The Snyder County Historical Society
Published Summer, 1972
JOHN AND ELISABETH RITTER, WEST BEAVER TOWNSHIP PIONEERS
BY Orren R. Wagner
Available information would indicate that the first permanent pioneer settler in what is now West Beaver Township, Snyder County, was John Ritter and his wife Elisabeth who acquired 644 acres, 142 perches of land in the vicinity of Black Oak Ridge. This land now includes the farm presently owned by Quentin Dreese and several other farms in the surrounding area.
In the Records Office of Northumberland County we find that on Feb. 18, 1796, Johann Ritter of Salisbury Township, Northampton County (now Lehigh County) purchased two adjoining tracts of land for 644 pounds, ten shillings, and ten pence, from Joseph Simons and his wife Rose of Lancaster Township, Lancaster County. The one tract was 71 acres, 102 perches, and the other, 272 acres, 20 perches, the one adjoining the other.
The smaller tract of 71 acres, 120 perches, was originally acquired by Simon Snyder from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by a patent dated Dec. 20, 1793. Simon Snyder, for whom Snyder County was named, was Governor of Pennsylvania from 1808 to 1817. On June 19, 1794 he and his wife Catherine sold this parcel to Joseph Simons. The warrant for the 1794 sale of Snyder to Simons is in the possession of Mr. Hobart Baker, Editor of the McClure Plain Dealer.
The larger tract of 272 acres, 20 perches, was surveyed in pursuance of an application dated Aug. 1, 1766. The patent deed issued to Joseph Simons on Oct. 27, 1790 is quoted here in its entirety so as to explain the complete historical setting of this land grant. It is written on parchment, 13" x 16", is in an excellent state of preservation and is at present in the possession of Mr. Quentin Dreese, McClure, Pa., R.D. 2.
THE SUPREME EXECUTIVE
COUNCIL OF THE COMMONWEALTH
OF PENNSYLVANIA: To all
to whom these presents
shall come greetings
Know ye that in consideration of the Sum of Forty three pounds eight shillings -------------- --------------lawful Money paid by Joseph Simons into the Receiver Generals Office of this Commonwealth there is granted by the said Commonwealth unto the said Joseph Simons A Certain Tract of Land called "Fallowfield" situate on the heads of Middle Creek in Northumberland County Beginning at a post thence by land of Charles Dunnagan North West three hundred and nine perches to a Chestnut Oak thence by vacant land South fifty four degrees West one hundred and forty six perches to a post thence by land of William Coxe South East three hundred and thirty perches to a post and thence by vacant land North East one hundred and forty four perches to the place of Beginning Containing Two hundred and seventy two Acres and twenty perches and allowance of Six per Cent for Roads & With the Appurtenances. (Which said Tract was surveyed in pursuance of an Application No. 363 entered the first day of August 1766 by William Trent and Martin Withington, Esq. Sheriff of said County having taken the same in Execution to satisfy a debt of said William Trent by deed dated 24 August 1790 conveyed the same to the said Joseph Simons for whom a Warrant of Acceptance issued the 27 October 1790.) To have and to hold the said Tract or parcel of Land with the Appurtenances unto the said Joseph Simons and his Heirs to the use of him and said Joseph Simons his Heirs and Assigns forever free and clear of all Restrictions and Reservations as to Mines Royalties Quit Rents or otherwise excepting and reserving only the fifth part of all Gold and Silver Ore for the use of this Commonwealth to be delivered at the Pits Mouth clear of all Charges. In Witness whereof His Excellency Thomas Mifflin Esq. President of the Supreme Executive Council hath hereto set his hand and caused the State Seal to be hereto affixed in Council the twenty seventh day of October in the year of our Lord One thousand seven hundred and Ninety and of the Commonwealth the fifteenth.
Attest James Trimble
for Charles Riddle
The seal of the State of Pennsylvania is attached with wax with an eight point paper star under which is the signature of Thomas Mifflin.
We will review some of the colonial historical facts connected with this particular patent so that descendants of the Ritters and other interested persons can gain a greater appreciation of people of an earlier generation.
Many of these statements may seem trite to the knowledgeable historian; however, this paper is written with the local school children in mind in the hope that they will have a better understanding of their colonial heritage.
