1780 Joseph Ritner was born 25 March, 1780 in Alsace Twp, Berks County, Pennsylvania.  His father was John Ritner, of Alsace on the Rhine.  1780 Susan Alter was born 30 October, 1780 to Jacob Alter and Margaret Landis.  1800 Joseph Ritner, laborer, was listed on the septennial census for West Pennsboro Twp, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.  1802 In his 22nd year, Joseph Ritner moved to Washington Co and married Miss Alter, daughter of Jacob Alter, of Cumberland County.  The year of marriage has also been reported as 1800 . 1812 Joseph Ritner was listed as a private who received pay of 20 dollars from John Phillips, paymaster for Pennsylvania, for 6 months service.  Joseph Ritner was a private in Captain Benjamin Anderson's company in the First Regiment commanded by Colonel Joel Ferree from Pennsylvania.  Joseph Ritner served under General Harrison in the war of 1812.  1823-27 Joseph Ritner was representative to the state legislature from Washington Co.  1835-39 Joseph Ritner was governor of Pennsylvania, running as the Anti-Masonic candidate.  1838 A biography of Joseph Ritner was published, likely for political campaign material, as "Lives of David Porter and Joseph Ritner, Two Candidates for the Office of Governor of Pennsylvania". 1838 On 9 October, a biography was published for Joseph Ritner.  After his term as governor, Joseph purchased the "Mt Rock Spring" farm.  1848 Joseph Ritner was director of the mint at Philadelphia.  1850 Hon. Joseph Ritner, age 70, lived in West Pennsboro, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania with Susannah, age 39, Emma, age 40, Amelia (likely the wife of son Peter), age 26, Anna M., age 1, Mary D., age 6/12, William, age 6, and Joseph S., age 14. All were born in Pennsylvania.  1852 Mrs. Susanna Ritner, Wife of ex-Governor Joseph Ritner, died at the residence of her husband, in West Pennsborough township, Cumberland county, on the evening of Feb. 22d, in the 51st year of her married life, and 70th year of her age. She was the daughter of Jacob Alter, Esq., for several years a member of the State Legislature, during the season of that body in Lancaster; and the grand-daughter of Henry Landis, one of the first settlers and Monnonist ministers in the county of Lancaster.  1852 Susanna Ritner was buried at the Mt Rock cemetery in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.  1869 Joseph Ritner, retired farmer age 89, died in October 1869 at his farm near Mount Rock (where he was buried), in South Middleton Twp, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania of old age.  Joseph Ritner died 16 October, 1869 . 1869 Joseph Ritner was buried at the Mt Rock cemetery in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The state of Pennsylvania erected a memorial stone at his grave.  Biosketches (note John Ritner is named as father and as grand-father of Joseph Ritner): "Joseph Ritner, 1835-1839. Joseph Ritner, the son of John Ritner, an emigrant from Alsace on the Rhine, was born March 25th, 1780, in Berks county. He was brought up as a farmer, with little advantages of education. About 1802 he removed to Washington county. Was elected a member of the Legislature from that county, serving six years and for two years was Speaker of the House of Representative. In 1829 he ran against Governor Wolfe, but was defeated. In 1835 he was elected Governor of Pennsylvania, as the Anti Masonic candidate. He was an earnest advocate of the common school system, so successfully inaugurated during the administration or Governor Wolfe, and it was his fortunate task to maintain the system and perfect it through sagacious legislation. To his services in this direction was added his unquestioned devotion to and bold avowal of sympathy with the anti-slavery movement. In 1848 he was nominated by President Taylor director ot the mint Philadelphia in which capacity he served for a short time. He died on the 16th day of October, 1869 at his farm near Mount Rock Cumberland county and is there buried."  Joseph Ritner (deceased), ex-governor of Pennsylvania, was born where the city Reading, Berks County, Penn., now stands, March 25, 1780. His grandfather, John Ritner, a descendant of one of the noble families of Silesia, located for some time in Alsace, then a part of France, but afterward came to America and settled in Berks County, Penn.; his son, Michael, who was a soldier of distinction in the Revolution, serving until its close, swam Long Island Sound, being one of the very few that escaped by that route, and he was in the service at the time of the birth of his illustrious son. He followed the trade of weaver, locating in turn at Lancaster, Carlisle and York, where he died. Our subject, at twelve years of age, was hired out by his father to Jacob Myers. a farmer near Churchtown, this county, but who afterward moved to near Newville, and there Joseph Ritner lived until his marriage, May 26, 1801, with Miss Susan, daughter of Jacob Alter. In 1803 they moved to Westmoreland County, Penn., with her father, of whom Mr. Ritner bought a tract of land in Washington County (about six miles west of Washington and three north of Taylorstown), and there devoted himself to the development of his estate; he served under Gen. Harrison in the war of l812; was nominated to the Legislature, without his knowledge, in 1821, on the Democratic ticket, and triumphantly elected. He was re-elected six consecutive terms, serving as speaker three terms, being unanimously elected the last time-—the only instance