RATICAN, JOHN (1836 ~ 1902). The following is a biography for John Ratican, Confederate veteran and inmate at the Texas Confederate Men's Home. The biography was provided by a Ratican descendent.
My great grandfather on my mother’s side was John R. Ratican and he was quite a figure. He was born in Ireland Dec. 11, 1836. He died alone in the Confederate Veterans’ Home in Austin on his birthday in 1902, although news reports said he “went to bed in good health.” He is buried in Austin in the State Cemetery. He recorded that he came to Texas in 1858, but we are not sure where he was. Signing up in Colorado County, he served in the Confederacy, Co. B of Hood’s Texas 5th Brigade. He was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines. Newspaper reports show that after moving to Fort Worth in the 1880s he attended a number of Confederate veteran meetings there and the Fort Worth local Confederate Veterans’ group read resolutions about his passing (news reports from Genealogybank.com).
John was an early day civil engineering contractor. Throughout the 1880s there are many mentions of him in the Dallas and Fort Worth papers (available on Genealogy Bank) with various contracts. There are also numerous deeds on record in the Tarrant County Courthouse. For example, in 1883 he had a contract to pave the streets of FW (documented on the Fort Worth city website). In 1887 there are records of him selling property; he seems to have had real estate in several places around FW including the “Kennedy addition” where one sale alone of some lots brought in $6000, a lot of money before 1900. He is listed in the 1888 Dallas City Directory as a railroad contractor, but most of his work appears to have been in Fort Worth. In 1889 he gets a contract to build railroad in E. Texas from Nacogdoches to the Red River. There was a lawsuit about this project recorded in the Southwestern Reporter; Ratican was on the winning side. In the early 1890s he appears in the FW Gazette several times having to do with street and sewer contracts; he also had contracts to do the lines for Fort Worth trolley service.
In 1891 he gets a contract to build railroad from the Fuente coal mines in Coahuila, Mexico, to Piedras Negras. This contract was his downfall. If one consults Mexican history books and books on the history of railroads into Mexico, it soon becomes clear that in the early years of trying to bring rail to Mexico, both foreign and Mexican attempts were often disastrous for the investors. Ratican’s entire fortune and his personal life were the price he paid for this venture. It took a few years to play out, with sheriff sales of property, a lawsuit detailing how he tried to get his father-in-law to raise some money on his home in the Kennedy addition (since his credit was sour), and the dissolution of his marriage to my great grandmother, Mattie Daily Ratican. The lawsuit about this particular scheme is also reported in the Southwestern Reporter and went to appeals court. The father-in-law had to repay the New York concern that had loaned him money, but Ratican’s home was not awarded to them. It ends in the hands of a daughter of John Ratican.
John’s personal life had always been complicated; it appears he was married to at least two women, my great grandmother and a woman named Bridget Ratican. Bridget divorced him in 1884. My great grandmother had three daughters by him, Stella, Hortense, and Ruth (my grandmother). Earlier he had children by a woman named Anna Kelly. Anna and her children Kate and James followed John to Fort Worth from St. Louis, Missouri. All of these people died in Fort Worth. My great grandmother brought divorce proceedings against him in 1899; at that time he was already living in Austin in the Confederate Veterans’ Home. Family lore is that he turned to drink (what an Irish thing to do) and was no longer able to sustain himself or his family.
Further information is available through the Texas State Cemetery research department.