The colonial authorities did not permit settlers on this part of Pennsylvania prior to 1754 because it had not been purchased from the Indians. Prior to that date all of the territory north of the Blue Mountain and west of the Susquehanna River was Indian land. In Many cases squatters who located on these lands were forcibly ejected and their cabins burned.
From June 30 to July 9, 1754 a treaty was negotiated at Albany, N. Y. Between the Colonial Authorities and the Six Nations (The Iroquois Confederacy), at which, for a consideration of 400 pounds, land was purchased on the west side of the Susquehanna up to one mile above the mouth of Penns Creek, and extending northwest by west to the western boundaries of Pennsylvania.
This technically paved the way for settlement in the territory, which is now Snyder County. However, land grants were slow due to trouble with the Indians. The Swanees, Delawares and Munsees were incensed at the Six Nations (Known as Mingos by the English and Iroquois by the French) for selling their land out from under their feet. They had been promised this territory by the Six Nations upon their removal from the eastern part of Pennsylvania and the Ohio River Valley.
The subsequent French and Indian War, 1754-1763, set the frontier ablaze. Settlers on the new purchase and even beyond were harassed with Indian massacres, burnings, plunder and pillage. The frontier families fled to the nearest forts for protection or they moved out entirely to the eastern settlements.
The treaty of Paris in 1763 officially ended the French and Indian War but it did not end the trouble with the Indians. There were many fort sieges, expeditions into Indian territory, hardships and depredations too numerous to mention for this story; but which finally simmered down with the treaty at Fort Stanwix, Nov. 5, 1768 in which Thomas and Richard Penn consummated a treaty of peace with the Six Nations.
Relative peace again reigned on the frontier and settlers drifted back to their former claims. A flare-up again occurred during the American Revolution when the British and their allies, the Iroquois, made raids on the American frontier.
The patent deed of 1790, which we quoted, is intertwined with this colonial period. Note that an application to survey this land was entered by Wm. Trent on Aug. 1, 1766.
Captain Wm. Trent was a Pennsylvania trader and land speculator whom at one time entered the services of Virginia. He was a partner of George Crogan. We remember Crogan and his men as having built Fort Granville.
In 1753, Trent, with a group of thirty Virginia men, built a small fort at the forks of the Ohio. In 1754 a thousand French soldiers under Contrecoeur captured the so-called Trentís Fort and built Fort Duquesne.
From the Pennsylvania Records and Archives we learn of Trentís numerous activities in the service of the American Colonies. During the French and Indian War period he was one of the Magistrates of Cumberland County, of which Snyder County was a part up to 1772. From Carlisle he wrote many letters to the provincial government in Philadelphia, telling them about Indian massacres and strengths of the frontier forts.
In 1746-47, Captain Trent marched a company of 16 men, one of four companies, to Albany for action against the French in Canada.
In 1759 he persuaded several chiefs of the Six Nations to travel to Lancaster to confer with the colonial authorities to try to persuade the chiefs to be loyal to the Americans instead of the British.
Many of the officers of the French and Indian Wars were given land grants on the then frontier by the colonial government in payment for their services. Those lands were invariably situated along the Alleghenies to act as a buffer against Indian raids on the settlements.
Captain Trent was warranted 300 acres of land in Cumberland County, surveyed Dec. 12, 1765; and 100 acres in same county surveyed Dec. 23, 1765. Keeping in mind that the headwaters of the Middlecreek was in Cumberland County at this date, we will continue our research on the activities of Captain Trent.
The first survey of the Ritter tract was made prior to the organization of Northumberland County being all under the British Crown and the British flag. The county was erected by the Provincial Assembly on March 22, 1722 out of portions of Lancaster, Cumberland, Bedford, Berks and Northampton.
When the sheriff of Northumberland County, Martin Withington, Esq., in 1790, seized the land of William Trent for the satisfaction of a debt, it was under the United States of America. The United States Constitution went into effect the year before and George Washington was President.
Note that the patent deed states this was the fifteenth year of the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania became an independent State, free from Proprietary control in 1776. Thomas Mifflin, who signed this patent as President of the Supreme Executive Council, was the first Governor under the newly adopted State Constitution of 1790. He was an aid to General George Washington during the Revolution and Quartermaster of the Continental Army. Being a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he was a signer of the Constitution. Many places in Pennsylvania are named for him.
