Conrad Ritter / Rutter:  Pennsylvania Pioneer

Conclusion: The New History

This section summarizes what we know about Conrad Rutter’s life and origins, makes some assumptions based on the evidence in hand, and highlights the blanks yet to be filled in by further research.

Conrad Ritter / Rutter

Birth Place and date unknown, but probably in Germany circa 1675
Death Will written on April 19, 1734, and proved on Feb 8th, 1737/8, in Leacock Twp., Lancaster Co., PA [i] Conrad Rutter was reportedly buried on the family farm about 1 mile east of Intercourse, PA. [ii]
Parents  Unknown
Siblings  Unknown
Marriage 1st: Name unknown, presumably married in Germany prior to 1700 [based on estimated birth dates of children.]  2nd: Reportedly Jane or Margaret Douglas but source unknown. Marriage date unknown, but probably after Conrad’s arrival in America.
Children (5)
     Andrew (chose to go by the name Rider in adulthood)
  Birth  Place and date unknown, but probably in Germany circa 1700
  Death circa 1749 in Cecil Co., MD [probate bond dated Jan, 1750 [iii]
  Marriage Mary (reportedly Mary Noble, daughter of Adam Noble, but source unknown)
  Children Rebecca, Peter, Joseph, Andrew, James (all baptized at St. Stephens Episcopal Church Cecil Co., MD) [iv]
     Elizabeth (married names Everts and Gibbons)
  Birth Place and date unknown, but probably in Germany circa 1700 - 1710
  Death After 1771 (listed among communicants at Trinity Lutheran in New Holland) [v]
  Marriage 1st: Jeremiah Everts (aka Jeremias Evarts, Ebert, Evitt, Evers), died 1746;                   2nd: William Gibbons (aka Wilhelm Givens, Gibbin, Gibs)
  Children w/ 1st husband: Elizabeth, William, Joseph, Margaret?; w/2nd husband: Eva Barbara;    Step children of 2nd husband: Andreas, Johanna, Joh. Ritter (Ritter is middle name)
     Joseph
   Birth Place and date unknown, but probably in Germany circa 1700 - 1710
  Death Will dated Feb. 7, 1775, and proved Aug. 11, 1775 in Leacock Twp., Lancaster Co., PA [vi]
  Wife Barbara (nee Bichler/Biegler/Buchlin, daughter of Jacob and Anna Maria Bichler) [vii]
  Children Heinrich (Henry), Johann Georg (George), Anna Maria, Barbara, Andrew, Joseph, Margaretha (Margaret), Catharina (Catherine), Elizabetha (Elizabeth), Rebecca
     Peter   
   Birth Place and date unknown, but probably in Germany circa 1700 - 1710
  Death Will dated Feb 4, 1769 and proved Jan 5, 1792 in Salisbury Twp., Lancaster Co., PA [viii]
  Marriage Elizabeth (reportedly Skiles, daughter of Henry and Catherine Skiles)
  Children John, Rebecca Elizabeth, Mary, Martha, William?
     Conrad Jr.
  Birth Place and date unknown, but probably in Germany circa 1700 - 1710
  Death Will dated Mar 2, 1765, and proved Mar 13, 1769/70 in Leacock Twp., Lancaster Co, PA [ix]
  Marriage 1st unknown  2nd: Catharina Wilken (m. April 30, 1751 at Trinity Lutheran Church, New Holland ) [x]; maiden name possibly Lytle or Little
  Children William, Henry, Martha Elizabeth, Margaret Rebecca, Barbara, George (all except Barbara and George probably from first marriage, based on estimated birth dates.)

 Other Information

We don’t know for certain where Conrad Rutter was born.   But based on his close association with German families such as the Skiles, Lightners, Everts, Elrods and Noeckers in both Cecil Co., MD, and Lancaster Co., PA, it seems very likely that he was German. Much of the German immigration in the early 1700’s originated from the Palatinate region along the Rhine River, but there is no concrete evidence linking Conrad to this area.

Conrad and his children were probably illiterate, which was not uncommon among immigrant settlers in colonial times. We assume that because they typically applied a mark to verify the signature that was written on their behalf in official documents. Thus the spelling of the name was in the hands of the document’s authors. The family surname was usually written as “Ritter” or “Ridder” in documents authored by German or Dutch speakers, and as “Ritter” or “Rutter” in documents written by English scribes. Only in later generations did some family members switch permanently to Rutter, an English variant of the German Ritter. The one exception to this was Conrad’s eldest son Andrew, who from early adulthood appears to have gone by the name Rider, another English variant of the Ritter surname.

We don’t have exact birth dates for Conrad or his children. But we know that his eldest son Andrew came of age around 1720, [xi] and that his other three sons (Joseph, Peter and Conrad Jr.) all came of age by 1728. [xii]  Daughter Elizabeth was married and had two children by 1734. [xiii]  Thus Conrad’s children were likely born around 1700 – 1710. If Conrad was 25-35 years old when his children were born, this would place his birth date around 1675. It is just a guess, but a reasonable one.

The name of Conrad’s first wife is unknown, but may have been Elizabeth or Rebecca. Conrad’s only daughter was named Elizabeth. In addition, four of Conrad’s five children named one of their own daughters Elizabeth. But it is also true that four of Conrad’s five children also named one of their daughters Rebecca. No other female names are used as commonly as these two, although Margaret is used three times.

The date and circumstances of Conrad’s emigration to America are unknown. Many of the German families that the Rutter’s associated with came to America as part of the Palatine immigration to New York in 1709/10. However, for each of those families, we can find traces of their earlier lives in ship logs, subsistence (charity) lists, and residence records in New York. The Rutters fail to appear in any of these documents, thus were not likely part of that migration.

