He grew up in Illinois, but he became interested in an account of General John C. Frémont's first trip to California, and decided to go to the West Coast. In 1846, he and his wife Amanda Esrey and other family members made the 5-month journey across the country, arriving in Wheatland, California on October 4, where they stayed for about a month before settling near Sutter's Fort in the Sacramento Valley.
While working on a ranch there, word of the Donner Party's plight reached them and Rhoads was a member of the first group of rescuers. They had to carry supplies and provisions on foot for 80 miles (129 km) through the snow, but were able to return with eighteen people.
During the California Gold Rush, Rhoads mined the American River, making about $8,000 in gold. Using this money, he purchased a ranch outside of Gilroy, California. During a drought in 1857, he took his livestock to the Kings River. His family joined him 1860, moving into an adobe he constructed in Kingston. El Adobe de los Robles Rancho ("the adobe of the oaks ranch"), still standing, is the second oldest adobe in the San Joaquin Valley and has been continuously occupied since its construction. It is registered as California Historical Landmark #206.
During his time in Lemoore, he became involved with local banks, serving as the vice-president of the Bank of Hanford as well as the president of the Bank of Lemoore. He enjoyed banking so much that he eventually moved to San Francisco, serving as one of the directors of the Grangers' Bank of San Francisco. He died in San Francisco, and is buried in Lemoore.
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