Lula Earl Ralston (1867-1964), Ancestor No. 1 (In No Particular Order)

JW-Lula bw

I know, I said “No Particular Order”, but Lula here is probably my favorite relative I never met. So she needs to be very near the front of the line.

Born in Fennimore, Wisconsin to George and Libbie (Brown) Earl – or rather, to Libbie. George died in February 1867; Lula was born in March.

By September of the same year, Libbie had married Orrin R. Millard, a cousin of George’s. The couple was back in their hometown (Newton Falls, Ohio) by 1870, with Lula and their daughter Minnie.  They would add a son and a third daughter by 1875.

About 1880 or ’81, the family headed west out of Ohio, settling in Crookston, Minnesota, near Grand Forks, North Dakota. Within months of their arrival, 14-year old Lula met and eloped with John Wesley (“JW”) Ralston, age 21, son of a local rancher. One very cold late November evening, they drove an ox team to Arvilla, ND, got married, and went to a dance.  The marriage lasted until JW’s death in 1943, and produced eleven children, seven of whom would survive to adulthood.

Libbie’s mother Mary was a Civil War Widow.  Mary’s grandmother was Abigail “Nabby” Wood – a direct descendant of numerous Mayflower and Plymouth Colony families, including the Alden and Mullins lines, plus the (At)Wood, Jenney, Pratt, Priest, Hatch, Doty, and Rogers families.

At her death, Lula had been the oldest resident of Meagher County, Montana.  My mother visited her great-grandparents a few times, and remembers her mother warning her that Great-Grandma did not approve of girls wearing pants, so it was all dresses and skirts during those stays.

OK. A lot of words. But my point is this: My mother knew her great-grandmother. And that great-grandmother knew her own grandmother, a woman who lived from 1816-1912. That’s a continuous thread of 198 years of consciousness. And that blows my mind.

As legend has it, Lula also liberated her daughter and granddaughters from the control of a somewhat less-than-satisfactory son-in-law.  But that’s another story.


  1. I respond to your comment on 198 years of consciousness. One of the things that sent me into my own family history was a book called Generations–An American Family published in 1984. A social historian looked for and found a 90+ person who had a 90+ grandparent whom he had known well. He found a
    a 101 year old man who could share his reminiscences and wrote a family history spanning 9 generations.

    My own situation has three storytellers; my grandmother (1864-1931), my mother (1901-1990) and myself
    (1931-?). Now I have to get the stories in a more permanent form. I did not overlap my grandmother’s life, and my mother’s father died in 1902 when she was 9 months old but my two predecessors had wonderful talents of memory.
    Thanks for the inspiration you’ve given me.

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