Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Hugh Ronalds

Grave of Hugh's wife Mary (Kate) Ronalds née Flower at Albion cemetery, Illinois. Elaine Michels photography

Being the third son in the family cheesemonger business did not suit Sir Francis' brother Hugh Ronalds (1792-1877) - he wanted to make his own way in the world. In 1818 he sailed to Philadelphia, from where he rode on horseback 1,500 km to frontier Illinois. There he became one of the four initial town-proprietors who funded and oversaw the development of a settlement they called Albion. Albion became the seat of Edwards County.

The area had been selected by Morris Birkbeck and George Flower (son of Richard Flower), who were known to the Ronalds family in England. Hugh married George's sister Mary Katherine Flower (1802-1852) - called Kate - in 1820 and the couple and their children lived their lives there.

Hugh shared Sir Francis' interest in science and engineering. He recorded and sent home daily thermometer readings at Sir Francis' request during his voyage and after he settled in Illinois. He was also awarded two patents. The first reduced the time and labour of leather tanning by using banks of interconnected vats and pits, and the second was a water jet propeller for steamboats.

Further Information

History of the English Settlement (1882) - Early years in Illinois recorded by George Flower

Eliza Julia Flower (1991), authored by Hugh's great-great-granddaughter - Life in Illinois through surviving letters

Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph (2016) - published by Imperial College Press

Kate Ronalds' youngest brother Edward Fordham Flower's entry in the Dictionary of National Biography