Joseph Rouze Biography
Note: The following biography is mostly taken from the 1990 book Rouze Family Genealogy, by Dixie Norton and Carol McKenzie. This book is an update of the original 1928 family book by Nellie Hunter Sherman. The biographical text was written by Mary F. Rouze Riley. Additional information has been added based on my own research – Jeff Rouze
Joseph Rouze was born near Allentown, New Jersey. Family records and his gravestone show a birth date of February 6, 1797. Census records however seem to indicate that it was actually 1799. The 1850 census showed his age to be 50, and the 1860 census listed it as 61. Allentown is located in Monmouth County, so it is possible that he was born in this central county of New Jersey.
At an early age, Joseph was left an orphan, and consequently was bound out as was the custom. He was taught the tannery and shoemaker’s trade. On March 19, 1822, he married Susan Forsyth of Allentown, the second daughter of John and Elizabeth Forsyth. For a short period of time, the couple may have lived in or near the town of Etra, about 6 miles northeast of Allentown. They apparently purchased plots in the Etra (Milford/Hutchinson) Cemetery for themselves and one future child. Although there are three gravestones, only son Aaron Powers Rouze is buried there.
Later that year, Joseph and Susan moved to Somerville, Butler County, Ohio. He was apparently still working in tannery and shoemaking. Over the following five years, three children were born: John Forsyth Rouze, Elizabeth Ann Rouze, and William Kates Rouze.
Joseph became dissatisfied with his business as being profitable. In 1828, he ventured west alone by ox and cart to view land. He found a 200-acre tract for sale in the neighboring state of Indiana. At $1.50 per acre, he made the purchase. The land was on the Vandalia Road in Decatur County, northeast of the present day town of Milford. The road had just been surveyed and was nothing more than an imaginary line at the time. The improvements on the land consisted of a log cabin shack and a well of water. Joseph added a road between the home and the future main road.
He returned to Ohio and put his wife and three children and all their household goods in covered wagons, drawn by oxen. Two other families took part in the caravan, all heading west with pioneer ambitions.
The travel was slow over the 200-mile journey, but finally the group reached the cabin one evening. There was no button to press to throw the lights; only a grease lamp with a rag wick. There was no faucet to turn for water; one had to lower a bucket by rope into the well and pull it up. But it was home nonetheless. With ambition, determination, and Christian faith, they cleared the forest and tilled the soil. They persevered and prospered through hardship, isolation, and sacrifice. None but the experienced can tell the story of pioneer life. Only the pioneer can accurately paint the picture.
One of the most profitable crops was the cultivation of flax. This was harvested by hand. Wife Susan spun and wove cloth, making it into clothing. She also braided the straw and made hats.
Mastering the forest was a difficult task. The felling of timber, the hewing and cutting, the logging, the uprooting of stumps, and the clearing of the land for cultivation was laborious and painful. Many times Susan laid a quilt or comforter on the ground for the babies so she could lend a hand with the picking and piling of brush.
In due time, the forest was subdued and cropland was made plentiful. Twenty years on found 160 acres in cultivation and surround by rail fence. A two-story brick home and another dwelling were built from brick made on the farm. [As of 2003, the brick home still stands and is still occupied] Two large frame barns and other buildings gave shelter for the livestock and poultry. Even a fruit orchard was created.
Though Joseph was deprived of school privileges as an orphan, he learned how to read and write by the evening fireside. Feeling greatly this disadvantage, he more the urge for the education of his children and placed them in the best schools the area provided.
Joseph and Susan were widely known and revered for his loyal Christian citizenship. Their doors were always open for anyone needing help. Many weary travelers were sheltered and fed under their hospitable roof. And business was never too urgent or pressing to interfere with family worship before breakfast. All the family and guests assembled in the living room where a passage of scripture was read and prayer was given.
Eleven children in total were born to Joseph and Susan. One child died in infancy. But the remaining four sons and five daughters all grew to adulthood. Here is a summary, listed by order of birth:
Joseph Rouze passed away in 1880. He was buried in the nearby Hebron Cemetary, Adams, IN. After his death, wife Susan moved to Marion County, Iowa to live with some of her children. In 1889, she passed away and was buried in Bethel Cemetery, Clay Township, Marion County, Iowa.