Sunday, August 11, 2013

Baskin Eply Rhoads (1834-1895)

                         From the Biographical Sketches and Review of the Bench and Bar of Indiana, 1895.

   Endowed with an unusual first name that will immediately bring to mind the famed Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream parlor, Indiana legislator and judge Baskin Eply Rhoads was a truly learned man in his day, being well known as an amateur geologist and academic in addition to his service in state government. A Pennsylvanian by birth, Baskin E. Rhoads was born in the small settlement of Coatesville on May 1,1834 and removed to Indiana with his family at age two, first settling in Park County. The Rhoads family would later remove to Montgomery County, where Baskin attended the Waveland Academy for a time. He became a tanner's apprentice under one David Mann around the same period and later went on to enroll at the Wabash College, graduating in the class of 1860.
   Both before and after his graduation Rhoads was a teacher in the Montgomery and Vermillion County school systems, serving as a principal in the latter county. Sometime in the early 1860s, he migrated to Clinton County, where he took on a teaching position at the Farmer's Institute for a few months. Around this same time, he began the study of law under Judge Samuel Maxwell of Park County, and while thus engaged also served as school superintendent for the Rockville, Indiana schools. 
  After being admitted to the state bar in 1862 Rhoads set up a law practice in Newport in Vermillion County. In November 1864 he was elected as that county's representative in the Indiana General Assembly, taking his seat in January 1865. During his term, he held a seat on the committee on education and is remarked by Theophilus Wylie's history of Indiana University as helping to draft "the present School Law, which was passed, and was presented by himself to Governor Morton, who signed it in his presence. The law was passed with but little alteration from the original draft."

Baskin E. Rhodes, from the 1865 Indiana House of Representatives photo composite.

   Many sources of the time note Rhoads as a fervent proponent for public education in Indiana, and during his one term in the state legislature was instrumental in the creation and drafting of the bill that led to the establishment of the Indiana State Normal School (now known as Indiana State University). With the introduction (and eventual passing) of this bill, Rhoads is justly referred to as the "founding father" of the Indiana State Normal School. He remained connected to the school for many years afterward, and three years after leaving the legislature was elected as a University trustee. He served in this capacity until 1874, and earlier, in 1870, had been appointed as a Professor of Law. His professorship extended several years and in July 1874 he married to Ida Moffatt (1850-1936) with whom he had two children, Sarah (1876-1918) and Daniel, who died aged 17 in March 1897.

Baskin E. Rhoads, from the archives of the Vigo County Historical Society.

   Rhoads continued to be involved in educational affairs for the remainder of his life, journeying to Europe in the late 1870s "where he studied Civil Law, modern languages and general literature." After returning to the United States, Rhoads became politically active once more, being named by Indiana Governor Albert G. Porter as a Judge for the Vigo County Court in 1881. He served on the bench until December 1882 and two years later was became a member of the first board of trustees of the newly established Coates College of Women in Terre Haute.
   For the last decade of his life, Rhoads was engaged in the practice of law in Vigo County, being a member of the firm Rhoads and Williams with Terre Haute native Elmer Williams. The Biographical Sketches of the Bench and Bar of Indiana notes that Baskin E. Rhoads "was stricken with apoplexy" and died shortly thereafter at his home in Terre Haute on January 15, 1895. He was 60 years old and was survived by his wife Ida Moffatt Rhoads, who died forty-one years after her husband in July 1936. Both Baskin, Ida and their children are interred in a family plot at the Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, Indiana. In an interesting side note, several decades after his death, Baskin Rhoads received the honor of having Rhoads Hall (on the campus of Indiana State University) named after him in a 1965 dedication ceremony.

Death notice for Baskin E. Rhoads from the Logansport Reporter, January 15, 1895.

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