• The First of Two Indiana Governors from Clay County
The Ralston family came from Tuscarawas County, Ohio, in 1865, settling in Owen County, Indiana. Samuel Moffett Ralston, son of John and Sarah Gertrude Scott Ralston, was born in Ohio, December 1, 1857, being eight years of age, when his father brought the family to Owen County. He was the seventh of their nine children. The Ralston children attended the common schools of the time.
Samuel prepared for teaching by taking a course in the Central Normal College at Danville, Indiana. His youthful days were spent on a farm in Owen County, where he labored at all kinds of farm work. In the seventies, the father moved the family to Stilesville, Indiana, in Hendricks County, Indiana. After a brief stay, the family settled in Brazil, Indiana.
The elder Ralston was engaged in the stock and butcher business until unfortunate financial conditions after the Civil War compelled him to close the business. Samuel was a very active and exemplary young boy, engaged in driving a meat wagon or performing any other service required.
The Ralston boys helped their father sink a coal shaft at Fontanet, Indiana, subsequent to the closing of the Brazil business. Financial reverses followed the family in this business. Having prepared for the profession of teaching, Samuel began working in that field and taught successfully at Gosport, Indiana, and other places. The small salary and uncertain employment were not very inviting to him to continue in that occupation. His attention was then directed to the law as a more permanent situation. After adjusting himself for the law profession, he located in Lebanon, Indiana.
This achievement in law brought him into prominence politically. He became the standard bearer of his Democratic party. The fidelity to his party and prominence in his profession earned him the nomination and election as governor, serving January 13, 1913 - January 8, 1917.
After he left office on January 8, 1917, he returned to his law practice in Indianapolis. The administration of the office was quite satisfactory to people of all political parties. No wonder his party honored him with the candidacy of U. S. Senator in 1922. His high standing in former service and as a good citizen brought him more votes than were received by all his opponents for the nomination. His former boy associates extended congratulations to him, as “Sam” is a self-made man.
In 1924, at the National Democratic Convention in New York, there was a strong movement to nominate him for the presidency, but due to ill health, he insisted upon the withdrawal of his name. U. S. Senator Samuel Moffett Ralston served until his passing away on October 14, 1925, after a prolonged illness and was buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Lebanon, Indiana.
He married twice; his first wife, Mary Josephine Backus, died in 1885. He then married Jennie Crave of Danville, Indiana. He had three children. Both of Samuel’s parents died at Poland, Indiana, and are buried there.
Resources: Brazil Times – May 8, 1922 Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States – Robert Sobel and John Raimo Information from: Wilmadean Schepper Submitted by: Jo Ann Pell – Clay County Genealogy Library