Wednesday, August 24, 2011

EmigranThursday - Craig Ritchie

Craig Ritchie and Neighbors, 1790
Welcome to this week’s EmigranThursday featuring Craig Ritchie of Canonsburg Washington County, Pennsylvania. Biographical information about him appeared on pages 604 and 624-5 of Cumrine’s History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches of many of its pioneers and Prominent Men published in 1882. Additional sources from and  

p. 604, from the general history on Canonsburg Borough
Craig Ritchie, whose name also appears as a purchaser in 1787, was born in Glasgow, Dec. 29, 1758; emigrated to this country in 1772, and when thirty years of age married Mary Price. He came to this section of country before 1782, as he was with Col. William Crawford in the Sandusky expedition in that year. Immediately upon the purchase of the lot in Canonsburg he opened a store and carried on the mercantile business for many years. He was elected a justice of the peace in 1784, and served in the Legislature of the State in 1793-95. He was also one of the first trustees of Jefferson College, secretary of the board, and treasurer. He died at Canonsburg, June 13, 1833, aged seventy-five years, and left a large family. Rev. Andrew Wylie, president of Jefferson and Washington Colleges, married the eldest daughter. Rev. Samuel F. Leake also married a daughter. Elizabeth became the wife of Dr. Jonathan Leatherman, and settled in Canonsburg. Another daughter became the wife of Dr. George Herriot. Drs. Leatherman and Herriot both practiced in Canonsburg, and died there. Abigail and Jane, also daughters of Craig Ritchie, lived and died unmarried. John, a son of Craig Ritchie, removed to New Orleans, and finally to Texas, where he died. David studied law, and practiced in Pittsburgh, and died there. He was at one time member of Congress from that district. William, another son, removed to Wheeling, where he died. Craig Ritchie, the youngest son, remained at Canonsburg, and carried on the mercantile business at the old place, where the Ritchie Block now stands. Later he went to Wheeling, Va., where he married Mrs. Chickering, and remained a number of years. He returned to Canonsburg, and lived there till his death. His widow still resides in Canonsburg, and his son, William H. S. Ritchie, is a merchant on the site where his father and grandfather kept store before him.

pp. 624-5, The Biographical Entry for W.H.S. Ritchie
…Hon. Craig Ritchie, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, Dec. 29, 1758. He emigrated to this country in 1772. He early evinced extraordinary talents for business, and soon succeeded in working his way to the position of a successful merchant in Canonsburg. At the age of thirty he secured to himself the possession of a most estimable and valuable wife by marrying Miss Mary Price, a native of Maryland. She died at Canonsburg in 1886. This excellent lady, who became the mother of a large family (fourteen children), pre-eminently adorned her station, and greatly contributed to Mr. Ritchie's happiness and success in life. She sympathized with him in his toils and struggles to sustain Jefferson College through its early history; and her name ought ever to stand with those of Mrs. Canon, Mrs. McMillan, and other noble women who labored and prayed and made such sacrifices for this institution.

Mr. Ritchie's energy of character, business habits, integrity of principle, and general intelligence secured to him a widely extended reputation. He was early elected to the Legislature, and served his country for some years in this capacity.  During the "Whiskey Insurrection" he took a decided stand on the side of law and order, and rendered himself so unpopular with some of the leaders of that unhappy affair that he was in danger of their vengeance. Indeed, nothing but his absence in attendance at the General Assembly of the State saved his property from the torch of the incendiaries at the time that Gen. Neville's house  was burned to the ground, as some of the party told the family.

He enjoyed the confidence and especial friendship of Gen. Washington, who often visited him and corresponded with him, and availed himself of Mr. Ritchie's aid in the management of his landed interest in Washington County. He not only lodged with Mr. Ritchie, and often dined with him, but took many a walk with him along the banks of Chartiers, conferring with him, not only about his own private interests, but the public concerns of the country. He also enjoyed the friendship and confidence of Dr. McMillan [minister who founded what is now Washington & Jefferson College – AEE], who made Mr. Ritchie's house his home whenever he was in Canonsburg. For more than forty years there was an unbroken intimacy between these good men.

It would be hard to say how much Jefferson College is indebted to Mr. Ritchie for its successful struggles in its most perilous times. He was one of its first trustees, and secretary of the board for a long time. He also was appointed treasurer at various times, and managed the financial affairs of the college with great judgment and success, often paying large sums in advance from his own pocket. He was by far the best business man they had, and did more in devising ways and means to sustain the college than perhaps all the other trustees together, even including Dr. McMillan himself. He gave a large portion of his time and personal attention in superintending the progress of the new building (Providence Hall), and provided from his own resources whatever might be temporarily wanted by the workmen. When, in 1817, every other trustee seemed to despair of the further existence of the college, Mr. Ritchie was unmoved and immovable, and took such energetic steps as reanimated the friends of the institution and secured its continuance.

He died June 13, 1833. He was a gentleman of the old school. His dignified and somewhat aristocratic manners and his fine personal appearance commanded respect wherever he might be found. For honesty of principle, goodness and charity, and for self-sacrificing efforts in behalf of Jefferson College, the church of his choice, and the country of his adoption, Mr. Ritchie had no superior in the men of his day. To have so long enjoyed the confidence and esteem of Gen. Washington and Dr. McMillan is a high honor to which few, living or dead, can lay claim. He left behind him a large family of uncommon intelligence and refinement.

According to records found at FamilySearch, a Craig Ritchie, the son of William Ritchie and Margaret Provand, was baptized on 30 December 1758 in Glasgow. At least four other children were born to the couple: Craig (1757), Jean (1761), Isobell (1763), and John (1765).

A quick check on shows Craig Ritchie in the 1790 (Washington County), 1800 (Chartiers Township, Washington County), 1810 (Chartiers Township), and 1830 (Canonsburg) censuses. While it looks like he moves within the county, he’s probably in the same spot the whole time. It’s just that the census districts get smaller and more defined as the population increases. He also appears in Pennsylvania Land Warrant records. The only evidence of his trip across the Atlantic on Ancestry is an entry from page 371 of Donald Whyte’s A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to the USA. Vol. 1. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that Whyte’s source was Cumrine. AOne of the neatest things I’ve found on Ancestry is here: a scan of a note from George Washington inviting Craig Ritchie to dinner in March 1796.

An application to Sons of the American Revolution, based on Ritchie’s service in the American Revolution is hereThere has always been this idea that the Scots were overwhelmingly loyal during the American Revolution (see the recent article in the Scotsman by Tom Devine for an example). I don’t doubt that many were; but I have found countless examples of people like Ritchie who obviously were not loyal. So, I remain unconvinced.

The information on Craig Ritchie was found in two places in the Washington County History: the opening section on Canonsburg and then within the biography of his grandson W.H.S. Ritchie. In fact the biographical entry about the grandson is almost entirely about the grandfather and the father. I have only shared the information about the grandfather here. I have found that bigoraphical information is almost always imbedded in the township history section - so always read through that as well as the "official" biography section.

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