It is noted that the patent does not mention the name of the township, the usual practice in land warrants and deeds. The township in which this land is located was at that time Beaver Dam Township. It was formed out of Penn Township by the Northumberland County Court at its May session, 1787. The area included all of present day Adams, Beaver, Spring, West Beaver and parts of Franklin and Center Townships.
Note that the Patent states that this land was bordered on the east by lands of Charles Dunnagan, and on the west by lands of William Cox. These two landowners were probably land speculators since no permanent settlers by these names settled here.
Johann and Elisabeth Ritter were German since their grave stones at the St. Johns Black Oak Ridge Cemetery are inscribed in German. Whether or not they were born in Germany is a matter to be determined. An examination of the ship lists do not reveal them as passengers; however, the deed of 1796 states that they came here from Salisbury Township, Northampton County which is now part of Lehigh County. This is one of the early German settlements in eastern Pennsylvania. Snyder County was almost entirely settled by Palatinate Germans (those who originated in the Palatinate region of Germany.) This was probably due to the influence of Conrad Weiser, Indian Agent for the Penns. Weiserís home was in Tulpehocken, Bucks County. His family had emigrated from Schoharie, N. Y. In 1729. Weiser and his family had early land holdings in what is now Snyder County; and as the immigrants fanned out from the eastern counties, they naturally gravitated to a region being settled by people of like language and culture. Snyder County, therefore became the only Dutch County west of the Susquehanna River.
The Ulsh family history found in the Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania, J. H. Beers & Co., 1898 also gives a clue as to the place the Ritters came from and the date. It is stated that Barbara Ritter Ulsh, daughter of John and Elisabeth Ritter, and the first wife of Andrew Ulsh was born in Lehigh County in 1788, came to Snyder County in 1795 and died in 1825. Her gravestone is in the St. Johns Ridge Church Cemetery. Note that she was seven years old when she came here.
From our knowledge of how the early pioneers operated we are of the opinion that the Ritters did arrive in 1795, even though they did not purchase the land until Feb. 1, 1796. 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; and in this case, to have the deed recorded in the Northumberland County Court House.
The Federal census of 1790 lists the John Ritter family of Salisbury Township, Northampton County, as consisting of one male. 16 years and upwards, 3 males under 16 and 4 females. Since this included the father and mother, we assume that there were three boys and three girls in the family at that time.
The Ritter tombstones at St. Johns Black Oak Ridge Cemetery are believed to be the oldest ones there. They are of native slate or flagstone and are intricately inscribed in classical German on both sides of the stones. The spacing is given here for anyone who may wish to read them at this cemetery.
Er Warde Geb.
Den 15 Marz 1743
Gezengt 10 Kin-
der 5 Sohne und
5 Dochter In
der Ehe Gelebt
- over -
Den 18 April
1816 Alt 73
Yahr 1 Monut
und 3 Tag
* * *
Ritter Sie Ist
Geboren den 15
Gesengt 10 Kinder
5 Sohne und 5 Dochter
- over -
In der Ehe
Gelebt 45 ya-
Den 2 June
1813 Alt 66 Ya-
hr 1 Monut un
Note that both stones mention their living in married bliss (In Der Ehe Gelebt) 45 years; and that they procreated (Gesengt) 10 children, 5 sons and 5 daughters.
Unfortunately we do not know the name of the artist-inscriber. It was a marvelous piece of work that should exist for a thousand years.
Counting back forty-five years from 1813, the date of Elisabethís death, we learn that John and Elisabeth were married in 1768. John was 25 and Elisabeth 21. This also tells us that they were married 27 years before they came here.
This also tells us that Johann and Elisabeth were married eleven years when at the age of 36 John became a soldier in the Revolutionary War.
They must have accumulated considerable means by the time they came here since they paid 644 pounds, ten shillings and ten pence for the first purchase of 343 acres, 122 perches. In the fall of the same year, Nov. 28, 1796, they bought an additional 119 acres, 20 perches from Nicholas Miller and wife, purchase price not known. Also, on Dec. 1, 1807 they bought an additional 182 acres from Adam Henry for 250 pounds. Total holdings, 644 acres, 142 perches.
