RALPH CHANEY DEAD Stroke of Paralysis Proves Fatal to Old Rockford Resident. Passes Peacefully Away at His Home on South Fifth Street--Was a Member of the Regulators Who Brought Prairie Bandits to Justice. Ralph Chaney, a resident of Rockford since 1865, and before that date prominent for many years in Ogle County, breathed his last Wednesday evening. Paralysis was the cause of death. Funeral services will be held from the home, 413 South Fifth Street, Friday afternoon at 2:30. It will be a Masonic funeral. The decedent had been ill only a few days, the end however was not unexpected. On Saturday evening last he went down as was his custom, and spent an hour or more with friends along East State Street. He was apparently in the best of health. At an early hour he returned to his home and soon after went to his room. In the morning when his daughter went to summon her father to breakfast she found that he was deprived of the power of speech. A physician was at once called but there was little that medical skill could perform. By night Mr. Chaney's entire right side had been affected and from that time little or no hope of his recovery was entertained by the sorrowing family watching at his bedwide. To within an hour of the time his spirit took its flight Mr. Chaney remained conscious and was able to recognize his family and friends. A little time before death he lapsed into unconsciousness and thus peacefully passed away. Few men in east Rockford enjoyed a wider acquaintance than Mr. Chaney or were held in higher regard. in recent years he had enjoyed a well earned retirement from business pursuits, but still kept up his acquaintances of early days and on nearly every pleasant day of the year might be found on the business thoroughfares. Mr. Chaney's youth and early manhood were spent in Ogle County, and he was considered an authority on the early history of that and other counties of northern Illinois.
NATIVE OF WEST VIRGINIA. Ralph Chaney was born in Harrison County, West Virginia, Feb. 22, 1822. Of his father's family of 12 children he was the last survivor. Samuel Chaney, his father, was a native of France, and his mother a native of Wales. In Mr. Chaney's youth his father died and soon after the family moved to Ohio. After a residence there of a little more than five years the widow and six sons came to Illinois. They took up government land at White Rock, in Ogle County, in 1836. Mr. Chaney remained on the farm for 28 years and during that period converted the wild lands into a veritable garden spot. Mr. Chaney was united in marriage to Mary C. Currier, a native of Massachusetts, in March, 1846. To them were born five children, four of whom survive. They are Sarah L. and Burt J. of Rockford and Harry R. and Fred A. of Chicago. Mrs. Eva Gregory died in 1882. Mrs. Chaney preceded her husband to the other land nearly a score of years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Chaney came to Rockford from Ogle County in 1865. For a time he engaged in the livery business with a nephew, George W. Shannon, who is now a member of the commission firm of Shannon Bros., in Chicago. Later he was in the dry goods business with his brother, and afterward in the boot and shoe business. It was his last business venture, and he retired to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
BANDITS OF THE PRAIRIE. In his boyhood days in Ogle County Mr. Chaney's home was in the very center of the region invested by the bandits of the prairie. He participated in the stirring events of those days and although only 20 years of age, retained a vivid recollection of the incidents of the time. Historians who have recorded the story of the outlaws have been indebted to Mr. Chaney for many of the facts they have been able to present. Mr. Chaney was a member of the Ogle County regulators, organized in 1841, for the protection of life and property. When C. A. Church was preparing his history of Rockford he interviewed Mr. Chaney. From that interview Mr. Church prepared the following for his history: Soon after their organization John Campbell was chosen captain of the Regulators. A communication was soon received from Wm. Driscoll in which he offered battle. The Regulators were challenged to meet him at his home in South grove. Ralph Chaney was present when the two warring factions met. Five days later Capt. Campbell was killed by Driscoll and the Regulators were not slow to take vengeance. Two of the Driscolls were taken in charge and at Washington Grove met their fate. Ralph Chaney was a member of the firing squad and afterward assisted in carrying the elder Driscoll to his grave. In the autumn of the same year the Chaney's with others were indicted by the Ogle County grand jury. Trial at once followed, but the jury returned a verdict of not guilty without leaving their seats. No one expected a conviction, but it was comsidered desirable to have the matter settled according to the regular form of law."
