RUFUS B. SAGE
Rufus B. Sage, the son of Deacon Rufus Sage, was born March 17, 1817, in that part of Middletown since known as the town of Cromwell. The youngest of a family of seven children, he was left fatherless at the age of nine and thrown upon his own resources to make his unaided way in the world; hence his boyhood was a scene of struggling toil, quite unfavorable to educational attainments. However, by his energy in making use of the common school and academy at winter terms, he was enabled to lay the foundation for after efforts in the slow progress of self-tuition. He thus became the student of opportunity, impelled by a strong desire to learn. This induced young Sage to choose the occupation of printer, and he became initiated to the mysteries of that art at a newspapcr office in the city of Middletown.
In the fall of 1836 he went to Washington county, Ohio, serving as school teacher for a term and then laboring as compositor upon the Marietta Gazette. A favorable opening presenting itself at Parkersburg, W. Va., he engaged in the capacity of foreman upon the only paper published in that place. While there, in the spring of 1838, he embarked in an enterprise which took him southward with a cargo of ice. This transaction resulted in a money loss, but proved rich in experience and observation, for that which he then saw and heard in Louisiana and Mississippi transformed him into the future unrelenting foe of the slave institution. Upon his return north he accepted a situation at Circleville, O., where he became well known as a writer, speaker, and participator in public affairs. His stay here was signalized by the organization of a debating club, through his influence, which became very popular, and his connection with the press also brought him in contact with the most prominent citizens of the country. His next engagement was at Columbus, late in 1839, a busy compositor upon the Ohio State Bulletin, carefully improving any leisure at his disposal in attendance at the state library or upon the legislative sessions. Early in 1840 commenced the ever memorable political struggle, known as the "log cabin campaign," in support of Gen. W. H. Harrison for the presidency. With this Mr. Sage was identified and bore a conspicuous part from the very first. A weekly campaign paper, and later on a daily, was edited and published by him, that did most effective service in bringing about the grand result of electing the whig national ticket by an overwhelming majority. One incident among the many that are noteworthy, wherein Mr. Sage performed the part of detective, is worthy of special mention. The democratic leaders, in their desperation, sought to stem the popular current by setting adrift an ingenious forgery, purporting to come from the whig state central committee, Alfred Kelly, chairman, which unexposed would have proved very damaging to the whig interest. Mr. Sage, by his shrewdness, most thoroughly penetrated the secret, exposing the infamous act and those concerned in it, thus springing upon their own necks the noose they had so cunningly looped for others. The day following Gen. Harrison was in Columbus, and meeting our detective said, extending his hand, "Well, Mr. Sage, you outgenerated their generals this time! I congratulate you." The turmoil of party strife being closed, public attention began to be directed to other things. The great west, from Missouri to the Pacific ocean, then so little known, became a theme of much interest. Sharing largely in that interest, and incited by a strong desire to know more of the vast region beyond the Missouri frontier, Mr. Sage set about organizing a party of enterprising young men to visit and explore those countries. His efforts were successful, so far as talk was concerned; but at starting, May 1, 1841, only five came to time, and only one besides himself reached Independence, Mo., at which point that one also left him. Undaunted by the gloomy outlook, after a delay of several weeks, Mr. Sage joined a party of Indian traders and pushed his onward way toward the setting sun. Now began a series of adventures, explorations, and extensive travels, among Indians and wild beasts, alone or with such company as chance presented, for an interval of three years, the details of which the reader can find in a book entitled "Scenes in the Rocky Mountains," etc., by Rufus B. Sage, Carey & Hart publishers, Philadelphia, Pa., 1846. In July, 1844, he returned to Columbus, O., and immediately issued a campaign weekly in support of Henry Clay for U.S. president, protesting with all earnestness against the annexation of Texas and the consequent extension of the slave power. The result was a grand triumph in Ohio, which however was neutralized in New York by the abolition vote, cast for Burney, thus giving the national election to James K. Polk, and setting in train the tremendous evils that followed. Mr. Sage next appeared in the editorial chair of the Chillicothe, O., Gazette, with which paper he severed his connection in 1845, and returned to visit his old home after an absence of ten years. In this quiet retreat he prepared his book of travels, which had a successful run through several editions. And at this point came a change of long-cherished plans. An aged invalid mother required of him the care he could not find heart to deny. Yielding to her wishes, he married and set himself faithfully to solve the puzzling question so often discussed, "Will farming pay ?" Mr. Sage says it will. Satisfied with home comforts and busied with home interests, he has kept aloof from public office, having never held one, either town, state, or national. His estimate of merit does not count any one the more worthy because of popular favor, office, money, fine clothing, or proud display. He remarks that it is not often the richest ore crops out upon the surface, neither is the mere place-seeker the best deserving of popular confidence.
At the age of fourteen, Mr. Sage joined the Congregational church in Cromwell, and amid all the vicissitudes of his eventful life he has been more or less active in support of religion and good morals. His name was upon the pledge-roll of the first temperance society of Connecticut, and he has been a prohibitionist from the first genesis of the idea, ever prompt to strike in its favor whenever such blow would tell, but "not as one who beateth the air." Uniformly a studious and laborious man, he is now over seventy-four years old, hale and robust, with good prospect for several years to come. He seldom drinks coffee, tea never, has been a lifelong abstainer from spirituous drinks of all kinds, nor has he used tobacco in any form. In brief, the grand result is, he has never been laid by from sickness for a single day during his whole life.
Source: Illustrated Popular Biography of Connecticut - 1891, Compiled and Published by J. A. Spalding, Hartford Conn., Press of the Case, Lockwood and Brainard Company, 1891
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