Biography of John Wesley Riddell

JOHN WESLEY RIDDELL, whose death occurred on April 27, 1910, took from the community of Greenfield a worthy citizen and one who had contributed much towards its development and upbuilding. He was born in Charlemont, Massachusetts, a nineteenth century representative of a family of prominence.

The Riddell family is of Scotch origin, the name having been variously spelled as Ridel, Riddle, Riddel, Riddell, Ridley, and Ridlum, but all of the names were derived from the same source, the dale or valley of the River Rye, or Ryedale, whence the family first took their name, that being the place of residence of the stock at the time the name was assumed as a surname. A picture of the ancient Riddell Castle, which was located at Ryedale, is all that is now extant. A branch of this original Scotch family settled in the North of Ireland. About the year 1704 four brothers of the name of Riddel came to America from Edinburgh, Scotland, and settled in Charlemont, Massachusetts, where their burial place is shown.

(I) Captain Samuel Riddell, a descendant of one of these brothers, served in the Revolutionary War. He married, the Christian name of his wife being Gene, and they were the parents of seven children: William, of whom further; Curtis, Cordelia, Fannie, Park, Samuel, and Thomas. All of these children, with the exception of Samuel, went West, locating in Wisconsin.

(II) William Riddell, son of Captain Samuel and Gene Riddell, was born April 17, 1797, at Charlemont, and died at Greenfield, in 1887, at the age of ninety years. He was a farmer, and served as deputy sheriff for a number of years, and was a man of marked ability and outstanding public spirit. He married (first), October 2, 1830, Phoebe Thayer, born in 1808, died December 27, 1841, daughter of Ebenezer and Phoebe Thayer. He married (second) Sarah A. Atherton. Of the first marriage was born John Wesley, of whom further, and whose name heads this biography.

(III) John Wesley Riddell, son of William and Phoebe (Thayer) Riddell, was born August 10, 1835, in Charlemont. He was a farmer in the early part of his career, and then he became a builder and contractor, having bought a large farm in the village of Greenfield, which he later cut up and sold for building lots. These have since become the homes of substantial and progressive citizens, and his contribution to the development of the community is one of permanent value. Three of Greenfield’s streets, Hastings, Heywood, and the Riddell, were also built by Mr. Riddell. Mr. Riddell was actively engaged in the development of the community when he died, and its further improvement has been carried on by his widow and the son since that time. Other interests had engaged his attention, for while still a young man he engaged in the building of the railroad through the Hoosac Tunnel, and was also identified with the construction of the railroad between Wilmington and Readsboro, Vermont. He was a prominent member of Republican Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, of Greenfield, and he was an attendant of the Unitarian Church.

John W. Riddell married (first) Eliza Townsend Smith, the daughter of Lemuel and Priscilla (Nichols) Smith, and they were the parents of five children, as follows: 1. Sarah. 2. William. 3. Carrie P., who married, in July, 1884, Noah S. Roberts, and they were the parents of five children: i. Charles, born in Searsburg, Vermont, and married (first) Gertrude Graves, by whom he had one child, Frederick. Mrs. Roberts died, and he married (second) Mary Yoch, of Norristown, Pennsylvania ii. Amy, who married Howard Storer, and was the mother of one child, Harold. iii. Dorothy Allen, married LeRoy Smith, of Greenfield, Massachusetts, and had two children: Margery, and Wesley Riddell. iv. Rebecca Nichols, born May 10, 1897, married Robert 1. March. v. Neil Stetson, born in October, 1903, married Emily Thompson, of Shelburne Falls. 4. Julia, deceased. 5. Stella, deceased. Mr. Riddell married (second) Julia E. Smith, of Colerain, Massachusetts, who died in 1892, a daughter of Samuel Smith. They were the parents of Hugh Smith, of whom further. He married (third), March 10, 1896, Helen M. Robertson.

(IV) Hugh Smith Riddell, son of John Wesley and Julia E. (Smith) Riddell, was born August 30, 1877, in Greenfield. Attending first the public schools there, he later entered Williston Seminary, from which he was graduated with the class of 1897. Employed by his father for a time, he later secured a position with Goodell & Pratt, at six dollars a week, and there he continued fourteen months, gaining large experience, if not large monetary returns. He then became identified with Swift, Coates & Company, where he was active for eleven years in the capacity of salesman. His next experience was in the employ of the Greenfield Light and Power Company, first as solicitor, and later as commercial manager. He devoted a period of eleven years, also, to his connection with this concern, and meanwhile, in 1912, he purchased a farm of sixty acres. This property he kept under his general supervision, while active in the employ of the light and power company, and in 1921 he bought his present place. The first farm he disposed of in 1921, and has now for some years devoted his time wholly to farming. His present property comprises about five hundred and seventy-eight acres, and is considered one of the best conducted and most productive farms in a very considerable region centering in Greenfield. Mr. Riddell directs the most approved farming operations, and his equipment is the most thorough-going anywhere in use. He has also for some years been interested in village Property. After the death of his father, he settled the emote, which comprised a village farm and other property, and Mr. Riddell had the farm cut up into building lots, selling a large portion, but still owning many which he is developing, and on which he is carrying on building operations. Mr. Riddell was one of the founders of the Farmers’ Grain Association, and had been a member of the board of directors of this organization for five years. A Republican in politics, he served as overseer of the poor three years, but ordinarily he prefers that others be in charge of public affairs. His fraternal affiliations are those of the Republican Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, of Greenfield; and his religious fellowship is that of the Congregational Church.

Hugh Smith Riddell married, November 6, 1900, Annie P. Hawker, of Charlemont, Massachusetts, a daughter of Edward Dexter and Ann Eliza (Sears) Hawkes, and they were the parents of a daughter, Weino, born June 11, 1905, died November 10, 1924.


Lockwood, John H. (John Hoyt); Bagg, Ernest Newton; Carson, Walter S. (Walter Scott); Riley, Herbert E. (Herbert Elihu); Boltwood, Edward; Clark, Will L. (Will Leach); Western Massachusetts A History 1636-1925; New York and Chicago: Lewis historical publishing company, inc., 1926

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