Peter William Ralston

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Peter William Ralston

Birthplace: Harlem Twp, Winnebago, Illinois, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Ralston and Jean Ralston
Husband of Hannah Jane McAffee

Occupation: Civil engineer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Peter William Ralston

First child of Thomas Ralston and Jean Ralston, born 24 March 1858 on the family farm in Harlem Twp., Winnebago Co., Ill.

Attended local schools, probably in Harlem.¹ Had good attendance record and seldom missed a day at school. He was handy with carpenter tools and had a wooden pot that he used when going to Roscoe for sugar. Was allergic to horse hair but farmed until brother John was old enough to take over the farm.

Joined Northwest Gun Club, Argyle, soon after it was formed in 1877.²

On 17 June 1890, at age 32 he graduated from Beloit College Academy in the field of English.³ The graduation exercises included talks by eight class members, a debate by two others and music by a duet and the Class Banjo Club. An academy bulletin described the Business, or English course of study as "meets the wants of those not looking forward to a College course, but wishing those studies helpful to an entrance upon business life or teaching." According to the academy grade ledgers, he attended during Winter, Spring and Fall terms of 1887, Winter and Spring terms of 1888, Fall term of 1889, and Winter and Spring terms of 1890. The ledger shows his grades in: Grammar, Arithmetic, Physiology, Business Arithmetic, Elementary Rhetoric, Botany, Algebra, Physical Geography, Zoology, Chemistry, German, Biology, Roman History, English Classics, and Physics, etc.. (some are too illegible to read), with Declamations, Essays and Bible Study throughout the courses. The complete curriculum was three years, Junior, Middle, and Senior. Expenses are listed as "Tuition, Fall Term, 15 weeks...$10.00, Winter and Spring Terms...$8.00. Rent of rooms (furnished with stoves) in College Buildings, is from $10 to $20 per year. Board and room in private families is from $3.75 to $5.00 per week."4

He married Hannah J. McAffee, daughter of James McAffee and Margaret Cross, on 6 November 1890 in her parents Roscoe home, on the farm originally settled by Robert J. Cross in 1835. The house is still standing on Hononegah Road.

They soon moved to Chicago where he was engaged in engineering work for a various firms. One was the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. His work was not steady and sometimes took him out of town.5 He helped layout several streets in the city and was working on a railroad project in Upper Michigan in late 1918.6 The railroad, from St. Ignace to Sault Ste. Marie however, was not built on that site.7 Chicago home was near Lincoln Park for a short time and then in Avondale but later had a house built in Irving Park by his brother-in-law Earnest Worcester (husband of Julia McAffee), about 1897-8. It was in a new area at 4328 Lowell Avenue. Earnest was paid $2 a day plus $1 a day for an assistant.

'Willie' had belonged to Willow Creek Presbyterian Church in Argyle. He later joined Irving Park Methodist church. Perhaps because there was no Presbyterian Church in the area.8 He was on the Church Board and active in the Men's Bible Class. He was a poll worker during election times. He enjoyed gardening, hoeing, weeding and raising vegetables.9

They had five children:

1) Thomas James, born 29 August 1892 at McAffee/Cross Farm, Roscoe, Ill., married Mabelle Greenlee 22 December 1921, died 1 February 1989, Argyle. They had three children.

+2) Kenneth McAffee, born 21 November 1895, Chicago, married Evelyn Belden 15 June 1922, died 9 Sept. 1991, Roscoe. They had seven children.

3) Evelyn Margaret, born 17 October 1899, Chicago.

4) Dorothy Jean, born 18 February 1901, Chicago, died 31 March 1920, Chicago, buried Argyle Cemetery.

5) William John Charles, born 14 June 1910, Chicago, married Margaret Jeanette Greenlee 19 February 1938, died 24 November 1990, Rockford. They had three children.

