Exeter, Maine to Fairmont, Nebraska

My husband, Ritchey, in the photo above, taken in Schuyler County, Illinois, at Sugar Grove North Cemetery.  He is standing between the gravestones for William McKee and Cassandra Frakes and Charles Ritchey and Amanda McKee, his 3 gr and 2 gr grandparents.

My Husband’s Family

After spending 25 years working on both my sides of the family, in 2000 I decided it was time to begin work on Ritchey’s family.  He felt it might be impossible to find anything.  His father, Rex Edwin Brown, was adopted at the age of 2 – his birth name was Jolly, his mother was a Hertz – and that was that – all that we knew!  For me, the guantlet was thrown down – and, of course, I was ready for the challenge!  Ritchey’s mother was a Ritchey – yes, he was given her maiden name for his Christian name.  She was born and raised in Nebraska, and we knew her mother was a Klein, but that was about all.  The first thing I did was talk to his oldest relative, a cousin who lived in California.  She was kind enough to send me a few things – enough for a start, the start of a long journey from the far reaches of Exeter, Maine to Fairmont, Nebraska.

Gravestone for Thomas W. Jewell and Zillah Ward Jewell – Geneva, Nebraska

Ebenezer Jewell was born August 16, 1791, in Coos County, New Hampshire.  He married Patience Quimby in 1812, and moved the family to Exeter, Maine.  Ebenezer and Patience had four children:  Enoch, Thomas W., Mary and Ebenezer.  Tragically, Ebenezer died seven years after their marriage, their youngest son, and his namesake, born a month later.  Son Thomas, born April 3, 1815,  decided to head west to seek his fortune.  In Fulton County, Illinois, in 1846, he married Zillah Ward, daughter of Aaron Ward.  They moved to Schuyler County, Illinois, where their daughter Lucinda Amanda Jewell, born March 18, 1849, married Charles Henry Ritchey, in 1875.

The Ritchey family had a journey of its own.  James Ritchey, born in Ireland around 1770, came to this country and married Susannah Sawyer in Montgomery County, Ohio, April 30, 1810.  His son, Charles Ritchey, born January 22, 1819, moved on to Schuyler County, Illinois, where he married Amanda McKee, born August 9, 1825, in Crawford County, Indiana.  Amanda was the daughter of William McKee and Cassandra Frakes.

Original gravestone for William McKee, died June 11, 1851.

The McKees are of Irish descendant, William’s great-grandfather being Captain Thomas McKee who was born in 1695 in County Antrim, Ireland.  Captain Thomas and his father, Alexander McKee, sailed for the new world and settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Captain Thomas’ grandson, James McKee (son of Hugh), born about 1750, moved to Hardin County, Kentucky – the trek west had begun.  James, a Revolutionary War veteran, married Agnes Dickson and had at least two children- William and Thomas.  William McKee (mentioned above) was born in Hardin County January 11, 1782.  After his marriage to Cassandra Frakes, the daughter of Henry Frakes and Hannah Dougherty, September 27, 1804, the young couple lived in Hardin County for only four years before moving to Crawford County, Indiana, (when it was yet a Territory) where the rest of their children were born.  In 1826 the family moved to Schuyler County, Illinois, purchasing a land warrant of 160 acres, for $100.  He must have been a very courageous man to take his family into such desolate country – one description reads “the poles of the Indian wigwams still stood in the ground, market towns were far distant and provisions were high”.

Martha J. Milton Ritchey, wife of Charles Ritchey, died February 19, 1875, aged 45 years, 9 months and 20 days.

The previously mentioned Charles Ritchey and Amanda McKee were married in Schuyler County, March 9, 1843.  They had but a few happy years together before Amanda’s death May 17, 1851, just six weeks after the stillbirth of baby Jacob.  Amanda’s father, William McKee, was so overcome with grief he gave land for the cemetery where his daughter was laid to rest – originally known as McKee Cemetery, now known as Sugar Grove North Cemetery.  William quickly followed his daughter to the grave, dying less than a month later, June 11, 1851.  Charles was left with three small sons, William McKee, James Sylvester and Charles Henry Ritchey.   Very shortly after Amanda’s death he married Martha J. Milton.  Charles and Martha had ten children – but only two reached adulthood.  There is a long line of gravestones for these young children in Sugar Grove Cemetery.

Children of Charles Ritchey and Martha J. Milton

Charles Henry Ritchey and wife, Lucinda Amanda Jewell, lived in Schuyler County for four years before beginning their trek west.  Son Elmer Cross Ritchey was born in Corydon, Iowa, in 1882, on the trail.  The family settled in Fillmore County, Nebraska, a few months later – and there they would stay.  This is where Ritchey’s grandfather, Francis Sumber Ritchey, youngest son of Charles Henry and Lucinda, was born February 8, 1891.  He met and married Edith Margaret Klein, daughter of George Klein and Caroline Jungbluth, both of German descent.  George and Caroline lived with their family in a sod house on the prairie.  It is easy to take for granted the harsh conditions of these pioneering families.

Charles Henry Ritchey, 1848-1912 and Lucinda Amanda Jewell, 1849-1933, buried in Geneva Cemetery.

Francis and Edith had 8 children – Bernice, Earl, Mildred, Arthur, Helen Margaret, Merna, Vivian Eleanora (Ritchey’s mom!) and Merlin Ritchey.  Only Uncle Merlin is left.  What a rich heritage we have found for the Ritchey family – and all the branches back through the years.  Everyone has that rich heritage, it takes just a little time and detective work to find it!  Happy researching along the way!

Francis Sumber Ritchey, 1891-1970, and Edith Margaret Klein Ritchey, 1890-1972, Fairmont Cemetery, Fillmore County, Nebraska.

Oh, and about the Jolly and Hertz family on Ritchey’s dad’s side of the family – we’ll leave that for another day!

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