HON. ROCKEY P. EARHART.- Among those whose names add luster to the roll of the inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest, none stand higher in the estimation of the public, for ability and probity, than the subject of this sketch.
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Mr. Earhart is a native of Ohio, having been born in Franklin county, in that state, on June 23, 1837. He acquired his education at selected schools; and his natural instincts to fit himself for a useful sphere in after life caused him to make the most of opportunities offered. In 1855, he came to Oregon via Panama, and soon after his arrival placed his foot upon the first round of the ladder of prominence to which he has since attained. Incidentally meeting some of the public officials of the day, his clerical abilities were recognized; and the result was his appointment as clerk under Captain, now Commissary-General Robert McFeely, U.S. Army, stationed at Vancouver. The next move was a transfer to The Dalles, where he entered the quartermaster’s department, which was under the supervision of Lieutenant Phillip H. Sheridan, then an unknown soldier, but who during the Rebellion won undying fame, and whose recent death was a nation’s grief.
In that position he remained until 1861, when he went into the general merchandise business in Yamhill and Polk counties. In 1863 he accepted the United States agency of the Warm Spring Indian Reservation, where he remained until the appointment of his successor in 1865, when he removed to Salem. For some time thereafter he served as chief clerk and special Indian agent under Superintendent Huntington, and was secretary of the board of commissioners appointed by the general government to treat with the Klamath and Modoc Indians. During the troublesome times when the Civil war was raging, and when an outbreak might have been made in our very midst by those in sympathy with the South, Mr. Earhart was ever active in the promotion of peace and the preservation of Oregon’s loyalty to the union. From 1869 to 1872 he was engaged in the mercantile trade at the Capital. In 1870 he was elected representative to the legislature from Marion county; and to his influence is greatly due the appropriation of funds to erect the handsome public buildings of the state. At the close of his term he removed to Portland, and was for some time engaged in the business department of the Daily Bulletin.
In 1874 he was appointed chief clerk of the surveyor-general’s office, which position he held until 1878, when he resigned to accept the office of secretary of state, to which he had been elected. Removing again to Salem, he entered upon the duties of that office in the fall of that year, and at once commenced a thorough and systematic overhauling, of the books and records, and in a few months’ time had the office in better shape than it had ever been prior thereto. So acceptably did he discharge his official duties during his first term in that office, that he received the unanimous vote of the Republican state convention for renomination, and received a majority of over twenty-five hundred at the general election in June, 1882. His second term, like the first, was eminently satisfactory to the people; and upon his retirement form office, – perhaps the most trying and responsible in the state government, – his administration was heartily indorsed by all political parties. In 1887 he returned to Portland and accepted the management of an important corporation organized by local capitalists, in which position he still remains. From 1885 to 1887 he was adjutant-general of Oregon, and in 1888 was elected representative from Multnomah county for the term of two years.
He identified himself with the Masonic order in 1863, and has held every office within the gift of the fraternity, being still active in its interests. He was elected grand secretary of the grand lodge in 1872, and served until 1878, when, in recognition of his past services in that body, he was promoted from the secretary’s desk to the high and honorable position of grand master, and was re-elected in 1879. He has held the office of sovereign grand inspector, and has attained to the thirty-third degree of the Scottish Rite. He was instrumental in organizing the first commandery of Knights templar established on the North Pacific coast, and served for four years as its eminent commander, being presented on his retirement form that office with perhaps the handsomest Masonic jewel ever brought to Oregon. He is now grand commander of Knights Templar of the State of Oregon.
He was married July 2, 1863, to Miss N.A. Burden, daughter of Judge Burden, of Polk county, their family consisting of four daughters, who are general favorites in society circles. Mr. Earhart is a gentleman of ordinary height, rather heavy set, weighing about one hundred and seventy pounds, with a full face, partially covered with beard, and with brown hair. His features are pleasant; and his manners are such that he gains friends rapidly. He is an unusually engaging conversationalist, his descriptive powers being vivid and his mimicry complete. He tells and can keenly appreciate a good story; and ten minutes’ general conversation with him will make you his friend. No man in Oregon is to-day more popular, or has more friends, than has Honorable R.P. Earhart. He is but just in the prime of life; and we have no hesitancy in predicting for him higher official honors than he has yet been called upon to fill.