|Lew Ritterhouse ca 1880 at about 13 years old|
Lewis relocated to northeast Kansas with his family around 1890. He soon met the teenager Mary Elizabeth Cassell. Early in 1892, on January 11th, Lew and Lizzie (who was only 17) married in Hiawatha (Brown County) Kansas. Living and farming in Brown County, near Hamlin, the young couple began their family on August 3, 1894 with the birth of their son, Clarence. Three years later, their first daughter, Ethel, was born on July 14, 1897. And three years after that, their second daughter, Ruth was born on May 30, 1900. Sometime prior to 1910, Lew and Lizzie apparently lost a child, probably in child birth (as the 1910 census records that out of four children born, three were living).
In 1894, Lewis' older brother George joined the hundreds of other land-hungry prospectors in one of the Oklahoma land rushes, securing a 160-acre farm in Woodward, Oklahoma. Thirteen years later, Lewis decided to follow him, journeying over 400 miles, with his family, to Ellis County where he received title to 160 acres on May 13, 1907. I think that Lewis was probably accompanied by his younger brother Fred who also settled on 160 acres near him in Otter Township in Ellis County. (On the 1910 census, Lewis is listed at dwelling number 22, while Fred is at dwelling number 29.)
|Lewis Ritterhouse with older brother William|
It was not long before the children of Lizzie and Lew were grown and began marrying and starting their own families. Both girls found their husbands on neighboring farms. First was Ethel who (at 17) married Edward E. Andrews, son of O. C. and Nellie Andrews who farmed nearby, on November 16, 1914. Three years later, also at the age of 17, Ruth married Thomas Edwin O'Hair, son of Floyd A. and Addie B. O'Hair, on Christmas Eve, 1917. The sisters Ethel and Ruth shared the joys and agonies of their first pregnancies as both began their families in 1919. Ruth produced Lew and Lizzie's first grandchild on April 2, 1919. Her first child was a son they named Clarence Edwin. Three months later, Ethel's first child, also a son, was born on July 29, 1919. He was named (Lloyd) Emmet. Ruth and her husband Tom welcomed their second child, another son, into their lives on December 15, 1921; they named him Otis. The next year, Ethel and Ed had a second child, their first daughter, whom they named Nellie, after her paternal grandfather.
|Ethel and Edward, with Clarence|
peeking around the corner.
Older brother Clarence was the last to marry. In 1922, he married an older woman, Edna J. Gilbert who was 28 to his 27 years of age. Edna was the daughter of Jeddiah and Etta (Peterson) Gilbert and had been born in and grew up in Edgar County, Illinois. I do not know how they would have met. I do not think Clarence served in WWI (which might have given him an opportunity to meet a girl who lived 800 miles away). According to his WWI draft registration card, he was supporting his parents at that time, and he applied for a farming exemption. Clarence and Edna settled on Lew and Lizzie's farm (at least through 1935). By 1940, they had moved up to Vermilion County, Illinois and were living with Edna's sister, Ellen and her husband, Allan Hachett, helping them farm their land.
The "depressing" Dust Bowl years of the early Thirties were difficult ones for all of those living and working in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Thousands of Okies gave up and headed west to California. In the midst of these dusty times, Ruth birthed their third and final child. A daughter they named Doris June was born June 3, 1932. Eventually, Tom and Ruth O'Hair also left Oklahoma for California, but not until sometime in the 1940s. They were still living in Ellis County, Oklahoma in 1940 where Tom was working as a ranch hand on the Parker Ranch and their son Otis was working for the Neimeier Oil Co., but by 1950, they had relocated to San Bernardino, California.
|Oliver Lewis Andrews|
Ethel and Edward remained in Oklahoma, farming near Lew and Lizzie. On May 12, 1939, their third child was born. They named their second son Oliver Lewis. Sadly, Oliver's life was to be a short one as he died about 28 months later, on September 21, 1941. They buried him in the nearby Bickford Cemetery.
Lewis did not live to see his last grandchild's birth. Farming the Oklahoma Panhandle was hard work. For several years prior to his death, Lewis suffered from "cardiac dropsy" or congestive heart failure. At 5:30 a.m. on June 21, 1934, he succumbed to a fatal heart attack. Lew was nearing his 67th birthday. In an age when traveling meant a slow, ponderous wagon ride, he had journeyed first from Illinois to Kansas and then from Kansas to western Oklahoma. For 27 years he wrestled with the unfriendly elements of the Oklahoma panhandle to grow wheat and other crops to feed his family and beyond. He was laid to a well-earned rest in the Bickford Cemetery.
His wife Lizzie lived with various of her children throughout the ensuing years. In 1930, Lew and Lizzie were already living with Clarence and Edna. Before 1940, they had moved to Illinois to find work. So, Lizzie moved in with daughter Ruth and her family where she was living in 1940. Around 1940, the O'Hairs moved out to California to find work. Although I can't say for sure, I feel certain that Lizzie would have moved in with Ethel and her family at that time. Lizzie outlived her husband by 12 years, dying just before Christmas, on December 21, 1946. She too was buried in the Bickford Cemetery.
While the fertility of Lewis' farm may have ultimately failed, he left a legacy of children with the Ritterhouse genes in his wake. At the time of his daughter Ruth's death in 2000, she left two of her three children (son Clarence had been killed in a car accident in Wichita, Kansas, in 1969), 10 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and 30 great-great-grandchildren!