THOMAS S. RIDGWAY, a prosperous and influential farmer of Funk's Grove Township, whose portrait is shown in
connection with this sketch, is one of the most intelligent citizens of this locality, who has learned much from
a large experience in life, and keeps himself well posted upon all matters of general interest. He is an extensive
reader, and has made the most of his time and opportunities all through life.
Mr. Ridgway is a native of Venango County, Pa., and was born in Franklin on the 11th of March, 1819. His father, John Ridgway, was a native of Virginia, and his grandfather, Joseph Ridgway, of England, and descended from excellent English ancestry. The latter came with his parents to America in about 1794, locating first in Pennsylvania, whence they removed later to the Old Dominion. Joseph Ridgway was a millwright by trade, and possessed in a marked degree the skill and thoroughness in his work and system in his business transactions, for which his ancestry were noted.
His son John, the father of our subject, also learned the trade of a millwright, but after following it a number of years purchased a tract of land in Venango County, and spent his later years in the peaceful pursuits of agriculture. Early in life he was married to Miss Susan Titus, who was a native of Crawford County, Pa., and the daughter of Peter Titus, who was born in Germany and emigrated to America previous to the Revolutionary War. He became a soldier in that struggle, and was with Gen. Washington at Valley Forge. After the independence of the colonies was established he engaged in farming pursuits, and spent his last days in Crawford County, Pa., where he died at the advanced age of one hundred years.
Thomas S. Ridgway was reared in his native town under the home roof and attended the subscription schools as opportunity offered. When twenty-two years of age he entered Venango Academy in Franklin, and fitted himself for a teacher. He followed this profession three years, and in the meanwhile occupied his leisure time in the study of law, making such proficiency that he was admitted to the bar at Franklin in 1842. He soon afterward opened an office in Franklin, but the confinement within doors undermined his health, and he was obliged to abandon his profession. In 1849 he went to New Orleans and was employed as clerk in a lumber-yard there until he engaged in the same business for himself, and was thus occupied for eight years following. In 1857 he went to Nashville, Tenn., and opened a wholesale store of general merchandise, which he operated for one and one-half years. He then conducted the same business in St. Louis for the same length of time, and afterward engaged in the wholesale grocery and liquor trade in Memphis, Tenn., until 1864, whence he came to McLean County in June of the same year. He then purchased the farm which he now owns and occupies, and upon which he has followed agricultural pursuits and stock-raising.
The marriage of Thomas S. Ridgway and Miss Frances Shelley was celebrated in New Orleans on the 6th of July, 1853. Mrs. R. is a native of France, and the daughter of Joseph Shelley, who came to the United States with his family when the wife of our subject was a child six years of age. They located in Richland County, Ohio, where Mrs. R. was reared and received her education. Of this union there has been no issue. They have an adopted daughter, Josephine, now the wife of A. D. Lawrence, of Le Roy.
The farm estate of our subject includes 405 acres of valuable land, in a fine state of cultivation, well drained with tile. It is stocked with fine grades of the domestic animals, and supplied with all the appliances necessary for the carrying on of agriculture after the most improved methods. The family residence is a handsome and substantial structure, and the barns and out-buildings are in all respects fully adapted to the storing of grain and the shelter of stock. Everything within the house and about the premises indicates the exercise of cultivated tastes and ample means, and the homestead presents one of the most attractive features in the landscape of McLean County.
In politics Mr. Ridgway casts his vote in support of the principles of the Democratic party, and in his religious views is liberal. He has been prominently identified with the business and agricultural interests of this section since his arrival here, and has aided materially in its prosperity and advancement.
Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887), 402. Transcribed and annotated by Judy Rosella Edwards.