Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Johannes Ritter, Sr., 1743 PA - 1816 PA

This post is extracted from my book, The Mark FamilyStory; The Story of the Mark and Other Related Families: Brown, Dick, Gruissy,Heffelfinger, Keck, Ritter & Wolf.

Johannes Ritter, Sr.
17 February 1743 PA – 18 April 1816 PA
My 5x Great Grandfather

Revolutionary War Soldier

Johannes Ritter was the second child of Heinrich and Maria Ritter. He was baptized on 27 February 1743 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Red Hill, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.[1] Over the years, Johannes changed the county he lived in, moving further west from Montgomery County where he was born to Lancaster County where he lived during the American Revolutionary War. In 1777 he served in the 4th Battalion of the Lancaster County Militia. Then he went northwest to Northampton County where he was a farmer. Finally Johannes journeyed further west to Snyder County where he was an Inn Keeper. 
          Like many other Germans in Pennsylvania, Johannes was, primarily, a farmer.

The Pennsylvania Germans farmers were good farmers by practically all standards. They were descended through thirty generations of tillers of the soil.[2]
 In his book, The Ritter Family, Larry Knox shares many things he has unearthed about our Ritter ancestors. Larry is a fourth great-grandson of Johannes. He wrote,

In 1779, John joined the Lancaster County Militia, possibly because of the offer of a horse, land, more money or even a better uniform. He served with Captain John Rutherford’s Company in their march to Fort Bedford. The march to Fort Bedford gave John a chance to observe the land to the west of Northampton County and he must have taken a liking to it.[3]

For about twenty years, Johannes and Maria Elisabeth (Keck) Ritter raised their eleven children in Salisbury. Our first United States Census, taken in 1790, showed the family in Salisbury Township, Northampton County. At that time the family included one male, 16 years and upwards (Johannes), three males under 16 and four females.[4] That 1790 census counted 257 free white males, 16 years old and up, in Salisbury Township.[5]
The Ritters were members of the Jerusalem Lutheran and Reformed Church in Western Salisbury. Many family baptisms and marriages were celebrated there.[6] The church is older than the town. It was a log structure with a stone floor, hewn logs for pews and no stove. The log building was replaced by a frame building and in 1819 the present limestone building was built. The list of names appearing in the baptismal records prior to 1800 includes Ritter.[7]
Parts of Northampton County later became Lehigh County which can further complicate research into the family’s movements.
In 1795, Johannes scouted out the land in what later became West Beaver Township, Snyder County. Snyder County was the neighboring county to the west of Northampton County. He did not purchase land there until the next year.[8]

Many of the early pioneers from the eastern counties would go up into the mountains for a summer or two searching for available land. If they found land to their liking they would start improvements and when cold weather arrived they would go back to the eastern counties to hunt the owners to get a deed. The next year they would return with additional supplies…[9]

          The distance from their old home in Salisbury Township to their new home on the headwaters of Middle Creek in Beaver was at least 120 miles. Traveling this distance with their clothing, household goods, tools and food was no small accomplishment. The roads were nothing more than paths used by foot or horse. It wasn’t until 1811 that the Centre Turnpike was completed and wagon traffic could regularly travel along. Many early travelers followed the Tulpehocken Trail. This route never developed into a highway because it crossed three mountains. Another route available to the Ritters was the ‘Great Road from Sunbury to Reading’, opened in 1771 and traveled by many pioneers. Whatever route they traveled, the family had to stop about every ten miles. Along the way they needed to hunt or fish and gather wild fruits or berries to supplement any food they carried with them. Deer, bear, squirrel, rabbits, pheasants and turkeys were plentiful. They most likely carried with them: fishnets and fish hooks, a flint lock muzzle loader, an axe, saw, wedge for splitting boards, a chisel, hammer and adz for hewing logs, a cast iron pot, pan and kettle, enough flour and corn meal to last them until they could raise their own grain.[10]
Johannes Ritter, Sr. and Maria Elisabeth (Keck) Ritter were the first pioneer settlers in West Beaver Township.[11] They sold their farm in Salisbury and purchased two adjoining tracts of land, 644 acres, 142 perches of land in the area of Black Oak Ridge.
Larry Knox wrote,

As was the custom in those early days, John built his log house right over the spring. The uncertainty of Indian attacks forced the pioneers to build their house over a spring so they had a source of water if they were barricaded for an extended length of time. Also, the cold water made a great refrigerator.  John’s house was at the north end of his tract of land in a hollow. The foundation stones were still visible in 1972 near Quentin Dresse’s farmhouse.[12]

Johannes and Maria Elizabeth Ritter had to make almost everything their family needed.

