Rhodes Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Rhodes Surname Meaningy

Rhodes, from the Old English rod meaning “clearing,” may describe someone who lived by a clearing; or it is locational – from the early place-name of Rodewelle in Lincolnshire or from the later Rhodes in Yorkshire or Lancashire.

Early spellings were Rhode, Rhoads, Rodes and Roads, as well as Rhodes. The pronunciation tended to be “Roids.” The surname has no connection with the English word road meaning “highway.”  Rhode is also a surname in Germany where it is thought to have come from a town or village of that name near Lubeck.

Rhodes Surname Resources on The Internet

Rhodes Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Yorkshire), Switzerland and Germany
  • to America, South Africa and New Zealand

England.  There was an early Rhodes presence in Lincolnshire. Gerard de Rodes, a feudal baron, resided at Horncastle in Lincolnshire in the early 13th century. Much later on, Daniel Rhodes was three times mayor of Boston in Lincolnshire between 1665 and 1686.

Meanwhile the Rodes family also held sway in Nottinghamshire where William de  Rodes was the first rector at Clifton in 1242. By 1500 they were established at Staveley in Derbyshire.  Sir Francis Rodes built Barlborough Hall near Chesterfield in 1584. His grandson Sir Edward rose to prominence under Cromwell, being appointed the High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1650.  But this line of Rodes became extinct in 1743.

Yorkshire.  The largest number of Rodes and Rhodes have come from Yorkshire, and mainly, it would appear, from the West Riding. Almost half of the Rhodes in England were living in Yorkshire at the time of the 1891 census. An early name was Thomas de Rodes of Thorp near Rotherham, recorded in the 13th century.

It was said that well-educated Yorkshire ministers would correct the name and spelt it “Rhodes,” inserting the “h” and thereby quietly demonstrate their knowledge of Greek.

Yorkshire Rhodes from the 17th and 18th centuries included:

  • the Rhodes at Gomersal near Bradford who date from 1657.
  • John and Sarah Rhodes who were married at Kippax near Leeds around 1700.
  • Samuel Rhodes who was born at Heckmondwike near Leeds around 1715.  His descendants were active as cardmakers in the woollen business in the Spen valley.
  • a Rhodes family beginning with Thomas Rhodes, born around 1724 at Ledsham near Castleford.
  • another Rhodes family beginning with John Rhodes, born in 1786 at Flockton chapel near Wakefield.  Many of his descendants were coal miners, moving out to Cheshire and Derbyshire.
  • William Rhodes the playwright, known for his popular burlesque Bombastes Furioso, was born in 1772 in Leeds.
  • a Rhodes family that was landed gentry at that time at Bramhope Hall near Leeds.
  • while the famous cricketer Wilfred Rhodes came from the village of Kirkheaton near Huddersfield.

Elsewhere. Cecil Rhodes’ ancestry has been traced back to James Rhodes in Staffordshire in the mid-1600’s. These Rhodes later moved to London and then to Essex. Cecil set out with his brother Herbert in 1871 to prospect for diamonds in the Cape Colony. There he was to stamp his name on history.

America. It was said that a Rhodes was Sebastian Cabot’s pilot and it was after him that the state of Rhode Island was named. Two early New England settlers were:

  • Zachariah Rhodes from Lancashire who had been imprisoned for a short time in Boston for openly remarking: “the court has naught to do in matters of religion” and, being banished from Massachusetts, moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1644.
  • and Henry Rhoades, also from Lancashire, who arrived in the late 1630’s and settled in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Both Zachariah and Henry have a large number of descendants.

Early Rodes/Rhodes arrivals from the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire area were:

  • John Rhodes who arrived in Virginia via the Channel Islands in the 1630’s and settled in Middlesex county.
  • Francis Rodes who arrived in Maryland in 1671, but may have returned to England later. His younger brother Charles came to Virginia in the 1690’s and did stay.
  • while John Roades, a Quaker, arrived in Fayette county, Pennsylvania also in the 1690’s.

Swiss and German.  The John Rhodes, a Mennonite minister, who came to the Shenandoah valley in Virginia from Switzerland in 1729 was originally, it is believed, Hans Denk Roodt. He was killed in an Indian massacre in 1764.

