Biography of Joel H. Rainer

Joel H Rainer

Capt. Joel H. Rainer, president of the Merchants & Farmers’ bank of Union Springs, Bullock county, Ala., is a native of Sampson county, N. C., and was born January 17, 1829, a son of Jarvis and Hannah (Ward) Rainer, also natives of Sampson county. Jarvis Rainer was a planter all his life, and died in 1832 in his native county, when Joel H., was but three years old. The year following the death of Jarvis his widow removed with her family to Lowndes county, Ala., and after the removal of the Indians to the west side of the Mississippi she settled in Pike county, where she died in 1845. She was the daughter of James Wood, a North Carolina planter of Scotch ancestry, who reared a large family.

Capt. Rainer was the youngest in a family of nine children, all of whom are now deceased except himself and the eldest-born, Kennon, who is now residing in Texas, at the age of eighty-four years. Another brother, James J., was killed at the siege of Atlanta in 1864, after having served from the opening of the war in the Thirty-third Alabama infantry, of the army of the west.

Capt. Rainer, after the loss of his mother, lived until he was fourteen years of age with an elder brother, and then hired out as a farm hand at $65 a year. As this was in the backwoods of Pike county, where there were no inducements to spend money, he had saved, at the end of two years, $100 of his earnings. Never having had any opportunity to attend school, and being at this time scarcely able to read, he was prompted by a laudable ambition to educate himself to the extent of his means, and passed the following two years in school at Troy, and then taught school a year. The next three years he passed in merchandising at Bruceville, a little country village in Pike county, and there, in 1852, married Miss Susan A. Christian, a native of Chambers county, Ala. This lady died August 17, 1854, leaving one son, William Walton Rainer, now a prosperous merchant of Union Springs, and a graduate from a commercial college of Baltimore, Md.

In 1858, Capt. Rainer took, for his second wife, Roxana Ellis, a native of Pike county, who died in January, 1863, while the captain was in the army, leaving two children, of whom one, Sterling Price Rainer, is a graduate from Eastman’s business college at Poughkeepsie, N. Y., and now one of the firm of Rainer Sons, of Union Springs, Ala. The other, a daughter, Lula Rainer, graduated from Judson college and married Prof. T. W. Palmer of the State university and resides at Tuscaloosa.

The third marriage of the captain was on January 2, 1866, with Miss Josephine Wood, a native of Barbour county, Ala., and now the mother of two children – Joel H., Jr., and Stella. The former was educated principally at Howard college and is now cashier of the Merchants & Farmers’ bank at Union Springs; the latter graduated at Judson college.

Capt. Rainer continued in the mercantile business at Bruceville until 1853, and then engaged in planting until the breaking out of the war, when he entered the Confederate army. In August, 1861, however, he was elected to the legislature from his district, being granted leave of absence from the army during the sittings of the legislature, after his entrance into the army, which did not take place until September 15, 1861, when he joined company I, Seventeenth Alabama infantry His first battle was at Shiloh, after which he was commissioned first lieutenant. In this battle he was wounded in the left arm, which disabled him for some time. Transferred then to the heavy artillery, he was stationed at Mobile until 1864, when his command was detailed to another line of duty, which embraced the Georgia and Atlanta campaign, in which it fought at Resaca, Allatoona Pass, Big Shanty, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach Tree creek, the Poorhouse fight, the siege of Atlanta, through the country with Hood to Franklin and Nashville. Tenn., then to Corinth, Miss., and on to Tupelo, whence the command was sent to join Gen. Johnston’s army in North Carolina, where Mr. Rainer was placed on the staff of Gen. George D. Johnston, with the rank of captain, retaining the position until the close of the war and fighting at. Kingston and Bentonsville, N. C., and surrendering at Greensboro, N. C. Capt.

Rainer reached his home June 10, 1865, and at once resumed farming, which he continued until 1869, whence he removed from Pike county to Union Springs, where he again tried his fortune in the mercantile business under the firm-name of Miles & Rainer, later under that of Rainer, Jelks & Eley, and then under that of J. H. Rainer & Sons. In 1890 the captain sold his interest in this business to his sons, and on January 17th opened the Merchants & Farmers’ bank, of which he is the president. The captain also has large planting interests and other business connections to occupy his attentions, being a director in the Union Springs cotton mills, a director and stockholder in The Bank of Montgomery, and a stock holder in the Commercial Insurance company of Montgomery, and president of the Home Enterprise company. Captain Rainer has never sought office, but his natural keenness of perception and executive ability have led his fellow-citizens to seek his services on more than one occasion in public matters. Beside representing his district in the legislature, he represented his congressional district in the national democratic convention at St. Louis in 1888, and has performed other public duties when he has felt it to be incumbent upon himself to do so. He is a member of St. John’s lodge, F. & A. M., at Union Springs, and is an upright, Christian gentleman. He is a self-made man, having risen from comparative poverty to affluence solely through his own industry, business foresight, strict integrity and faithfulness to his trusts, and a determination to achieve success.


Memorial record of Alabama : a concise account of the state’s political, military, professional and industrial progress, together with the personal memoirs of many of its people.. Madison, Wis.: Brant & Fuller, 1893.

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