It is seldom our opportunity to review the career of a man who has had more experience in the life of the frontiersman and in the hardships of pioneer life than the subject of this article and it is very fitting that an account of his life be embodied in this history of Nez Perces county, inasmuch as he has done a great deal here for the advancement of the county and has always conducted himself in a commendable manner, and is today one of the substantial men of the county.
William E. Ratcliffe was born in Henry county, Indiana, on January 20, 1845, being the son of Isaac and Hulda (Carr) Ratcliffe, natives of Ohio, both being born in 1820; the father dying in 1891 and the mother in 1853. Our subject went with the family to Marshall county, Iowa, when he was thirteen and he remained a dutiful son with the father until he was nineteen, and then he desired to go to the West accordingly he fitted out four teams and joined a train in Omaha that was to make the journey. At Pawnee Springs, the Indians began to manifest their hostilities, threatening to scalp the immigrants and from that time until they landed at their journey's end, the sturdy immigrants would not allow a red skin to show his head in the camp. They fought the entire distance, but were fortunate in not losing a man. When they were camped on the Platte river, a poor unfortunate band of immigrants on the other side, who had seven wagons, were all murdered by the savages. Our subject and his comrades were powerless to do anything to avert the awful catastrophe and the fiendish red men did a thorough work. One man was brought into the camp with nine arrows in his body, but he recovered. The other ten of that hapless train were killed. May 16, 1864, was the date they started and one hundred and twenty days later they stopped in the Grande Ronde valley. A short stop was made at Boise, while enroute. The spring of 1865 Mr. Ratcliffe went to Boise and remained one year. Then he went to Portland, and afterward visited Benton, Lane, Douglas, Linn and Wasco counties. In the last named county he operated a butcher shop for two years. His next move was to Linn and then Marion and Yam Hill counties. Later he went to Portland and afterwards to Salt Lake. From there he went to Lower California through Nevada, taking his family with him and landing in San Barnardino on November 15, 1880. He crossed the Los Vegas desert of sixty miles without water, having his family with him. Two years were spent in Los Angeles county and then by steamer he went to Santa Barbara and bought teams to make his way through the state to Red Bluff, whence he returned to Lane county. The next move was to Davenport, Washington, where he remained eleven years and operated a stock ranch and butcher shop. Then he came to Nez Perces county and his son took up land where the town of Peck now stands.
Mr. Ratcliffe married Sallie A. Bridges, in September, 1867, the wedding occurring in Lane county, Oregon. Her parents, Samuel and Betsey Bridges, were early pioneers to Oregon, 1852 being the date of their immigration. Mrs. Ratcliffe was born in Iowa in 1845 and crossed the plains with her parents in 1852. She died in 1889, leaving four children, Betsey, J., wife of John Horwage in Davenport, Washington; Isaac N., Marion A., Nancy E., wife of J. O. Moore, all in Peck, Idaho.
In 1891, Mrs. Ratcliffe married a second time and in 1900 this lady also passed away. Mr. Ratcliffe has the following brothers and sisters: Mary, Jemima, Louisa, all deceased; Thomas E., in Idaho county. Mr. Ratcliffe is a Quaker and has always followed their faith. He is a Democrat, and while interested in the welfare of the county, is not a politician. He is an advocate of good schools and advancement in all lines and has always labored for this.
William E. Ratcliff died 9 Jun 1916 and is buried in the Culdesac Cemetery in Culdesac, Nez Perce Co., ID.
Contributed by Natalie Huntley