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A Biography of the Ratcliffe family


Posted By: Neva Auenson (email)
Date: 4/7/2006 at 21:17:39

note: Benjamin F. Ratcliffe is the son of the immigrant Benj. Ratcliffe who settled at Mt. Hope and who wrote the original article as condensed here by Benj. F. Ratcliffe.

I, Benjamin F. Ratcliffe, am writing an abreviated copy of our family history, as written by my father, Benjamin Ratcliffe, in the year 1858 and later.


My grandfather, on my mother's side was named Thomas Lynn and sometimes called Scochlah, for a nickname. He was rather tall, of fine form. He lived on a small farm called Yew Tree Hall. I think it was in Drycott Parish, County of Stafford. He was considered a long headed man and followed farming. He died, I think, in 1833 at, or near one hundred years of age. He was buried in Drycott graveyard. He had four children; Thomas, the eldest; Hannah, who married Mr. Elkin; Elizabeth, who married a Mr. Nut. (Their daughter was the mother of William Beardmore); and Mary, the youngest, who was my mother. She was of fine form, fine looking and rather tall. I always understood that my father was of Scotch descent.

My grandfather, William Ratcliffe lived at Cheedle Mill, Stafforshire, England. He was a small man, quick in his movements and quick tempered; by trade a wagon and pump maker, and , I believe, a good workman. He died at the age of 78 years. My father, James Ratcliffe, was, I think, the oldest child. He was born at Cheedle Mill, I think in 1783. He was rather low in stature, about 5 ft., 8 inches, but very heavy built and very strong; of kindly disposition; an excellent workman, wagon and pumpmaker.

I think my father and mother were married in Checkley Church. My father lived and had shops in several places, Cheedle, Tenford, Burton upon Trent, Derby in Derbyshire, and Macklesfield. Left there in July 1824 for Liverpool. We sailed from Liverpool in the ship Newburyport of Newburyport and were 63 days in coming over. We landed at Fredericksburg, Virginia. There my father built a cart, bought a mare and started for the West. The mare foaled a colt the first night after starting. Near Winchester, my mother was taken sick of a billious fever. We got to Pughtown, nine miles west of Winchester, where my mother lived but three days. Here we left my brother Lynn with a family by the name of Bywaters. Mother was buried in the Quaker burying ground. She was 37 yrs. old. Afterward, we resumed our journey to the west. We arrived at John Beardmore's near Summerton, Belmont Co., Ohio, in October or November of 1824.

My father bought a piece of land two miles from Malaga, Belmont Co. We lived there two or three years and sold the place to a man by the name of Mott. Bought another place near Bealsville, Morrow County, Ohio. In the spring of 1829, sold the farm and moved to Wheeling, Va. In Sept., 1830, my father took sick and died of billious fever or colic. He was taken at breakfast and died at eleven p. m. the same day. He was in his forty-eight year. There were four of us children; Stephen, the eldest, born in Cheedle, Staffordshire; myself, Benjamin, born in Cheedle, Feb 28, 1814; Margaret, born at Tenford, one mile from Cheedle, I think on March 28, 1817; and Thomas Lynn, born in Checkley, Staffordshire, May 7, 1823. Stephen married Mary Plowman of Yorkshire. They moved to Madison County, Ohio. Some years later they sold out and bought land and moved to Montgomery County, Indiana, where my brother died, I think in 1854 or 1852.

In 1835 I visited England in company with my brother, Stephen, expecting to get my fortune, that I was told would be coming to me at my grandfather Lynn's death. When we arrived, I learned that my grandfather had never received any of our letters. Others had read and answered them, leading him to believe that we were lost or did not care anything about him, so that I got nothing. In 1842 I again visited England in company of Richard Sutton of Wheeling. We sailed from New York, March 28. After a stormy voyage, we landed at Liverpool, April 20, 1842.

On my first voyage to England in 1835, I learned that my grandfather had had considerable money besides the farm he lived on and by his first will I was left quite a portion of it, but we learned that grandfather had changed his will by persuasion of Charles Allcock, who had married my cousin Hannah Elkin, daughter of my Aunt Hannah Elkin. We sailed from Liverpool on the 25th of August, 1842, on the Robert Parker. Had a very rough voyage of 47 days. We landed at New York, came home to Wheeling, via Philadelphia and Pittsburg.

In 1843 I was married to Charlotte Gilchrist. We lived at Parkersburg about four years and at Wheeling until we moved to Iowa in 1858, where we settled at Mt. Hope farm in Union City township, Allamakee County. Charlotte died in May of 1862 and was buried in English Bench Cemetery (Later reburied at Mt. Hope Cemetery). In June 1863 I was married to Elizabeth F. Clark, widow of John Clark and sister of Charlotte. Elizabeth died in 1872. In 1878, I was in the Iowa legislature, where I became acquainted with Lydia E. Wright. We were married that year.

Ratcliffe was also spelled Radcliffe, Ratcliff, Ratlif, and Rathcliffe, the latter in the time of the Druids-meaning " A hill of council in a swamp."


Following are excerpts from the recollections of Charlotte Ratcliffe Albee, daughter of Benj. Ratcliffe, written in 1948 when she was 85. This article is in the possession of her granddaughter, Eileen Lapham Felton.

He was ten years old when they came to America, and moved directly out to a farm in the backwoods of Ohio. He never had any schooling after that, except attending night school when he was a young man, but he was a great reader and became a very well informed man. His first impressions of America were not good. After a long weary journey of 63 days they reached America and his father went out to buy some meal for the "oatcakes" they had at home. He brought some meal and they thought it was so rich looking. It was cornmeal and he was anything but pleased with it and ran to the side of the ship to get rid of it and told his dad if that was what they ate in America "Let's go back to England."

My father's boyhood was hard. His mother dying so soon after they arrived and his father when they were still young, and the children alone in a strange land. He always spoke so well of the Quakers in the neighborhood, of how kind they were to them. They dwelled in Ohio so far from civilization that when their fire went out they had to run to the neighbors to get a few coals. They had three books in the house. One was the Bible, and his father had to hide that or he would get so interested in the Old Testament stories that they would forget their tasks, as he and his little sister had to do lots of the housework. After the father died the family finally settled in Wheeling, W. Va., where they lived, I think, until they came west.

We lived 13 miles from Lansing, our market town, as there were no railroads. I can remember when I was about 7 or 8 years old, the whole country around went to Lansing to see the first train that came up the Mississippi River to La Crosse, at least it stopped at the foot of Main St. which slopes towards the Mississippi River and the crew and the officials, etc, who had the honor to be on that first trip went up to the hall before that and viewed the tables. The thing that interested me most, being a cake topped with a locomotive, compared with the trains of today, it was rather a small crude affair.

One of my first recollections is of dropping corn. The whole family turned out to help plant cornfields with a hoe. The children to drop in the square, marked off and the grown people covering. As you cannot plant corn all summer, everyone had to help get it in. When I was 12 my brother-in-law bought the first corn planter I ever saw, it took two men to run it. It was then that machines for everything began to appear, beginning with a crude reaper to cut the grain. As compared to the machines of today one sees the progress of the past 100 yrs. and wonder what the next will bring.


Allamakee Biographies maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
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