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Ralston, Virgil Y.

Born: 1828-07-16 Kentucky

Died: 1864-04-19 Saint Louis, Missouri

Flourished: Quincy, Illinois

Virgil Y. Ralston was a lawyer, newspaper editor and publisher, and U.S. Army officer. Born in Vanceburg, Kentucky, Ralston moved with his father, a physician, from his native Kentucky to Quincy, Illinois, in 1832. At the age of eighteen, he matriculated to Illinois College, hoping to follow his father into the medical profession. Finding himself ill-suited for medicine, Ralston returned to Quincy in 1847. He commenced reading law with Orville H. Browning and Nehemiah H. Bushnell. Ralston earned admission to the Illinois bar and commenced practicing in Quincy. In 1852, Ralston accompanied a number of families from Quincy west to California, settling for a time in Sacramento. While in California, Ralston developed an interest in politics, becoming the Whig Party’s candidate for the California State Senate. He left the state before the election, returning to Quincy, where he purchased an interest in the Quincy Whig. From 1855 to 1857, Ralston edited and published the Quincy Whig. In February 1856, he was one of twelve anti-Nebraska editors who met in Decatur, Illinois, for a convention--a meeting preliminary to the Anti-Nebraska Convention in Bloomington, out of which emerged the Republican Party in Illinois. In August 1856, Ralston married Charlotte Lottie Taylor, with whom he had two children. In July 1857, he retired from the Quincy Whig and returned to his law practice. Charlotte Ralston died in 1859, and in January 1860, Virgil became commissioner of deeds for Quincy. Ralston edited the Macomb Enterprise until the commencement of the Civil War, when he relinquished his position to volunteer for the military. In May 1861, he became captain of Company A, Sixteenth Illinois Infantry. He later resigned his commission, but reenlisted in the Ninth Iowa Cavalry. He served as quartermaster of this regiment until his death from exposure and battlefield wounds.

Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, vol. 6 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), lxxvi-vii, lxxviii, 291; Catalogue of Phi Alpha Society Illinois College (New Haven, CT: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, 1890), 22; Transactions of the Twenty-Ninth Annual Reunion of the Oregon Pioneer Association for 1901 (Portland, OR: Himes & Pratt, 1902), 457; The History of Adams County, Illinois (Chicago: Murray, Williamson & Phelps, 1879), 430; The State Register and Year Book of Facts: For the Year 1859 (San Francisco: Henry G. Langley and Samuel A. Morison, 1859), 97; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), South Ward, Quincy, Adams County, IL, 243; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 2, Quincy, Adams County, IL, 81; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, ed. by Alexander McLean (Chicago: Munsell, 1907), 702; Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls , Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Bob Keith, "Medicine No Match for Politics for Virgil Ralston," Herald-Whig (Quincy, IL), 29 May 2016, https://www.whig.com/archive/article/medicine-no-match-for-politics-for-virgil-ralston/article_b6f47126-2f20-534b-879e-aa0928a9857d.html, accessed 5 October 2022; Gravestone, Woodland Cemetery, Quincy, IL.