The subject of this sketch is one whose memory links in an indissoluble chain the trend of events from an early period in the history of this section of Indiana to the latter-day epoch, when peace, progress and general prosperity crowned the close of the last and marked the beginning of the present century. This personal identification with the formative period of the middle west would alone authorize a review of his life in this connection, but superadded to this are circumstances which render such indulgence the more interesting as he has been a potential force in building up and sustaining the commercial activity of a town which has long held distinctive precedence as one of the progressive business centers in the part of the commonwealth of Indiana. For more than sixty-six years Mr. Ryon has retained his residence in Hancock county, throughout the length and breadth of which he is known as an honored pioneer and as conspicuously identified with the promotion and furtherance of all measures that have conserved the progress and material prosperity of the locality.
John W. Ryon is the son of a man whose name was the same as that which the subject bears. John W Ryon, Sr., was born in Virginia of good old colonial stock and in young manhood married Margaret Bogus, whose birth occurred in Fairfax county, North Carolina. He grew to maturity in his native state and then went to Boone county, Kentucky, where he met the young lady who afterwards became his life companion and helpmeet. After his marriage he engaged in farming in Boone county, Kentucky, and he continued to live there until his death, which occurred as long ago as 1830. Subsequently his widow married Michael Cristler, a native of Kentucky, with whom she shortly thereafter migrated to Illinois, the familys arrival in that state dating from about the year 1836. Mr. Cristler died in Illinois and subsequently his widow moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she spent the remainder of her life with the step-children, dying there not long after leaving her home in Illinois.
John W. and Margaret Ryon had the following children: Nancy, deceased; Catherine, deceased; Margaret, living in St. Louis; Henrietta, whose home is in southern Illinois; Augustus, of St. Louis; John W., of this review and two that died in infancy. The mothers second marriage was not blessed with any offspring.
The direct subject of this sketch was born October 8, 1827, in Boone county, Kentucky, and there lived until his ninth year. About the year 1836 he came with his brother-in-law, William A. Franklin, husband of his sister Nancy, to Hancock county, making the trip on horseback, riding behind his sister. They passed through a new and sparsely settled country, meeting with many hardships and trying experiences en route, not the least of which was traveling through long stretches of dense wood where roads had not been laid out. He, with his sister, Mrs. William Franklin, settled on an eighty-acre tract of land in Center township which was purchased from the government, and after building a small log cabin life in the backwoods began in earnest.
Mr. Ryons youthful days were spent in hard and consecutive toil and he bore his part in clearing the farm and contributing to the support of the inmates of the little primitive home. He remained at that home until twenty years of age and then took up the plasterers trade in Greenfield, in which in due time he acquired efficiency and skill. With the first money he saved he purchased a lot in the town, which proved a very fortunate investment as the place grew rapidly and with its increase of population real estate within the corporate limits steadily advanced in value. For several yeas he had more work upon his hands than he could do and many of the old residences now standing attest his mastery of the vocation of plastering. After following his trade with encouraging success until 1850 Mr. Ryon engaged in the clothing and gents furnishing business and for several years did a thriving trade, becoming widely known in commercial circles in Hancock county and elsewhere. The same year in which he embarked in merchandising witnessed his marriage to Miss Louisa McClennon, of North Carolina, whose father, Hugh McClennon, was one of Greenfields early business men, conducting a wagon shop for many years.
Finding an opportunity to dispose of his stock to advantage after about ten years, Mr. Ryon finally sold his store and, investing the proceeds in an eighty-acre farm in Center township, turned his attention to agriculture and continued for a period of three years to till the soil and materially increase his worldly prospects. At the end of that time he returned to Greenfield, and, in 1861, effected a co-partnership in the dry goods trade with James H. Carr, under the firm name of Carr, Ryon & Company, a relationship which lasted about six years. The firm built up a large and lucrative business and became widely and favorably known, the members being reliable business men. In 1867 Mr. Ryon sold his interest in this firm and during the two years following was not directly identified with any business enterprise. Subsequently he engaged in real estate transactions and has continued in this line of business to the present time, meeting with a large measure of success and being instrumental in selling and exchanging more farm and city property than any other man in the county, also disposing of much land and effecting important exchanges in many other counties and states.
With an eye always to his own interests, Mr. Ryon continued to make fortunate investments from time to time until he became the owner of much valuable real estate in Greenfield and Hancock county, his possession at the preset time including a fine farm of one hundred and seventy acres in Center township and eight or ten valuable lots in the city, nearly all containing good improvements. The beautiful and commodious home which he now occupies, situated on the corner of Main and Noble streets, was built by him in the year 1872. It represents a comfortable and attractive appearance, a handsome dwelling, fine shade trees, well-kept lawns and other accessories suggesting to the passer-by the presence of a man of thrift and good taste, everything on the premises bearing evidence of the labor and care devoted thereto.
Mr. Ryon is a discreet business man and his keen, discriminating judgment has seldom been at fault in any of his numerous transactions. His relations with his patrons and the public generally have always been of the most friendly and agreeable character and his ability and tact in winning and retaining the good graces of his fellow men have contributed much to his standing as an enterprising and progressive man in business. Personally popular and possessing to a marked degree the power to win and retain strong friendships, he has never been at a loss to take advantage of circumstances and in their absence his manner of thinking and acting created opportunities.
Mr. Ryon has always been characterized by an abiding confidence in his fellow man and but few times has his reliance in their honor and integrity been misplaced. He is held in very high esteem by all with whom he has had relations, business or otherwise, and being companionable and easily approachable his friends are numbered by the score in Greenfield and throughout the county of Hancock. While not an active politician, he exerts potent influence for the Democratic party and is ready at all times to express his decided opinions, which are formed only after careful study and mature deliberation.
Mr. Ryon is a man of broad intelligence, well posted on current events and his ideas have much weight with his neighbors and friends. He is a zealous Mason and at one time held membership with the Pythian brotherhood, but of recent years has not been an active worker in that fraternity. In the full sense of the term, he is a self-made man, as he was early in life thrown upon his own resources and had no one upon whom to rely for any assistance at a time when a boy most needs the encouragement and aid of older and wiser heads than his own. When a mere youth a large share of the family support fell to him and right nobly did he discharge the duty, though by so doing he was obliged to forego the educational privileges which he would so much have enjoyed. What intellectual training he received was obtained in a poor subscription school taught in a little log cabin and in all he was under the teachers instruction less than a single year. By much reading and intelligent observation he has made up for this neglect and is now one of the widely known and informed men and careful thinkers of the city in which he resides.
Mr. Ryon has been twice married, his first wife, whose name is given in a preceding paragraph, dying February 15, 1885. She bore her husband children as follows; Malvina, wife of Fletcher Wills, who for twenty years has been in the employ of the Panhandle Railroad Company, his office at the present time being in the city of Indianapolis; Elizabeth married Noble P. Howard, lives in Greenfield and is the mother of four children, Adel, Noble P., John Ryon and Virginia Ruth Howard; the youngest, Jerome, died at the age of fourteen years. Mr. Ryons second marriage was to Miss Margaret Galbrith, a resident of Hancock county but a native of the state of Kentucky, coming to this county a young woman. No children have been born to this union.
Transcribed from Biographical Memoirs of Hancock County B. F. Bowen, Publisher, Logansport, Indiana, 1902 Pages 311-314.
Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI July 23, 2002.
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