From the "Progressive West Virginians", 1905.
If you've followed this site for any length of time you may remember reading about General George Oleander Pence, an Ohio representative and state senator who was given a military title as a first name. As it turns out, there happens to be another political figure, born nearly two decades before Mr. Pence, who also lucked into getting a military title for his first name! That man, Colonel Ellsworth Rudesill, was also an Ohio native but would go on to find success in politics in West Virginia during the early 20th century.
The son of Columbus Jacob and Frank Bentley Rudesill, Colonel Ellsworth Rudesill was born in Medina, Ohio on October 10, 1861. He was bestowed his unusual first and middle names in honor of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union soldier to be killed during the Civil War, his death occurring in Alexandria, Virginia on May 24, 1861. Rudesill's early education occurred in Akron, Ohio and he was a graduate of that city's high school. Following his graduation, Rudesill removed to Gallipolis, Ohio to join his father's business, that of a crockery and queensware (glazed ceramics) retailer. While residing in Galliopolis Rudesill married to Alice Romain Crowley, with whom he would have three children, including Frank Ellsworth (1890-1922, later to become a newspaper publisher in Ohio), Alice M. (birth-date unknown), and Donald Bentley (1896-1953).
Around 1886 Columbus Rudesill relocated his business to Charleston, West Virginia, where Colonel E. Rudesill would eventually join him. For over twenty years their business (later to operate under the name of Rudesill and Mead) prospered until shutting its doors in 1909. Successful in other non-business related areas, Colonel E. Rudesill entered state politics in November 1902, winning election to the West Virginia State House of Delegates from Kanawha County. Taking his seat in January 1903, Rudesill served as a member of the house for one term (1903-05), and during his second year in office won election as Mayor of the city of Charleston, serving a two-year term. He had earlier been appointed to the West Virginia State Board of Asylums in 1901 for an eight-year term and served as the president during the entirety of his service.
Following his time in public service, Rudesill served as a census supervisor and in 1911 returned to his business interests, becoming a state agent for the Atlanta based investment firm called the Guarantee, Trust and Banking Company. He later served as the director of the United Savings and Annuity Company of Charleston, and was a longtime member of the Charleston Elks Lodge, serving as the lodge's exalted ruler on three occasions.
From the Charleston Gazette, February 13, 1944.
Colonel E. Rudesill continued to serve the city of Charleston well into his eighth decade, being connected with the "city collectors office." He died of pneumonia on February 12, 1944 at a Charleston hospital and following funeral services was interred at the Mountain View Cemetery in that city.
From the Charleston Gazette, February 13, 1944.
Portrait from the Standard Atlas of Genesee County, Michigan, 1907.
Another non-military "Colonel" who made his name known politically is Colonel Ogden Swayze, a Flint, Michigan attorney who served several years as Judge of Probate for Genesee County in that state. A native of New Jersey, Colonel O. Swayze was born in Warren County on September 15, 1859, a son of Daniel and Sarah Angle Swayze. Colonel Swayze would remove with his family to Michigan as a child and would attend the public schools of Lapeer County. He later studied at the Northern Indiana Normal School at Valparaiso, and following his graduation returned to Lapeer to begin teaching. Swayze later served as a school principal in Ritzville, Washington for a time and again returned Michigan after two years away.
Soon after his return to Michigan Swayze entered into law studies in Flint, Michigan, beginning study in the law office of Wisner, Lee, and Atkin. He was admitted to the Michigan bar in 1891 and shortly afterward was elected to his first public office, that of police justice for the city of Flint. He continued in that role for twelve years and in 1896 married to Edith Alma Kurtz (1869-1962), a native of Erie County, New York. The couple later had three sons: Colonel Kenneth (1899-1989), Karl Ogden (born 1901) and Donald K. (born 1909).
In November 1908 Colonel O. Swayze was elected as the probate judge for Genesee County and officially took office at the beginning of the new year. He would win a second term on the bench in 1912 and left office in 1916. Following his term as probate judge Swayze returned to practicing law in Flint and was also affiliated with the Young Men's Republican Club in that city, serving as its president for a time. Swayze died in August 1922 and was interred at the Glenwood Cemetery in Flint.
Portrait from the 1943 Tennessee legislative composite.
In a February 9, 2017 update, another politically inclined "Colonel" has been located, Colonel Isham Wood of Warren County, Tennessee. In another case of someone being bestowed a military title for a first name, Wood was a farmer and school principal for a good majority of his life and had fleeting involvement in politics, being elected to one term in the Tennessee House of Representatives from his native county of Warren.
The son of Obadiah and Elizabeth (Orrick) Wood, Colonel Isham Wood was born on August 2, 1887. Little is known of his early life, excepting his marriage to Hilda Irene Wimberly (1897-1989) in the mid-1910s. The couple were wed for over sixty years and later had one son, Randolph Clay (born 1917.)
Colonel I. Wood was for over forty years a teacher and principal, teaching throughout middle Tennessee and the town of Lobelville. Elected as Warren County's representative to the Tennessee legislature in 1942, Wood served one term (1943-45) and during that session sat on the committees on Commerce, Education and Common Schools and Public Health and Sanitation.
Colonel I. Wood died in Warren County on July 10, 1983, a few weeks short of his 96th birthday. He was survived by his wife Hilda, who, following her death at age 92 in 1989, was interred alongside her husband at the Morrison Cemetery in Morrison, Tennessee.
On April 30, 2018, the name of Colonel Manfred Johnson was located in a 1922 history of McHenry County, Illinois, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was Colonel his first name (and not a title) but that he had fleeting political involvement, as he served as mayor of Harvard, Illinois. While he lacks a picture, enough information has been found to give him a mention here.
Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 2, 1854, Johnson was the son of Horace and Adeline LaToure Johnson. Relocating to Harvard, Illinois with his family during his youth, Johnson attended school in that town and, after deciding on a career in the medical profession, would further study at Notre Dame University and the University of Michigan. Johnson would graduate from the latter school in 1875 and did post-graduate medical work at the Bellevue Hospital in New York.
Following his relocation back to Harvard, Colonel M. Johnson began construction on a hospital for Harvard, one that once finished could accommodate 32 patients and several nurses. Sources relate to Johnson's non-medical prominence in Harvard, including stints as city treasurer and alderman, as well as city physician. He would serve as mayor of Harvard, though no source gives note as to his dates of service. John resided in Harvard until his death on June 24, 1928 and he was later interred at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in that city.