The distance from Salisbury Township, which is near present Allentown, to Fallowfield on the headwaters of the Middlecreek in Beaver Dam Township, Northumberland County, now West Beaver Township, Snyder County, is at least 120 miles. To traverse this distance and to bring everything needed to establish a home was a formidable undertaking in 1795.
Historians of local history agree that roads of that period into Northumberland County were nothing more than brushed out paths over which travel was mostly by foot and horse back, rather than by wagon. Regular vehicular traffic was not provided for until the completion of the Centre Turnpike in 1811. This road from Reading to Sunbury by way of Schuylkill Haven Ashland and Mt. Carmel.
We should mention the famous Tulpehocken Trail which ran for approximately 60 miles from Womelsdorf to Bethel, Pine Grove, Klingerstown to the Susquehanna River north of Herndon. The main route went north from there to Sunbury. An alternate route branched off to Sunbury by way of Trevorton. The main path also led to a fording of the Susquehanna to Hooverís Island and then from the northern end of the Isle of Que.
Early traders and explorers followed the Tulpehocken Trail in going to and from the eastern counties to the forks of the Susquehanna; however, it never became much of a highway since it crossed three high mountains, making it difficult for wagons to traverse.
With the opening of the Susquehanna Valley for settlement, there was agitation for a road that would connect the forks of the river to the counties in the south-eastern portion of the colony. Such a road was authorized to be surveyed and built. It became known as the "Great Road from Sunbury to Reading", and as soon as it was opened to use, in 1771, the travel became very heavy for that period. For many years all emigrants to this section came over it, some on foot, many on horseback, and others on vehicles. The rapid settlement of what was known as the "New Purchase" led to the erection of the new county of Northumberland in March, 1772.
The Great Road ran from Reading to present day Pottsville, Minersville, Taylorville, Locust Summit, Shamokin, Stonington and Sunbury.
Our guess is that the Ritters came in the fall of the year. This was when the squirrels and deer were fat and the chestnuts, hickory nuts, butternuts and walnuts were ripe. In the fall of the year there were less frequent rains and they would have time to build their lean-to hut and brush it well for cold weather. This would give them an opportunity to cut trees and clear the brush and get patches ready for planting first thing in the spring.
As stated before, the distance was about 120 miles. Camp had to be made about every eight to ten miles. From Salisbury Township to the gap in the Blue Mountain they might have found hospitable shelter, but over the road to Sunbury they probably camped under open skies. From Selinsgrove they could follow the old Mahanoy Trail (Fort Augusta to Fort Granville) which ran right through the south end of his land purchase. There were a few settlements at Kreamer, at Swineford and at Beavertown where hospitality might have been available.
The Ritters selected a home site in a hollow on the north end of their large tract where they built their log cabin over a spring. The foundation stones are still visible near the Quentin Dreese farm house.
Many of the tools they used they brought with them. We could mention the axe (de ecks), the saw (de sake), the wedge (kidle) for splitting boards and rails, the chisel (colb mazel), and adz for hewing logs (bile), the hammer (de hammer), square (engle isa).
Then there were the necessary farm animals which the Ritters may have acquired from neighbors to the east. The ubiquitous dog (der hundt), of course was useful as was the cow (der cou), the horse (der gowel), the sheep (der shoaf), the chicken (der hinkle unt hona), and pigs (sei).
An almost necessary commodity on the frontier was soap. As soon as possible the leached lye from wood ashes and boiled soap from their fats.
Food was of primary concern, not only for the trip but for a year or two until the farm could be gotten into production. That meant that seeds (suma) had to be thought of. They had to carry with them seeds such as cabbage (kraut), onions (zwivela), turnips (reeva), red beets (rote reeva), beans (boona), corn (welsh karn), peas (arpsa), pumpkins (carpsa), lettuce (tscalaud), celery (tzelery), parsley for seasoning (paterly), apples (epple), parsnips (bashknauda), potatoes (grumbera), wheat (waetze), rye (karn), oats (hower), and the like.
