Sunday, October 23, 2016


About ten years ago, I convinced my parents to swab their cheeks for the Family Tree DNA test.  I also persuaded my maternal uncle to provide his DNA.  Although I know there is a lot of helpful information available with the Family Tree DNA program, I could never seem to make use of it.  Frequently, I am notified that someone has matched one of the three profiles, but I have never been able to determine what the relationship is to my family.

So, when AncestryDNA became available, I again asked my mom and dad to provide a sample and I also participated.  When I first received my results, I feared I had discovered that I was not my parents' child because I had always thought I was primarily German.  My results, though, were:

  •           55%   Great Britain
  •           22%   Ireland
  •           11%   Scandinavia
  •           3%     Europe West (German, French, etc.)
  •           2%     European Jew
  •           2%     Iberian Peninsula
  •           1%     Italy/Greece
  •           1%     Europe East
  •           3%     Caucasus

Only 3% Europe West which included Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein!  But, lo and behold, my father -- my Ritterhouse father -- whose grandfather was full-blooded German, was 49% IRISH and only 11% Europe West!

I was starting to doubt my grandmother's fidelity, but fortunately, there is another useful component to the AncestryDNA.  Matches are made to cousins who have also tested their DNA with AncestryDNA.  I have been able to find connections to many of my 200+ cousin matches. 

Rosena Kramer Ritterhouse Vandorn
So far, though, only one cousin has helped me break through a brick wall.  On the family tree of one of my cousin matches, I noticed a "Kramer" from Tazewell County, Illinois which was where Rosina had settled. Since the 1990s I have been trying to find the parents and the birth location in Germany of my great-great-grandmother Rosena Kramer Ritterhouse. This looked like my chance to find my answers!  AncestryDNA makes it easy to contact the owners of trees you are connected to.  Emailing my Kramer "cousin" was the first swing of the wrecking ball on my Rosina brick wall.  Cousin Jim responded with the following clue:  the name was originally "Cramme/Kramme" not "Cramer/Kramer"!
Cousin Jim explained that back in the late 1970s, in his quest to learn more about his paternal grandmother, Emma Kramer (who was born in Pekin, Tazewell County, Illinois) he located the obituary of her father, John (Johannes) Kramer who died in Pekin on September 30, 1915.  From the obituary he discovered that John was born in Haueda, Germany.

Hooked on genealogy and wanting to learn more, he was able to eventually visit Haueda several years ago.  They stayed in a Bed and Breakfast in Haueda for a couple of days.  It was actually the lady who owned the B & B who told him John's birth name was probably Johannes Cramme.  She then contacted a man in Wuppertal, Germany.  This man, whose name was Hans Heinrich Cramme, drove the 100 plus miles to Haueda that evening to visit his "long-lost cousin".  Hans spoke no English and they spoke very little German, but with the generous help of a local lady, they were able to communicate some.  Hans presented them with a book that contained all his research in the Cramme family.  The book, of course, is written in German, a language in which our cousin has a severely limited vocabulary.  Cousin Jim kept in contact with our German Cramme cousin Hans for some years, but believes he may no longer be alive since he has not responded for awhile.

Next post I will write more about the Cramme family and the German village of Haueda.

Monday, September 5, 2016


In the mid-nineteenth century, land was plentiful in newly opened territories in the expanding United States.  Entrepreneurs saw opportunities to recruit new land-buyers in troubled areas of Europe.  Germany was a rich mine of discontented or desperate souls ready to start new lives in a new land.

Wupper River
In 1848, a Barmen, Germany merchant described as "a man of influence in his native town" by one
source [How Wisconsin Came by Its Large German Population, 1892], Theodor Wettstein, began recruiting in the Wupper valley to take a ship of emigrants to America.  According to another source, since Wettstein was "a man of some prominence in that locality, having some important civil positions, many desired to go under his leadership." [The Icelanders on Washington Island, by Alfred Augustus Jackson, et al.]  Although many of the reports from the U.S. were generally looked upon with suspicion, a report written by a native of Elberfeld, Dr. Carl de Haas in 1848 from Wisconsin, was widely circulated in the Wupper valley and convinced many in the area that it would be worth the hardships and struggles to relocate to the U.S.

