Realf, Richard, poet and patriot, was born in Framfield, Sussex county, England, June 14, 1834. His father was a rural policeman, enrolled in the West Sussex constabulary, a man of more than average intelligence, and his mother was a woman of superior ability. She was his first teacher, after which he was sent to school, and before he was nine years old he wrote a few lines of poetry. He then began working for a physician at Brighton, during the hours he was not in school. Mr. Realf thus describes himself at Brighton: "At the age of fifteen or thereabouts I began to write verses'lisping in numbers, for the numbers came.'" He was encouraged in writing poetry, became dissatisfied with his surroundings, and in 1853 applied to Lady Brown to assist him to find more congenial employment. He went to Leicestershire as steward's assistant, but had trouble and determined to make a place for himself in the New World. He landed in New York in April, 1855, and became assistant at the Five Points house of industry. In Oct., 1856, he came to Kansas with a northern emigrant train, among whose members were S. C. Pomeroy, Thaddeus Hyatt, and other notable free-state men. Mr. Realf soon became recognized as one of the heroic spirits and intellectual young men on the free-state side. He took an active part in the border war; was associated with John Brown at Osawatomie, and was a stanch champion of James H. Lane. He remained in the territory until he joined Brown in Iowa. While in Kansas he wrote some twenty-five lyrics. He returned to England on a visit, and while in Europe went to Paris. He returned to the United States on a cotton ship bound for New Orleans. After landing he worked for some time on the New Orleans Bee and later entered the Jesuit college near Mobile. He was charged with treason in connection with the Brown raid at Harper's Ferry, but was discharged by the United States senate investigating committee. In 1860 he was in Ohio, then disappeared from view until 1862, when he enlisted in the Eighty-eighth Illinois infantry, and was in all the engagements of the Fourth army corps. After being mustered out of the service he went to South Carolina, where he took an active part during the reconstruction period as a writer for the Republican state papers. He became a prominent Republican speaker, at no small danger to himself. Subsequently he was a member of the staff of the Pittsburg Commercial. At this time he wrote one of his strongest lyrics, entitled, "Rally." He remained with the Commercial until 1876 when the paper was consolidated with another and in 1877 Mr. Realf started as a lecturer. He became popular and well known in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but again failed financially and with the assistance of friends went to the Pacific coast, reaching San Francisco in July, 1878. He died by his own hand at Oakland, Cal., Oct. 28, 1878. One of his most beautiful poems is the last he wrote. It was found after his death, bore no title and may be called his "Swan Song."Pages 552-553 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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