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Elias Ritts    

RITTS, ELIAS. How far a man is made by his environments is perhaps an unsolved. problem; but there is no doubt a strong character is greatly influenced, developed or modified by the outside world with which he comes in contact. Had the subject of this memoir remained with his father and learned the trade of jeweler, in the respectable old county of Berks, he would probably have grown gray repairing his neighbors’ watches.  But he was destined to occupy another field.

Elias Ritts was born in Berks county, Pa., on the 5th day of November, 1822. The’ family moved to Lehigh county in 1830, and in 1836, while Elias was still a boy, came to Richland township, Venango county (now Clarion). Here he grew to manhood among the Vensels, Shoups, Neelys, and other pioneers of that new settlement. His proximity to the Allegheny and Clarion rivers seemed to have determined his vocations in life. At an early period in his history he became familiar with the upper waters of the Clarion, and with a limited education, but full of energy, engaged in the trade of that river, building flat-boats and freighting metal to the Pittsburgh market as early as 1840. By care and skill Mr. Ritts became a successful carrier of freight, and a heavy dealer on the river and in Pittsburgh for many years. He carried all the metal made by Judge Keating’s furnace, and had a still larger contract of freighting metal for Lyon, Shorb & Co., for a number of years. He also freighted a large amount of metal for Plumer & Crary from Buchanan and Jefferson furnaces. Few of his boats were wrecked or sunk, and by him no man lost a ton of metal, though the business was by no means free from risk. While thus engaged he became extensively acquainted along the river, and accumulated considerable property.

In March, 1849, he married Elizabeth Vensel, by whom he had four children; all but the youngest are still living. His wife dying in 1863, he married his second wife in 1866, by whom he has had five children, all living. His active out-door life and extended business relations gave him a strong constitution, and has made him prominent as a leading property owner and business man of the county. He retained nothing that he brought with him from Berks county but his politics and religion. He was never a noisy politican [sic.] or an office seeker, but has quietly voted the Democratic ticket ever since he became of age. In early life he connected with the German Reformed Church, and has ever since been one of its liberal supporters, and an officer therein.

Mr. Ritts is tall and slender, with a well knit form, a pleasant face, social habits, and a kind disposition. In 1880 he bought a third interest in the Blake lumber lands for $50,000, and sold it in 1884 for about $85,000. He still holds considerable real estate in Richland and Beaver townships, also in other parts of the county, besides personal property of value.

In the early days of the oil excitement near the mouth of the Clarion River, he became an oil operator and producer, a business he has made pay handsomely. Since selling his lumber lands he has to some extent retired from active work on the river, to rest on an ample competency secured by a life of industry. At the age of sixty-five he is still living where he started his business life, one of the respected patriarchs of St. Petersburg, with his family around him. He is still enjoying excellent health, with erect frame, and his chances are fairly good for several years more to live and quietly look back over a long and well spent life.

History of Clarion Co., Pennsylvania: with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers, Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & Co., 1887, pages 637-638. View image of this page of the book on line at - Free Trial  More Clarion County History Books  Search Hundreds of 1880s-1890s Pennsylvania County History Books for biographies and historical information on your ancestors.  View the book page images on line and print them out for your genealogy file!  Free Access to the old history books - plus birth & death records, census images and ALL other records at


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