my Ralston Family story


Virgil Young Ralston [1828 – 1864]      Attorney, Politician, Soldier



Virgil was the son of J. N. Ralston and his first wife, Nancy Grant. He was born in Vanceburg, KY and moved to Quincy in 1832. Dr. Ralston married  again in 1837 and V. Y. grew up with five younger stepsisters; fortunately it was a big house.Ralston Virgil Y


In 1846, he attended Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL then studied the law under O. H. Browning in Quincy becoming an attorney.  He went overland to CA in 1852 returning in 1855. From the diary of Enoch Y. Conyers, 7/4/1852:


Then three rousing cheers were given to "Old Glory." The question came up, to whom should the honor be given to deliver the oration? This honor fell to the lot of Virgil Y. Ralston, a son of Dr. J. N. Ralston, of Quincy, Ill, and an old schoolmate of your humble servant. Unfortunately he, with several other young men of our company, went this morning to the Devil's Gate (in present-day Wyoming 60 miles southwest of Casper on the California/Oregon Trail), where they obtained a little too much "firewater," and by the time they reached the camp were considerably under its influence... He spoke for over half an hour, and delivered, off-hand, an excellent oration.


In 1855, Virgil bought one-half interest in the Quincy Daily Whig and was its editor for two years. In February of 1856, he as one of  12   Illinois  newspaper   editors  who attended a meeting in Decatur, IL resulting in the formation of the Illinois Republican Party. In August of 1856, he married “Lottie” Taylor, a Quincy schoolteacher,  at her home in NY. They had two children, a son Joseph who died in 1861 in NY, and a son Charles born in January of 1859; Lottie died a month after Charles was born and was buried in NY. Years later, Charles and his wife’s son was adopted by Virgil’s cousin Jackson Jack Ralston.


V. Y. was the editor of a Macomb, IL newspaper in 1860 to 1861 when he volunteered for the army. Virgil was elected captain of Company A,  Macomb, IL, 16th Illinois Infantry. His contentious dealings with the regimental commander caused him to resign his commission. A short time later he reenlisted in the 9th Iowa Calvary, using the name Jesse J. Grant [his mother's maiden name, and became the regimental quartermaster. Sadly, Virgil died at age 35 of disease while in the service at a hospital in St. Louis in April of 1864.


Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1912

Jessie J. Grant, Civil War Pension Records, National Archives, Washington, DC.