On the way and in the meantime, the forest and streams provided the larder for the family. Fishnets and fish hooks were not unknown. The flint lock muzzle loader (bix flind) was an absolute necessity for providing meat. Deer (hash), bear, squirrel (sckawel), rabbits (haus), pheasants (pssont), and turkeys (welsh hauna) were plentiful. Plenty of lead had to be at hand for bullets (cuggle). The bullet mold (cuggle muddle) and cloth wadding (schmutzlumba) had to be around when needed.
Cooking utensils were mostly of cast iron. There was the long handled frying pan which was usually held over the fire. There was usually a cast iron tea kettle which was hung over the open flames. The cast iron pot was a necessity at almost every meal for boiling and stewing.
When the pioneer built his log cabin the open fire place served both to warm the room and to cook the meals. There was a crane on either side from which the pots were hung. They could be swung in over the fire or could be pulled out as necessity dictated.
As soon as possible after the family arrived at their new home, an outside oven (bock offa) was constructed. This was an ingenious device, with an opening in front to serve as a door and one at the back at the top to serve as a smokestack. On baking days the oven was fired with wood for several hours, after which the ashes were scraped out, the pans of bread dough, cakes and pies were inserted, the front opening and back opening closed, and presto, bread (brote), cake (coocha) and pie (poi).
The yeast or sots pot was a necessary device for making bread. A little of the sots was always left in the pot to which a brew of hops tea and potato water was added and allowed to stand in a warm place for the yeast to multiply for the next baking. The writer got punished by being whacked with a sots paddle many a time.
The cast iron cook stove did not appear on the frontier until close to the time of the Civil War. Therefore, all the baking and cooking was done on the open fire place and the outdoor oven. The writer remembers his mother baking bread in an outdoor oven up to about 1905.
Bread in those days, of course, was the staff of life. Bread made from whole wheat and rye and corn was eaten much more than it is now. Pan bread and dumplings were often used. We still like our schnitz und knepp (dried apples and dumplings) cooked in ham broth.
The Ritter family had to bring their initial supply of flour and corn meal with them to last until they could raise their own grain. According to records Simon Snyder and his brother-in-law, Anthony Selin, operated a store and mill on the upper part of the Isle De Que sometime after 1787. This was twenty miles away from Fallowfield, not too great a distance, but the Ritters had to first grow some grain before they could take it to the mill to be ground into flour.
With luck they could clear a patch, plant it to wheat, oats, corn, barley or rye and harvest a crop before fall. Johann had probably been here the summer before and girdled the large trees to kill the foliage.
This brings us to the subject of harvesting the grain. The instrument was the one since Bible times, the sickle. The small grain was tied into sheaves with a portion of stems called, in German, a "bindle". The writer was taught when a small boy how to make a "bindle". Wheat, oats, rye and barley was later cut with a cradle and tied as previously, but when the binder was invented, the sheaves were automatically tied with twine.
The sheaves were gathered and stacked in shocks for drying. The next step was threshing which was done in early colonial days the same as in Bible times i.e. by the use of the flail (dreshflegel). The grain thus separated from the stalks were cast into the wind on a blanket to separate the chaff which would blow away, the grain falling back onto the blanket.
Grain was not universally machine threshed until well beyond the Civil War period. The writerís father told about flailing grain when he was a boy. In those days farm children could not start to school until the grain threshing was completed. One old West Beaver Township lady said that when they did get to school their eyes were so swollen from the chaff that they couldnít see to read anyway.
Pioneer families had to depend upon wild fruits and berries to supplement their diet. There were no apples, pears and peaches at first. Fruits, berries and some vegetables were dried for winter use. We still long for the taste of dried string beans, sweet corn, cherries and apples (schnitz).
For a beverage, there was a tea brewed from the bark of sassafras roots, mountain golden rod tea, and a coffee substitute made from roasted wheat or rye.
Dandelion (pissabet), greens cooked from dock and the tender shoots of polk, were all used until a variety of greens could be raised to satisfy the appetite.
Sweets were obtained from honey, maple sugar and sorghum. If they were fortunate to find a beeís hive in a hollow tree, there would be enough honey for a yearís supply. Just make a fire, smoke out the bees, chop down the tree and get the honey. Sugar maple trees were tapped in the spring and the sap boiled down for syrup and maple sugar. The pioneer farmers raised sorghum. The stalks which resemble corn, were crushed in a mill run by horse power. The sap was squeezed out and boiled like maple syrup.
