John Ridenhour’s death at the hands of the Osage Indians is well documented in the history of Franklin County, Missouri. John was my great-great-great-grandfather. His story began about 1757, in Robeson Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, and ended in Franklin County, Missouri with his death in 1803.
John was born to John Adam and Wilhelmina (Dotterer, Marolf) Reitenauer in Robeson Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania. He was one of five children. His brothers and sisters were Bernhardt, Anna Maria Ursula, Adam, Jr., and Henry. The name Reitenauer was later Americanized to Ridenhour.
When John was five or six, the family moved to Frederick County, Maryland. “On 3 May 1776, the four brothers, Adam, John, Henry, and Bernhardt purchased two-hundred acres of land from John Haas for one-hundred and eighty pounds. The land was identified as “All that part of a tract of Land called, The Resurvey of the Den of Wolves.” However, evidence indicates that John Adam Reitenauer, Sr. purchased this land and placed it in his four son’s names as a means of ensuring their inheritance. His will provided that the land should be divided when the two youngest sons, Henry and Bernhardt, came of age.”² The land was divided in 1782 when Bernhardt turned twenty-one.
The struggle for independence from Great Britain took place during John’s early-adult years. According to Wikipedia, “the Continental Congress was faced with defending a huge amount of territory from potential British Operations. Washington recommended forming a “flying camp”, which in the military terminology of the day referred to a mobile, strategic reserve of troops.”³ Most of the two companies raised in Frederick County were of German descent.
A John Redenour was enrolled in Captain Mantz’s Company. There is no direct evidence that the man listed is our ancestor. But there are clues or indirect evidence. The name directly above John’s is Rudolf Marolf. Rudolf is the son of John’s mother, Wilhelmina, by her first marriage. Also, on the list is John Dutterer (Dotterer), John’s cousin. Neighbors of the Ridenhours are listed as well.
On 17 July 1776, John was listed as a Private in Captain Henry Fister’s Company in the German Battalion commanded by Colonel Nicholas Haussegger. The battalion was present at New Brunswick, New Jersey on 1 December 1776 and at the Battle of Trenton on 26 December 1776. John’s brother, Bernhardt, served in this battalion as did his half-brother Rudolf Marolf.⁴
John married in Frederick County, Maryland about 1780 to Elizabeth (?). Two children were born to the couple. Mary was born about 1782 and her brother Henry was born about 1784. The land in Maryland was sold and John and Elizabeth had moved to Frederick County, Virginia. While there, Elizabeth died prior to 1 August 1786, when John Ridenhour signed a marriage bond in Rockingham County, Virginia prior to his marriage to Christina Zumwalt. The marriage bond was a license to marry, prepared in advance of the wedding, with a bond posted to ensure both parties were free to marry. It’s unclear when John and Christina married after the bond was issued.
Christina Zumwalt was born circa 1765 near Toms Brook, Frederick County, Virginia. She was the daughter of Henrich (Henry) and Catherine (?) Zumwalt. Her grandfather, Andreas Zumwalt, arrived in America in 1737. He lived in York County, Pennsylvania until about 1750, when he moved his family to Frederick County, Virginia. Christina was thought to be the oldest of the eight daughters of Henry Zumwalt. The others were: Rachel, Elizabeth, Catherine, Margaret, Barbara, Mary, and Susan.
Henry Zumwalt sold all of his property on Toms Brook in 1775. The next day he bought one-hundred-and-ninety-five acres across the Massanutten Mountain, in Powells Fort Valley, Dunmore County which later became later Shenandoah County, Virginia. This land was near George Adam, Henry, and Adam Ridenour. The closeness of the Zumwalts to the Ridenhours is most likely how John met Christina. Henry Zumwalt migrated to Kentucky, then on to Upper Louisiana Territory, which later became Missouri where he died in 1804.
