In the Valley of the Shadow: The Rev. William Dewitt Clinton Rodrock, A.M., Chaplain, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (part three)

 

* Editor’s Note: To read the first part of this biographical sketch about the Rev. William Dewitt Clinton Rodrock, click here; to read the second part of this sketch, click this link.

 

Return to Civilian Life

Train Station, Blain, Perry County, Pennsylvania (c. late 1800s-early 1900s, public domain).

Following his honorable discharge from the military. Rev. W. DeWitt Clinton Rodrock returned home to his wife in Pennsylvania, and resumed work as a member of the Reformed Church’s East Pennsylvania classis, becoming pastor of the Reformed Church in Blaine, Perry County, Pennsylvania. On 12 July 1866, they greeted the arrival of son Edward Millard Rodrock (1866-1932) at their Blaine home.

In 1867, he persuaded the editors of Philadelphia’s Saturday Evening Post to publish “A Chaplain’s Story of the Late War” in serial form.

The following year, as church membership climbed in Perry County, local church leaders decided to form a new church for members residing in Duncannon; Rev. W. D. C. Rodrock was then given the charge both to minister to the new congregation and to raise funds for the purchase of a building where its members would worship. He remained in this role through 1871, and also later oversaw the construction of a church in Marysville.

During this time, Rev. Rodrock and his wife welcomed the birth of another daughter – Sara Blanche (1870-1932), who opened her eyes for the first time in Duncannon in April 1870. She was known throughout much of her life as “Blanche.” He then bid farewell to another daughter – Ida, who left the fold to begin her own family when she wed John Black at the Rodrock family home on 14 February 1871. Another daughter – Alice Gray Rodrock (1871-1933) – soon filled the void, arriving in July 1871.

Once again, however, the family’s joy was tempered by grief when Rev. Rodrock’s recently married daughter Ida (Rodrock) Black passed away at the age of 19. Following her death at Evergreen Cottage in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania on 19 September 1872, she was laid to rest at the Zion Reformed Church Cemetery in Chambersburg, Franklin County.

That same year (on 22 October 1872), Rev. Rodrock was elected as Chaplain of the 47th Pennsylvania Regiment Association, which was formed at Catasauqua in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.

From 1874 through 1877, he served as the pastor at the Mt. Bethel Reformed Church in Mt. Bethel, Pennsylvania and, in 1876, also assumed responsibility for the care of souls at the Blain Reformed Church. On 27 March of that same year, his mother Sarah (Dreisbach) Rodrock passed away, and was laid to rest at the Greenwood Cemetery in Howertown, Northampton County.

In 1878, Rev. Rodrock’s second daughter Mary completed her education at the Blair Presbyterian Academy, as did son Edward M. Rodrock in 1879.

The former military chaplain’s health, however, was no longer as robust as it had been during his Civil War service. Like many of his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, he was plagued by lifelong bronchial illnesses which developed during the regiment’s long service in the Deep South and worsened over time, forcing him to end his regular preaching career. He continued to support himself by lecturing periodically, and also filed for a U.S. Civil War Pension on 17 July 1879.

Map of Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey, 1880 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Performing missionary work for the Philadelphia Sabbath Association from 1881-1885, he resettled with his wife and children in Blairstown, New Jersey. On 28 March 1882, Rev. Rodrock presented a free lecture at the Coleman Institute in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. His subject was “A Tribute to the Heroism of the American Soldier, with Reminiscences of the War.” In alerting area residents to the upcoming talk, the Lebanon Daily News noted that “Rev. Rodrock served through the entire war as chaplain of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers.”

Later that same year, on Sunday, 17 September 1882, Rev. Rodrock delivered the sermon at the Reformed church in Weissport, and then also presented a public lecture there the following Tuesday (19 September). His subject was “My experience as Chaplain in the late War.”

By 1883, Rev. Rodrock had resettled with his wife and children in Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey. In 1884, he was given a commission which awarded him leadership of the Reformed churches in Smithfield and Tobyhanna in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. From 1885 through 1896, he was employed as a representative of the American Bible Society.

