again the Democratic candidate for the seat but ended up a two-time loser, this time to Republican candidate James Hodge Codding (1849-1919). The results of that election are posted below (one should make note of the substantial loss margin Stocker suffered in both elections.....I suppose many Pennsylvanians just weren't ready for a congressman named Rhamanthus!)

     Following his two losing congressional candidacies, Stocker became the Superintendent of the Honesdale Water Company in 1895, and in his later years he is mentioned as writing "more or less for the newspaper press." The October 6, 1911 edition of the Honesdale Citizen notes that Stocker delivered the address of welcome at the Wayne County Sunday School convention, stating that "I believe and know that the Sunday school lends solidarity and catholicity to Christian work. Here we are from all denominations."
   Little else is known of Stocker's life after 1911, excepting notice of his being U.S. Postmaster at Honesdale, an office he would continue to hold until his death on April 21, 1917 at his home. Stocker was subsequently buried in the Glen Dyberry Cemetery in Honesdale and was survived by his wife Maretta, who died in 1956 at age 85. One should also note that Stocker's middle name is variously spelled as both "Menville" and "Manville".

                                                          Rhamanthus M. Stocker, 1848-1912.

From the Reading Times, April 23, 1917.


  1. Them's some powerful 'chops on that cat!

  2. In 1914, when Woodrow Wilson was president and Democrats were getting federal offices, he was appointed postmaster of Honesdale. He apparently died in office: his immediate successor (an acting postmaster) is recorded as having started on April 21, 1917, the same day he died.