on record in this State. He was a candidate of the Democratic Anti-Masonic party for governor in 1820, 1832 and 1835, being elected the last time. The acts of his administration were in the highest degree beneficial to the people of Pennsylvania. It was during this time (in 1836) that the present efficient school law was finally enacted and the State debts reduced over $100,000, a striking contrast to the administration immediately preceding and succeeding. He took a decided stand against the formation of monopolies in coal, land and railroads; opposed re-chartering State banks, then making application, and pointed out the evils that would result if they were successful. His veto was disregarded, and the evils he predicted speedily followed, causing general financial distress throughout the State. The great statesman, Thaddeus Stevens, was his intimate friend, and the plans marked out by Gov. Ritner were generally followed by Mr. Stevens. Of the circumstances of his last race, in 1838, it is sufficient to say that had there been a more fair and honest election the State might have been spared the unfortunate administration of Gov. Porter. At the close of his term Mr. Ritner purchased the bank farm, formerly owned by Gen. Foster, at Mount Rock, West Pennsborough Township, this county, where he resided the remainder of his life. He was an intimate friend of Gen. Harrison, who favored him whenever the opportunity offered. He devoted his attention to managing his estate until his retirement in 1848, continuing to take an active interest in public affairs. He lived a temperate and regular life, enjoying robust health. Personally he was of medium stature and portly build, weighing about 240 pounds during the latter half of his life. He passed away painlessly, through natural decay, ending his eventful and useful life October 19, 1860, in his ninetieth year. Gov. Ritner was a man of clear, quick perceptions, strong and persevering will, and of unimpeachable honesty, ever interested in the welfare of the people. He was opposed to the institution of slavery, a foe to secession, and at the decline of the Whig party became a Republican. During his service in the Legislature he was cotemporary with Dr. Jesse R. Burden. William M. Meredith, Joel B. Sutherlund. Jonathan Roberts, James L. Gillelen and other illustrious men, from among whom he was chosen to the highest positions and received the most distinguished honors. Gov. Ritner’s beloved wife died in 1858. They reared nine children, all of whom reared families but one—Joseph. a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, but who resigned from the army, married, and took a professorship in Washington College; afterward received a commission as first lieutenant in the army, but died at home, in 1833, before assuming his duties; he had served with great distinction in the Black Hawk war. Abraham, a conductor on the Cumberland Valley Railroad, died at Chambersburg, Penn., in 1852; Henry was killed by a railroad accident at Burlington, Iowa, in 1863; Michael died in Bloomfield, New Jersey, in 1872, was a civil engineer on the Morris & Essex Railroad; Jacob, a farmer, died in South Middleton Tp., this county, in 1871; Mrs. Susan Kreichbaum died in 1854; Emma died in 1876; Mrs. Margaret Alter is now living at Kirkwood, Mo.; and Peter, the only surviving son, and who was born September 13, 1818, in Washington County, Penn., completed his education under Prof. Alfred Armstrong, of Harrisburg, Penn., came to West Pennsborough Township, this county, with his father, in 1839, and here cast his first vote for Gen. Harrison in 1840, and has supported the Whig and Republican parties ever since. He remained on this farm with his father, which place he purchased in 1856, and still owns, having here a fine farm of 156 acres. He married, February 10, 1848, Miss Mary Jane, daughter of William Davidson, and who died June 5,1845. leaving one son, William D., now a clerk in the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. Mr. Ritner married, in 1848, Miss Amelia Jane, daughter of Alexander Davidson, and she died October 18, 1870, leaving four children: Anna M., Mary D., Walter Clark and Joseph Alexander, having lost three in infancy. Mr. Ritner subsequently married, November, 1872, Mrs. Jane Mary McKeehan. Mr. and Mrs. Ritner and daughters are members of the Presbyterian Church. He is a worthy descendant of a noble father, a man of education and wide influence.”  "Hon. Joseph Ritner, the eighth and last Governor under the Constitution of 1790, from December 15th, 1835, to January 15th, 1839, was born in Berks county, Pennsylvania, on the 25th of March, 1780. "His father was John Ritner, who emigrated from Alsace, on the Rhine. During his early years Joseph was employed upon his father's farm. The only school advantage which he ever enjoyed was during a period of six months in a primary school at the early age of six years. At the age of sixteen he removed to Cumberland county, and was employed as a labourer upon the farm of Jacob Myers, near Newville. In the year 1800, he married Susan Alter, of Cumberland county. Their offspring were six sons and three daughters. Soon after their marriage they removed to Westmoreland county, and finally became settled upon a farm belonging to the wife's uncle, David Alter, in Washington county. What was unusual for farmers of that day, the uncle possessed a good library. The books were principally German works of a substantial character. Gifted with strong native sense, and