In 1888, daughter Alice Gray Rodrock completed her theological training at the Paterson Seminary. That same year, the Lebanon Daily News reported Rev. Rodrock’s attendance a day earlier at the annual reunion of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers:

The Allentown City Item refers as follows to Rev. W. D. C. Rodrock, who yesterday participated in the reunion of the 47th Regt., Pa. Vet. Vols., in this city:

‘Rev. W. D. R. Rodrock, of Paterson, N.J., was in Allentown over Sunday, and guest of his comrade, C. F. Losch, at Church and Linden streets. Many comrades of the reverend gentleman called on him. He was appointed chaplain of the 47th Regiment on Aug, 14, 1861, by Col. T. H. Good, and served through the war. Rev. Rodrock accompanied the survivors to Lebanon. He took with him the Bible carried by him through the war and the Fort Taylor mail bag. At one time during the war Rev. Rodrock had a ’30-days’ furlough. He came to Allentown with between $16,000 $17,000 [secreted?] on his person to give to the families of members of his regiment.’

The Times of Philadelphia similarly noted:

Rev. W. D. C. Rodrock, who was chaplain of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania Regiment during the war, at one time returned on a furlough, having in his possession $18,000 which soldiers from Allentown and vicinity entrusted to him to hand over to their families. The old chaplain, the oldest in the country, who has seen so much active service in the field, this week attended the annual reunion of the regiment at Lebanon and was warmly greeted by his old-time comrades.

Death and Interment

Main Street at Ellison, Paterson, New Jersey (c. 1903, public domain).

Rev. William Dewitt Clinton Rodrock continued to minister to his former comrades from the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers throughout his life. He attended his final reunion in Allentown on 22 October 1902, but continued to hold the office of Chaplain until his death.

After suffering another debilitating attack of acute bronchitis, he developed erysipelas, which destroyed his eyesight. Finally, with his wife and children at his side, the fighting chaplain answered his last bugle call at 3:45 on the morning of 22 August 1903 at his home in Paterson, New Jersey. He was laid to rest on 24 August 1903 at the Laurel Grove Cemetery near Paterson.

The Acts and Proceedings of the Eastern Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States presented a lengthy synopsis of his life in its October 1903 edition, closing with this eulogy:

His wife and four surviving children, all faithful Christians and happily married, were present at the closing hour when he fell asleep at 3.45 a. m., in the dawn of the summer morning. To his life and his death may be applied the words of the poet:

‘A little while the tented field, the bugle call, the strife;
The next the shouts of victory, the crown, eternal life.’

The Reading Times simply reported his passing as follows:

Rev. W. D. C. Rodrock died at his home in Paterson, N.J., and was buried on Monday in Laurel Union cemetery in that city. Rev. Rodrock was the chaplain of the Forty-seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, throughout the Civil War.

His wife, Julia (Weldy) Rodrock followed him in death just two years later, passing away in 1905. She was laid to rest next to her husband at the Laurel Grove Memorial Park in Totowa, Passaic County, New Jersey.

What Happened to His Children?

West Side Park Bridge, Paterson, New Jersey (c. 1900, public domain).

The surviving children of Rev. William D. C. Rodrock were: Mrs. Mary Schaff Quick, and Mrs. Alice Gray Nightingale, of Paterson; Mrs. Blanch Sarah Fitch, of Brooklyn, N. Y.; and Edward Millard Rodrock, of Rahway, N. J.

Daughter Mary Rodrock completed her schooling at the Blair Presbyterian Academy in 1878, married and went by the name of Mrs. Mary Schaff Quick, and resided in Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey.

Completing his own schooling at the Blair Presbyterian Academy in 1879, Edward Millard Rodrock then wed Emma (1868-1955), a native of Little Falls, New Jersey, in 1888. On 21 July 1893, they greeted the arrival of their first child – son Norwood Clinton Rodrock, who survived just 18 days. Following his passing in Paterson on 7 August 1893, the little one was laid to rest at the Cedar Lawn Cemetery in that city.