“John Rhodes was shot while standing in his doorway. Eve Albright Rhodes and a son were killed in the yard. Five other children were killed. Eight children survived.”

A marker was erected on the site where this happened in 1985.

Ellis Rhode published his The Rhodes Family in America in 1959. It covered the descendants of John Rhode who came to South Carolina from Germany in the 1770’s and later moved to Ohio and Indiana. Family tradition has it that he came to America as a young man and enlisted in the Revolutionary War. Many other Rhodes (or similar sounding names) came from Germany to America in the 18th century.

New Zealand. The four Rhodes brothers – William, Robert, George, and Joseph – were the sons of William Rhodes, a tenant farmer in Yorkshire. They had come to New Zealand in the days before organized settlement (William arriving as early as 1836) and played an active part in the early political, business and farming life of the country.

It was said that they were men of shrewd judgment, bustling energy, and full of Yorkshire determination. All of them amassed considerable wealth. Their descendants today in New Zealand are numerous.

Rhodes Surname Miscellany

Gerard de Rodes and His Line.  The Rodes family was said to have had Flemish origins.  Gerard de Rodes held the barony of Hornchurch in Lincolnshire in the early 13th century at the time of King John.  He was a leading baron of the time, even though his name did not show on the Magna Carta roll (he was apparently away on ambassadorial duties).

These Rodes spent much of their time in Flanders, but fought for the English Kings.  Sir John de Rodes returned to serve in King Edward’s army against Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn; and Sir John Rodes, appointed master of the household of Edward the Black Prince, fought at Crecy in 1346 and Poitiers in 1356.

Later Rodes established themselves in Nottinghamshire and included the Elizabethan judge Sir Frances Rodes.  John Roades of this line became a Quaker and emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1686.

The Rhodes Family of Woollen Cardmakers.   The forebear of this family seems to have been Samuel Rhodes from Heckmondwike near Leeds who was born around 1715.  His youngest son Benjamin, born in 1755, spent the latter part of his life making blankets at Liversedge nearby, having his wool carded and his spinning jenny at the Strawberrybank Mill.  Benjamin lived until 1848.

His son George started his business as a cardmaker at Liversedge around 1815.  The business prospered and the family moved into Liversedge Hall.

“George Rhodes himself was a model of punctuality.  For many years before his death his familiar figure on his pony and wearing his never failing grey overcoat was seen so regularly at a certain time.  As he journeyed towards the Low Mills every forenoon, housewives along the route took his coming as a signal that it was time to set the potatoes on to boil for dinner.”

When George died in 1868, the cardmaking business passed to his son Benjamin.  Benjamin’s sons Albert and Josiah focused on yarn spinning instead and started the Spen Vale Mills in 1879.

Cecil Rhodes’s Ancestry.  The earliest traceable direct ancestor of Cecil Rhodes was James Rhodes who lived in Snape Green, Staffordshire, around 1660.

James’s grandson William came to London around 1720, farming property in the Gray’s Inn and Regent’s Park areas.  He died in 1787 and, in common with three subsequent generations, was buried at St. Pancras Old Church.  These three generations included son Thomas, grandson Samuel, and great grandson William.

William and his two brothers started a brick-making business in Hackney in the early 1800’s. William patented his own improvements to the brick process in 1824.  His children were born in Hackney.  The family later lived as tenants of Leyton Grange in Essex from 1829 to 1843.

His eldest son, Francis William, was vicar of Bishops Stortford in Essex where most of his children were born. These included:

  • Herbert, who joined his younger son prospecting for diamonds in Kimberley, but was accidentally killed while pioneering in the Lake Nyasa area
  • Francis William, who joined the British army and, after fighting in various places in Africa, gained the rank of Colonel in 1889
  • and Cecil John Rhodes himself.

Wilfred Rhodes the Cricketer.  Wilfred Rhodes was Yorkshire cricket personified in the great period of the county’s domination, shrewd, dour, but quick to seize an opportunity.  For Yorkshire he scored more than 30,000 runs, averaging 30 an innings and took 3,608 wickets at 16 runs each.  In his first Test match for England in 1899 he was last in the batting order.  Twelve years later he went in first and against Australia was Hobbs’ partner in the record first-wicket stand of 323.