Barmen ca. 1848
A book published by Wettstein in Elberfeld in 1851 (Der Nordamerikanische Freistaat Wisconsin) gives us hints as to why our Rittershaus ancestor (Johann Wilhelm Rittershaus), may have joined his neighbors on the journey.  According to Wettstein, "for a long time streams of emigrants have been leaving Germany, but no trace of the agitation has reached the Wupper valley, though affairs are in a bad condition.  Manufacturing was the principal industry there, but it was losing ground owing to increased competition, which lowered wages and the price of wares.  The laborers and trading classes suffered most."  At least one of Johann Wilhelm Ritterhaus' fellow townsmen joined the emigrants due to the failure of the Forty-Eighters revolution.  Abraham Peter Olzendam was born in Barmen in 1821, as was our William Rittershaus.  In fact, Olzendam's mother was Johanna Rittershaus, so they were cousins of some sort.  According to a sketch in The Granite Monthly, a New Hampshire magazine [October 1881], Olzendam's "active mind found congenial study in political economy.  The demands of his countrymen for liberty were seconded by him, and with the enthusiasm of youth he entered heartily into the plans of his fellow patriots for the amelioration of his country.  Hopeless of accomplishing the herculean task of freeing his people, despairing of gaining at home that place among his fellows which his inborn ability warranted him in demanding, he quietly bade farewell to his fatherland, and embarked for America at the age of twenty-seven."

By early 1848, "about 300 persons in Elberfeld and Barmen had planned to emigrate.  They were mostly handicraftsmen and traders -- men of some means, who expected to enter farms in the West." [Jackson, The Icelanders on Washington Island]  Theodor Wettstein planned to take his whole family which included his wife, Lisette, and his seven children:  Theodor, 12; Otto, 10; Lina, 10; Hermann, 8; Pauline, 6; Adolph, 3; and Laura, 3 months (at the time of the passenger list).  Since Wettstein had four young sons whose futures caused him "much anxiety", he felt that the prospects for success were far better in the new world than in Germany.  According to one source, although Wettstein was "a prosperous merchant" in Barmen, he "failed in business in 1848" which caused him to emigrate to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ["Otto Wettstein: Three Generations with Otto I, Otto II and Otto III," Blue Grass Blade (Lexington, KY) October 11, 1908]

Possible drawing of the George Washington steam ship
Wettstein recruited at least 156 of his "neighbors" -- 69 from Barmen, 31 from Elberfeld and 56 from other towns such as Lennep, Remscheid and Langenberg -- and "engaged passage at $40 a head" on the George Washington, sailing from Bremen in May of 1848. [Jackson, The Icelanders on Washington Island]  The group included shoemakers, joiners, tailors, carpenters, merchants, smiths, "gerbers" (tanners), farmers, "webers" (weavers), bakers, "apothekers"
(pharmacists), "farbers" (painters) and maids.  Most of the company was composed of families.  Ages ranged from a 66-year-old painter from Elberfeld to babies one and under. It appears that at least a couple of the one-year-olds died on the voyage to America. 

One of my (many) questions is how they travelled to Bremen from Barmen.  The 160-mile journey (which would take about 2 1/2 hours via the A1 autobahn today) would take at least 53 hours to walk.  Assuming walking at least 8 hours per day, it would be at least a week.  They may have been able to take advantage of rivers in the area on at least part of the journey, but there does not seem to be any convenient water route. 

New York City docks, showing berth for the George Washington
(At Dock 3, it reads:  Steam Ships Washington & Hermann
for Bremen & Southhampton)
What is known is that the 450 ton Bremen sailing ship George Washington, sailed from Bremen on May 2, 1848, under the command of Master Mathias Probst with 186 passengers.  After six weeks at sea, they docked at New York City.

