Conrad Ritter / Rutter:  Pennsylvania Pioneer

More on Conrad Rutter’s Second Marriage

This section provides further information and analysis relating to Conrad’s reported second marriage to a Douglas.

The traditional history states that Conrad’s first wife died in Germany and that he married Jane Douglas while residing in London on the voyage over to America.[i]  The origin of this assertion probably stems from the fact that three members of the Douglas clan (Andrew, Jean and James) served as witnesses to Conrad’s will in 1734.[ii]  Witnesses tended to be relatives or trusted friends, and in this case, the fact that all three witnesses were Douglas’s does seem to suggest a family relationship.  It makes sense that the Douglas’ would be involved in the drafting and validating of Conrad’s will to protect the interests of one of their own kin.

Some genealogy records assert that Conrad’s second wife was a sister to the four Douglas brothers who settled in Lancaster at about the same time as Conrad.[iii]  The four brothers (Archibald, Andrew, James and Thomas) were the sons of Lord Archibald Douglas, and claimed to be of royal Scottish descent.  While research into the family origins is ongoing and as yet inconclusive, the preponderance of the evidence suggests that they were Scotch Anglicans who came from the vicinity of Edinburgh on the border of Scotland and England.[iv]  In the Biographical Annals, it is said that the four brothers hired a private ship and traveled in style with a party of friends to America around 1728.  It is unclear if their father, Lord Archibald, immigrated with them or remained behind.

While a relationship between the Rutters and Douglas’s in Lancaster is indisputable, it seems improbable that Conrad met and married his second wife in London.   The logistics might make more sense if Conrad had come over during the Palatine immigration of 1709/10, since at that time the German immigrants were held up in London for over a year before gaining approval to travel to New York.  However, during that interim, the Palatines were housed in camps, and there are depictions of English citizens “touring” the camps and being shocked at the poverty and strange peasant lifestyle of the Palatine residents.  Under these conditions, it seems highly unlikely that a poor German immigrant would find the opportunity to meet and marry Scottish lass supposedly from an aristocratic family. 

Besides, as outlined on the The New History page, it appears more probable that Conrad immigrated to America after 1715.  At this time, England remained a transshipment point from travelers from Northern Europe, but they were not typically held up for prolonged stays before making their way onward to America.  Thus there would have been even less time and opportunity for chance meetings and marriages between Scots and Germans.  Nor is it likely that Conrad met and married a Douglas on the ship over, since the Douglas genealogy states that the four Douglas brothers came over on a private ship they chartered around 1728, a full ten years after Conrad was already residing in Maryland.

Finally, it seems improbable that Conrad would even attempt the voyage to the New World without his wife.  With five children, several certainly under the age of ten in 1715, it would seem almost foolhardy for Conrad to pick up stakes and attempt to move to the harsh, unsettled New World on his own.  For all the reasons above, it seems much more likely that Conrad’s first wife died on the voyage to America or after their arrival in the new world.  If Conrad did get remarried to a Douglas, this marriage most likely happened in America, not London.

If Conrad did not meet and marry his second wife until they were both in America, and if she came over with her brothers, that marriage most likely happened in Lancaster, since the brothers reportedly sailed for the colonies around 1725-1728,[v] which is about the same time that Conrad settled on his farm in Leacock.  But there is another possibility that deserves serious consideration.  Records show that numerous Douglas’s immigrated to the colonies in the latter half of the 1600’s.  In fact, we know of several Douglas families residing in Maryland in the early 1700’s, and one in particular that even lived near Bohemia Manor when Conrad was there.   William Douglas, a merchant from New Castle, purchased a 500-acre plantation called Vulcan’s Rest in 1702.[vi]  Vulcan’s rest was situated on a branch of the Bohemia River.  William Douglas, his children and their descendants continued to live on the plantation until the last sections were sold off in the 1740’s and 1750’s. 