Their father, Peter Wm. Ralston died at his Chicago home 5 January 1949. Burial was at Argyle Cemetery. "Peter W. Ralston. Caledonia- Peter W. Ralston, 90, died yesterday afternoon at his home in Chicago. He had been in good health until shortly before he died. Peter Ralston was born in Harlem township March 24, 1858, the son of Thomas and Jane Ralston, pioneer settlers in the Argyle area. He married Hannah McAffee of Roscoe Nov. 6, 1890, and they lived in Chicago ever since. He is survived by his wife; a daughter, Evelyn, at home; three sons, Thomas, Kenneth and William, all of Argyle; 12 grandchildren, and a sister, Mrs. Elizabeth McKay, Redwood Falls, Minn. A daughter, Dorothy, preceded him in death. Funeral services will be held in Chicago and also at Argyle, at 2:30 p.m. Friday in the chapel at the Scottish cemetery, where he will be buried." (from a newspaper clipping).

View letters to Peter from Belfast, Ireland: 1881, 1882.

The following information is copied from "Questionnaire for C&NW Railway Section A.A.E., P. W. Ralston": "1910-1911, Park Ridge, Ill., Asst. to Village Engineer in charge of paving. $90 monthly, on salary during working season only. Balance of year doing work on own account. "May 1912 - Sept. 1912, Cent. Mt. Dept., Chicago, charge of paving and sewering., $100 monthly, discharged acct. work completed. "July 1913-Dec. 1913, Taylorville, Ill., charge laying out new town site at Kincaid, $100 monthly, discharged acct. work completed. "1914 - 1915, No regular salary, doing odd jobs surveying on own account. "June 1916-Dec. 1916, Arlington Heights, Ill., Asst. to Village Eng., charge of paving, $100 monthly, discharged end working season. "July 1917-Dec. 1917, Camp Grant, Rockford, Ill., Instrument man, Sewer Dept., $125 monthly, discharged work completed. "Feb. 1918-1920, Instrument man, C&NW RR, $105-$160 monthly, still hold position."

The following is taken from his Surveyor Notebook, which starts November 1900 on page 1 and continues to January 11, 1916 on page 179. Page 1, "November 1st., 1900. Transferred from division of Harbors to Central Park Ave. Pumping Station. Spent the day copying my diary, kept while I was there during 1899 and 1900 before transfer to Harbors Division, into a book for Mr. Samuel, Engineer in charge. John Lenertson, rod man." Page 2, "November 2, 1900. Transferred from C. P. Ave. Pumping Station to Water Pipe Extension. At Stockyard where pipes in the street are being stripped to discover whether there is any illicit use of water. Found Mr. Hargen at Packers Ave. just north of Exchange Ave. about 11:00 A.M. Most of the workmen were at work in Packers Ave. north of Exchange. 4 or 5 were at 45 Place and ???. James Pye foreman here. Michael Yohan General Foreman. Wiers and McHugh foremen at Packers Ave. Nothing irregular for today." Page 4, "(November 4 Sunday) November 5, 1900. Part of the gang at work back of Fowler. One gang at Loomis & Exchange Ave. Here a 6" in Exchange Ave. extending across Loomis Ave. and connecting with a hydrant on each side of Loomis and running under the platform toward Swift's was discovered." (A sketch shows the streets, pipes and dimensions of finding.) An 8" under it runs N. & S. on east side of Loomis. One gang uncovering a 6" pipe on S. side 42 Ave. between Justine & alley west, and pulling out part of it and breaking the rest. A illicit 6" pipe off the 12" main in Central Ave. North of 45 Place was found too. Broken 12 ft. west of 12" main and plugged, workmen said it was soft and easy digging over the break. Found a 3/4" lead pipe off the 6" on the live side running into the brick barn on west side of Central north of 45 Place. Water was running out of it at the sink, the faucet had been taken off and the hole plugged with a new wooden plug. We broke off the 3/4" pipe at the check valve, Jas. Pye, foreman. Killan, Nourse's man." Page 5, "November 6, 1900. No work, Election day." These type of notes continue through page 13, November 15, 1900. Page 14, "Nov. 16, 1900. Transferred to division of Harbors. Worked on book of coordinates, copying from Maars' calculations into the book during A. M. In P. M. with Wilcox, Maar and "Charley" on tug boat James Hay. Made soundings in river from Van Buren St. to mouth of river. Page 16 - 23 contain a number of city lot survey dimensions and sketches, without dates. Page 24, "Jan. 31, 1902. Mrs. M. L. McAffee. Ralston & Brenner. Survey of lots 19 & 20, Block 4 of James Baxter's Sub. of Irving Park. A sub. of the east 20 acres of S 1/2 of SW 1/4 Sec. 15-40-13." This is followed by two pages of dimensions and notes. M. L. McAffee would be his mother-in-law. Page 26 - 49 contain survey notes of city lots and buildings including some in East Chicago, Indiana. Page 48 is dated Nov. 16, 1903. Page 52, "May 10, 1906, Irving Park, Ralston & Rev. A. S. Askins. Level for excavations for new site for 1st. M. E. Parsonage at N. E. corner. N 42nd & Grace St. Set up transit in lot, use no bench mark." Followed by page of dimensions and notes and, "Make mark & nail on fence post on N. line of lot, 120 ft. E of 42nd + on shanty near center of lot and N E corner of church. All above marks at same elevation as cwk. Page 53 - 73, several lot surveys. Page 74, "Dec. 15, 1908", etc. Page 75, "For the Barber Asphalt Paving Co., March 4, 1910." The following pages through 107 are measurements taken for various piles of raw material, sand, binder, and coal. Page 110 - 137 contains measurements taken to determine area of several structures at Naval Station, North Chicago. Buildings included; Mess Hall and Galley, Dormitories, Stable, Laundry, Drill Hall, outside walks, and others. Page 136 - 147, several city lot surveys. Page 148 "Levels to determine grade of floors in Irving Park First M. E. Church with reference to sidewalk grade. July 25, 1911, 6:30 P.M. with Dr. Bacmiester and Merton Smith." Followed by dimensions and sketch. Page 150 - 187, several city lot surveys, mostly in Irving Park, Montrose area and one in Indiana harbor."

