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Johannes Ritter, Sr. 1743 PA – 1816 PA

Johannes Ritter, Sr. 1743 PA – 1816 PA

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 Lancaster County where he lived during the American Revolutionary War. In 1777 he served in the 4thBattalion 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.

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.[1]

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.[2]That 1790 census counted 257 free white males, 16 years old and up, in Salisbury Township.[3]

The Ritters were members of the Jerusalem Lutheran and Reformed Church in Western Salisbury. Many family baptisms and marriages were celebrated there.[4]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.[5]

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.[1]

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…[2]

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.[3]

Johannes Ritter, Sr. and Maria Elisabeth (Keck) Ritter were the first pioneer settlers in West Beaver Township.[4]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.

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[1]

Maria Elisabeth (Keck) Ritter died 2 June 1813. He 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.[2]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.

[1]1810 United States Census, Beaver, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. John Ritter Senior family.

[2]Knox, Larry. The Ritter Family . Privately Printed, 1999.

[1]Knox, Larry. The Ritter Family . Privately Printed, 1999.

[2]Wright, J. E., and Doris S. Corbett. Pioneer Life in Western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1940.

[1]Wagner, Orren R. “John and Elisabeth Ritter, West Beaver Township Pioneers.” Snyder County Historical Society. (1972): 1495 – 1514.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Ibid.

[4]Ibid.

[1]Knox, Larry. The Ritter Family . Privately Printed, 1999.

[2]1790 United States Census, Salisbury Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Ritter family.

[3]Schmehl, William L. F. Salisbury: Born the Year the Liberty Bell was Hung and Rung – 1753. 1976.

[4]Neimeyer, Stoudt, Rath, Reinhard, and Kemmerer. History of Jerusalem Lutheran and Reformed Church. Allentown, PA: H. Ray Haas & Company Publishers, 1911.

[5]Schmehl, William L. F. Salisbury: Born the Year the Liberty Bell was Hung and Rung – 1753. 1976.

[1]International Genealogical Index at the Family History center. Christening of Johannes Ritter on 27 Feb 1743 in Pennsylvania.

1 Johannes Ritter Sr. b: 17 Feb 1743 in Milford, Bucks, PA, d: 18 Apr 1816 in Decatur, Mifflin, PA
…… + Maria Elisabeth Keck b: 15 Apr 1747 in Salisbury Twp., PA, m: 29 Apr 1768, d: 02 Jun 1813 in Black Oak Ridge, Union, PA
…………2 Infant Ritter b: 1769 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA, d: 28 Jul 1790 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA
…………2 Johannes Ritter Jr. b: 08 Aug 1771 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA, d: 15 May 1864 in Albion, Ashland, Ohio
………… + Anna Mariah Ritter b: 12 Dec 1777 in PA, m: 26 Feb 1795 in PA, d: 30 Apr 1842 in Wayne, Wayne, Ohio
………………3 John Ritter b: 1796 in PA, d: 06 Jul 1887 in Wayne, Wayne, Ohio
……………… + Catherine Treaster b: c 1801 in PA, m: ABT 1820, d: 21 Feb 1865 in Ohio
………………3 David Ritter b: 28 Apr 1798 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Jacob Ritter b: 19 Nov 1799 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA, d: 08 Jan 1879
……………… + Mariah A. Hartzel b: ABT 1796 in PA
………………3 Elisabeth Ritter b: 1801 in Beaver Twp., Northumberland, PA d: ABT 1824
……………… + Henry Knepp
………………3 Henry Ritter b: 18 Jan 1803 in Beaver Twp., Northumberland, PA d: 12 Jul 1894
……………… + Mary Harpster m: 25 Aug 1824
………………3 Anna Maria Ritter b: 23 Aug 1805 in Beaver Twp., Northumberland, PA
………………3 Theobald Ritter b: 26 Jul 1808 in Beaver Twp., Northumberland, PA, d: 22 Feb 1878
……………… + Catherine Hartzel
……………… + Ruth Fishbaugh
………………3 Barbary Ritter b: 03 Dec 1810 in Beaver Twp., Northumberland, PA, d: 12 Feb 1895
……………… + Frederick Miller b: ABT 1803 in Maryland, m: May 1836
………………3 Frederick Ritter b: 26 Nov 1812 in Beaver Twp., Northumberland, PA, d: 23 Sep 1898
……………… + Elizabeth Kope m: 19 Apr 1838
………………3 Margaretha Ritter b: 20 Oct 1813 in Beaver Twp., Union, PA, d: 17 Nov 1896
……………… + Peter Hartsel b: 1819, m: 20 Sep 1840, d: Unknown
………………3 George Ritter b: ABT 1816 in Beaver Twp., Northumberland, Pennsylvania, d: 1847
……………… + Sarah
………………3 Philip Ritter b: 10 Mar 1820 in Beaver Twp., Northumberland, PA, d: 07 Jun 1898
……………… + Louisa Ann Kope m: 01 Dec 1844
……………… + Martha Gillander
………………3 Isaac Ritter b: 1823, d: 05 Aug 1880 in Chester, Ohio
……………… + Isabell Fisher b: 05 Apr 1828 in Bethlehem, Stark, Ohio, m: 13 Nov 1848 in Plain
Twp., Wayne, Ohio, USA, d: 08 Mar 1870 in Chester, Wayne, Ohio
…………2 Catherine Eva Ritter b: 03 Sep 1773 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA, d: ABT 1835
………… + Henry Romig
………………3 Jonathan Romig b: 15 Feb 1801 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Henry Romig b: 18 Jan 1803 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Maria Romig b: 13 Apr 1806 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Jesse Romig b: 04 Nov 1807 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Charles Romig b: 05 Oct 1809 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Susan Romig b: 28 Aug 1811 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Lea Romig b: 27 Aug 1814 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
…………2 Anna Margaretha Ritter b: 01 Mar 1776 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA
………… + Jacob Nonnemaker
………………3 Maria Elizabeth Nonnemaker b: 12 Jan 1794 in Lehigh, PA
………………3 Johanas Nonnemaker b: 17 Apr 1800 in Lehigh, PA
…………2 Johann Heinrich Ritter b: 04 Dec 1777 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA, d: 06 Apr 1857
………… + Magdalena Brouse
………………3 Catherina Ritter b: 16 Apr 1804 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Henry Ritter b: 28 Jan 1809 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 George Ritter b: 12 Apr 1811 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Magdalene Ritter b: 03 Jul 1813 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Elizabeth Ritter b: 23 Sep 1815 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Jacob Ritter b: 20 Sep 1822 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Samuel Ritter b: 29 Nov 1834 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
………………3 Sarah Ritter b: 09 Jan 1818 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA, d: 1889 in West Beaver, Snyder, PA
…………2 Johann Philip Ritter b: 27 Jul 1780 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA
…………2 Christian Ritter b: ABT 1781 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA
…………2 Ritter b: ABT 1783 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA
…………2 Jacob Ritter b: 08 Dec 1785 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA, d: 08 Sep 1847
………… + Maria Magdalena Stumpf
………………3 Jacob Ritter b: 14 Aug 1815, d: 15 Feb 1833
………… + Christianna Repman
…………2 Maria Barbara Ritter b: 20 Sep 1788 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA, d: 22 Oct 1828
………… + Andrew Ulsh
…………2 Mary Magdelena Ritter b: 25 Oct 1790 in Salisbury, Lehigh, PA, d: 1870
………… + John Stumpf

Learn much more about this family in my book, ‘The Mark Family Story’.

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