From New York City, it is interesting to consider where they went and why.  For Wettstein, "he seems to have started with a preference for Wisconsin, and in New York his impressions were confirmed.  He came to Milwaukee, and though no definite statement is made regarding the matter, he implies that the majority accompanied him."  [Jackson, The Icelanders on Washington Island]  Reportedly, "in New York every hotelkeeper and railroad agent, every one who was approached for advice, directed men to Wisconsin."  [How Wisconsin Came by Its Large German Population, 1892]  Government land was available in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, but was in shorter supply than the more northern states of Wisconsin and Minnesota.  According to the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Censuses, at least some of Wettstein's compatriots followed him to Wisconsin.  Our ancestor's cousin mentioned above, Abraham Olzendam went first to Massachusetts "in the neighborhood of Boston" where he stayed for ten years before moving north to Manchester, New Hampshire.  One family (the Dahlmanns) went first to Melrose, New York before settling in Philadelphia.  Another family (the Schilds) headed west to Benton County, Iowa.  Our William Rittershaus can be found working as a blacksmith in Blair County, Pennsylvania in 1850, but soon after settled in Tazewell County, Illinois, where he married, raised a family, and farmed the rest of his life.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Lew Ritterhouse ca 1880 at about 13 years old
The sixth child, and fourth son, of John William and Rosina Rittershouse was born on September 4, 1867, while his parents were living and farming in Tazewell County, Illinois.  They named him John Lewis and called him Lew.  Lew grew up in Tazewell County with plenty of siblings to play with.  Older brother Charles was less than a year older, and younger sister Anna was less than two years younger.  Lew was only eight years old when his father died.  He soon had a step-father, but apparently for only less than 15 years, when he must have also lost this step-father to death.

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.)

The John Lewis Family about 1923 (from left to right): Thomas O'Hair, his wife Ruth holding son Otis, John Lewis Ritterhouse (sitting) holding onto Clarence O'Hair, Edna Ritterhouse (standing) with husband Clarence, John's wife Lizzie (sitting) holding onto Lloyd Emmet Andrews, Edward Andrews (standing) next to wife Ethel holding daughter Nellie

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!

Friday, June 13, 2014


[Note:  Many thanks go to one of my cousins, Charles Lee Ritterhouse, who is a descendant of George Ritterhouse, and who helped me write this biography of his grandfather.]

George Ritterhouse, the third son of William and Rosena Rittershouse, was born in Pekin, Tazewell County, Illinois on May 28, 1863, during the Civil War.  His father, William, died on June 24, 1876, leaving George a fatherless young boy on the edge of puberty at 13 years old.  Not much is known about George during his early years.  After William's death in 1876, Rosena had to settle the estate which left her with some debt and a large family. She remarried and later sold the Illinois farm and moved the Ritterhouse family to Marshall County, Kansas in October of 1890.
George ca 1880 at about age 17

By this time George was a young man of 27 and took advantage of the opportunity to establish himself as a farmer by purchasing 80 acres in nearby Nemaha County, Kansas in 1891.  Now he needed a wife.  He met a young widow, Cora Bell Tyner Shipman.  Cora was born on September 14, 1869 in Morristown, Indiana.  George and Cora were married on August 26, 1891 in Axtell, in Marshall County, Kansas, at the home of Cora's parents, Henry Clay and Mary Ellen (Crandall) Tyner.  Henry Clay Tyner was a Civil War veteran.

Cora was an adventurous young lady for her times.  She grew up in Indiana but had travelled to Kansas and Iowa to visit family while she was still young.  Cora married Albert Shipman on March 22, 1887 (at the age of 17) in Axtell, Kansas.  Albert was also born in Morristown (Shelby County), Indiana (in 1866).  To this marriage two sons were born.  Fredrick Clay Shipman was born on September 19, 1888 in Thornburg, Keokuk County, Iowa.  Frank Cecil Shipman was born on February 19, 1890 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Not much is known about Cora and Albert's work in Iowa, but it was not long before they returned to Axtell, Kansas, the home of Cora's parents, possibly because of Albert's failing health.  Albert worked on the farm until he died of consumption on March 24, 1891.  He died at the home of Henry Clay Tyner in Axtell and was buried in the Shockley Cemetery in Marshall County, Kansas.

