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Benjamin Ketcham


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/5/2001 at 10:43:21

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890
Benjamin Ketcham, who resided on Section 1, Bonaparte Township, is one of the extensive landowners and prominent farmers of Van Buren County, and is also connected with the banking interests of Bonaparte as a Director of the Farmer’s & Traders’ Bank. As he is widely known, his sketch will be of interest to many of our readers. Allegheny County Pennsylvania was the place of his birth, and on December 19, 1829, he first opened his eyes to the light of day. His parents were Joel and Elizabeth Ketcham, both natives of Allegheny County Pennsylvania. Their marriage was celebrated in Allegheny County Pennsylvania, and unto them were born nine children, of whom our subject is the eldest: Elizabeth became the wife of William Peterson, and after his death, which occurred in Pennsylvania, she came to Fairfield Iowa, where her last days were spent; John who married Belle Dunnington, is living in Macon County Missouri; William who wedded Nancy Hammond, engaged in fruit growing in Orange county Florida; Margaret makes her home in Fairfield; Bell died some years ago; Mattie and Frank died in Pennsylvania, and Sadie married Dr. Dunnington and died in Pennsylvania. The father of this family was a man of intelligence whose mental capacities were above the ordinary, and in the community where he made his home was a prominent and influential citizen. Throughout his entire life he supported the Democratic Party and both he and his wife were members of the Presbyterian Church and faithful workers in the cause. His death occurred in Allegheny County Pennsylvania in 1867, but his wife long survived him, dying at the home of her son in Florida in 1882.
Benjamin Ketcham in his youth was liberally educated, his primary course of study being supplemented by scholastic training in the academy of Monongahela City. The days of his boyhood and youth were passed under the parental roof, and not until the age of twenty-four did he leave home to begin life’s battle for himself. It was in 1855, when attracted by the West with its brilliant prospects and splendid advantages afforded young men, he turned his face to the setting sun. He traveled as far as Iowa but felt on reaching the Hawkeye State that he need continue his journey no further, for here he believed one could make a comfortable home and secure a livelihood if he would but work. In 1856, Mr. Ketcham purchased the farm upon which he now resides, a two hundred and forty-acre tract of land in Bonaparte Township, whose well-tilled fields and many improvements plainly indicate the thrift and enterprise of the owner. As the years have passed, he has made other purchases until his landed possessions now aggregate one thousand acres, eight-seven of which are in Jefferson County while seven acres of that amount lie with the corporate limits of the city of Fairfield. Mr. Ketcham may truly be called a self-made man, for it is almost entirely by his own efforts that he has acquired the property, which now ranks him among the wealthy citizens and successful businessmen of the county. On his farm may be found a good residence, barns and outbuildings, the latest improved machinery and good grades of stock. During the war he enlisted in the Thirtieth Iowa Infantry and was in camp at Keokuk two weeks, but on final examination was rejected on account of a lame ankle.
On October 27, 1863, Mr. Ketcham was united in marriage with Miss Mary Lightfoot, a native of Manchester, England, born October 25, 1843, and a daughter of John Lightfoot, who came to St Louis in 1845 and to Iowa in 1847. Six children grace their union and they also lost one, Alice, who died at the age of eight years, and her remains lie buried in the cemetery at Sharon Church. Minnie is the wife of Murray Taylor, of Big Mound Iowa; Joel is at home; Lizzie is the wife of William B. Seeley of Lee County; George, Frank and Clay are still with their parents. The children have all been provided with good educational advantages, most of them having attended school in Parsons College. The eldest son was for three years a student in Parsons College of Fairfield.
Mr. Ketcham supports the Democratic Party, and like all good citizens feels an interest in public affairs but has never sought the honors or emoluments of public office, preferring to devote his time and attention to his business. He, however, served as Trustee and Justice of the Peace at the solicitation of his friends. In connection with his other business interests he is a stockholder and Director in the Farmers& Traders Bank of Bonaparte. Both he and his wife are members of the Presbyterian Church, at Sharon, where the family worships. Thirty-five years have passed since Mr. Ketcham came to the county, years of prosperity and happiness to him, who by energy and labor won wealth and by an upright life secured many warm friends.
I am not related, and am only copying this for the information of those who might find this person in their family.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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