January 10, 1887: Legacy of Elam C. Rhoads, Philanthropist of the Poor, Benefits Many


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

January 10, 1887: The memory of Elam C. Rhoads, the “Philanthropist of the Poor,” will live on in Boyertown. A well-to-do widower with no children, he owned one of the finest farms in the area, part of which is in the borough limits, including what is today Rhoads Avenue, East Second and Third Streets from Washington to Madison Streets, a number of stocks and bonds and several hundred acres of farmland in Minnesota—an estate totaling more than $50,000, a large part of which has been bequeathed to Good Shepherd and St. John’s Churches in Boyertown to be used for the care of orphans.

It was Rhoads’ desire that a home for orphans be erected on his property in town, but that has been left to the discretion for the congregations. If no home is built, the money from the use or sale of the property is to help area orphans’ homes.

When it appeared that no orphanage would be built in Boyertown, St. John’s donated $1,000 of the income from its fund to the Topton Orphans’ Home Board. Another $2000 of the Rhoads’ bequest was put into a Poor Fund by St. John’s to be used in emergency situations, and many people over the years have been helped by the income from that fund.

It was used for a wide variety of needs, including mending a pair of shoes, paying doctor’s bills, taking an indigent man to a local store to buy a suit of clothing, not to exceed $10, and buying shoes for a family in need. Capital from the fund was loaned to a local inventor for the development of several of his patents and to St. Johns to build a parsonage in 1898. Both loans were repaid with 4% interest.

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