There is not, perhaps, a single resident of Fulton County that has had an experience in life so varied as that of the subject of this sketch; still, from a business point of view, notwithstanding his years of travel and the many enterprises in which he has been engaged, the life of our subject may be said to have been entirely successful and satisfactory, and he now stands among the leading business men of the country. Mr. Rorick has profited by his experiences, and the many places he has visited, the pursuits in which he has engaged, and the people he has met, have educated and given him an understanding of men and affairs that has proved of great value. This much comment will be pardonable when we narrate the partial events of a lifetime.
John Conklin Rorick was born near Elmira, in New York State, on the 13th day of February, 1834, and of the five children born to William and Phoebe Ann Rorick, he was the second. When John was but two years old the family moved to Lenawee County, Mich. Here our subject was reared, and, when old enough, put at work on his father’s farm. He attended school about two months each winter, acquiring, at the age of sixteen, a very limited education, confined to reading, writing and simple rules of arithmetic. By the encouragement of a teacher, named Ed. Hopper, he, at that time, made a radical change, and by incessant application to his studies during the hours when other boys slept, and every moment that could be spared from his daily labors, aided by eighteen weeks’ attendance at the Medina Seminary, he passed a successful examination in the common and some of the higher branches, and commenced teaching at the age of eighteen. Graduating in book-keeping and commercial law at Gregory College, in Detroit, at the age of twenty, he went to the Lake Superior copper regions, to take charge of the books of the Ridge Mine, but his arrival having been delayed by lake storms several days, he found the place already filled, and accepted the position of “boss” of a gang of men connected with the mines. Disliking the position, in company with three companions, he made the trip from Ontonagon to Stephen’s Point, a distance of two hundred and thirty miles, on foot through an unbroken wilderness, being guided by the use of charts and compass. From this place, Mr. Rorick went to Madison, Wisconsin, where he opened a school for writing and drawing. It may be stated here that in the art of penmanship and drawing Mr. Rorick became wholly proficient, and, in fact, in the latter of these attainments, he has but few equals.
But our subject did not long remain in Madison, for in the year 1855 we find him associated with a celebrated penman, Dan. Howard, in establishing a commercial college at Milwaukee, Mr. Rorick having charge of the department devoted to bookkeeping and commercial law. The institution was successful and profitable from the commencement, but Mr. Rorick’s close application to teaching, both day and evening classes, was followed by failing health, and upon the advice of Professor Douglass, he sold out his interest, and loaned his surplus earnings to a successor, taking therefor a note for which he was never paid. Mr. Rorick then resumed his former occupation of teaching night schools in Northern Illinois, and from that time to 1860, he engaged in teaching, working farms on shares, and small speculations; but at that time he became the owner of a good farm near Aurora, with a large personal property, but was quite heavily in debt. The reverses of 1860 caused by the Illinois “stub-tail” currency, followed by the depressions of war prospects and other misfortunes, wiped out his margins; but instead of keeping his cash and forsaking his creditors, he sold all his property at great sacrifices, and paid every dollar of debt before it came due.
After closing his affairs in Illinois, Mr. Rorick then returned to Lenawee County and in 1862 he leased his father’s farm in company with his brother J.M. Rorick, giving his note for his share of the investment, which was very successfully run for two in connection with speculations in stock and other property. His next venture was the purchase of the Sherman House, in Wauseon, the conduct of which he assumed in January 1864, but in August he sold out at a large profit, and bought a farm in Chesterfield township to which he then moved. This farm was sold, also at a large profit, and in 1866, with J.M. Rorick, he purchased the Exchange Hotel at Morenci, Michigan which they managed for a short time and, being offered a large advance, sold out.
John C. Rorick then moved to Canandaigua, and purchased a spoke factory and a large amount of town property, which was great enhanced in value by his energy and other causes. Having sold out his entire interest he moved again to Wauseon in 1872, at which place he has since resided, taking an active interest in its industries and prosperity. He has owned several farms in Fulton County, which have been greatly improved under his management; he has been prominently connected with the National Butter, Cheese and Egg Association, which has a reputation as wide as civilization; he was many times elected one of its vice presidents, and once was its first vice president, and his speeches at Chicago, Indianapolis and other cities are prominent features of its reports during his membership. He was the inventor and patentee of the “Rorick system of reworking butter,” which went into general use, and no doubt added millions of dollars to the value of “store butter” of the United States. He invented and patented the Ohio Rug Machine, which has found sale all over the United States; he was one of the founders of the Safety Loan and Abstract Company, and is, at the present time, its president.
To enumerate each of the interests with which Mr. Rorick has been identified since his residence in Wauseon would be a long and useless task; but it will be seen from the foregoing sketch that the life of our subject has been, from early manhood, an exceedingly busy one, and one that would ordinarily require the whole attention of the person interested; but notwithstanding this, Mr. Rorick has found time to give much attention to public affairs, and has taken a prominent interest in politics from the time of Stephen A. Douglas to the present. He was a Democrat up to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, casting his first vote for Fremont, and has been a Republican evern since. He commenced his career as a newspaper writer by reporting Douglas’s Illinois speeches for the Chicago “Democrat.”
He was justice of the peace in Michigan several terms, and held other offices there. Since residing in Wauseon he has been township trustee once, and a member of the city council for four years. He was a member of the State Board of Equalization in 1881, representing the Thirty-third Senatorial district comprising the counties of Lucas, Fulton, Henry, Hancock, Putnam and Wood. His duties on that board were necessarily very laborious, but were performed to the utmost satisfaction of his district. He at the commencement secured the confidence of his associates, and by rare good judgment, never taking a position which he did not have the figures and arguments to maintain, kept it to the last, and the records show that he never made a motion which was not carried. It is conceded that no part of the State secured so favorable a consideration as did the “northwest”, through the management of Dr. Rorick. The temperance legislation of the Republicans turned the Thirty-third over to the Democrats, and the Senatorial Convention at Toledo in 1883, believing that he was the most available candidate, gave him the nomination, which he reluctantly accepted several days after, and made a creditable campaign against Hon. O.B. Ramey of Ottawa, running nearly one thousand ahead of the ticket, but, nevertheless, was defeated. In justice it must be said that Mr. Rorick never solicited an office or accepted a nomination except with reluctance. He is an independent thinker, a close student, and has acquired a local reputation as a newspaper writer on political, theological and scientific subjects, and has always taken a deep interest in popular education, now holding the position of president of the Wauseon board of education.
The life of John C. Rorick needs no comment beyond the narration of its events; it needs no eulogy, no praise. The facts stand out clear, and the people know the record. His sterling worth and integrity, his progressiveness, his generosity, and public spiritedness are well known throughout the country, and even beyond its borders. If his business life has been successful that success has been earned and deserved; and is he has acquired a comfortable fortune that condition is the result of his own personal effort, industry, and perseverance. Not wholly alone does the subject enjoy the fruits of his labor. He was married on the 15th of December, 1862, to Emma J. Whiting, the daughter of Seth F. Whiting, of Elmira, N.Y.
Dr. Frank H. Rorick, a young physician, who has acquired considerable prominence as a specialist, an inventor of surgical instruments, and medical writer, is the only son of the subject of our sketch.
Source: Aldrich, Lewis Cass. 1888. History of Henry and Fulton Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co.