On the 4th of July in 1897, the couple then welcomed second son Harold E. Rodrock (1897-1948) to their Paterson home. Continuing to reside in Paterson in 1900, the young family’s 1910 Paterson household grew to include Lillian Close, Edward Rodrock’s widowed sister-in-law. But by 1920, their household in Paterson was once again home to just the threesome – Edward, Emma and Harold.

Central business district, Market and Main Streets, Paterson, New Jersey (c. 1911, public domain).

On his 20 February 1920 U.S. Passport application, Edward Rodrock confirmed that he was a resident of Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey. Employed as a merchant, he planned to travel to Cuba for his health on 13 March of that year aboard the S.S. Zacapa (alternate spelling: Lacapa). He was, in fact, the owner of E. M. Rodrock Coal, Mason Materials &c. The passport application form further described him as being a 54-year-old man who was 5 feet 5 inches tall with iron gray hair, brown eyes and a round face with thick lips, a short nose, round chin, low forehead and fair complexion.

In 1927, he and his wife took another trip, this time cruising aboard the Sixaola. Just three years later, Edward and Emma Rodrock were officially “empty nesters,” residing alone in their Paterson home. Free to continue exploring the world, he and his wife traveled to Havana, Cuba again in February 1931, this time aboard the S.S. Oriente.

Sadly, just one year later, Edward Millard Rodrock was gone. Following his passing in Paterson in 1932, he was interred near his first-born son Norwood at the Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey. Son Harold joined the pair there in 1948, followed by family matriarch Emma in 1955.

Meanwhile, in 1890, the Rev. William D. C. Rodrock’s daughter Sara Blanche Rodrock was also opting to begin her own family. After marrying New York native Charles A. Fitch, she and her husband welcomed daughter Marion Alice Fitch to their New Jersey home on 28 February 1893. By 1900, the trio had relocated to Brooklyn in Kings County, New York, where Charles was employed as an agent for an express company. Sadly, though, Charles widowed Blanche early. After his death in Casnovia, New York on 14 August 1905, his remains were returned to New Jersey, and interred at the Laurel Grove Memorial Park in Tototwa, Passaic County.

By 1910, Blanche (Rodrock) Fitch had returned home to Paterson, where she was employed as a forewoman at a local silk mill. She resided there with her 17-year-old daughter Marion, a stenographer, until Marion wed George W. Raymond (1881-1972) on 27 April 1911 and greeted the arrival of her own daughter – Wilma Blanche Raymond (1912-1995) in New York on 26 October 1912.

By 1920, Blanche (Rodrock) Fitch was residing alone at a rooming house in Paterson, supporting herself on the wages of a “silk picker.” By 1921, she was on the move again, this time relocating to the West Coast. A realtor, she was also once again residing with her daughter Marion – this time at her home in San Pedro, Los Angeles County, California – an arrangement which lasted until Blanche (Rodrock) Fitch passed away in San Pedro in 8 April 1932 at the age of 66. Her death notice in the 9-12 April 1932 editions of the Los Angeles Times simply stated:

FITCH. April 8, at 4112 Carolina street, San Pedro, Cal., Blanche R. Fitch, loving mother of Mrs. George William Raymond and grandmother of Wilma Raymond; sister of Mrs. Alice C. Nightingale and Edward M. Rodrock.

Services Monday, April 11, at 3 p.m., from Pierce Brothers’ chapel.

Like her siblings before her, Rev. William D. C. Rodrock’s daughter Alice Gray Rodrock (1871-1933) also completed her education at the Paterson Seminary in 1888. Following her marriage to Albert G. Nightingale in 1892, she went by the name of Mrs. Alice Gray Nightingale, resided alone with her husband in Paterson’s 4th Ward in 1900, its 11th Ward in 1910 and in its 5th Ward in 1920. Following her passing in 1933, she was interred at the Laurel Grove Memorial Park in Totowa, Passaic County, New Jersey.

