M, b. 26 March 1800, d. 15 May 1883
The Question of Samuel Ritchie’s Parentage Noel Nugent has offered a pedigree for Samuel Ritchie, more less based on Fred A. Smith’s Smith Family Tree, which he (Fred) compiled in 1935. Fred wrote: “Great grandfather John Ritchie. Born about 1727 was an officer in the Revolutionary War, was twice married, nine children born to the first wife, including grandfather Samuel E. Ritchie; [John] was married second time at age 75 and twins [Martha and Mary] born March 24th 1802, and he died in 1807.
Twin Mary married Theodore Woodward in 1826 at Nashua, NH, and died in 1887. Other twin Martha married Samuel Patterson in 1826, who many years afterward went west and died, leaving the widow and one child, about 1845. Martha married John Chickering, who died later and she then made her home with her adopted son Walter Chickering on Hawley St., in Mass., she lived to be over 90 years old. She had a brother who was killed in the Mexican War, a nephew, Col. Dana W. King, served in the Civil War.”
Martha was interviewed by a Nashua newspaper reporter late in her life and she claimed to have seen George Washington, which would have been impossible, because Washington died in 1799, before she was born. She also claimed that her father, John, was an officer in the Revolutionary War, which is probably where Fred Smith’s claim came from. Unfortunately, there is no record of a John Ritchie as an officer in that war.
Noel has also suggested that John Ritchie, born 1727, was the son of Alexander Ritchie, who was an early settler at Londonderry, Rockingham County, New Hampshire. According to The History of Windham in New Hampshire (Rockingham County). 1719 -1883 Alexander first appears at Londonderry, when he “bought of Robert McCurdy 75 acres southeast of Cobbet’s Pond, Feb. 10, 1736.”
The area was first settled by a group of Scottish immigrants from Northern Ireland who first had planned on settling near Portland, Maine, but couldn't find suitable land. They then went to Haverhill, Mass., where they heard of a district called Nutfield. This area they found suitable and set down roots in 1719. The name of the district was Londonderry after the city in Northern Ireland. By 1739/40 some residents had become restive and desired to set part of the district into a separate parish or town In February 1739/40 Alexander appears in the town history as a signer of a petition asking to prevent some citizens from forming a town called “Londonderry.”
The petition reads as follows: “We the under subscribers being Inhabitants of L: Derry and Province of New Hampshire (viz) living in the Southerly part of sd town, we are Informed that there are Sundry of our Neighbors Petitioners your Excelly and Honrs for a new parish in sd Town, therefore we wod signify to your Excell & Honrs that we hope by the blessing of God in a fue years to be fit to be Erected into a parish or precinct by ourselves therefore we pray your Excell and Honrs not to hurt our yong beginnings in setting off a new parish in said town of Londonderry, as witness our hands, Dated at Londonderry aforesaid Feby the 9th 1739-40.”
The petition failed and Londonderry was incorporated as a town 25 Feb 1740. In 1742 Windham was a district within the new township of Londonderry. After the approval of the new town of Londonderry, an emigration of some fourteen families took place from Windham and Londonderry to Coleraine, Mass. Alexander was not among them.
The Scots who remained behind petitioned Governor Benning Wentworth for a charter some time in 1740. Alexander was not one of the signers. The charter was passed by the Mass. Legislature on 12 Feb 1741/42 and Windham became a town.
Although Alexander Ritchie did not sign the petition for Windham’s Charter, he apparently remained at least semi-prominent in town affairs, and was elected Selectman 8 Mar 1746. He and his sons James and Alexander, Jr. were taxed in the Province Tax of 28 Nov 1775, in the amounts of 6s,11p, 1gr [groat?]; 3s, 4p, 2gr; and 2s, 3p, respectively. Alexander, James, and Alexander, Jr. all signed the Association Test at Windham, as a result of the 12 Apr 1776 order of the Mass. Committee of Safety during the early part of the American Revolution.
Alexander’s signing of the Association Test is the last we hear from him. If, as we assume, he was born ca 1695, he would have been 81. He might have died shortly thereafter. James Ritchie as a member of the first military of Windham 8 Jul 1775.
