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Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 821~


Robert P. Rathbun



"The subject of this sketch, who is one of the well known and respected citizens of Oelwein, Fayette county, has achieved definite success in life in the face of discouraging and apparently insurmountable circumstances, and today no man in his community enjoys to a greater degree the confidence of those who knew him. Industry and perseverance have been the keynotes to his success, and in the highest qualities of manhood he is the peer of any of his fellows.


Mr. Rathbun was born in Dewitt county, Illinois, on December 12, 1840, and is the son of Parr and Ruth (White) Rathbun. His father and paternal grandfather came from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania, and later moved from there to Licking county, Ohio, and subsequently to Illinois. When the subject of this sketch was about eleven years old the family moved to Lodi, Columbia county, Wisconsin, where they followed farming. His education was received in a select subscription school. The lad was of an independent turn of mind and was ambitious, and having determined to pay his own way through school he worked at whatever he could find to do, such as mowing hay and similar work. After completing his education he remained on the home place until he was about thirty-five years old. In the meantime he married and in 1874 he moved to Smithfield township, Fayette county, Iowa, where he followed farming. About four years later he bought a farm in Scott township, this county, to which he moved. He remained there until the spring of 1880, when he rented his farm and went to Adair county, where he engaged in running a stock farm for a brother-in-law, with whom he was in partnership. Some time later he returned to the Scott township farm, built a neat and comfortable residence and in other ways made permanent and substantial improvements on the place. He remained there until the fall of 1902, when he moved to Oelwein, where he now resides, practically retired from active labor, enjoying the rest which he had so richly earned. He is still the owner of the one-hundred-and-sixty-acre farm in Scott township and also owns residence properties in Oelwein.

Mr. Rathbun had two brothers, James and John. The former was in the army during the Civil war and during that time the subject remained at home and cared for his parents. At the close of the war the parents decided to sell the farm and divide the proceeds among their children.

The subject and his brother James bought out the interests of the other heirs and ran the farm in partnership. They bought the land at twenty dollars per acre, and it soon rose to a value of fifty dollars, at which price they sold it, intending to come to Iowa. They had four thousand dollars, which they loaned, and subsequently the borrowers, including banks, went into bankruptcy, leaving the brothers in bad shape financially. About all they received at the time were numerous expressions of sympathy from neighbors, and an old aunt said, "O, well, you're young and can build up again." The subject derived considerable encouragement from this remark and it often recurred to him in his later days of trial. After he came to Iowa, about 1876, prices of farm products were discouragingly low, butter selling for five cents per pound, eggs for three cents a dozen, and hogs at two dollars a hundred pounds. Despite this fact, he was not discouraged, but persevered in his efforts and managed to save money, eventually overcoming the obstacles which confronted him and attaining a position of comparative independence. Hard work, sound judgment and persistence earned their reward and today he enjoys the respect of those who have become familiar with his record, which in every respect has been an honorable one.


In 1862 Mr. Rathbun was married to Marriett Ashley, a daughter of Stephen and Nancy (Waterbury) Ashley, of Columbia county, Wisconsin, who were originally from Theresa, Jefferson county, New York. To the subject and wife have been born four children, Etta, Frank Chester, Louis and Lulu, the last two named being twins. Etta became the wife of Elmer Stebbins, of Oelwein: Frank is a mail carrier in Oelwein; Louis, who is an expert jeweler and engraver and graduate optician, lives in Oelwein; Lulu remains with her parents.

Fraternally, Mr. Rathbun is a member of the Knights of Pythias, in which he has taken all the degrees including that of the Uniform Rank. He is a man of many splendid personal qualifications and enjoys a large acquaintance, among whom he numbers many warm and loyal friends."

~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Richard Smith


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