Consequently, Cora, at the age of 22, was left a young widow with two very young children.  But the 29-year-old George Ritterhouse came to her rescue and they were married just five months after Albert's death.  They immediately settled on George's recently purchased 80 acres and began adding to their family.  Charles Earl Ritterhouse was born ten months after their wedding on June 30, 1892.

George Ritterhouse holding son Charles Earl, with wife Cora.
Cora's sister, Sarah Lydia Tyner (Cray Eaton) stands behind them.
Taken in Axtell, Kansas, ca. 1893.
Lloyd George Ritterhouse made his appearance on February 22, 1894.  About this time, Oklahoma was promoting a homesteading land rush in western Oklahoma to be held that year.  George wanted that free 160 acres from the Oklahoma land rush.  According to the Axtell Anchor dated April 6, 1894, "H.C. Tyner and Geo. L. Rittershouse and their families left for the [Oklahoma] Strip. . .where they will locate."  They would have travelled the 300 miles by covered wagon, taking all of the items they would need to homestead. George and Cora had four boys in their family unit:  Frederick Clay Shipman who was 6 years old, Frank Cecil Shipman who was 4, Charles Earl Ritterhouse who was 2 and Lloyd George, only 2 months old.  The Henry Clay Tyner family included his wife Mary Ellen Crandall Tyner, daughter Sarah Lydia Tyner who was 14 years old and Frank Albert Tyner, 12 years old.  This would have made an interesting wagon train.

The Oklahoma Land Rushes opened up some of the best unoccupied public land in the United States.  The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 was the first land rush into the unassigned lands and included all or part of the modern day Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Logan, Oklahoma and Payne counties.  That land run started at high noon on April 22, 1889 with an estimated 50,000 people lined up for their piece of the available two million acres.  The Indian Appropriation Bill of 1889 authorized President Benjamin Harrison to open the two million acres for settlement.  The Homestead Act of 1862, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, allowed legal homesteaders to claim lots up to 160 acres in size.  Provided a settler lived on the land and improved it, the homesteader could then receive the title to the land.  A second major Oklahoma Land Rush was held in 1893.  At precisely twelve noon on September 16, 1893, a cannon's boom unleashed the largest land rush America ever saw.  Carried by all kinds of transportation -- horses, wagons, trains, bicycles or on foot -- an estimated 100,000 potential land-owners raced to claim plots of lands in an area of land in northern Oklahoma Territory known as the Cherokee Strip.  The impact of the land rush was immediate and transformed the land almost overnight.

Example of sod dugout on the prairie
The Tyner family decided to stake their claim in Waukomis, Garfield County, Oklahoma.  George and Cora first settled in Waukomis before moving another 90 miles west to Persimmon Flats in Woodward County to homestead.  Persimmon Flats was the early name for Mutual, Oklahoma.  Charles Earl remembered hearing his father recall how they had one dime in cash money left when they reached Persimmon Flats.  They lived in a sod dugout until a house could be built.  Their living conditions would have been very primitive on their homestead.  A sod dugout was built by digging a hole in the ground about three to four feet deep.  It was usually small since it was difficult to dig in the hard-packed prairie soil.  Walls were built out of the sod removed in the digging, usually only rising about three feet (or less) above the ground.  Trees were scrounged from surrounding areas, sometimes miles away, to use for roofing timbers and then more sod was placed over them to make the roof.  With the roof and walls made of sod, when it rained, the mud dripped onto furniture and people below.  With few or no windows and only a small doorway, it was dark and dreary inside.

