Pioneer Woman Leaves an Interesting Life Behind

Jun 10, 2016

Mrs. P. J. Ryan died in 1913 in an asylum in Salem, Ore., where she had been placed one year after she was widowed because her dementia “had developed a violent form.”

Ryan and her husband, P.J., had moved to Jacksonville in 1862 and established the Palmetto Bowling Saloon as one of their early ventures.  Before that, Elizabeth Ryan had been known as Miss Lizzie St. Clair Dill. 

As a young debutante, Lizzie had planned to tour Indiana and the West, giving poetic and dramatic readings. In 1857 and 1859, she appeared on stage, but at least one critic found she had “no capacity for drama.”  Lizzie had more success editing her own newspaper, the Indianapolis Gazette, which she began publishing in 1860.  She received praise as a “spicy, vivacious writer.”  

She was considered in 1861 for the job of Indiana state librarian, but she was not hired.  She was only 23 at the time, prompting one newspaper to call her the “Spinster editress [sic] of a little paper published at Indianapolis.”

Perhaps the rejection contributed to her choice to move to Oregon to become Mrs. Ryan, a successful helpmate and the mother of a son, Luke Ryan.


Sources: "Miss Dill's Gazette." Wabash Express 11 Apr. 1860 [Indiana] : 3. Print; “Pioneer Woman is Adjudged Insane,” Mail Tribune 14 July, 1900 [Medford, Ore.]:3.Print;  Ibid. “Elizabeth St. Clair Ryan (obituary). 17 May, 1913. Print; Elizabeth Clair Ryan (obituary)." Daily Louisville Democrat. Jan. 1861. Web. 19 May 2016. <>.