26. Melchi Hoffman Rhodes

Melchi Hoffman Rhodes, our maternal grandfather, was born on 24 July 1884 in Dallas, NC to parents Oliver Peterson Rhodes and Sarah Alice Hoffman Rhodes. Melchi was named after his grandfather, Melchi Rhodes, and was given his mother’s maiden name as a middle name. Melchi is pronounced “Mel-kai”, with a long, strong “i”. Melchi was the second child and son of O.P. and Alice, following his older brother, Christian “Christy” Alfred Rhodes.

Once again, we don’t have the 1890 Federal Census; so the first record that I have found that lists Melchi by name is the 1900 Census. This census shows what would ultimately be the entire family living in Dallas; we have Oliver P., mother Alice, Christy, Melchi, Clarence, Callie (Caroline), John, Dora, and Caleb. Melchi was listed as a 15 year old farm-hand who had attended 4 months of schooling in the last twelve months.

The 1910 census shows Melchi still living at home with the family; he is listed as 26 years old, single, and working as a salesman in a department store. Christy was no longer listed with the family, but all the other siblings remained.

At the age of 28, on 27 November 1912, Melchi marries Ocie J. Rhyne; the marriage license, as well as other records written by someone else (such as census records), has her name as “Osie”, but I think this is probably wrong since latter records, and her own signature, show her name as “Ocie Josephine”. She was the 23 year old daughter of J. F. and Hannah (Pasour) Rhyne, and the license indicates the couple was married at the Lutheran parsonage in Dallas by Lutheran minister A. R. Beck.

I believe that Melchi and Ocie began their marriage by moving into a small house on the property of his parents. About eighteen months after they were married, in May 1914, they welcomed their first daughter, Sarah Melinda, to the family. Eighteen months after the arrival of Sarah, Melchi purchased a small house and about 2-1/2 acres of land for the family. The property was on what was simply described as “public road”, but that road eventually became known as Bank Street, and the property currently has the address of 407 North Holland Street, Dallas. The property was purchased from a W. N. and Laura S. Brown for $1000, but it had just recently been purchased through a “court sale” due to a default of Simon Peter Costner that saw the ownership quickly pass from the original bid winner, S. B. Sparrow, to C. D. Welch, and then to the Browns. This was the home-place property that became the home of our mother, Margaret Cecelia, born 30 October 1916.

The next document we have regarding Melchi is his registration for the World War I draft. The date of the registration was 12 September 1918, and Melchi was listed as a 34 year old farmer; married to Osie Rhyne Rhodes, residing in Dallas, and interestingly employed by J. F. Puett, who also signed the document as the registrar.

The 1920 census confirms that Melchi was working as a “farm laborer” during this time in an effort to support his young family. The 1930 census showed a few notably differences, but there had been an addition of another daughter, Rachel Hoffman, in 1925. Melchi was now listed as a salesman in a grocery store, and apparently the “big” two-story house that I remember from my childhood had been constructed and then showed a worth of $4000. I don’t have any documented evidence that might explain the nine year lapse between the births of our mother and her sister Rachel; no found record of any miscarriages, still-births, or infant deaths. There are certainly examples of such time lapses, even within in our own extended family, but it was odd for the time.

There was another childless lapse, this time five years, before the birth of daughter number four, Mary (Patsy) Naomi, in 1930 (just missing being included in the 1930 census). She did show up on the 1940 census as a nine year-old, while Sarah had left the family to start her own. Melchi was now listed as a grocery store meat cutter (butcher), and Ocie was shown as a “seamstress, working from home”. The decade of the 1930’s was no doubt a difficult one for everyone, as the country was deep into the “Great Depression” where few, if any, escaped the hardships associated with it; but for whatever reason, I have little information on Melchi and his family during this period. We do know that everyone in the family survived.

The decade of the 1940’s was much different; World War II began in 1941, Margaret “Peg” (our mother) married in 1942, Rachel married in 1943, and it appears that Melchi opened his own general-grocery store in Dallas on Trade Street. While the immediate family, including the son-in-laws, survived the challenges of the War, the decade ended with the death of Ocie Josephine. Ocie died on 9 January 1949 in Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia; the immediate cause was attributed to a stroke, but the death certificate also lists heart failure due to a history of heart disease. She was only 59 years old.

Daughter Patsy was the only one left in the home to help take care of Melchi. Patsy did marry in 1953, but she and her husband, Henry Vernon “Bill” Helton, took up residence in the old home-place along with her father, while he continued to work at his grocery store. It appears Melchi’s health deteriorated around 1958, which led to him becoming bedridden for quite some time before his death on 29 January 1960. He died in his home, and it looks like he also died from a stroke, but his death certificate has a long list of contributing factors, including kidney failure and internal bleeding. His obituary appeared in the Gastonia Gazette the next day, and among the expected profile information and details of his death were a couple things that I had either forgotten or never knew; the obit stated that Melchi had served on the Dallas Board of Aldermen for several years, he was at some point the “chief-of-police”, and he had also acted as town manager and clerk in charge of utilities. Melchi was a member of Holy Communion Lutheran Church, where his funeral was held, and he was buried beside his wife, Ocie, in the Long Creek Memorial Cemetery.

I knew my grandfather, Melchi, as “Daddy” Rhodes. I was only seven years old when he died, and I remember going to his home where he was there in his coffin for the family to receive family and friends for his viewing; that was a new experience for me. My mother allowed me to have the choice of attending his funeral; that also would have been my first, and I didn’t know what to expect, so I decided not to go – I wish I had. I don’t have a lot of memories about “Daddy” Rhodes; I do remember him working in his garden behind the house, and that he grew this strange thing called “horseradish”. One of my earliest memories is of going into his grocery store to get a loaf of bread, probably either “Holsum” or “Sunbeam”; I was probably only about four years old, I don’t remember who I was with, but I do recall the floor of the store was covered in wood-shavings. Funny, sometimes the things that you might remember.