It has not been determined where John, Christina, and their family lived during the period between their 1786 marriage in Rockingham County, Virginia and 1796, when John Ridenhour was listed on the tax books of Bourbon Co., Kentucky. The family may have been in Pennsylvania during some of this time as their son Barnett_Bernard was enumerated in the 1850 census as being born in Pennsylvania. The 1850 census also indicated that John and Christina’s daughter Elizabeth was born in Kentucky. Her age was listed as fifty-six years indicating the family may have been in Kentucky as early as 1784.
Since the family lived in western Pennsylvania or western Virginia, it is most likely they traveled to Kentucky via the Ohio River. Once pioneers made their way to the river, a flatboat was hired to float them and their belongings down the river to their destination. Flatboats were rectangular, flat-bottomed boats that were built in various sizes depending upon the length of their trip. Mid-range boats called Kentucky Boats were used by families moving west.
John and Christina’s son John was born in 1797 in Missouri, most likely in what is now Franklin County. The book, Reitenauer Immigrants, The Early Years states “Spain took formal possession of “Louisiana” west of the Mississippi (including all of the future State of Missouri, among others) in 1769. Since Spain was a Catholic nation, attempts were made to colonize Upper Louisiana (Missouri) with Catholic families. This policy kept villages like St Louis and St. Charles small and vulnerable to Indian raids. In 1787, Spanish authorities tried another tact by allowing American Protestant families to settle in the area, providing that they marry and have their children baptized by the Catholic Church. This change in policy opened up virgin farmland to settlers who, having depleted available land in Kentucky, were eager to move on.
During the next several years, extensive grants of land were made to settlers in Upper Louisiana. The procedure for obtaining a grant or “concession” was relatively simple. The applicant first sought permission from the commandant of the district where he wished to settle; stating his circumstances, the size of his family, and where he wished to obtain land. The commandant forwarded the application to the Lt. Governor, who granted the concession as described in the petition. A surveyor marked off the land and placed the petitioner in possession. The owner was required to take possession and put minimal improvements on the property within a certain period of time. This gave the owner an “incomplete title” to the land. A “complete title” could be obtained only if the title was registered in New Orleans.
However, the Spanish authorities were lax in this regard; and it was done in only a handful of cases. Daniel Boone, who had settled on the Missouri River, west of St. Charles, circa 1795, was said to have been granted several thousand arpents of land for using his influence to bring more than 150 families from Kentucky; only to lose it later because it was never recorded in New Orleans.
James Mackay, “an educated man from Scotland”, had established the village of “St Andre del Misuri” in May 1798 in St Louis District. It was on the south bank of the Missouri River, approximately twenty-five miles west of St Louis. He was named Commandant and served the area well for several years. His name appeared in many of the early Ridenhour documents. He had a wagon road built in 1798 connecting St Andre’ to St Louis. This provided a way for people of the area to get their products to St Louis markets. It was also a way for new settlers to reach their land grants by road. St. Andre’ was later washed into the Missouri River.”⁵
Through Survey No. 53, dated December 1799, John applied for a land grant about fifteen to twenty miles north of the Missouri River, in the St. Charles District, where most of the Zumwalt’s settled. At the same time, John applied for 500 arpents of land near Point Labadie in the District of St. Louis on 7 December 1799. A square arpent is about 0.84 acres. The land, located in township 44 North Range 2 East, was on the south bank of the Missouri River. It is doubtful that the Ridenhours lived on Survey 149. This conclusion has been made based on records and testimonies that took place during of hearing after John’s death.⁶
Living in the era was difficult. Money was scarce and trade took place through barter. John most likely hunted and trapped animal pelts and fur to use as his main currency. Beaver, lynx, and otter were plentiful. His livestock, including horses, were allowed to roam freely. If he raised crops like corn, wheat, flax, or tobacco it would have been on a small scale for the consumption of his family.