James Ritchie, as noted above, was in Windham as late as 12 Apr 1776, but by 13 Jun 1778 he was taxed in Nottingham West, which later became Hudson, NH. He apparently had been living in an area of Londonderry known as the “Londonderry Claim”, which was an area of about 4627 acres, that was in dispute between Londonderry and Nottingham West. In March of 1778 the state legislature passed a bill annexing the “Londonderry Claim” to Nottingham West, which increased the number of taxpayers by 39, James among them. This information comes from History of Hudson, N.H. Formerly A Part of Dunstable, Mass., 1633-1733; Nottingham, Mass., 1733-1741; District of Nottingham, 1741-1746; Nottingham West, N.H. 1746-1830; Hudson, N.H., 1830-1912. by Kimball Webster, 1913. page 153-54.
There are only two other mentions of a Ritchie in Windham, other than in the vital records. There was a Thomas Richey who lived in the west part of town in 1750. There was also a Francis Richey, whose gravestone reads as follows: “Francis Richey, b. in ye County of Antrim, and town of Ballymannaugh, in ye north of Ireland, who died July 12, 1777,ae. 61 years.” The town history goes on to say: “Such is the inscription upon the grave-stone of one whose life was shrouded in mystery, and in regard to whom wild stories were told, and strange things surmised, more than a century ago. He lived with his sisters, Mrs. ____ Hamilton and Widow Thompson [Alexander’s daughter Elizabeth?], at what is now the Samuel Bailey place, near the cemetery. The probability is, that he and Thomas Richey were sons of Alexander, and that the children mentioned upon the records were by a later marriage, so I have designated them as such.”
Looking back at the early history of Londonderry: the town, according to Wikipedia, was settled by so called Scotch/Irish immigrants in 1718. These folks were Presbyterian Protestants, who had settled the north of Ireland from Scotland during the early to mid 1600s. Subsequent history in the north of Ireland put the Scots in a minority, such that, by the early 1700s, they were migrating en mass to the new world. Although history calls them Scotch-Irish, they themselves took umbrage to that appellation. They called themselves Scots.
I checked whatever sources I have looking for an Alexander Ritchie, born ca 1695 in Northern Ireland, and the only one I could find died in Virginia in 1749. I then looked at solid birth records from Scotland (there were other immigrants to Windham directly from Scotland). I found four likely candidates all with extracted vital records: Alexander, b. Edinburgh, Midlothian 24 Sep 1694, the son of John and Marie (Borthwick) Richie; Alexander, born 8 Apr 1696 St. Andrews and St. Leonards, Fife, the son of William and Janet (Murray) Ritchie; and Alexander Richie, baptized 28 Mar 1697, St. Martins, Perth. There could have been, of course, many other Alexander Ritchies born in Scotland or Northern Ireland, who might have been our Alexander Ritchie. However, our Alexander apparently did not come with the first Scots settlers of Londonderry/Windham, at least he was not listed as one. According the Windham History, there were, subsequent to the first settlers, many immigrants from Scotland and no doubt out Alexander was one of them.
According to the Windham town history, Alexander and his wife Sarah (?), had five children: William, b. 3 Feb 1736.
James, b. 15 Mar 1739.
Mary, b. 16 Apr 1741.
Elizabeth, b. 1 Nov 1743; m. Jonathan Thompson (probably).
Hannah, b 1 Jan 1746.
Only the three girls have actual vital records entries. William and James are listed in the town history with precise birth dates, but we don’t know where that information came from.
The supposition, then, has to be that Alexander married a first unknown wife, perhaps around 1715, and perhaps in Scotland, or Northern Ireland (if we accept Francis’s gravestone inscription and if he was Alexander’s son.) Said wife having given birth to Francis ca 1715, Thomas some time later, and possibly, John ca 1727. Alexander, then emigrated from Scotland or Ireland in time to purchase land in Windham in 1736. Supposing again: the first unknown wife died and Alexander married again Sarah (?) in time to have a son William, born 3 Feb 1736, just before Alexander purchased land at Windham.
The only problem with all this is that, if our Alexander really had a son John, born 1727, John would have been about 9 years old when Alexander settled down at Windham in 1736. One would expect that this John, who would have been 48 in 1775, would also have been taxed in 1775, and have signed the Association Test, as did Alexander, Jr. and James. In addition, if John was an officer in the Revolutionary War, one would expect that might have been a member the Militia as was James. Apparently, John received none of these recognitions.