In letters sent to Kenneth Ralston between June and October, 1918, he describes some of the work he was doing for the railroad while based at Antigo, Wisconsin. On June 16, he was at Antigo staying at the Hoffman House Hotel and had been to Rhinelander and New London the previous week and was going to Oshkosh the following day. July 17 he was at Monico lining curves and would go 70 miles north the following day. On Aug. 20, he was 20 miles N. E. of Antigo. On September 25, he had been 28 mi. south of Antigo at Eldora doing a survey for logging purposes. On the way up from Chicago that week, there was a freight wreck north of Split Rock so the train backed up to Clintonville and then up another line to Shawno and up to Eland Jct. to return to the main line. While at Shawno he saw a large crowd listening to a speaker and nearby there was a train with 3 French 77's, a German trench mortar and a wrecked Fokker plane. He had gone to Wausau in the afternoon and would go to Appleton the next day to lay out a new roundhouse. On October 9 he was near Marshfield and would go to New London the following day.

The following is from eight loose notebook pages recording railroad survey work. (In a letter to my father Kenneth Ralston, at about the time these were written, he said this work was being done to smooth the rail curves for a more comfortable ride) "Diary, 1918", "July 1918: 9- With Neal Holms, Harry Miller, Ted Duchac and Clarence Feter. Went to Monico on #117, leaving Antigo at 2:15 A.M. and staked curve at North of Monico." The crew spent their nights in a railroad bunk car and used it for their headquarters during the week. On Saturday P.M., or Sunday A.M. he took the passenger train home to Chicago for a day. The diary continues to August 10, 1918. In addition to Monico, he also made note of working near Mercer, Newbold, Carson, and McNaughton, and once traveled to Ironwood.


¹ Source: Evelyn M. Ralston, 4 December 1990.

² Source: Wallace G. Ralston, 27 November 1990.

³ Source: Connie Ralston Kassal, 7 February 1991, Copy of Graduation Exercises invitation.

4 Source: Archives, Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin.

5 Source: Evelyn M. Ralston, 4 December 1990.

6 Source (25) page 123.

7 Source: Wallace G. Ralston, 27 November 1990.

8 Source: Wallace G. Ralston, 27 November 1990.

9 Source: Evelyn M. Ralston, 4 December 1990.

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Peter William Ralston's Timeline

March 24, 1858
Harlem Twp, Winnebago, Illinois, United States