Conrad would have had ample opportunity to meet and become friends with the family of William Douglas over the approximately 10 years that he resided in Bohemia Manor (1717-1728).  Like the Skiles, the family of William Douglas attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.[vii]   It is even possible that the Douglas he married came from the William Douglas family, rather than the Lord Archibald Douglas branch.  But that can only be true if we can establish a relationship between the two branches of the Douglas families, because we know it was the descendants of Lord Archibald Douglas that witnessed Conrad’s will in 1734.  They would have no reason to have taken on this responsibility unless there was a family connection of some sort.  Luckily, evidence of such a connection exists between the family of William Douglas and that of Lord Archibald Douglas.

The “Douglas Family” sketch in the Biographical Annals of Pennsylvania states that:  “It is possible that the wife of Conrad Rutter may have been in America long before her brothers, and that her letters home induced them to emigrate.”  The Annals go on to say that, immediately upon their arrival in America, the brothers “spent some time at the headwaters of Chesapeake Bay.”  Bohemia Manor can certainly be considered as part of the headwaters of the Chesapeake.  Thus the simplest explanation is that the four Douglas brothers were related to the Douglas’s of Vulcan’s Rest, and that they temporarily stopped at Vulcan’s Rest in order to take advantage of the hospitality and New World experience of their colonial cousins.

The source of the information that Conrad’s second wife was named Jane is unclear.  In the Biographical Annals,  J. Watson Ellmaker, a Rutter descendent and historian who lived around the turn of the 20th century, and who appears to be responsible for much of the traditional history about Conrad, is reported to have written that “Conrad’s wife was a Douglas,” but does not specify a first name.  It also raises suspicion that not one of Conrad’s children named even one of their own daughters Jane.  While we believe that all of Conrad’s children were born of his first wife, it seems somewhat hard to believe that Conrad’s children would fail to honor their step-mother in such a way.   (That said, none of Conrad’s children chose to name even one of their sons Conrad, which is even stranger.)

Finally, many genealogy websites quote the research of Earl Deveney, said to be the former Covener of Clan Douglas in Oregon, who reportedly determined that Conrad did indeed marry a daughter of Lord Archibald, but that her name was Margaret.[viii]  This is intriguing because Conrad’s two youngest children - Peter and Conrad Jr. – each named one of their own daughters Margaret.  Conrad’s daughter Elizabeth may also have had a daughter named Margaret.  On a side note, according to Deveny, Lord Archibald did have a daughter named Jane, but she reportedly married James Wilson.[ix]  Lord Archibald also had two other daughters:  Mary (who married John Gibson) and Ann (who married John Caldwell).  Interestingly, there were Gibsons, Caldwells and Wilsons living in the vicinity of the Rutters and Douglas’s in Lancaster during the 1730’s.  Further research is required to see if these families do, in fact, have ties to Lord Archibald Douglas.

[i] John Franklin Meginness, “The Douglas Family,” Biographical Annals of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Chicago, IL:  J.H. Beers & Co., 1903), pg 1508

[ii] Lancaster County Historical Society, Lancaster, PA, Lancaster County Will Book A, Vol. 1, pg 29

[iii] John Franklin Meginness, pg. 1508; also Albert D. Hart, Jr., “Douglass Family Genealogy,” Our Folk website,

[iv] Various online sources, but for one see “The Douglas Family” (pdf), The Saunders Family History website,

[v] John Franklin Meginness, pg. 1507

[vi] June D. Brown, Abstracts of Cecil County, Maryland, Land Records: 1673-1751 (Westminster, MD:  Willow Bend Books, 1999), pg. 162

[vii] William Douglas’s children were baptized at St. Stephen’s;  see Henry C. Peden, Early Anglican Church Records of Cecil County Maryland (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007), pg. 33

[viii] For example, see Albert D. Hart, Jr., “Douglass Family Genealogy,” Our Folk website,

[ix] Albert D. Hart, Jr.