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At the Feet of History
May 2, 1930, North Vernon Sun
A column by
Lucien V. Rule

    The sturdy German Immigrants.
    The Ritz family reunion held at Fox Grove near Reddington, in Jackson County, Indiana, in the summer of 1914, August 16, was memorable and typical occasion. It was the second annual meeting and the program was as pleasing and satisfying to old and young as the wonderful dinner served. No more characteristic story of the sturdy German emigration to America and the Middle West is to be found anywhere. The family historian tell this story with sufficient color and charm to justify its reproduction here.
    John George Ritz and Mary Magdalena Reichman, natives of Waldorf, Sax Meningen, Germany, were married June 1827. "On the 6th day of May, 1836, a destructive fire started which raged four days and practically destroyed all but a few isolated buildings of the town. Father Ritz was away on official business and Mother Ritz laboring under the excitement caused by the alarm of fire, laid the baby Barbara, in the cradle and locked the door as she left the house. While she was away the fire reached the house, but fortunately an aunt, father's sister, who lived in the outskirts of the village, came to look after the family, broke in the door and rescued the child, searched for the other children, found them and took them to her home.
    Father, being notified of the fire came home, but arrived too late, the house was enveloped in flames, and in his attempt to save some records, received some burns on his face, causing him to be blind for sometime.
    So completely were the people demoralized by the destruction of their homes and property, that they seemed to have lost all sense of their condition. It was six days before the Ritz family was again united and many more before the people generally were in a frame of mind to understand and calmly view the situation.
    Father Ritz, upon recovering from his injuries received at the fire immediately made preparations to rebuild. However, the desire to immigrate to America grew stronger each day and after due deliberation, arrangements were made to emigrate to America in the apring of 1841. But, sickness caused a delay-on June 1, 1841, William aged 18 months, died-and being impatient of other delay and against the entreaty and advice of neighbors and friends, George who was nearly four years of age, who was thought to be at the point of death, was bundled into a large basket and swung on the wagon bows.
    On June 11th, 1841, father, mother, two daughters, Mary and Barbara and three sons, Charles, Andrew and George, with a sincere God speed from many friends, bade a final farwell to the Fatherland, to try life's fortune in a strange land known only by name.
    It took eight days by wagon to reach Bremen, and nine weeks and four days on board ship to reach America, landing at Baltimore, Maryland, August 17, 1841. The family spent two weeks in Baltimore to rest then continued the journey, stopping two weeks in Cincinnati, then purchased and moved onto 40 acres of land in Ripley county, Indiana, where Father Ritz died in June 1843 leaving the family in limited circumstances. Mary, hiring to a family in Lawrenceburg, Ind., left home. The widow married Barney Hartman and the family moved to Jennings county, Indiana, and from there to Cincinnati. In 1850 they again returned to Jennings county, Indiana leaving Charles, Andrew and Barbara who married Christopher J. Keller in Cincinnati.
    Barney Hartman died in September 1891. None of the children are now living. Mother Hartman, or as we still know her, Mother Ritz, died at the age of 93 years and six months at the home of Charles Ritz. Charles Ritz died September 5, 1907, at the age of 74 years. The remainder of the family, Aunt Mary, now nearly 86 years of age, Aunt Barbara, near 80, Uncle Andrew, over 81, and Uncle George age 78, their combined ages, aggregating 325 years are yet living (in 1914), and all except Uncle Andrew present today to enjoy once more the pleasure of greeting their numerous relatives and many friends.
    The descendants of the Ritz family living at the present writing are four children, thirty-three grand children, one hundred three great grandchildren, and twenty-four great great grandchildren, making a total of one hundred sixty-four.
    Characteristic of the American roving disposition and ever changing moods, as regards residence, these people are at present, located in nine states, viz: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, California, Oregon, and Washington; also in Alaska and the Dominian of Canada."
    The poet of this happy occasion, Mr. L.E. Keller, penned a "Song of the Ritzes", as follows.

Welcome, Kindred, to our feast.
We greet you all, both great and small.
Even to the very least.
Our Father, Lord, we look to thee with grateful hearts most fervently.
And bow our heads and make this plea.
Unite our hearts in love to thee.
We've wandered from the ancient home.
Some North, some South, some East or West.
But whereso'er our Kindred roam.
We would you always were our guest.
Aunt Mary with her weight of years.
And Uncle Andrew too appears.
Aunt Barbara with happy tears.
And Uncle George our circle cheers.
With whitened locks and faultering steps.
But hearts brimful of tenderness.
They guide us still in ways worthwhile.
In simple living, free from guile.
The years have grown in which they wrought.
And crowned their lives with joy and sadness.
All honor and praise for the victory sought.
And a tribute of Love and unspeakable gladness.
To all who are absent, a message we send;
May peace, hope and joy all your pathways attend;
May health and good fortune continue to blend,
And your hour of necessity bring a true Friend,
And keep your heart singing until life shall end.

    The Ritz family were gifted in music and song. When I became pastor of the Presbyterian church at Crothersville, Ind., in the fall of 1906, Miss Lucy Ritz was organist and choir leader. She was one of the most genial and loveable personalities ever known in that community. She was the musical instructor in the town high school for many years, and through the medium of music and song awakened the culture and refinement of many a boy and girl who were strangers to such inspiration before. She was the leading spirit among our young people-patient, sympathetic, broad minded and large of soul to follow them into their efforts and future. In the home she was a most devoted daughter, a loving sister and a faithful adviser and friend to numberless people in perplexity or trouble. She never married, and she gave her life so whole-heartedly to home, church, school and community that overwork occasioned the breakdown that took her away years before her due time. At the Ritz reunion she was the genial and radiant spirit. As her pastor for many years I saw and talked to some of those dear old people mentioned as braving the Atlantic to find a home in the New World. They were ever whit worthy of the love and honor paid to them in their aging years. It seems rather striking that two of the finest young people's leaders in our Girl Scout and Social Crusader work in Crothersville, Miss Lucy Ritz and Miss Martha Hulse should have come originally from the Oak Grove community in Jennings County, Indiana. This only proves conclusively to me that the mental and spiritual force of this generation is deep and true ever.

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