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Rexford, Eben E.

EBEN E. REXFORD (1848-1916)

While in general the biographies in this book are of the authors of serials or booklets published by Beadle, it seems necessary to include also a few other writers whose names appeared constantly in the pages of the Saturday Journal and the Banner Weekly. Among these, the name of Eben Eugene Rexford appeared for years as the author of short sketches and almost weekly poems. His place among poets is owing largely to two popular songs, "Silver Threads among the Gold" and "Only a Pansy Blossom." Most of his poems are as far on the lugubrious side as are the poems of a certain recent popular poet on the pollyanna, but they are just as bad, and are reminiscent of the poems of Emmeline Grangerford.(1) "When I am Dead," "To One in Heaven," "A Last Look." "At the Judgment Day," "Do the Dead Hear?" "The Undiscovered Shores," "Not Dead," "When Rest Comes," "In the City of the Dead," "A Lust Soul," "A Dead Hope," "When I would Die," and so ad infinitum—all the same old story of busted hearts, withered hopes, and welcome grave.

Eben Eugene Rexford, a son of Jabez Burrows Rexford and his wife, Rebecca Wilcox, was born in Johnsburg, Warren County, New York, July 16, 1848. When he was about eight years of age his parents removed to Ellington, Wisconsin, near Shiocton, where his father farmed. Like many of the dime novelists, he began to write when very young, and at fifteen published his first poem, "To My Wife" (!) in the New York Weekly, and at seventeen had had several poems accepted and paid for by Frank Leslie. He taught school in 1865 and 1866, then entered Lawrence College at Appleton, Wisconsin, and remained there for three years. It was during his student days that he wrote his famous song "Silver Threads among the Gold." After leaving college, he went to Shiocton and began to make literature his profession, although for a time he also presided over a rural post office which paid him something less than one hundred dollars a year.

He was married December 9, 1890,(2) to Mrs. Harriet Bauman Harsh, at Shiocton.

Rexford wrote many short sketches and over a thousand poems for the Saturday Journal and the Banner Weekly. He also wrote poems, sketches, and short stories for the Ladies' Home Journal, Youth's Companion, Harpers Young People, Chicago Ledger, Lippincott's Magazine, Outlook, Independent, Congregationalist, Frank Leslie''s Popular Monthly, Golden Days, and many other periodicals, and nickel novels for the Nickel Library and other publications. He published a book of poems, "Brother and Lover," in 1886 and a novel, "John Fielding and his Enemy," in 1888. In 1885 he became interested in horticulture and conducted that department in Home and Flowers, and from 1890 to 1900 a similar department in the Ladies' Home Journal. He also wrote a number of horticultural books: "Grandmother's Garden" (1887), "Home Floriculture" (1888), and "The Swamp Secret" (1897).

Rexford died of typhoid fever in a hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin, October 16, 1916.

REFERENCES: J. L. Shaylor, "Eben E. Rexford," Magazine of Poetry, VIII, 1896, 310-11; Lamb's Biog. Dict., Boston, 1903, Chicago Ledger, XIV, April 14, 1886, 4, with portrait; Appleton's Cyc. Amer. Biog., V, 1888, 225-26; Nat. Cyc. Amer. Biog., X, 1909, 55; Elmo Scott Watson, "Add to Your List of 'Red Letter Days' in July, Birthdays of Two Who Deserve Remembrance for Their Gifts to America's Folk Literature," syndicated article in various newspapers.


1 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, New York, 1884, 137-41.
2 Nat. Cyc. Amer. Biog. gives the date of his marriage as December 20, 1892.

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