In his old age he lost his eyesight and found his tongue.  He accepted his affliction philosophically, and consoled himself by a flow of genial chatter never before heard from him.  He attended cricket as long as health would permit.

German Rhodes in America.  There were many German immigrants to America in the 18th century who had names like Rhodes or adopted the Rhodes spelling.  Among them were:

  • Henry Rhoads, who was born In Germany in 1739 and died in Logan County, Kentucky in 1814.  He has been called “the godfather of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.”
  • Henry Rhodes, who came from Frankfurt to America in 1750.  He died on the voyage; but his two sons, Harmon and John Henry, made it and settled in Huron, Pennsylvania.
  • and George Rhoades, who came from the Palatinate to America also in 1750.  He stayed first in Pennsylvania and then moved onto New York.

Reader Feedback – Rhodes in South Carolina.  The Honorable George Rhodes was a signer of the “Odinance of Secession” for the state of South Carolina in 1860.

Todd Rhodes (rhodes38tn@aol.com)

A.G. Rhodes and Rhodes Hall.  In the early days of Reconstruction, a young man named Amos Giles Rhodes moved into Atlanta from Kentucky, bringing with him all he owned: a horse and buggy, $75 in cash, and (according to company lore) “a gold watch of uncertain value.”

In the fall of 1875 he contracted with the owner of a small furniture manufacturing company to produce a line of furnishings and he opened the first Rhodes Furniture Store in Atlanta.  He was just twenty five years old.

Most of his customers were poor.  But he had a brainwave.  He introduced one of the first installment payment plans in business history.  His company began to grow along with Atlanta and it soon became a leading business of this brash young city.

Rhodes Hall is A.G. Rhodes’s legacy.  This Romanesque Revival house occupies a prominent location on Peachtree Street in Atlanta and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The building was inspired by the Rhineland castles that Rhodes had admired on a trip to Europe in the late 1890’s.  It was built with Stone Mountain granite, incorporating medieval Romanesque, Victorian, and Arts and Crafts designs, as well as the necessary adaptations needed for an early 20th century home.

The Rhodes Brothers in New Zealand.  William Barnard, the oldest of the four Rhodes brothers, had led the way to New Zealand and encouraged his brothers to follow. To one of his brothers he offered this advice:

“You must be enterprising, obliging, and not afraid of hard work, nor show any improper pride.  Above all things avoid public houses and whores!”

William made his first visit to New Zealand in 1836 on a whaler.  He returned three years later on the barque Eleanor, bringing forty Durham cattle with which to establish the first cattle station on South Island.  In 1840 he set himself up in Wellington, built a wharf there and started trading as W. B. Rhodes and Co.

George Rhodes, the second of the brothers to reach New Zealand, arrived in 1843 and was joined on South Island by Robert in 1850; while William directed the company affairs from Wellington.  The fourth brother Joseph, who had run away to sea as a youth, joined his brother William in 1843 and was a butcher in Wellington.  He afterwards spent some years in Australia, but returned to New Zealand and became a man of property in Hawke’s Bay.

Robert’s son Robert Heaton, who later became Sir Heaton Rhodes, began a long political career in New Zealand in 1899 and held ministerial rank from 1912 to 1925.  He bred pedigree cattle at Otahuna in Taitapu and owned one of the finest known collections of New Zealand postage stamps.

Rhodes Names

  • William Rhodes was the first very successful entrepreneur of the New Zealand colony.
  • Cecil Rhodes was a British colonial financier and statesman in South Africa. As Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in the 1890’s he helped to extend British territory north into what was then called Rhodesia.
  • Wilfred Rhodes was a Yorkshire and England cricketer who took over 4,000 wickets with his slow bowling over his career.
  • Gary Rhodes was a British celebrity chef who died in 2019.
  • Zandra Rhodes is a contemporary English fashion designer.

Rhodes Numbers Today

  • 35,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 33,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Rhodes and Like Surnames

These names are locational, describing someone who lived in those medieval times by the side of a bank, or by a barn or a lane or a shaw (which means a wood) or a wood and so forth.  Both the oak tree and the ash tree have in fact provided locational surnames – Oakes and Nash (from atten Ash).  Here are some of these locational surnames that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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