Clothing was made from linen, wool, and deer skins. The writer remembers when he was a boy, of the older people at that time telling of wearing buckskin pants, coonskin caps, linen-woolsey dresses and home-made woolen socks. The process of raising flax and preparing it for spinning was a complicated process.
The writerís father would explain how flax was prepared for spinning. The plant was stripped of its outer fibers. The flax "brake" (brech) did just that to the outer husk, then the scutching board and knife (schwingel-messer) removed most of it. Flax hetchels (flachs-hechel) cleaned the fibers and straightened them for spinning. The long fibers were spun into a coarser thread that was used for feed bags, wagon covers and menís trousers.
We must keep in mind that the Ritter pioneers had to make practically everything that they used. 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.
One of the first implements they made was the snitzel bonk, a device used to hold wood for the draw knife. With this machine they made axe handles, hickory brooms, and the like that needed to be carved from wood. The snitzel bonk has become part of our folklore and was still used extensively in the early part of this century.
Every pioneer had to be self sufficient to the extent of being a carpenter, a leather worker, a cobbler, a blacksmith, a doctor, a nurse, a farmer, a woodsman, and the like. The pioneer, indeed, in order to succeed and even survive, had to be a very versatile person.
From Vol. II, No. 1 Snyder County Historical Society Bulletin, Soldiers of 1776 from Snyder County Area by Dr. George Moyer and Charles F. Snyder this entry: Johannes Ritter, Born Mar. 15, 1743, died Apr. 18, 1816, Private in Capt. John Rutherfordís Company, Lancaster County Militia, marched to Bedford in 1779. Pa. Archives-5th Series, Vol. 7, p. 389. Buried at St. Johns Black Oak Ridge.
Recorded in Northumberland County Court House we find that on May 22, 1802, John Ritter, Inn Keeper, and Elisabeth, his wife conveyed to Anthony Bousher and Daniel Sherrett or the Lutheran and Presbyterian Congregations of Black Oak Ridge in Beaver Dam Township, Northumberland County, for and in consideration of the sum of Ten Shillings, Current Money of Pennsylvania, granted two acres of land strict measure.
According to tradition the original log church was erected and replaced by another one in 1818. The present building was erected in 1874. As needs arose additional acreage was acquired from time to time.
It is interesting to note that the Reformed Congregations in those days were known as the German Presbyterians.
The union congregation existed until 1970 when the Lutheran membership purchased the United Church of Christ share for $40,000, and the congregation became entirely Lutheran.
Rev. John Conrad Walter, Lutheran Preacher and Circuit Rider for at least eight congregations in Snyder County and two in Perry County is involved in this John Ritter story. The congregations in Snyder County were Selinsgrove, Freeburg, Rowes at Salem, Grubbs at Pallas, Hassingers, Mussers Valley at Troxelville, Beaver Dam at Adamsburg and Black Oak Ridge. The two in Perry County were St. Michaels in Pfoutz Valley and the Gap in Watts Township. He served these churches from about 1804 to his death in 1819. The Ritters were Rev. Walterís close friends.
We have records that Rev. Walter baptized four of the John Snook family, 1804, 1805, 1807 and 1812. This helps to approximate Rev. Walterís tenure at the Black Oak Ridge Church. John Snook, born 1770, a close neighbor of the Ritters had twenty children and two wives. (Mrs. Ruth Ann Snook, Mt. Pleasant Mills, will welcome additional information on the Snooks.)
While living in Freeburg, Pa., Rev. Walter persuaded his brother-in-law, Andrew Ulsh, 1785-1864, to accompany him on his preaching tour across the Shade Mountain. While staying at the Johann Ritter home, Andrew Ulsh met and fell in love with daughter Barbara, 1788-1827, who later became Ulshís first wife. (We refer you at this point to Mrs. Jean Wagner Haines, McClure, Pa., for additional information on the Ulsh line.)
In attempting to determine the ten children of this pioneer Ritter family we were up against an elusive proposition, since the Ritters left no family records. Also, we were unable to find any signs of a probated will at the Union County Court House.
