When Martin Ridenhour was born his family had already been in Franklin County, Missouri for close to thirty years. He was born on 14 December 1827 to John S. Ridenhour and Elizabeth (Reed) Ridenhour. His grandfather, John Ridenhour, and his grandmother, Christina (Zumwalt) Ridenhour had arrived in the area as early as 1797. Martin never knew his grandfather as John was killed by the Osage Indians in 1803.
While Martin was a young boy the family settled for a while in Gasconade County and then moved to Osage County. That area eventually became Maries County. They resided their entire lives west of Belle, and close to the county line separating Maries from Osage County. The land was rich and well-watered.
Martin was one of eight children, four boys, and four girls. These children were born over a period of about twenty years. Martin was very close in age to his older brother Reuben. Three girls, Amelia, Elizabeth, and Elvira were born over the next nine years. Two boys, Adam and Thomas Benton followed and the baby of the family, Margaret Christina, was born in 1846.
At the age of twenty, Martin left this large family and married Sarah Ann Mahon on 2 November 1848.¹ They lived not too far from Martin’s father and mother and his brother Reuben. Their first child John Shepherd was born on 14 December 1849. He was the first of twelve children who were born between 1849 and 1872. This family would know heart-ache. Four of their children died before they did. Their son William Alexander died in 1863 at the age of six. The next child to die was Martha Louise who died in 1882 at the age of twenty-seven. Thomas Huston died in 1899 at the age of thirty-one. The last child to die was David Jasper who died in 1901 at the age of thirty. All but William Alexander left spouses and children behind. It’s so sad that three of their grown children were struck down during the prime of their lives.
On 24 February 1852, Martin and Sarah purchase forty-one acres of land from his father John. It is possible John was sick at the time of the sale and was divesting his land for John died about a week later on 5 March 1852. John had amassed quite a bit of land during his lifetime. In March 1854, Martin quit-claimed his undivided portion of his father’s land to Samuel Hawkins, the husband of Martin’s sister Elizabeth.²
During the summer of 1862, guerrilla forces were organizing and threatening the citizens and county governments through the state of Missouri. As a result on 22 July, the Missouri State Militia and United States military command began organizing a militia to put down robbery, plunder, and guerrilla warfare. Every able-bodied man was commanded to enroll in the nearest military post and report for duty. Each man was to bring his gun and horse if he had one.
Thirty-four-year-old Martin enrolled in the 34th Enrolled Missouri Militia, Company F, on 22 August 1862 Shortly after their daughter Sarah was born.³ Martin’s younger brothers Adam and Thomas enlisted in the unit at the same time. Adam and Thomas were called into service on 28 September 1864 at Jake’s Prairie in Gasconade County. The purpose was to repel Price’s invasion of Missouri. Skirmishes took place on the Osage River on October 5-6, Jefferson City October 7, and on the Big Piney River on November 1, 1864. All three brothers were discharged on 10 November 1864. The record indicates that Martin served twenty-seven days of actual service. Adam and Thomas would enroll again, this time in the 50th Regiment Infantry Volunteers. They would serve from 20 February to 5 August 1865.
The Civil War was a time of disruption, not only to the every-day life of Missouri citizens but to their financial welfare. Many people lost loved ones and saw their wealth drain away; but not Martin. Between 1860 and 1870, according to the census records, the value of his estate increased considerably. Not only did he own six horses, a mule, and a pair of working oxen, but also four milk cows and twenty-five head of cattle, twenty-seven sheep, and thirty swine. Martin tilled the land which produced winter wheat, oats, Indian corn, Irish potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Sarah was responsible for the family garden, and butter and molasses production. All of this was accomplished with forty acres of land and forty acres of timber and the hard work of all family members.
This prosperity continued into the 1880s. Martin had increased his ownership of land to eighty tilled or fallow acres, eight acres of permanent pasture, one-hundred and twenty acres of forest, and thirty-one acres of old fields. With the part-time help of Andrew and Thomas, he continued to raise cows, sheep, and pigs. Education was important and all of the children attended school as soon as they were able.
Records are sparse for the years between 1880 and 1900. By 1900 the children had left home. Martin was seventy-two and Sarah was sixty-six. They lived with their son Adam and his family. Four years later Martin left this earth on 6 December 1904 leaving a large family behind and a legacy of hard work. All of his children would prosper and have families of their own. Sarah lived another fourteen years with Adam and died at the age of eighty-four on 25 February 1918.
Martin and Sarah are buried in Pilot Knob Baptist Church Cemetery in Osage County along with ninety-six Ridenhour descendants. Today the Belle High School sits on the land where Martin and Sarah’s house once stood.
Martin Ridenhour (1827-1904) m. Sarah Ann Mahon (1833-1918)
John Shepherd Ridenhour (1849-1920)
Nancy Elizabeth Ridenhour (1851-1928)
Mary Jane Ridenhour (1852-1927)
Martha Louisa Ridenhour (1854-1882)
William Alexander Ridenhour (1857-1863)
Susan Margaret Christina Ridenhour (1859-1947)
Sarah Frances Ridenhour (1862-1924)
Andrew Jackson Ridenhour (1864-1945)
Virginia Harriett Ridenhour (1866-1945)
Thomas Huston Ridenhour (1868-1899)
David Jasper Ridenhour (1871-1901)
Adam Louis Ridenhour (1872-1937)
¹Osage, Missouri, marriage record, Marriage Book A, 1845-1861, Martin Ridenhour [Ridenhour]-Sarah Ann Mahon [Mahon], 1848; Osage County Recorder of Deeds, Lynn.
²Osage, Missouri, Deeds, E: 220-221 , Martin Ridenhour sold his undivided land portion from John S. Ridenhour estate, 16 March 1854; Osage County Recorder of Deeds, Linn.
³”Soldiers Records: War 1812-World War I,” database, Missouri Digital Heritage (https://s1.sos.mo.gov/records/archivesdb/soldiers/ :accessed 24 Oct 2017) Record for Martin Ridenhour, Box 69, Roll s00783