Of course, it is entirely possible that John left Alexander’s home in Windham as soon as he able and went elsewhere; there to marry and have nine children, including Samuel, by an unknown first wife, as Fred Smith speculates. Fred also says that the twins were born in 1802 of the second wife. According the Hudson, NH, vital records, there were two more children born after the twins: Eleanor, b. 1804, and John, born 20 Nov 1808. Fred says that John died in 1807, If he did indeed die then, suppose it was on 31 Dec. Child John was born 11 months later.
According to the Hudson, NH, town records, James Ritchie married one Abigail (?) ca 1787/88 (eldest child Sarah S., born 12 Aug 1788). The records list ten children born of this union between Sarah’s 1788 birth and that of John, 20 Nov 1808. If the father of these 10 children was James, the son of Alexander, born 15 Mar 1738/39, then he would have been, say, 49 or 50 when he married Abigail. This tends to confirm Fred’s statement that his gr. grandfather had two wives – James’s first wife having died when he was 47/48 and he married again. In addition, Martha, one of the twins, claimed in the Nashua newspaper article, that her father was old when she was born – James would have been about 61 at the time of her birth.
Summing up what we know from all the sources: all of the information that state that Samuel Ritchie was the son of one John Ritchie seems to have come, from two sources. One source is from Charles Smith’s diaries. Charles was the husband of Mary Ellen Ritchie, daughter of Samuel Ritchie, and granddaughter of John or James Ritchie. Probably Charles got his information about the Ritchie family from his wife and from family birthdays with the Ritchie family. Charles’s diary mentions Sam’s 80th birthday being celebrated at Nashua 26 Mar 1880. The problem here is that Mary Ellen was born in 1846 long after her grandfather had died and the same year that her, perhaps grandmother, Abigail had died. Whatever information she could come up with probably came from her great aunt Martha and, by the time that information was shared with Fred Smith in 1935, it had probably been filtered through several people’s memories. In addition, we already know that Martha’s 90 plus year old memory already claimed that she had seen George Washington long after he had died.
I think that what we have here is family tradition based on old folks’ memories having been morphed into a name change. To wit: James, born 1739, the real son of Alexander Ritchie was morphed into a possibly real son of Alexander’s first wife, John, born 1727. John might have been indeed a son of Alexander, but I don’t think he is the ancestor of our Ritchies, despite what the family tradition claims.
That James Ritchie is the son of Alexander seems to be suggested by the given names of some of James’s children: Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth and James. There was a son of James named John, but that cannot be anything but the fact that John was a very common first name at the time.
What troubles me the most about the alleged John, is the fact that no John Ritchie appears in any record in the area of southern New Hampshire anywhere near where Samuel was born or grew up. There is no military record of a John Ritchie during the Revolutionary War, no tax records, no land records and no vital records. Of course, the lack of records does not prove anything, but it does raise questions. Admittedly, the Hudson town records that are available, seem to have either been copied from earlier, now disappeared records, or they were entered well after the fact of John/James’s children’s births.
For what it is worth, according to articles in the New England Historic Genealogical Register there was a John Richey, who was part of Robert Rogers’s Rangers. who was taken captive by the French February 1758 [Vol 14:274]. There was also a John Ritchie, First Lieutenant in the British Army, a member of the 21st Regiment, who was commissioned 10 April 1765, serving in America 1754-1774 [Vol.:49:160].
If I remember my history of the French and Indian War, many of Rogers Rangers came from southeast New Hampshire, so the John Richey who was taken captive by the French in early 1758, could have been the John in question. I have no idea as to how to prove this, however.
In summation: Whether Samuel’s father was named John or James is immaterial.
That he was the son of Alexander is, perhaps, important to future researchers. Since we do not know the surname of Samuel’s mother Abigail (unless it is Draper, as suggested by Noel), that too is unimportant as far as Leones’s ancestry is concerned.
All we know for sure is that Samuel E. Ritchie was born at Hudson, NH, 26 Mar 1800, the son of James or John Ritchie and Abigail (?). The rest is history.
Written 25 April 2011
John Roger Wood.2
Samuel was born at Hudson, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, on 26 March 1800.1,3,4
He married Olive Babb
, daughter of Nathaniel Babb
and Olive McIntire
, at Groveton, Coos, New Hampshire, on 3 September 1827.5
Samuel died on 15 May 1883 at Nashua, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, at age 83.5,6