August 21, 2014

Medina
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Lodi Lumber owner traces family’s lumber roots back to 1700s

Jim Rice’s daughter, Whitney, is the 10th generation of the family to work in the lumber business. Historical photos provided by the family. (NANCY JOHNSON / GAZETTE)

Jim Rice’s daughter, Whitney, is the 10th generation of the family to work in the lumber business. Historical photos provided by the family. (NANCY JOHNSON / GAZETTE)

Few people can trace their family roots to pre-Revolutionary War America. Jim Rice can.

The owner of the Lodi Lumber Co., Rice also can trace 10 family generations who have worked in the lumber business.

(PHOTO PROVIDED)

(PHOTO PROVIDED)

Rice, along with daughter, Whitney Rice, and cousin, Brian Rice, are celebrating the 125th year of the Lodi business with an open house celebration 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at their 111 Wean St. facility.

Whitney Rice is the 10th-generation family member to work in the lumber business. A graduate of Kent State University, Whitney handles marketing for the company.

Vice President Brian Rice manages the lumber yard.

“To survive 125 years, we feel truly blessed,” Brian Rice said. “We have a loyal customer base, both past and present and a group of dedicated and talented employees, both past and present.”

“We’re proud of what we do, the people who work with us and the services we supply,” Jim Rice added. “We are a modern lumber company that has stood the test of time.

“Look at everything that’s happened over the past 125 years — wars, various economic conditions — we’ve been very fortunate to survive,” he said.

Lodi Lumber has survived and thrived. The Rice family operates a general hardwood lumber and millwork business, together with a retail lumber and building materials yard.

Over the years, the Rice family has added woodworking machinery, including a state-of-the-art computerized Weining molder. The company specializes in industrial and custom millwork.

“My ancestors always had mills — a grist mill on Old Mill Road and a sawmill that ran off a waterwheel in Chatham,” Jim Rice said.

Barnhart Rice, founder of the Rice family in America, emigrated from Germany to Bethlehem, Pa., in the early 18th century.

Barnhart’s son, Frederick Rice, was born in 1753 and served under George Washington at Valley Forge. After four years of service in the Revolutionary War, Frederick set up a grist mill, eventually moving to Ohio in 1821 where he purchased land that is now occupied by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Two houses he built with his son, another Barnhart, are still in use on the property. Barnhart also followed his father into the milling business.

Barnhart’s son, Philip Rice, moved from the family home in southern Ohio to settle on the banks of the Black River, five miles northwest of Lodi, where he built a dam and sawmill in 1836.

(PHOTO PROVIDED)

(PHOTO PROVIDED)

Philip Rice also was a miller. He worked with son, John Rice, sawmilling and grinding grain, using power generated by the Black River.

John’s son, Joseph Rice, moved to Lodi in 1889, where he and his brother, Clem Rice, purchased a rundown planning mill. The brothers cut their own timber, sawing and manufacturing it into building material before contracting with individuals for the construction of homes and buildings, many of which still stand in Lodi today.

The planning mill burned down a few years later and the brothers borrowed and saved to rebuild a bandsaw mill, the most modern of its time.

In 1911, Joseph’s two older sons, Grover and Noble, followed the Rice tradition by opening the Lodi Lumber Co.

The youngest brother, John E. Rice, joined the firm in 1920 after serving in World War I. The brothers added a retail softwood yard by purchasing the Knapp and Sanford Lumber Co. of Lodi.

During World War II, the plant kept fighter pilots safe with the manufacture of bent wooden supports used inside self-sealing gas tanks in fighter bomber planes, including B-29s.

Grover’s son Phillip Rice followed in the family business and eventually became president of Lodi Lumber. His son, Jim Rice, took the reins in the early 1980s. He was named president of the company in the 90s.

“It’s been a true pleasure getting to know and working with the people in our community and our customers. I look forward to seeing many of them at our open house on June 21,” Jim Rice said.

Contact reporter Nancy Johnson at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.