Woodward, Oklahoma in 1894
Persimmon Flats was located in Woodward County, about 20 miles southeast of the "bustling" town of Woodward, the county seat. Before the Civil War, the historic Plains tribes of the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Cheyenne and Arapaho occupied this area. After construction of the railroad to the area, in 1887 settlers established Woodward at the junction of the Fort Reno Military Road and the Southern Kansas Railway (a subsidiary of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe).  It became one of the most important shipping points for shipping cattle east. The Santa Fe Railroad created an important resource for the early settlers getting their farm products to market and being able to purchase manufactured goods needed for the new homesteads being established there.

Oklahoma map showing location of Mutual in
Woodward County
George and Cora somehow made it through the first very cold winter living in their sod dugout.  Finally, the spring of 1895 arrived and they could begin the work of improving their living conditions and getting crops planted.  It was essential to get food started for the growing family.  According to family stories, Cora served as postmistress at the Mutual Post Office from 1895 to 1901.  When the post office was first established, names were solicited from individuals.  Cora recommended the name of Mutual which ended up being selected over Persimmon Flats.  Cora also worked with the local doctor, acting as a midwife and delivering babies.

Cora also soon had another baby of her own to be delivered.  Alma Beatrice Ritterhouse arrived on September 10th in 1896.  Beginning four years later, babies began arriving every two years:

     Cora Olive was born November 6, 1900.
     Feign Iris was born August 24, 1902.
     Edgar Harold was born September 5, 1904.
     Mary Ellen was born August 26, 1906.
     Oleta Rosena was born October 17, 1908.

Fortunately, George and Cora's farm was very productive since it had to support their large family.  According to the book Oklahoma Rural Settlers in Woodward County, 1893-1910 by Nadine Young Billingsley and Sandra Billingsley (on page 256):

    "George Ritterhouse owned a 160 acre fenced cultivated upland farm, 60 acres were alfalfa,
     4,000 forest and 250 fruit trees were planted.  Property had a four-room frame house, stable
     14 by 75 foot, granary 8 by 20 feet, hen house, cave and a well."

George (on right) with combine crew. Son Earl is
standing in wagon bed.
George and Cora worked hard in order to feed their family of 10 children.  Reportedly George and the older boys made frequent wagon trips from Mutual to Woodward to take the farm produce to the Woodward market and return with wagon loads of manufactured goods from the railroad.  He did this for hire similar to the truckers of today.  It took two days to make the twenty-mile round trip, necessitating an overnight stay in Woodward.  George also went from farm to farm with a steam-powered threshing machine and combine crew (complete with traveling kitchen) that would harvest the wheat for hire.  This is how they produced the income to build their frame house.

The Young Ritterhouse Children
From left to right, back row:  Cora Olive, Alma Beatrice, Lloyd George and Charles Earl.
Front row:  Oleta Rosena, Feign Iris, Edgar Harold and Mary Ellen

The Ritterhouse children, of course, continued to grow up, as can be seen in this photograph.  Although undated, it can be estimated to have been taken around 1915 based on the children's ages.  The children all look healthy and well-dressed.  That, along with other details in the photo such as the wall telephone and apparently a pet parakeet, imply a level of prosperity not easy to achieve in that time and place.  By this time, the Shipman boys most likely were out on their own since they would have been in their mid-to-late-20s.  The oldest Ritterhouse son, Charles Earl, served in World War I; most likely this photograph was taken a year or two before his service in the Army.

From left to right: Oleta, Mary Ellen, Feign, Alma, Olive, Charles Earl and Lloyd.
(Edgar was not available for the photo.)

George and Cora were charter members of the First Christian Church in Mutual.  It was originally organized in a log schoolhouse known as the Morgan School, which was located one mile north and one mile east of Mutual. 