This included the house, the furniture, the bed clothing, most of the hand tools, the shoes and clothing they wore and used. It was not until they could produce commodities that were marketable and roads opened up to get these to the eastern markets, could they begin to buy crafted goods and luxuries desired.[13]

Johannes Ritter, Sr. named his home Fallowfield. Larry Knox tells us that this house,

…was situated such that the Mahanoy Trail ran right across it and as the traffic through the valley increased, John must have seen the need to furnish lodging to travelers. His home was opened as an inn and undoubtedly many of the early settlers passing through the Middle Creek Valley spent the night in the safety and comfort of the Ritter home. The Mahanoy Trail was later used as a mail route traveled by stagecoaches and was named Stage Road.[14]

Becoming an inn keeper was not always intentional. Travelers did not have an easy time locating lodgings for a night. They knocked at cabin doors looking for shelter.

As the number and frequency of uninvited guests in wayside cabins grew, the involuntary host found himself becoming innkeeper, especially if he owned a fair-sized cabin or log or stone house. Then, as innkeeper, he acquired in turn a number of other offices. He was the one person who was always paid in cash for service and in consequence became a kind of frontier banker. Letters were left with him for other travelers expected to pass that way; so he became also a kind of postmaster. Travelers brought him the most recent newspapers and wayfarers handed out gossip picked up along the road, and by these means he became a kind of news agent.[15]

In 1802 John and Elizabeth deeded two acres of their land in West Beaver Township for a church to be built there, St. John’s Black Oak Ridge Church. A log church was built on this land. Later John and his wife were buried there.[16]
          Johannes Ritter, Sr. can be found in the 1810 United States Census, still in the town of Beaver. He is shown to be an inn keeper.[17]
          Maria Elisabeth (Keck) Ritter died 2 June 1813. Johannes died on 18 April 1816. Johannes and Maria Elizabeth are buried at St. John’s Black Oak Ridge Cemetery. St. John’s Church was built on land originally owned by Johannes and Elizabeth and sold in 1802.[18] Their tombstones are the oldest in the cemetery. Both stones record they had been married 45 years, had ten children, 5 sons and 5 daughters. The tombstones

…are of native slate or flagstone and are intricately inscribed in classic German on both sides of both stones.[19]

[1] International Genealogical Index at the Family History center. Christening of Johannes Ritter on 27 Feb 1743 in Pennsylvania.
[2] Aurand, A. Monroe. Early Life of the Pennsylvania Germans. Reprint. Forgotten Books, 1945.
[3] Knox, Larry. The Ritter Family . Privately Printed, 1999.
[4] 1790 United States Census, Salisbury Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Ritter family.
[5] Schmehl, William L. F. Salisbury: Born the Year the Liberty Bell was Hung and Rung - 1753. 1976.
[6] Neimeyer, Stoudt, Rath, Reinhard, and Kemmerer. History of Jerusalem Lutheran and Reformed Church. Allentown, PA: H. Ray Haas & Company Publishers, 1911.
[7] Schmehl, William L. F. Salisbury: Born the Year the Liberty Bell was Hung and Rung - 1753. 1976.
[8] Wagner, Orren R. "John and Elisabeth Ritter, West Beaver Township Pioneers." Snyder County Historical Society. (1972): 1495 - 1514.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Wagner, Orren R. "John and Elisabeth Ritter, West Beaver Township Pioneers." Snyder County Historical Society. (1972): 1495 - 1514.
[12] Knox, Larry. The Ritter Family . Privately Printed, 1999.
[13] Wagner, Orren R. "John and Elisabeth Ritter, West Beaver Township Pioneers." Snyder County Historical Society. (1972): 1495 - 1514.
[14] Knox, Larry. The Ritter Family . Privately Printed, 1999.
[15] Wright, J. E., and Doris S. Corbett. Pioneer Life in Western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1940.
[16] Wagner, Orren. "Log Churches and the Rev. John Conrad Walter, Pioneer Preacher and Circuit Rider." Snyder County Historical Society Bulletin. (1972): 47.
[17] 1810 United States Census, Beaver, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. John Ritter Senior family.
[18] Knox, Larry. The Ritter Family . Privately Printed, 1999.
[19] Wagner, Orren R. "John and Elisabeth Ritter, West Beaver Township Pioneers." Snyder County Historical Society. (1972): 1495 - 1509.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by my blog & for leaving a comment. It is always good to hear from visitors, cousins & fellow bloggers. Note that I do not publish anonymous comments.