 

Sources:

1. Articles and notices, The Allentown Democrat. Allentown, Pennsylvania: 1884:

  • Notice of Rev. W. D. C. Rodrock’s appointment as Reformed church pastor in Smithfield and Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, 4 June 1884.

2. Articles and notices, The Carbon Advocate. Lehighton, Pennsylvania: 1882:

  • Notice of sermon and lecture at the Weissport Reformed church. Lehighton, Pennsylvania: The Carbon Advocate, 9 September 1882.

3. Articles and notices, Lebanon Daily News. Lebanon, Pennsylvania: 1882-1888:

  • Notice of free lecture by Rev. W. D. C. Rodrock at the Coleman Institute. Lebanon, Pennsylvania: Lebanon Daily News, 15 March 1882;
  • The Bible He Carried Through the War. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Lebanon Daily News, 23 October 1888.

4. Articles and notices, The Perry County Democrat. Bloomfield, Pennsylvania: 1871:

  • Ida May Rodrock’s marriage notice (to John Black). Bloomfield, Pennsylvania: The Perry County Democrat, 22 February 1871;
  • Ida May Black’s death notice. Bloomfield, Pennsylvania: The Perry County Democrat, 20 November 1872.

5. Articles and notices, Reading Times. Reading, Pennsylvania: 1903:

  • W. D. C. Rodrock’s death notice. Reading, Pennsylvania: Reading Times, 29 August 1903.

6. Articles and notices, The Times. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 1888:

  • Notice of Rev. Rodrock’s attendance at the annual regimental reunion of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers (including a description of his Civil War responsibility to transport funds home to families from their loved ones). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Times, 28 October 1888.

7. Cazalet, Sylvain. American Homeopathy Was Started in Bath and The Allentown Academy: America’s First German Medical School, in Articles on Homeopathy. Homépathe International, retrieved online 1 March 2018.

8. Fitch, Blanche R., in California Death Index. Sacramento, California: California Department of Health and Welfare, 1932.

9. Letter from Key West (letter from “W. D. C. R., Chaplain Forty-seventh Regiment, P.V.”). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Press, 31 March 1862.

10. Lines to the memory of Major General O. M. Mitchell [i.e., Mitchel], who died at Beaufort, S.C., Oct. 30, 1862 [electronic resource], in American broadsides and ephemera [Series 1, no. 11157, author/creator: George Douglas Brewerton, 1862, American Antiquarian Society copy of verses in seventeen stanzas on the death of Major Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel from yellow fever]. Stanford, California: Stanford University Libraries, electronic text and image data.

11. Reports and Other Correspondence of W. D. C. Rodrock, Chaplain, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (Record Groups R29, R91, R171, R283, R327, R460, R555, R756, R796, R951, R1007). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1864-1865.

12. Rev. Jacob C. Becker, in A History of Catasauqua in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Searle & Dressler Co., Inc. 1914.

13. Rev. W. DeWitt Clinton Rodrock (obituary), in Acts and Proceedings of the Eastern Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States, Volumes 151-161. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Reformed Church Publication Board, 1901.

14. Rev. William DeWitt Clinton Rodrock, in Franklin and Marshall College, Obituary Record, No. 8, Vol. II – Part IV, p. 110. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Franklin and Marshall College Alumni Association, June 1904.

15. Rodrock, W. D. C., in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.

16. Rodrock (obituary of Warren Alexander Rodrock), in Died. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: Franklin Reporter, 10 February 1864.

17. Rodrock, Edward M. and Emma Rodrock, in U.S. Passport Applications. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1920.

18. Rodrock, William D. C. and Julia M. Rodrock, in U.S. Civil War Pension Index (application no.: 296549, certificate no.: 260499, filed by the veteran on 17 July 1879; application no.: 793449, certificate no.: 574458, filed by the veteran’s widow from New Jersey on 24 October 1903). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

19. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.

20. U.S. Census: Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California: 1820, 1830, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930.

21. W. D. C. Rodrock, J. C. Emerson, et. al. To the Friends of Our Soldiers. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: Valley Spirit, 27 August 1862.

 

Advertisements