Biography of Hon. James Ryon, M.D.

Hon. James Ryon, M.D., of Amboy, has a storied past beginning in 1827, Pennsylvania. With Irish heritage, he pursued medicine, graduating from Rush Medical College, and later delved into law and politics, notably serving in the Illinois Legislature and as a Civil War Colonel. Post-war, Ryon focused on his medical practice, also engaging in banking and coal business ventures. Married to Ruth A. Ives, they had a daughter, Carrie S., whose early demise deeply affected them. A staunch Republican, Ryon’s contributions span medicine, politics, and community service, reflecting a lifetime of dedication and impact.

Hon. James Ryon, M.D., of Amboy, was born at Elkland, Tioga County, Pa., on June 5, 1827. He traces his ancestry to Ireland, from where his great-grandfather, John Ryon, emigrated to the United States and settled in New England. His grandfather, also named John, was born in Connecticut and served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, serving the entire eight years of the conflict and being mustered out with the rank of Orderly Sergeant of his company. James Ryon, father of our subject, was born in Luzerne County, Pa., and was a farmer by occupation. In his native state, he married Miss Sarah Place, and in 1837, with his young wife, he removed to Illinois, settling in that part of La Salle County which now forms Kendall County, and there improved a farm. In the home he there made, his wife died in 1848.

In 1861, James Ryon moved to Woodland in the Sacramento Valley, California, and there resided with a son until 1866 when he returned to this state and spent his remaining years with his children in Streator. His death occurred on August 8, 1872, when he was seventy years of age. In early life, he was a Democrat in his political principles, but when the Republican party was formed, he became its staunch supporter. He and his wife had a family comprising ten children, all of whom attained to maturity. Our subject, who was the fifth in order of birth, was a mere lad when he accompanied his parents to Illinois; he assisted on the farm during the summer season, while in the winter, he was a pupil at an academy in Kendall County. Later, he utilized his excellent education as a teacher in the district schools for one winter.

The profession of medicine early engaged the attention of Mr. Ryon, who, having made it his choice for a life’s work, studied with Dr. Isaac Ives of Pavilion, Illinois, as his preceptor, and later read with Drs. Wheeler and Holden, also of Kendall County. He took two courses of lectures at Rush Medical College, Chicago, after which, his funds being exhausted, he engaged in teaching school one winter to replenish his depleted account and then commenced the practice of his profession in Paw Paw, this county. Subsequently, he graduated from Rush Medical College and thus thoroughly equipped for his profession, engaged in the practice of the same with considerable success.

Six or seven years after commencing the practice of medicine, the Doctor was seized with a desire to become a lawyer and, in pursuance of that wish, he took up the study of Coke and Blackstone. In 1858, he was admitted to the bar at Dixon and while engaged in legal practice was drawn into politics. In 1860, he was chosen to represent Lee and Whiteside Counties in the Legislature, and in that responsible position, did all in his power to advance the interests of his constituents. After the outbreak of the Civil War, he raised a company of volunteers in August 1862 for the Seventy-fifth Illinois Infantry and at its organization was elected Colonel. However, he had served but a short time when, on account of ill health, he was obliged to resign his commission after the battle of Perryville.

On his return to Paw Paw, the Doctor resumed the practice of medicine which he continued until 1866. At that time, he was again elected to the State Legislature, his district embracing Lee County alone, and he served with credit to himself and constituents. The year 1869 marked his arrival in Amboy and the organization of a private bank which he continued to manage until 1873. Removing then to Streator, he formed a partnership with his two brothers, Hiram N. and Francis M., and organized the Streator Coal Company, with a capital stock of $200,000. The company developed the coal business of that city and maintained a creditable reputation as reliable and successful financiers. The Doctor removed from Streator to Chicago in 1876 and, associated with Dr. F. B. Ives, resumed the practice of medicine. Three years later, he returned to Amboy where he has since continued to reside, engaged in the practice of his first chosen profession — medicine.

The Doctor was married in 1852 to Ruth A., the daughter of Isaac and Mehetable Ives, of whom further mention will be found in the sketch of W. E. Ives, on another page. Dr. and Mrs. Ryon were blessed in their union by the birth of one daughter, named Carrie S., who early gave promise of an unusually brilliant womanhood. Her parents spared no pains in giving her good advantages and at the age of nineteen, in the Class of ’80, she was graduated from the Chicago University. She died on August 31, 1886, greatly mourned by the host of warm friends to whom she had been deeply attached, but especially is her loss mourned by the loving and devoted parents who idolized their only child.

In his political belief, the Doctor is a thorough Republican, using his influence on behalf of that party. Besides the offices above mentioned, he has served on the Board of Supervisors several years and has been Mayor of Amboy several terms. His wife is a member of the Baptist Church, and he gives liberally of his means to the support of worthy measures. He has written occasional articles for medical periodicals, reporting such cases as come under his notice which he deems of interest to the fraternity. Besides his pleasant home in Amboy, he owns two fine farms, comprising three hundred acres, all of which represent his unaided efforts since he came to this state.


Biographical Publishing Company, Portrait and biographical record of Lee County, Illinois, containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens, together with biographies of all the governors of the state, and of the presidents of the United States, Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1892.

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