In a history of Franklin County, an “old-timer” recalled in the early days his family came to the area of Point Labadie about 1800. He said, “The old settlers of the county, as I can recall, were the Ridenhours, Calvins, Reeds, Zumwalts, Crowes, ….. and many others. And here let me bear[sic] testimony to the truth that a more honest, hospitable people was not to be found anywhere. One would be ashamed to have a lock on his door among such people. They had neither lock nor bars. They had their hunting dogs and bear dogs – no bull and watch dogs to guard off the thief.”⁷
Daniel Ridenhour, the couple’s third child, was born about 1797. Daniel was baptized at St. Charles Borremeo Church with his seven-month-old brother Jacob.⁸ The children were baptized by a Catholic priest in compliance with orders of the Spanish authorities for those who petitioned for land. The baptismal records show that John and Christina were residents of Post St. Andre’. The godfather was James Mackay, Captain Commandant of the said post. Their last child, Jacques [Jacob], was born in 1799. Daniel died sometime between when he was baptized and 1803. On 31 October 1802, John our ancestor was born near Point Labadie.
It was the act of letting their horses roam freely that caused John’s death. Several accounts of his death have been recorded but the version most often repeated is the one recorded by historian, Lyman Draper. Draper interviewed Uri Musick, a neighbor of the Ridenhour’s. The account verbatim with misspellings and poor punctuation says, “Ridenhower and his wife, both mounted were out horse-hunting – met Indians, who wanted them to give up their horses. Ridenhower desisting, they shot him, and he soon died. When the Indians came near Ridenhower, they cried out “Stop”, but Ridenhower rather hastened on – several shots were fired at him. He soon fell off, from his wounds. His wife did not try to get away, but dismounted, and took off the bridle, and scared her horse away; and all the horses, 8 or 10, scampered home together. Mrs. Ridenhower, after scaring off her horse, gave Ridenhower some water from the branch in her shoe. The Indians, as they came up, slapped her with their “whipping?” sticks for scaring off the horses, but let her go. Capt. Conway pursued the trail (of the Indians) several days, without avail.”⁹ After John’s death, several settlers in the area left their land grants.
Draper cited Point Labadie Creek, on the bluff just below the Point as the location of John’s death. However, topography in that area has changed so much it is impossible to identify the exact location. John is supposedly buried in a private cemetery in the south of Survey No. 161. He is buried in an unmarked grave where Ridenhours and Reeds were later buried. The creek on which the survey was located was named Ridenhour Creek but was later changed to Fiddle Creek.
Sometime between April and June 1803, Christina Ridenhour took the six children, and moved closer to St Andre’. On 15 June 1803, an inventory of John’s estate was conducted by James Mackay. Ephraim Richardson was named the executor for the children consisting of four boys and two girls. Survey No. 161 was appraised at three hundred dollars. A horse and foal were appraised at one-hundred and forty dollars. It’s understandable why John risked his life to protect his string of horses.
About a month later a sale of the items in John’s estate took place. As his widow, Christina received half of the estate valued at six hundred and sixty-eight dollars. The other half belonged to the children. Survey No. 161 was not sold and was kept as part of the children’s share of the estate.
Christiana [Christina] appeared before the Federal Land Commission Board, on 26 January 1806, to claim Survey No. 161 for herself and her children Henry, Mary, Betsy, John, Barnett, and Jacques. The purpose of the Land Board was to hold hearings to straighten out the titles of the Spanish Land grants caused by the sale of the land to the French and the subsequent takeover of the territory of Louisiana by the United States in 1803. She produced a certificate from the Lt. Governor, dated 7 December 1799, and a certificate of Survey dated 19 December 1799. The Land Board rejected the claim. A certificate confirming the title was finally issued to Christina and her children on 7 February 1809 after Congress loosened the requirements.
