George Ralph was the only son of George and Harriet (Cooper) Ralph, and was born in Schenectady, N. Y., on the 11th day of November, 1826. His mother died in his native town and in 1839 he came to Utica. He received a common school education, and early developed those sterling traits of character which marked his after life and made him the successful man of affairs. His first venture in business was in Binghamton, N. Y. In 1859 he removed to Elmira and engaged in brewing ale as a member of the firm of Bevier, Briggs & Co. These enterprises gave him a valuable experience and also proved successful in a financial way. In 1862 he returned to Utica and with his father founded the Columbia Street Brewery, which was afterward consolidated with the Oneida Brewery, then owned by Stephen Thorn and Francis Midlam, the building being erected in 1832. The new firm was styled Ralph, Midlam & Co., and in 1874 was succeeded by George Ralph, jr., & Co., the company consisting of Mr. Ralph's three sons, Dr. William L., George Frederick and Henry J. This name was retained until 1886, when Oneida Brewing Company was incorporated with Mr. Ralph as president, George Frederick Ralph, as treasurer and manager, and Henry J. Ralph as secretary. Mr. Ralph remained at the head of the concern until his death on February 2, 1889, when he was succeeded as president by his son, Dr. William L., who has since served in that capacity. The business management has been most ably administered by George Frederick Ralph, who still holds the above named offices, and also that of secretary. Henry J. Ralph withdrew from the company in 1889.
Mr. Ralph was one of the best-known brewers in the country, having been engaged in the business upwards of forty years. He was highly esteemed and respected by his contemporaries and served as president of the Oneida County Brewers' Association from its organization until his death. He was a man of great force of character, energetic, prompt, and enterprising, and forcibly impressed his strong personality upon every project with which he was connected. He was possessed of rare business ability, was exact in every detail of his work, and persevered until he was successful. The predominating traits of his character were his unswerving integrity, truthfulness and candor. He abhorred hypocrisy, duplicity, and deceit in every form, and by his honesty and straightforwardness commanded the respect and confidence of the community in an unusual degree. His frequent charities were always unostentatious. He was long a member of the Utica club, and his loyalty to friends made his friendship something more than a name.
In the Masonic fraternity Mr. Ralph was especially prominent. He was one of the oldest members of Utica Lodge No. 47, F & A. M., and was its master in 1869-70. He was also a member and in 1871 high priest of Oneida Chapter, R. A. M., a member of Utica Commandery No. 3, K. T., and a charter member of Yahnundahsis Lodge of Perfection, A. & A. S. R. He was a prominent member of Oneida Lodge No. 70, I. O. O. F. and of Tri-Mount Encampment and occupied all the chairs and important positions in the order. Mr. Ralph took an active interest in these fraternal organizations, and especially in the location of the Masonic Home in Utica, to which he was one of the largest contributors. He was interested also in the advancement of the city, and by his enterprise aided materially in its general welfare. He was a lifelong Democrat, but eschewed politics, as he had no taste nor desire for public life, yet in all matters pertaining to municipal government he gave a loyal citizen's support for the good of a common cause. He was often urged to accept political office, but invariably declined, preferring to give his attention mainly to his large business interests.
Mr. Ralph was married in 1850 to Miss Mary Catharine Wells, of Holland Patent, Oneida County, who with their three sons previously mentioned survives him. She is descended from an old and respected Connecticut family. Dr. William L. Ralph, their eldest son, was born in Holland Patent, June 19, 1851; George Frederick the second son, was born in Holland Patent on May 29, 1853; and Henry J., the third son, in Elmira, N. Y., May 30, 1861. All three live in Utica. George F. was married April 14, 1875, to Miss Cornelia Marion, daughter of Sylvester Wallace and Cornelia Augusta (Chevalier) Barnes, and has three children: Cornelia Chevalier, George Arthur, and Wilbur Booth.
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