a wonderfully retentive memory, this library proved to him a mine of wealth. Here, during his leisure hours, he delved, and what was wanting of privilege in school instruction, he, by diligence, himself supplied, affording a perpetual example to the young, of the fruits of industry and perseverance. In 1820, Mr. Ritner was elected a member of the House of Representatives, from Washington county, and served in that capacity for a period of six years. In 1824, he was elected Speaker of that body, and was re-elected in the following year. In 1829, he received the nomination for Governor in opposition to George Wolf. It was a period of much excitement respecting secret societies, and great antipathy was exhibited towards them, especially the Masonic fraternity. So strong was this feeling that a political party was built upon it, known as the Anti-Masonic, and by this party Ritner was supported. He received a handsome vote, but was defeated. In 1832, he was again put in nomination, and though again defeated, made a great gain over his former vote. He was for a third time nominated in 1835, and was elected. Ever the firm and devoted friend of the common-school system down to the close of his life he manifested a lively interest in this system, attending Teachers' Institutes in the county where he lived, and acting as presiding officer when upon the verge of eighty. In 1861, the Normal School at Edinboro', Erie county, was recognized and adopted by the State. Dr. Burrowes, who was then Superintendent, appointed his old friend and associate of a preceding generation, as one of the inspectors. Though then at the age of eighty-three he accepted the appointment, and made that long journey of more than five hundred miles by rail and stage, with the alacrity and pleasure of a boy of sixteen. And when he appeared upon the platform of the great hall of the Institute, in the presence of a concourse of upturned faces, it could but excite tears of gratitude, that his life had been almost miraculously lengthened out to see the day when a great institution devoted to the preparation of common-school teachers, a crowning feature of that system, should be inaugurated upon a spot which was an unbroken wilderness when the law was originally passed in his administration. Governor Ritner always regarded his connection with the school system with singular satisfaction, and viewed the consummation of its adoption as the crowning glory of his administration. Even the progress which was made during the three years in which he occupied the chair of state was a subject of congratulation, which he thus presents in his last Annual Message to the Legislature: " The condition of the means provided by the State for general education is so flourishing, that little is required to be done by the present Legislature. Within three years the permanent State appropriation to this object has been increased from $75,000 annually to $400,000. Nor will this large outlay have been without its fruits. Instead of seven hundred and sixty-two common schools In operation at the end of the year 1835, and about seventeen academies, (the latter in a state of almost doubtful existence,) with no female seminaries fostered by the State, she has now five thousand common schools, thirty-eight academies, and seven female academies in active and permanent operation, disseminating the principles of literature, science, and virtue over the land. In addition to these, there are many schools, academies, and female seminaries of a private character, equally useful and deserving in their proper sphere." Secretary Burrowes, ex-officio Superintendent of Common Schools, in his report to the Legislature at the same time that this message was delivered, pays the following just tributes: "The undersigned cannot close this report without bearing testimony to one fact alike honourable to the State and advantageous to the system. In his whole experience the blighting touch of party politics has never been detected upon it. All seem to forget their every-day differences, and to meet unitedly on this, as on a Sabbath ground of devotion to the public good. In no station of life has this right feeling been more obvious than among those in power. When the agitating divisions of the day shall have sunk into comparative insignificance, and names be only repeated in connection with some great act of public benefaction, those of George Wolf and Joseph Ritner will be classed by Pennsylvania among the noblest on her long list; the one for his early and manly advocacy, and the other for his well-timed and determined support of the Free School." In the expression of his opinions in his messages upon national affairs, Governor Ritner was bold and outspoken, however unpalatable they might be to those whom he meant to reach. Upon the subject of ' slavery in any part of the national domain he uttered his condemnation in such clear and ringing tones that it arrested the attention of the philanthropist and the lover of freedom wherever it was read. His message of 1836 called forth from the Quaker poet, Whittier, ... At the expiration of his term of office Governor Ritner returned to private life, taking up his residence near Mount Rock, in the county of Cumberland. Possessed of a strong constitution and a powerful frame, he rarely complained of sickness, his system seeming to be proof against the ordinary inroads of disease. In 1840, however, he was attacked by cataract in both eyes, from the effect of which he was for some time entirely