Search billions of records on


Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 47-48

EBEN FITCH RUNYAN, one of the most industrious and successful lawyers in Chicago, has been for over forty years actively engaged in practice in this city.  He has also been identified with its business interests and has borne his full share in building up the material, intellectual and moral interests of the city.  His father, Archibald Runyan, was a farmer in New York State, where he died December 4, 1838, and young Eben was early thrown upon his own resources.  His mother, Eva Viele, was a native of New York, born in Old Saratoga, in Saratoga County.

The subject of this biography was born December 3, 1831, in the town of Butler, Wayne County, New York.  In the spring of 1838, at the age of seven and one-half years, he began supporting himself by working upon a farm, and continued that occupation until sixteen years of age.  In the mean time he was permitted to attend the district school in winter, and laid the foundation which enabled him to secure a practical education in the hard school of experience.  He attended a school at Saratoga Springs, New York, for six months, and then became a clerk in the store of Capt. T. F. Comstock, at Wilton, Saratoga County, New York, where he continued one year.

In the spring of 1850 he came to Illinois and settled in Hebron, McHenry County.  He worked upon a farm in summer and taught school during the winter, continuing for three years.  In the spring of 1853 he entered Waukegan Academy, where he continued two terms, under the tutorship of Hon. Francis E. Clarke, still a prominent citizen of Waukegan.  He commenced the study of law with W. S. Searls, and at the end of two years was admitted to the Bar.  June 11, 1855, he located in Chicago and began practice, and has prosecuted a successful general law business ever since.

He early began to invest his savings in real estate, and has erected numerous buildings in the city, all of a good class.   He has also been interested in farming, and was for several years engaged in the grain business.  He built two elevators in Chicago, and several small ones along the line of the Chicago & Danville Railroad.

Mr. Runyan was a member of the West Park Board from its first organization, and continued in that capacity until 1876, when business reverses caused him to resign in order to give closer attention to his private affairs.   He takes a keen interest in the needs and development of the public-school system, and was for nine years a member of the Chicago Board of Education, serving one term as its Vice-President and was twice President of the Board.  He has always been a patriotic citizen of the city, and has given aid and encouragement to the extent of his ability to every movement tending toward its proper development.

In religious matters he adheres to the Baptist Church, and has always been a consistent and straightforward Democrat in politics.   During the Civil War he was one of the Committee of Five in the then Sixth Ward of Chicago to assist the families of soldiers at the front, and otherwise look after the prosecution of the struggle to preserve the Union.   Among other duties, they furnished substitutes for several drafted men.  That committee consisted of John A. Tyrrell, George Sherwood, U. R. Hawley, James B. Bradwell and E. F. Runyan.

January 2, 1860, at Waukegan, Mr. Runyan was married to Miss Flora, daughter of E. W. and T. T. Avery, of Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois.  Mrs. Runyan was born at Brandon, Vermont, and moved from there with her parents to Lake County, Illinois, in 1843.  Mr. Runyan’s family includes six children.  Emma F., the eldest, is now the wife of G. E. M. Pratt.  Eben F. Runyan, junior, and Edward D. Runyan are associated with their father in practice.   Grace F. is the wife of S. S. Parks.  Julia M. is Mrs. Harrie E. Gordon; and Estelle M. still resides with her parents.

The career of Mr. Runyan is commended to the poor youth of the land as an example worthy of emulation and as affording encouragement in the struggle for advancement.

                                -- Submitted on 9/5/99 by Sherri Hessick ( )