GABRIEL L. RODDEN
Each community is judged by the character of its representative citizens, and its social, intellectual and business standing is determined thereby. The sterling worth, commercial ability and enterprise of the leading men are mirrored forth in the public life of the town, and therefore the history of the people of prominence is the history of the community. No account of Oakdale would be complete without the life record of Gabriel Lindsay Rodden, a man whose public spirit is manifested in his many efforts to improve the conditions and promote the upbuilding of the town. Throughout a period of forty-seven years Mr. Rodden has been numbered among the residents of northern California, his home being now in Oakdale, Stanislaus County.
He is a native of North Carolina, born near Charlotte September 15, 1823. On the paternal side he is descended from an old family of that state, while on the maternal side he represents an equally old Virginian family. Both of his grandfathers served in the Revolutionary War. Jackson Rodden, his father, was born in North Carolina in 1788, and was married in that state, to Miss Mary Corum, who is closely connected with the historic Settle family of North Carolina. One of her brothers was a soldier in the War of 1812 and was killed at the Battle of New Orleans. Six children were born to them in North Carolina, after which they removed to Tennessee and there four children were added to the family. Subsequently he, with his wife and three children, took up his abode in Arkansas, but he was not long permitted to enjoy his new home, for at the end of one year he departed this life in 1852, being then sixty-four years of age. His wife long survived him and attained to a ripe old age.
Mr. Rodden of this review acquired his education in Tennessee, and afterward engaged in teaching there for a year. Subsequently he was for eight years a teacher in the subscription schools of Alabama. In 1853 his health failed and he was advised to seek the climate of California. From the Isthmus of Panama he journeyed to the land of sunshine. On reaching the Pacific coast he made his way direct to Sonora, Tuolumne County, where in connection with some of his Tennessee friends he engaged in mining at Columbia, but they met with very moderate success and accordingly he secured a situation as clerk in a store owned by Mr. Moss. Afterward he became the proprietor of the Sierra Nevada House, which he conducted for its owner, being paid by the month for his services. Subsequently he again tried mining at Sonora, but made little more than his expenses. He next went to the mountains, where he engaged in making sugar pine shakes and shingles, that enterprise proving a profitable one and occupying his attention until 1856. He then engaged in teaming from the mountains to Columbia, Sonora, Knight’s Ferry and Jamestown with oxen.
In 1857 Mr. Rodden returned to Alabama to wed his sweetheart, Miss Elizabeth Ditto, a native of that state and a daughter of William Ditto. With his bride he again started for California, by the Isthmus route, accompanied by one of his wife’s brothers. After their arrival they lived for some time in the mountains, where Mr. Rodden had pre-empted a claim, and later they took up their abode in Sonora, where he built a good residence. For some years he was engaged in freighting from Stockton to Sonora and Columbia and also in Mariposa County. While residing in the mountains the Indians stole his neighbor’s oxen and with a party of others he went in pursuit of the red men, and when they found them discovered that one of the oxen had been killed and partially eaten. Shots were exchanged and some of the Indians were struck, but were carried off by their unwounded comrades. The pursuers, too, had several narrow escapes, but succeeded in driving away the red men and securing the stolen stock, after which they returned in safety.
Mr. Rodden was often in Oakdale between 1871 and 1879, and in the latter year he took up his permanent abode in the town. He continued in the transportation business until the building of the Sierra Railroad and met with gratifying success, accumulating a handsome competence which enables him to live retired from active business, the interest on his capital being sufficient to supply him with all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life. He has a nice home in Oakdale, where he and his good wife reside in peace beneath the shade of beautiful fruit and ornamental trees which they have planted. Their union has been blessed with five children, four of whom are yet living, namely: Mary, now the wife of D. B. Warfield, of Oakdale; Lizzie, who for the past thirteen years has been successfully engaged in teaching; William A., a money-lender and a notary public; and Edward, who is engaged in business with his brother William, under the firm name of Rodden Brothers.
Mr. Rodden of this review has been a life-long Democrat, but he has never sought or desired office. The cause of education has ever found in him a warm friend and he has done much to promote the efficiency of the schools. He served as a trustee for twelve years, and while in Sonora had the honor of organizing the public school under the school law of California. He was also the clerk of the school meeting in that city and was secretary of the first school meeting held in Tuolumne County.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2011 Gerald Iaquinta.