Friday, November 27, 2015

Putting On the Ritz

Grace Callin Ritz's
family tree
Frederick William Ritz was born 28 March 1821 in the German state of Hesse. Twenty-five years later, on 31 December 1846, there is a record of his marriage to a Catherine Freeman in Huron county, Ohio. She was born 25 March 1826 in Bavaria, and her maiden name was more likely Freimuth, though the records can't agree on a spelling of the original German.

Twenty-five years is a big gap, but the story of these German immigrants is not completely unknowable. We know that after the Revolution, German immigration to America grew steadily; and after the War of 1812, life in Ohio was definitely safer for settlers and land could be had if one was industrious. We also know that life in the German states during that time was difficult. Economies were wracked by shifting borders, wars, and religious strife. America's First Amendment created a place where one no longer had to worry which side of the Schism the current leaders were on, where one could worship as one pleased, or not at all, without fear of being arrested or killed for it.

We don't know how many of those pressures affected the Ritz and Freimuth families, but whatever their motivation, they came. The records for William Ritz's family that are available on Ancestry aren't as complete as they are for many of the people I research. They must have arrived in Ohio by the mid-1840s, but William and his family don't appear in the Federal Census records where I would expect them to in 1850, 1860, or 1870. Instead, he shows up in alternate enumerations like the Non-Population Schedules or the Indexed County Land Owner Maps. They show a "Wm. Ritz" in Norwalk Township, Huron County, Ohio. Naturally, they spell his name with a bewildering variety: Reitz, Retz, and Ritts among the alternatives.

William and Catherine had a son right on schedule in September of 1847 (almost exactly nine months after their wedding!) and named him George William Ritz. They would also have at least three daughters, though with the gaps in the records, they might have had more children than that. Catherine died at the age of 64, and was buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Willard; William lived another 16 years, and died in George's home in 1906 after a two month illness. He was known as "Grandpa Ritz" in Willard.

George worked as a farmer in Huron county, as his father had before him; and like his father, he was married on 31 December. George married Mary Ann Resh (1849 – 1883) at the very end of 1871 and in 1873 they had their first child: a son they named William Henry. Over the next ten years, the couple had three more sons and two daughters. The last of these, a baby girl they named Amy Catherine, only lived a couple of weeks, and died in October 1882. Mary Ann followed in July 1883.

Widowed and with five children aged ten and under, George married Johanna Kleinknecht the following year; they had three more children together between 1885 and 1900.

The Callin sisters (from left):
Lydia, Lillian, Anna, Grace (in back)
William Henry grew up on the farm, and entered the family profession. He stayed on with his father until his twenty-eighth year, when he married Grace Mable Callin, the youngest daughter of William and Ellen (Channing) Callin in 1901.

Grace was born 5 January 1880 on the Callin farm in Richmond township, so it would stand to reason that she and her future husband might have seen each other around Willard, as both families attended churches in town. The Ritz family were members of the Trinity Lutheran Church, and the Callin family were likely members of the United Brethren Church.

William and Grace raised two daughters, who were born almost eight years apart.

William died in 1952, having retired from farming. His death certificate (witnessed by R.V. Conkle) attributed his death to "chronic myocarditis." Grace died 4 February 1978 and was buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Willard, next to her husband.

1. Gertrude Louisa Ritz (1905 – 1995) grew up on the family farm, and on 12 June 1922 she married Wade Monroe Smeltz (1901 – 1960). Wade was a plumber, employed at Hunter Hardware Store for 35 years. They lived on Park street in Willard, where they raised their only daughter.

Wade died of a heart attack at only 58; Gertrude survived him by 35 years, and survived their daughter, as well. Gertrude and Wade were buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Willard.

a. Marjorie J Smeltz (1923 – 1994) married Leland E. Stein (1923 – 1987) and they had 5 daughters and a son. Two of their daughters died in 2004 and 2005, at 52 and 45 years of age, respectively; their other children and grandchildren are still alive.

2. Vera Lucille Ritz (1913 – 1998) married Richard Vance Conkle (1911 – 1990) in about 1931. Vance was from DeKalb county, Indiana; the son of Frank P Conkle (1884 – 1964) and Goldie Kelham (1887 – 1971).

Vera and Vance had three children; their elder daughter is still living, but their younger daughter and son are not.

b. Janice Arlene Conkle (1935 – 2000) married in August 1951, but later divorced. She then married Robert Charles Remmy (1940-1996).

c. William Frank Conkle (1940 – 1998) graduated from Willard High School, Class of 1958 and attended Capital University for two years. He married before 1965, and his wife is still living as of this writing. They had two sons who are still living, and a daughter, Jennifer Leigh Steingass, who died in 2009 from malignant melanoma. Jennifer left behind a husband and two sons.

Bill served in the Army Reserves, and was employed as an offset artworker by R.R. Donnelley and Sons for 37 years. He retired in 1997 after a stroke, and died the following year at 58 years of age.

*       *       *

That brings us to the end (for now!) of William and Ellen Callin's descendants. It feels like a sad way to end, with so many of the people in this post dying so young, but it may help to point out that there are a dozen or so still living, and who knows how many of their grandchildren or great-grandchildren we may still find!

That's actually a large part of why I am putting all of these blog posts together here. I hope that one day we (and I say "we" because there is no way I'll have the time or energy to do it by myself) will be able to find and contact all of these family members, and show them what we know about our shared history.

My hope is that when I am done running down the list of descendants of James Callin that I will be able to include more of the living people who are hidden from view, and share their stories. Whenever I do hear from a cousin, however distant, they always bring their grandparents and parents to life in a way that I can't, just relying on records and newspapers.

But whatever may come, and however long it takes, I'm enjoying this process. So, on we press!

Next week, we'll begin with the Daughters of Great Uncle George!

Photos posted with permission of Ancestry user meganoneill10.

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