Lee County Biography


Ralph Paul Kettley, a representative farmer and resident of Willow Creek Township, was born in Denbighshire, Wales, May 1, 1828. His father, John Kettley, was a native of Staffordshire, England, and there grew to manhood and married, but after the death of his first wife, lie removed to Wales, and spent the rest of his life in Denbighshire. The maiden name of his second wife, mother of our subject, was Ann Paul. She was born in Wales and spent her entire life in the land of her birth. Her father, Ralph Paul, who was a sailor, was also a native of Wales, and ended his days in that country.

Our subject and his brother Edward were the only members of the family that came to America. The latter is engaged in the boot and shoe business in Compton, this county. Ralph Kettley was reared among his native hills, and his parents being in limited circumstances, he was early thrown on his own resources. At the age of sixteen, he was apprenticed to learn the trade of boot and shoe maker, and after serving one year, did journey work. In 1846 he went to Liverpool, and was employed at his trade there until 1849. Ambitious to better his condition, on the 28th of August, that year, he took an important step in life, which has undoubtedly led him to his present prosperity. That was the date of his setting sail for the New World from Liverpool in the ship "Guy Mannering." He landed at New York twenty-eight days later, and proceeded directly to Chicago, which at that time, was a comparatively small town, with no indications in its swampy environments of its present size and importance as one of the great metropolitan cities of the world, and Northern Illinois was but sparsely settled. There were no railways in the State, and all communication with the interior was either by private conveyance, stage or canal.

When Mr. Kettley arrived in this country, his entire wealth consisted of about the sura of 1200 in cash, but he was well endowed otherwise with the energy, perseverance and capacity for hard work that serve a man better than money often-times. He sought and found employment at his trade in Chicago, where he remained until 1852, when he went to Peoria and was engaged in making shoes in that city the following three years. His next move was to this county, where he made a new departure by turning farmer. He bought a tract of Government land in Wyoming Township, upon which there were no improvements whatever, so that he did not settle upon it, but rented an improved farm, and shortly after sold the land that he had entered. He continued farming as a renter a few years, and then bought the farm he now owns and occupies, that contains one hundred and sixty acres of arable land on sections 19 and 30, of Willow Creek Township. He has the entire tract under a high state of cultivation, has planted fruit and shade trees, and erected a neat set of frame buildings, the improvements comparing favorably with any in the county.

In 1851 Mr. Kettley was married to Eliza Beder, a native of England, in whom he has a faithful wife, who looks carefully after the well-being of her household. They have seven children living: William, John, Thomas, Lizzie, Julia, Hattie and Mary.

Portrait and Biographical Roscommon MI 1895


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