Noah Risley biography

The gentleman whose name introduces this personal article is one of the promoters of an industry which is making Jack county known beyond the limits of the Lone Star state and is one of the chief factors in sustaining Jacksboro as an important mart in the world of local trade. Responding to the opportunity to reap a harvest from the products of nature’s soil, Risley brothers, of whom our subject is one, established a plant for the crushing of stone and for the sawing of building stone from the great quarries of fine limestone underlying the city for the great and growing markets for both these products springing up all over the South, and its establishment marks an era in the history of the county seat.

As already intimated elsewhere in this work, Risley brothers have had no small part in the industrial affairs of Jacksboro for nearly twenty years. From the building of the court house and jail to the construction of innumerable business blocks on three sides of the square to the promotion, from this point, of other important work elsewhere, and to the erection of their plant for putting on the market a product which has made themselves and their town famous, the brothers became known and their prowess as mechanics, their character as citizens and their standing as men have justified the patronage their enterprise has won and the confidence in them universally reposed.

Having abandoned mechanics on coming to Texas in 1878 and taking up farming in Clay county, our subject tired of the unsatisfactory results of the latter in a short time and joined his brother in resuming contract work, a business they had engaged in for some years prior to their entry to the empire commonwealth of the south. He was connected with the building of the courthouses at Henrietta and Jacksboro and the addition to that of Georgetown and the Masonic temple at Waco, and the flouring mill and elevator and the oil mill at Jacksboro, and with other contracts of importance of a different character elsewhere. For the Diebolt Safe and Lock Co. he aided in putting in vaults and safes all over Texas and in Louisiana, constructing in Houston the larges vault in the United States at the time, and actively identified with fire-proof vault-building at Galveston, New Orleans and Baton Rouge. With his brother he constructed garbage crematories over Texas under their own and other patents, doing work in some of the best towns of the state, as mentioned in the sketch of Ward Risley herein.

In 1899 the crusher business in Jacksboro was begun when Risley brothers started a small plant just above the station of the Rock Island and it was operated while the business of the concern was becoming known and while the character of the Jacksboro stone was being tried and tested. In three years the capacity of the infant plant was too small and in 1902 Risley Brothers and Co. was incorporated with a capital of $30,000.00, one-half paid up, the brothers taking thirteen-fifteenths of the stock. With the future opening up as bright as it has begun for ballast and with the building era of Texas unimpeded for another decade the crusher and building stone industry of Jacksboro will assume immense proportions.

The Risleys are known as Michigan men. June 12, 1848, Noah Risley was born in Berrien county, Michigan, where his father, Alanson Risley, settled in 1847. The family was from Syracuse, New York, where the latter’s birth occurred in 1816. The family was originally a Connecticut one, an English sea captain having founded it in the Nutmeg state during old colonial times. The most remote New York ancestor of the family seems to have been Wait Risley, who married a Miss Cautch and lived and died near Syracuse on a farm. He was the grandfather of our subject and his children were: Sallie, Polly, who married Harvey Dart and died in Berrien county, Michigan; Stephen, of Buchanan county, Iowa; Wait and Alanson.

Alanson Risley was married in DuPage county, Illinois, to Lucy A. Porter, a daughter of David G. and Charlotte (Lathrop) Porter, form Onondaga county, New York. He passed his life in his native state, in Illinois, and in Michigan, chiefly as a farmer. He manifested some liking for mechanics for he was a house-carpenter in the development period of the Wolverine state and can be said to have been a success in life. He took a warm interest in civil affairs, was a Republican and served for a time in the Union army during the rebellion. His command was Company B, Sixth Michigan, and he served ten months under Gen. Butler and was discharged for disability. He died in Berrien county in 1863, April 10, and his wife passed away January 8th, 1876.

Of the issue of Alanson and Lucy Risley, Wait, the oldest, enlisted in the army with his father and died on his eighteenth birthday; Ward, enlisted for military duty but failed to pass examination; Noah, our subject; Charlotte, who married S. R. Spry and died in Berrien county, Michigan; Job, who died at twenty-one years; and George W., of Luder, Texas.

Noah Risley came to early manhood on the farm and attended no public schools until he could read in third reader, his instruction having emanated from his competent and thoughtful mother. He began life at fifteen years of age, doing something at carpenter work and contributing toward his own support. He acquired the trade of a carpenter and followed it many years, then learning masonry and, as the occasion demanded, picking up a knowledge of blacksmithing besides. He remained with his native locality until 1878, when, as before state, he identified himself with Texas and became a farmer in the big Worsham pasture in Clay county.

In Berrien county, Michigan, Mr. Risley was united in marriage December 20, 1868, with Hattie Spry, a daughter of William and Charlotte Spry. Mrs. Risley was born in Berrien county, February 7, 1852, and is the mother of Mark A., a stonecutter, of Amarillo, Texas, and married to Ida Chisholm; Roger, who married Laura Thwing and resides in Cowlitz county, Washington; Myrtle, wife of C. R. Patching, of Clay county; Noah J., of Cowlitz county, Washington; Rosa, Alah M. and Oscar V., all deceased; Barbara, wife of John Phipps; James G. and Benjamin F.

In politics, in which Mr. Risley was wont to become absorbed in younger life, he has differed from the dominant political party of both north and south. Becoming a Greenbacker, he followed it and its various successors through the People’s party and now holds limited socialistic views. On spiritual questions he id decidedly agnostic and is without interest in any secret order.

Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 189-190.