The original church records of the St. Johns Black Oak Ridge Church would probably be of some help, but we are unable at this writing to locate them.
We next turn to real estate transactions of John and Elisabeth Ritter, which shed some possible light on the Ritter children.
On Sept. 5, 1808 John and Elisabeth Ritter sold 65 acres, 3 perches to Andrew Ulsh for 200 pounds. This was from a 182 acre tract they had purchased from Adam Henry on Dec. 1, 1807 for 250 pounds. We stated before that Andrew Ulsh was a son-in-law.
On July 29, 1805 John and Elisabeth Ritter sold 119 acres, 20 perches to John Ritter, Junior. This tract was purchased from Nicholas Miller and wife in 1796. John Ritter, Jr. Sold 13 acres, 30 perches to Henry Ritter on July 29, 1805, who in turn sold same to Jonathan Brouse in 1817, who in turn sold the same to Andrew Ulsh. This would indicate that John Ritter, Jr. And Henry Ritter was sons of John and Elisabeth.
Henry Ritter is buried at the St. Johns Black Oak Ridge Cemetery. The dates on his tombstone are 1777-1857. His first wife was Magdalena, 1784-1855, his second wife was Catherine, 1792-1867. On March 28, 1811 Henry Ritter of Exton Township, Berks County acquired 317 acres from Christian Ritter who acquired same from John Weidman of Union Forge, Dauphin County.
We are assuming that Henry Ritter was the son of Johann Ritter. He was 13 years of age when the census of 1790 was taken and he was 18 years of age when the Ritter family came here.
These facts lead us to believe that Henry did not accompany the family when they came here in 1795, but came here in 1811 when he purchased 317 acres which adjoined Johann Ritterís property.
On June 9, 1798 John and Elisabeth Ritter sold 100 acres, 64 perches to Henry Romig. This was from the south end of the larger tract of the first purchase. It comprised the present farm of Alton Folk.
We are indebted to Mr. Edward Schubert of 800 Laura Lane, Apt. 11-B, Norristown, Pa., for the information that Henry Romig was a son-in-law. His wife Catherina was the daughter of John and Elisabeth Ritter. Henry Romig was born in 1767 and died in 1822. Henry and Catherina are supposedly buried in St. Johns Ridge Cemetery, but their grave stones are not extant so we do not know the dates for Catherina.
In Will Book "A" Union County Court House, Letters of Administration were granted to Wm. Baker and Adam Bomgardner on Oct. 22, 1822, to administer the estate of Henry Romig.
The Petition of Catherina Romig for guardians for two minor children, Susanna and Leah, were granted to Andrew Ulsh by the Orphans Court in the May term of 1824. Andrew Ulsh was the uncle, of course, and these were two of the six Henry Romig children.
Anyone interested in the Romig family history should contact Mr. and Mrs. Schubert who are making a study of the Romig genealogy.
In 1810 Johann Ritter and Elisabeth sold 91 acres, 15 perches of the original large tract just north of the Henry Romig tract to Jacob Ritter for $533.33. In 1817 Jacob Ritter and his wife Magdalena sold same to Henry Ritter for $2,000.
In Deed Book E, page 150, Union County, we find that Christian Ritter had 180 acres in 1815.
In the 175th Anniversary Book of the St. Johnís Black Oak Ridge Church, 1965 it is mentioned that Johann Ritter bought the first church record book in which he recorded the baptism of his son Daniel, in 1798. Since we cannot find any further record of Daniel, we believe that he might have died in infancy.
We conclude our story by saying that evidence indicates that the five sons of Johann and Elisabeth Ritter were Henry, 1777-1857, John, Christian, Jacob and Daniel. Of the five daughters, we are sure of two, Barbara, 1788-1828, (Mrs. Andrew Ulsh) and Catherina (Mrs. Henry Romig). Could the other three daughters have married? If so, what were their married names?
At the St. Johnís Ridge Cemetery, only two graves of the ten children are marked-Henry and Barbara.
The research required in compiling this article has been most interesting and intriguing. It is hoped that descendants of the Ritter pioneers will complete the family history so nobly established by these good and patriotic ancestors in this west Snyder County community.
Presented with written permission of The Snyder County Historical Society The Snyder County Historical Society Bulletin is available at the Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana