Benjamin F Rockhold

Left: Rockhold Brother General Store on Main Street. Right: The Rockhold House on Indian Hill Road was designed by James C. Stanley.

Benjamin Rockhold played a unique role in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. He started his Civil War service by enlisting in Company E, 8th Illinois Volunteer Army under General Ogelsby and became a sergeant before transferring to the Army of the Potomac. There he fought in several notable encounters including the captures of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, the Battle of Shiloh, and the Siege of Vicksburg, where he was almost sidelined by a bullet that tore through the right shoulder of his jacket but left only a bruise and no wound.

Discharged in 1864, he returned to Illinois briefly but reenlisted in the Hancock Corps and arrived at Union Depot in Washington at 9 p.m. on April 14, 1865. An hour and a half later, Lincoln was shot.

A cavalry regiment surrounded Union Depot on the rumor that John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin, was hiding among the soldiers there.

Rockhold was the commander of the detachment of guards placed at the prison where Mary Surratt and the conspirators accused of aiding Booth were imprisoned and eventually hanged. He was also in charge of the guard protecting Secretary of State William H. Seward, after he had been attacked by one of the Lincoln plotters at his home the same night as the assassination. The attack left Seward seriously injured.

After a year, his service complete, Rockhold returned home to Stark County, Illinois, and operated a general mercantile store with his brother, John. In 1888, they were persuaded to come to Riverside by positive reports from their old friends, the Dyers, who had earlier gone west. Benjamin and John opened Rockhold Brothers General Store on Main Street and, in 1906, they expanded opening a new larger and even more successful store.

Benjamin also owned a citrus orchard and was a director of Citizens Bank, the National Bank of Riverside, and the United Wholesale Grocers of Los Angeles. Benjamin sold his interests to John in 1907 and in 1909, John sold the company to A. M. Lewis and Albert Thresher, and it became the A. M. Lewis Company.