The document below reads: “Christiana widow of (John) Ridenhour claims 500 arpens situate in the District of St. Andrew granted to their deceased father John Ridinhour by a concession which they produced of a permission to (?) Dellasus the 7th Dec 1799 and claimed by the aforesaid persons as representatives of their Decd father who had cultivated & inhabited the same on the 20th October 1800. Wm. Belle agent for the aforesd.¹⁰
On 27 September 1806, Christina bought another one-hundred fifty arpents of land adjoining her other two-hundred arpents on Wild Horse Creek.
Christina married John Johnson sometime between 1809 and 1820 when a legal notice appeared in the Missouri Gazette Newspaper for a pending suit concerning some land in the estate of Andrew Zumwalt. Andrew was Christina’s grandfather. The notice listed Andrew’s heirs and Christina was identified as “Teney Johnson, nee Teney Zumwalt. Teney was a nickname for Christina. John Johnson died sometime before 14 October 1825 when Christina was appointed Executrix for his estate. Christina swore that John Johnson’s heirs were brothers and sisters living the County of St. Louis.
John Ridenhour and Christina (Zumwalt) Ridenhour are my fourth great-grandparents.
John Ridenhour (Abt. 1755-1803) m. Elizabeth (Abt. 1760-?)
Mary Ridenhour (1782-Aft. 1830)
Henry Ridenhour (1784-Bet 1840 and 1850)
John Ridenhour (Abt. 1755-1803) m. Christina Zumwalt (1765-?)
Bernard Ridenhour (1792-1856)
Elizabeth Ridenhour (1794-Bef. 1852)
Daniel Ridenhour (1797-Bet. 1800-1803
Jacob Ridenhour (1799-Aft. 1850)
John Ridenhour (1802-1852)
¹Fagan, L, H. F Bridgens, T. S Wagner, and Friend & Aub. Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania: from actual surveys. [Philadelphia: Published by H.F. Bridgens, . Phil’a Philadelphia: Printed by T.S. Wagner, 38 Hudson St, 1860] Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/2012592156/
²Reitenauer Immigrants, The Early Years, Mona McCown and Nona Harwell
⁴Maryland State Archives database, Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution (https://msa.maryland.gov :accessed 31 Aug 2017), Listing for Ridinghour [Ridenhour], Volume 18, Page 261.
⁵Reitenauer Immigrants, The Early Years, Mona McCown and Nona Harwell
⁶Land Record for John Ridenhour, Book C, Page 195, Dec 1799, Commissioner’s Certificates, U.S. Recorder of Land Titles, digital images, Missouri State Archives, “1st Board of Land Commissioners, U.S. Recorder of Land Titles,” Missouri Digital Heritage (https://sl.sos.gov/records/archives : accessed 30 Aug 2017).
⁷A History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Crawford, and Gasconade Counties, Missouri, Goodspeed
⁸St. Charles Borremeo Church (St. Charles, Missouri, United States), “St. Charles Borremeo Church Records,” Baptism Record for Daniel Ridenhour, s0138 I, P. 61, State Historical Society of Missouri, St. Louis
⁹Draper’s Notes, Lyman Draper (Microfilm) Jefferson Memorial Archive, St Louis, Mo
¹⁰Christiana Ridenhour filed claim dated 7 Dec 1799 with Board of Land Commissioners for 500 arpens granted to John Ridenhour, 20 Oct 1808; Original Claimants – 1st Board of Land Commissioners, U.S. Recorder of Land Titles; digital images, Missouri State Archives, “Land Records, 1777-1969,” Missouri Digital Heritage (https://sl.sos.gov/records/archives : accessed 23 Aug 2017).
A great deal of information can be found in the document Reitnauer Immigrants, The Early Years. The document can be found online. I have checked out the information I referenced in this document to concur with McCown and Nona Harwell. Some of the information is so well written that I have copied the information verbatim, or slightly paraphrased, into this story and have marked these passages with quotes. There is a great deal of sources that I need to find, however. Unfortunately, so many of the online documents, like maps, are in French and are very hard to read because of their age.