"When the population peaked at 264 in 1910, Mutual residents could attend a Methodist or [the First] Christian Church and had access to the Farmers' Bank and later also to the First National Bank. A feed mill, a machine shop, and a dealer in poultry and dairy products served local farmers. For several decades the town supported a hotel and thirteen retail establishments. The Persimmon Valley Index and Oklahoma Enterprise newspapers were published in the early years. . .  Before World War I Mutual's population may have approached four hundred."  [Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture http:// digital. library. okstate. edu/ encyclopedia/ entries/M/ MU025.html] 

George led a hard but productive life.  After moving numerous times in his early life, around Tazewell County in central Illinois, then to northern Kansas and finally to western Oklahoma, he spent his last thirty years on the land he homesteaded in the Oklahoma Land Rush.  He died January 20, 1924 at the relatively young age of 61, from bronchial pneumonia.  He preceded his mother and all of his brothers and sisters in death.  After services in the First Christian Church of which he was a charter member, he was laid to rest in the Dunlap Cemetery in Mutual. [Note:  There are discrepancies between the information in this obituary, the information on George's headstone and the information on his death certificate which is not unusual.]

George's death left Cora a widow a second time.  She still had young daughters (14 and 16 years old) living at home.  About two years later, in May 1926, Cora married a local widower, George Washington Huffman.  Huffman owned a farm described as a "160 acre upland farm" with 150 cultivated acres, one acre of forest and three acres of orchards.  The property included a five-room frame house, a 30 by 32 ft barn, a granary, barn, hen house, milk house, smokehouse, hog shed, cellar, well and windmill, according to the book Oklahoma Rural Settlers in Woodward County, Oklahoma 1893 to 1910 (by Nadine Young Billingsley and Sandra Billingsley).

The George Ritterhouse children married local people.  Life became really tough during the Great Depression which was followed by the Dust Bowl in this area.  Charles Earl and Edgar stuck it out on farms near Mutual.  Lloyd had gone to work for one of the oil companies and eventually moved from Mooreland, Oklahoma to Kansas for employment.  During the late 1930's the married Ritterhouse daughters, with their husbands, went west to California, Oregon and Washington to find better opportunities.

Cora Tyner Shipman Ritterhouse Huffman with son Charles Earl Ritterhouse,
granddaughter Mary Ellen Ritterhouse Moser and great-granddaughter Elaine
Moser, taken in April 1945 in front of Charles Earl's house.

Once again Cora became a widow when George Huffman died on December 2, 1933.  She had at least had the time to finish raising her children within a family before his death.  After her last husband's death, Cora moved into the home of her son Edgar, in Mutual where she lived until her death on June 1, 1945.  Even though Cora's death certificate lists her as Cora Bell Huffman, she was buried beside her second husband, George Ritterhouse in the Dunlap Cemetery near Mutual, Oklahoma under the name of Ritterhouse.


[NOTE:  Some of the references Charles and I used in writing this post include: websites such as,, and and the reference books  Woodward County Family Histories Volume II (1907-1957) produced by Plains Indians and Pioneer Historical Foundation, Woodward, Oklahoma  and Oklahoma Rural Settlers in Woodward County, Oklahoma 1893-1910 by Nadine Young Billingsley and Sandra Billingsley.]

Monday, May 26, 2014


The youngest child of Rosa (Ritterhouse) and her husband, John Schlereth arrived on February 18th of either 1896 or 1897.  (The 1896 date appears on his WWI draft registration card and his gravestone; the 1897 date appears on his Social Security record and seems to be the year used in various census enumerations.)  This third son was named Elmer Bryan.  He was their only child to be born in Kansas.  He was born in Seneca, Kansas and lived there the first few years of his life.  While he was still young, his family moved to Falls City, Nebraska, where he completed eight years of school.

Around 1916, he married Marie Nelson Bell, daughter of John and Elizabeth Bell (born July 24, 1897 in York, Nebraska).  On March 26, 1917, they welcomed daughter Gertrude Elizabeth to their family.

Elmer Schlereth WWI Draft Registration Card

Later that year (1917) Elmer registered for the WWI draft, while living in Falls City.  At the time he was an unemployed bricklayer.  The registration form described him as being tall, of medium build with blue eyes and light-colored hair.  It does not appear that Elmer actually had to serve in WWI.

In 1920, Elmer was living in Falls City, Nebraska with his wife, Marie and daughter Gertrude.  He was working as a boilermaker at the Round House.  Falls City was able to attract both the Atchison & Nebraska Railroad and the Missouri Pacific Railroad, both of which helped the city's growth.  The MoPac even designated Falls City as a division point in 1909.  Elmer worked at the MoPac Round House.

