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Portrait and Biographical Album of Benton County, Iowa
Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887

LORENZO RALYEA, a prominent citizen and leading business man of Vinton, proprietor of the Ralyea House and also a farmer and stock-dealer, was born near Binghamton, N. Y., June 21, 1829. He was reared on a farm in the State of New York, his parents being Cornelius and Cynthia (Lilly) Ralyea. His father was a farmer by occupation, a native of New York, and came from an excellent family of French descent; the mother was born in Massachusetts, of New England ancestry; both are deceased. The parental household consisted of four children, all still living, the subject of our sketch being the eldest. Cyrus and Sarah were twins; the former married Miss Delia Pease, and is occupied in farming in New York, near Binghamton; they have a daughter, Sarah. Sarah Ralyea became the wife of William Graham, formerly of Sabetha, Kan., and has one child, a daughter, Jennie. Abram D. Ralyea is married, has four children, and lives in New Paltz, Ulster Co., N. Y.  The faithful wife and mother departed this life when her eldest son, Lorenzo, was only fifteen years of age, and he subsequently had the principal care of the family for several years.

The subject of our sketch remained upon the home farm until he was nineteen years old. He then engaged in railroading and lumbering, and was placed in charge of a lumber camp by his uncle, Dene Ralyea, who was doing an extensive business. In 1854 young Ralyea came to Vinton, and engaged at carpenter work for the following two years. He then went to Southern Kansas, took up land, and engaged in the stock business for two seasons, but was obliged to abandon this on account of drought. He then returned to Vinton and engaged in shipping grain, which he was obliged to haul to Cedar Rapids, then the nearest railroad point. He was fairly successful in this undertaking, and pursued the grain business for several years.

In 1862 Mr. Ralyea took possession of the Fremont Hotel, and conducted it until the close of the war. After this he went into the livery business, which he followed for about fifteen years. His forte, however, seemed to be hotel-keeping, and, after disposing of his livery outfit, he erected the Ralyea House, which is a fine structure, built of brick, and which he has enlarged recently. It now consists of three stories and a basement, and will easily accommodate 100 guests. The whole cost of the building was fully $20,000, and it is now the principal hotel in Linn [sic, Benton] County. Since building this house Mr. R. temporarily retired from its management at two different times, it being run in the meantime by his son Frank, first, and afterward by J. B. Foote. Mr. Ralyea resumed control in May, 1885, and is constantly making improvements upon its first plan. As "mine host" he is eminently successful, being courteous, obliging, and a straightforward business man. The farm of Mr. Ralyea comprises 200 acres of land, which is highly improved and very valuable. he is largely interested in the breeding of fine stock, and has over 100 head of full-blood Short-horn cattle, and exhibits some of the finest animals in the Hawkeye State.

The marriage of Lorenzo Ralyea and Miss Martha L. Roberts was celebrated in Broome County, N. Y., Aug. 26, 1849. Mrs. R. is the daughter of James and Electa Roberts, and was born in Broome County in 1829. Of this union there were two children — Frank R. and Bertie, the latter deceased.

Mr. Ralyea is a striking example of what a worthy ambition and industrious habits may accomplish. His possessions are mainly the result of his own enterprise and economy, and from the foot of the ladder he has climbed up and now occupies an enviable position among the leading citizens of Benton County. He is a strong temperance man, a member of the United Workmen, and in politics is strongly inclined to affiliate with the Democratic party, although not by any means a partisan, his aim being to cast his vote for the best man irrespective of party.

Source Citation: "1887 Benton County, Iowa Biographies"  [database online]  Benton County IAGenWeb Project. <>
Original data: "Portrait and Biographical Album of Benton County, Iowa." Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887, p. 356-357.
Transcribed by: Sue Soden. Submitted to the Benton County IAGenWeb Project on February 18th, 2009.  Copyright © 2009 The IAGenWeb Project.

Return to: 1887 Biography Index

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