[Rockford Daily Republic, July 1900]
Ralph Chaney Obituary:
"DEATH CALLS RALPH CHANEY PIONEER OGLE COUNTY SETTLER SUCCOMBS TO PARALYTIC STROKE Ill Only Since Sunday--Had Lived in This Part of Country Since Early Manhood--Led and Eventful Life--His Rockford Life, Funeral. Ralph Chaney is dead. The well known old resident passed peacefully away last evening at 10:20 o'clock, his three sons and one daughter being at his bedside when the end came. His demise was not unexpected as life had hung on but a slender thread for several days and those watching tenderly at his bedside knew that a few hours at the utmost would measure the rest of [time for] their loved one. Some time Sunday night Mr. Chaney was stricken with paralysis. When he arose in the morning he found himself unable to use his arms and limbs as was his wont and after trying some time to accomplish dressing he was interrupted by his daughter calling him in her usual manner. Then he found that he could not answer her and when she came into his room she found him totally paralyzed on his right side. A physician was hastily summoned and Mr. Chaney was made as comfortable as possible, but it was seen that he had not long to live. He sank slowly at first but yesterday his condition took a decided turn for the worst and life ebbed rapidly away until late in the evening, when he breathed his last.
Mr. Chaney had led a busy life. he was born in West Virginia, at West Union, February 22, 1822. his father was Samuel Chaney, a native of France and on his mother's side he came from Welsh stock. He was one of a family of twelve children, all of whom have preceded him to their last reward. When the elder Chaney died Ralph Chaney and the remainder of the family removed to Ohio, where they lived for several years. In 1836 they came to Illinois which was then a wild country not much like the Illinois of today. They settled in Ogle County, near what is now White Rock, establishing themselves on a government claim. There Mr. Chaney resided for twenty-eight years, passing through stirring scenes and troublous times which is has been the fortune of but few to know.
He was married in March, 1848, to Miss Mary C. Currier of Springfield, Mass., and she passed away in Rockford in April of 1883. Five children were theirs, four of whom survive them. They are Bert J. Chaney, assistant cashier of the Third National Bank in this city, Sarah L. Chaney, who has resided with her father, Henry R. Chaney and Fred Chaney, the latter two of Chicago. Mrs. Eva Gregory, another daughter, passed away in 1882. Mr. Chaney has lived in Rockford continuously since 1865. His business life in this city was confined principally to a livery partnership with a nephew, George W. Shannon and to a shoe business in partnership with George A. Silsby. For many years Mr. Chaney has lived a retired life at his home on South Fifth Street, enjoying the rest which he so well earned during his long and eventful life.
One of the most interesting experiences through which Mr. Chaney ever passed and one of which he never tired of telling, was the extermination of the 'Driscoll gang' which terrorized the County farmers in the early days. Mr. Chaney was an active member of the farmer's league, which finally succeeded in capturing the two most notorious members of the gang and shooting them after a summary trial. He was in the shooting file and was later indicted by the Ogle County grand jury, tried and found not guilty.
During his long residence in this city Mr. Chaney became well known to many and every one was his friend. To know him was to honor and love him and to those who have greeted him as a familiar figure day by day his absence from his accustomed haunts will be noticeable, indeed. He was of an exceedingly kindly disposition, always willing to lend a helping hand to those whose lot was not so happily cast as his own and sympathetic and generous to a degree. His passing will bring grief to many hearts and the sincerest sympathy of his many old time friends will be extended to his family in this hour. Mr. Chaney was a member of Rockford Lodge, No. 102, A.F. and A.M., and was a regular attendant at its sessions. That organization will have charge of the funeral services, which will be held from the home on South Fifth Street tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 o'clock."
(Rockford Daily Republic, 19 July 1900, p. 1)
Contributed by Juli Chaney Jarvis, Buffalo, WY
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