Elmer and Marie's second child and only son joined the family on October 23, 1922.  They named him Charles H.  Two more daughters joined the family in the 1930s:  Barbara in 1931 and  Ruthann in 1933.  It appears Elmer and his family continued to live in Falls City.  In the 1940 census, he listed his occupation as a junk buyer for a junk yard and in 1945 (according to a workman's compensation lawsuit, Miller v. Schlereth) he was obviously working for his older brother, Edward in his junk business.

Wayne "Ox" Allen
Gertrude "GB" Schlereth Allen Boehlen
By 1940, Elmer's children were beginning to marry.  As could be expected, Gertrude left home first.  After graduating from Falls City High School, she married a local baseball star (and fellow Falls City High School graduate).  Wesley Wayne Allen (six years her senior) was "one of the most promising recruits . . . to report to the Springfield Cardinals' training camp" in the early 1930s, as a 19-year-old, right-handed pitcher.  Pitching for his home town high school, Allen had fanned twenty-three in defeating Topeka 1 to 0 in ten innings in one of three no-hitters he pitched.  His other two no-hitters were against Humbolt, Nebraska which he won 6 to 0 and against Steinauer, Nebraska, won 5 to 0.  Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, he won thirteen games, including two no-hitters in sixteen starts in his first season.  Reportedly he quit after a few seasons and returned to Falls City to play for a home town team.  He married Gertrude and they started a family in 1943, bringing a son, Donald Wesley Allen, into the world.  The marriage apparently did not last as Gertrude "met and married" William "Eddie" Boehlen in 1945.  This marriage lasted 60 years, until Eddie's death in 2005.  GB, as she was apparently known, lived a long life, dying only a couple of years ago, on January 19, 2012, at the age of 94.  She worked at and retired from J.C. Penney's.  She was living in Roy, Utah at the time of her death.  Apparently she had no more children since her obituary stated she was survived by her son, Don Allen, along with two grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.  Her ashes reside in the Aultorest Memorial Park in Ogden, Utah.

The only son of the family, Charles, lived his entire life in Falls City.  According to the 1940 census, the highest grade he completed was the 7th grade.  He served in the Army during World War II, enrolling on March 17, 1943 and being released on September 21, 1945.  On October 14, 1947, he married a local Falls City High School graduate who worked at the Falls City Savings & Loan, Marcille H. Zentner.  Charles owned and operated an auto repair shop in Falls City and drove the Star Route for the U.S. Postal Service while Marcille worked in banking.  They were members of the Christ Lutheran Church.  They had two children:  Michael (who was living in Lincoln in 2013) and Barbara (married to David Goltz and living in Falls City).  At the time of Marcille's death in 2013 there were also five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.  Charles died on Christmas Day 2001 at the age of 79 and is buried in the Steele Cemetery in Falls City.

Barbara was the third child of Elmer and Marie.  She was born around 1931 in Falls City, Nebraska where she also attended school.  She married Gene Miller.  As of 2012, she was still alive.  In 2001, she was living with her husband in Warsaw, Missouri, which is approximately 200 miles southeast of Falls City.

Elmer and Marie's youngest child, Ruthann, was born on February 22, 1933.  She married Carl "Tony" Gordon Curtis on January 28, 1952.  Carl, who was born in Salem, Nebraska on September 7, 1921, was about 11 years her senior.  He had served in the U.S. Army in World War II.  They settled in La Crosse, Wisconsin where Carl worked as a mechanic at Elfman Marine and Holiday Sport for 50 years.  They raised two sons: Tony Bryan (married to Kathleen and living in La Crosse) and Carl Douglas "Doug" Curtis (born November 30, 1953, married to Paula Southe, died May 31, 2010).  Carl passed away November 21, 2006.  In 2010, Carl and Ruthann had at least three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  Ruthann continued to live in La Crosse.

