John Ritter, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of John Ritter


This worthy gentleman is one of the most prominent farmers of Porter County, Indiana, and comes of German stock, inheriting all the thrift, enterprise and perseverance of his Teutonic ancestors. He was born in Erie County, New York, near Buffalo, March 20, 1837, to the union of Christian and Barbara (Dowdell) Ritter, and was one of seven children, as follows: Sabina; Christopher, died when fifty years of age; Anna, died at the age of forty-five; William, Mary, John and Melvina. All these children were born in Erie County, New York, except the two eldest, whose births occurred in Germany. The parents were born in that country, and the father was about twenty-five years of age when he braved Neptune's tender mercies and came to the United States: He moved to Porter County, Indiana, in 1845, and settled in Horse Prairie, seven miles southwest of Valparaiso, where he pre-empted 160 acres of wild land. He improved this and had one of the best tracts of land in his section. With the exception of a Mr. Miller, who came from York State just before he did, and settled about a mile from him, Mr. Ritter's neighbors were few and far between. The entire country was a wilderness, and the wild grass grew above a man's head. Plenty of game was to be found; rattlesnakes too were very numerous, and one of the children, Melvina. was bitten on the ankle by a rattlesnake while going to school. She turned spotted and suffered greatly, but was brought out all right by the following treatment: The bite was cut across deeply, a piece of indigo was inserted, and she drank copiously of milk and whisky. Mr. Ritter moved from the Empire State with a two-horse wagon, and the family walked most of the way. After reaching this county they slept in the wagon from May 8 until a house could be erected. The wagon box was placed on stilts and filled so that it made a comfortable sleeping place. In the log cabin erected the family resided for years, and in it the father received his final summons, January 8, 1882. It stood on the old site until recently, when it was torn down. In religion Mr. Ritter was a member of the Mennese Church, and did not vote. He was a hard worker and an honest, straightforward citizen, and did not believe in lawsuits. John Ritter, our subject, was seven years of age when he came with his parents to Porter County, and he well remembers the journey, the wild appearance of the country and the old pioneers. He attended school in a private house, and subsequently attended the well known ash school house, the same being built entirely of white ash logs. Amid these strange surroundings young Ritter grew to sturdy manhood and was taught to be industrious and persevering. About his first work after reaching this county was to assist his mother spade up the ground to plant seeds for an apple orchard, planted with seeds brought from the East. One hundred and fifty trees were started, and to-day it is one of the finest seedling orchards in the county. When seventeen years of age he began to work out, arid in 1857 he went to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with neighbors, and in the spring started for Ash Hollow as a teamster, intending to join Gen. Harney in his expedition against the Mormons. However, the expedition did not proceed beyond Ash Hollow, in Wyoming, on account of the Mormons being peaceable. The gold excitement having broken out near Denver, Mr. Ritter went to Pike's Peak, where he remained until May 15, 1861. At that date he enlisted in Company M, Second New Mexican Cavalry, and proceeded to Fort Garland, where he was mustered into the United States service under Col. Kit Carson, the famous scout. After two months of drilling they went against the Indians in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. This service was very severe, and one of the hardest fights the command had was with Comanches and Kiowas in Texas, on a branch of the Red river. Part of the command followed 3,000 to 4,000 Indians three days and nights, there being only 212 whites. The Indians were overtaken at old Fort Bent, which was deserted, and here a severe fight took place. The soldiers took possession of the adobe walls of the old fort, and the Indians surrounded it. This was November 14, 1863, and the whites were only saved from certain destruction by the mountain howitzers, of which the Indians stood in great fear. For two days the fight continued and on the night of the second day the Indians retired. The whites had sixty-six killed and the Indians afterward reported six hundred and ninety killed. At Sand Creek, on the western edge of Colorado, the whites had eight hundred men, and Company M, Second New Mexican Cavalry was all there. Two days before the fight about three hundred and fifty Indians came to the camp, and pretending to be friendly, asked for rations, and agreed to assist in a fight against the Comanches and Kiowas. They received the rations and left, but were to meet the command the next day at ten o'clock. They failed to be on hand, but in the fight that followed they were found with the enemy. Many Indians were killed and the whole outfit surrendered. Mr. Ritter was in many severe skirmishes and served four years and three months, being mustered out at Santa Fe, New Mexico. On his way home Mr. Ritter stopped at Ft. Leonard, in a bend of the Arkansas river, Kansas, and from there went with a party of hunters after buffalo. On this hunt the party went about forty-five miles from Ft. Leonard and found plenty of buffalo, but were attacked by Comanche and Kiowa Indians. In the fight a minie ball struck Mr. Ritter directly under the left armpit, and, striking the breast-bone, followed it around through the body and came out directly opposite the point of entrance. It nipped off a corner of the right lung. His horse was also shot under him at the same time. Mr. Ritter's strong constitution was shown by the fact that he rode a mule on the retreat to the camp, four miles distant, on the opposite side of the river. The next day and night was spent in going into camp, and here a silk handkerchief was drawn through the wound to cleanse it. After three weeks he came on to Bloomington, Ill., and there remained until well. After returning home he began farming, and in 1871 was married to Miss Sarah J. Hesser. These children were born to this union: Merritt, Hattie, William. Ollie and Grace died at the age of four years; Joseph died at the age of fifteen years. In 1878 Mr. Ritter bought 160 acres of land where his residence now stands, and since then he has added to the original tract until he is now the owner of 334 acres, on which he has erected good farm buildings. His first wife died in October, 1884, and he was married Dec. 23, 1886, to Miss Lottie M. Bradley, daughter of John B. and Almina (Smith) Bradley. Mr. Bradley is a mechanic by trade and an old resident of this county, now residing at Valparaiso. To Mr. Bradley and wife were born eight children: Lottie M., Herbert B., Annie L., Osgood G., Harriet, Mabel, and John L. Mr. Bradley is a member of the Christian Church. Mr. Ritter's second union was blessed by the birth of four children: Jay B., Ruth A., Lyman and Harry. Mr. Ritter is a member of the Royal Arcanum and the G. A. R., Chaplain Brown post, Valparaiso. In politics he is a Republican, being Township Trustee at the present time.

Source: Goodspeed Brothers. 1894. Pictorial and Biographical Record of La Porte, Porter, Lake and Starke Counties, Indiana. Chicago, Illinois: Goodspeed Brothers. 569 p.
Page(s) in Source: 260-263

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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