blind. By an operation performed upon the right eye, sight was completely restored so that he was able to read with ease the finest print. So painful was the operation that no consideration could induce him to submit to one upon the left, and that remained sightless to the day of his death. He continued to take a lively interest in politics, and rarely failed to deposit his vote in the ballot-box in every important election. In 1848 he was nominated by President Taylor, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, in which capacity he served for a short time; but before his nomination was acted on by the Senate, President Taylor died, and he retired, to make room for the favourite of President Fillmore. He was a delegate from Pennsylvania to the National Convention which nominated John C. Fremont for Pesident, and to the close of his life continued an active and ardent Republican. Governor Ritner was endowed with a mind of great native strength. The faculty of memory was almost miraculous, for he seemed never to forget a name, an event, a date, or a fact. The impressions of his early and active life were retained with remarkable clearness, and he could recall occurrences in his official life, and repeat debates with surprising accuracy. He was remarkably temperate in all his habits, never using in any form tobacco or spirituous liquors. He was a man of strong convictions, and his opinions when once formed were rarely changed. His conscientiousness naturally inclined him to caution, and every subject requiring his decision received mature deliberation. He fortunately lived long enough to see many of the cardinal principles which he had advocated become the fundamental law of the land, and time, which " at last sets all things even," vindicated the soundness of his judgment. He died on the 16th day of October, 1869, in the ninetieth year of his age. His life was prolonged beyond that of any other Governor of Pennsylvania, though associated in this office with men wonderfully long-lived."  Footnotes [Archives] opens a tab in your browser, from which you can download the PDF of the entire book to your computer.  "Lives of David Porter and Joseph Ritner, Two Candidates for the Office of Governor of Pennsylvania, compiled from authentic sources", (1838), "Birth, parentage, and connexions"  William Henry Egle, ed. "The Family of Alter", pp. 286-288. Notes and Queries: Historical and Genealogical: Chiefly relating to Interior Pennsylvania, [the History of Dauphin County] Third Series, Volume 1 (1887):288  William Henry Egle, ed. "The Family of Alter", pp. 286-288. Notes and Queries: Historical and Genealogical: Chiefly relating to Interior Pennsylvania, [the History of Dauphin County] Third Series, Volume 1 (1887):288  1800 Pennsylvania, Septennial Census, West Pennsboro Twp, ancestry.com  "Lives of David Porter and Joseph Ritner, Two Candidates for the Office of Governor of Pennsylvania, compiled from authentic sources", (1838), "His domestic life and habits"  William Henry Egle, ed. "The Family of Alter", pp. 286-288. Notes and Queries: Historical and Genealogical: Chiefly relating to Interior Pennsylvania, [the History of Dauphin County] Third Series, Volume 1 (1887):288  Thomas Lynch Montgomery. Pennsylvania Archives, Sixth Series, Volume 9. (Troops) (1907):225, [Archives]  Thomas Lynch Montgomery. Pennsylvania Archives, Sixth Series, Volume 8. (Troops) (1907):163, [Archives]  Samuel P Bates, P A Durant, and J Fraise Richard. History of Cumberland and Adams counties, Pennsylvania. (Warner, Beers: 1886), Part II [Cumberland], 586  The Adams Sentinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) ,1832 September 11  George Edward Reed. Pennsylvania Archives, Fourth Series, Volume 6. (Governors 1832-1845). (1901):247, [Archives]  The Pennsylvania Inquirer and Daily Courier-Philadelphia PA-October 09 1838-Issue 85-col D  Samuel P Bates, P A Durant, and J Fraise Richard. History of Cumberland and Adams counties, Pennsylvania. (Warner, Beers: 1886), Part II [Cumberland], 352,586  biosketch of Jacob Alter in Magazine of American genealogy, Issues 2-8, page 47  US census, 1850  Thursday, May 13, 1852, Tioga Eagle newspaper, Wellsboro, Tioga County, Pennsylvania  Cumberland Cemetery Records  Samuel P Bates, P A Durant, and J Fraise Richard. History of Cumberland and Adams counties, Pennsylvania. (Warner, Beers: 1886), Part II [Cumberland], 586, reports year 1853  1870 US census mortality schedule  William Henry Egle, ed. "The Family of Alter", pp. 286-288. Notes and Queries: Historical and Genealogical: Chiefly relating to Interior Pennsylvania, [the History of Dauphin County] Third Series, Volume 1 (1887):288  Cumberland Cemetery Records  William Henry Egle, ed. "A Century of Governors", pp. 550-558. Notes and Queries: Historical and Genealogical: Chiefly relating to Interior Pennsylvania, [the History of Dauphin County] Third Series, Volume 1 (1887):553  Samuel P Bates, P A Durant, and J Fraise Richard. History of Cumberland and Adams counties, Pennsylvania. (Warner, Beers: 1886), Part II [Cumberland], 586  Alfred Nevin , Centennial Biography, Men of Mark of Cumberland Valley, PA., 1776-1876, Philadelphia: Fulton Publishing Company, 1876, p. 155-159
Janet and Robert Wolfe Genealogy 2013/01/31
Go To Genealogy Page for Joseph Ritner
Go To Genealogy Page for Susan Alter
Go To Ritner Name List
Go To Alter Name List
Go To Home Page for Janet and Robert Wolfe Genealogy
Click here to send us an email with comments or corrections about this page.