Elmer continued to live in Falls City until his death, at the age of 79, on January 23, 1976.  At the time of his death, besides his wife and three children, he was survived by 15 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.  He was laid to rest in the Steele Cemetery in Falls City. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014


The third child of Rosa (Ritterhouse) and John Schlereth arrived June 10, 1886.  He was born in Dillon, Illinois (a tiny town in Tazewell County).  His parents named him Edward Charles.  It looks like he probably went by Ed.

He was fairly young when his family made the long journey from Illinois to Kansas in the 1890s.  In 1900 they were in Seneca, Kansas where Ed was attending school at 13.  Reportedly, the highest grade he completed was 5th grade in elementary school.  By 1910, he had moved to Falls City, Nebraska with his family.  At that time he was living with his mother and his brother Elmer, and working as a laborer doing odd jobs.  He was described as tall, of medium build with blue eyes and light-colored hair.

In 1917, at the age of 30, Edward registered for WWI.  According to the Richardson County Draft Registration List of 1917 and his gravestone, he served as a private first class in WWI in the Army.  I haven't been able to determine in which division, where or when he served.

Back home in Falls City after the war, Edward worked as a junk dealer for a junk shop in town for over twenty years..  He lived with his mother her entire life in Nebraska.  She died in 1941, when Ed was about 55 years old.  As far as I can tell, he never married and remained in Falls City the rest of his life.  He died on February 7, 1974.  He's buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Douglas, Nebraska, near his mother's grave.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


The second child of John William and Rosa (Ritterhouse) Schlereth was a girl who arrived about 17 months after her older brother, John, on July 7, 1881.  They named her Emma.  Her full name may have been Rosa Emma Schlereth or Emma Lese Schlereth.  I've seen it both ways.  On her gravestone (pictured below) it is engraved as "Emma L." which lends credence to the latter version.  (Rosa had a younger half sister named Emma who was only about a year and a half old at the time of this Emma's birth, but I doubt if she named her daughter after her, so I'm not sure who she is named after.)  John and Rosa were still living in Tazewell County, Illinois, so Emma was born in Pekin, Illinois.  She completed the 8th grade (according to the 1940 census).

Emma journeyed with her extended family to Kansas and by 1900 she was living in Seneca, Kansas and working as a servant, at the age of 18.  About five years later, she married Colonel L. Bradley who was born in Kansas around 1880.  I'm guessing she met him in Nemaha County, Kansas, and that they moved to Nebraska after marrying.  About two years later (1907), they started their family with a baby girl who they named Emma, keeping the name going in the family line.  The next year, another child arrived on December 16, 1908.  This time it was a son whom they named Howard V.

In 1910, Emma and her family were living in Humboldt, Nebraska, which is about 30 miles north of Seneca, Kansas and only a few miles from Falls City, where her mother and brothers were living.  In a few years, they relocated to Douglas, Nebraska, about 65 miles northwest of Humboldt and just a little southeast of Lincoln.  It was there, on April 12, 1918, they sadly lost their young son, Harold, at the age of 9 1/2.  He is buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Douglas (which is the same cemetery his grandma Rosa would be buried in twenty-some years in the future and in which his mother and father would eventually be buried).

Colonel and Emma Bradley were still living in Douglas in 1920.  Both were working for the telephone company; Emma as a switchboard operator and Colonel as a superintendent/lineman.  They continued to work in these jobs for the next 20 years (although Colonel had apparently retired by 1940).  Although they primarily lived in Douglas, in 1930 they were living in Hendricks which is a suburb of Lincoln.  By 1935 they were back in Douglas. 

In 1940, the U.S. Census showed Colonel, Emma and Emma's mother, Rosa, living in Douglas.  That census also showed Rosa living in Falls City with Emma's brothers, John and Edward.  Rosa was 79 and less than a year away from her death, so she was probably being taken care of by her children in shifts.

Emma lost her husband in 1957.  She followed about seven years later, dying in July 1964.  They are buried side by side in Rosehill Cemetery in Douglas, Nebraska.