The first hard evidence we have of Conrad’s presence in the new world is his signature as a witness to the will of Samuel Bayard, dated Jan 17, 1716/17. [xiv]  A month later, son Andrew witnessed the will of Henry Sluyter, Bayard’s brother-in-law and business partner. [xv] Both Bayard and Sluyter lived on the Labadie Tract, a part of Bohemia Manor that ran along the northern bank of the Bohemia River in Cecil Co., MD. Thus we know the Rutters were in America and living in Maryland by 1717.

The most likely scenario is that the Rutters came to America after 1715, when German immigration into the colonies began to swell. It was in 1717 that the flood of German immigrants grew so alarming to the Pennsylvania authorities that they debated enacting legislation to better document and control the number of Palatine “aliens” entering the province. The most probable scenario is that Conrad Rutter and family came over as part of this second wave of German immigration.

An immigration date of 1715 or later also seems more probable from the perspective that Conrad’s children would have been above the age of five and thus better able to handle the rigors of cross-Atlantic travel and settling in the New World. If the family had come across as part of the New York Palatine immigration of 1709/10, Conrad and wife would have likely been under the additional hardship of trying to travel with several babies and toddlers.

There are no records of Conrad Rutter purchasing or leasing any farmland while in Maryland. He may have worked on the Bayard and Sluyter tobacco plantation on Bohemia Manor, either as an indentured servant, overseer, or craftsman. In his will, Conrad bequeathed his coopers tools to sons Peter and Conrad Jr. This has led some to believe he was a cooper (barrel maker) by trade. Certainly such skills would have been valuable on the plantation, since tobacco was typically shipped in casks called hogs heads during colonial times.

The records of Holy Trinity “Old Swedes” Lutheran Church in Christiana (now Wilmington, DE) indicate that Conrad attended communion there in 1721. [xvi]  It is also appears likely that the Rutters attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, located near Bohemia Manor. Son Andrew Rider remained a member of St. Stephen’s and all his children were baptized there. [xvii]

Conrad Rutter reportedly married a Douglas, possibly Jane or Margaret Douglas, as his second wife. [xviii]  The only evidence to support the assumption that he married a Douglas is that three members of the Douglas clan (Andrew, Jean and James) served as witnesses to Conrad’s will in 1734. If he did marry a Douglas, it is possible that they met at St. Stephen’s Church while living in Bohemia Manor. Moreover, she may have been related to the William Douglas family who resided on Vulcan’s Nest near Bohemia Manor. Click here for more details.

While in Maryland, the Rutters befriended the Skiles, Lightners, Everts, Elrods and Noeckers, all fellow German immigrants who eventually moved with the Rutters to Lancaster County in Pennsylvania.

While at Bohemia Manor, Conrad Rutter may also have come in contact with the Douglas’s and Littles, Scottish families who also moved to Lancaster about the same time as the other families.

Around 1728, the Rutters moved to the Mill Creek area in what was to become Leacock Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. [xix] While the precise date of their resettlement is uncertain, records show that it was definitely after 1723 and before 1730, probably closer to the latter end of that time frame. [xx]

Conrad’s eldest son Andrew leased a 125-acre farm on Bohemia Manor in 1722 and remained in Cecil Co. MD. [xxi]

Conrad Rutter settled on 588 acres of land about one mile east of the present-day town of Intercourse, PA. Patent records indicate that he settled there with the consent of the Commissioners of Property, but the form of that consent is uncertain. [xxii]  He did not receive an official warrant to survey until 1733, and a survey was not returned until 1763. [xxiii]  Moreover, it took until 1829 for all sections of the 588-acre tract to be patented.

The tract of land was subdivided as part of the survey process, with Conrad holding the western section containing 208 and one-quarter acres, son Joseph holding the northeast section containing 188 acres, and son Peter holding the southeast section containing 191 and three-quarter acres. [xxiv] Conrad bequeathed his section to son Conrad Jr. in his will.

All the other emigrants from Bohemia Manor originally resettled within about five miles of each other in Lancaster. The Skiles took up land on the east side of the Rutter farm, and the Lightners took up land along the west side. The Douglas’s and Littles settled in nearby Salisbury Township, while the Everts, Noeckers and Elrods took up neighboring lands in Leacock. [xxv]

Conrad’s religious affiliation in Lancaster is unknown. Two of his children, Joseph and Elizabeth, attended the Trinity Lutheran Church in New Holland, also called the Muddy Creek or Saue Schwamm (Hog Swamp) congregation. [xxvi]  His two youngest children, Peter and Conrad Jr., attended St. John’s Episcopal Church, also called the Compass or Pequea Church, located on the border of Salisbury and West Caln townships. [xxvii]  (Note: eldest son Andrew attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Cecil Co., Maryland. [xxviii])  Detailed records for Trinity Lutheran Church remain in existence, and Conrad himself does not appear anywhere in those records. That may mean he chose to frequent St. John’s, for which early records in the 1730’s do not exist. An affiliation with St. John’s would also make sense if he married into the Douglas clan, who were Scottish Anglicans.

Conrad’s will was written on April 19, 1734, and proved on Feb 8th, 1737/8, in Lancaster County. [xxix]  In the will, Conrad identifies himself as a yeoman (farmer/landowner) living in Leacock Township. An inventory valued his estate at 80 pounds, 6 shillings and 6 pence, including both real estate and personal property. His assets included an “improvement” (probably his house and fields) valued at 50 pounds, a wagon, 6 horses, 11 cows and 6 sheep, as well as various farm implements and household goods.

Conrad Rutter and family straddled the German and English communities in Lancaster, both physically and culturally. Their farm was situated on the border between the Palatine settlement centered on Mill Creek in Leacock and Earl Townships, and the English settlement that spread out around the headwaters of the Pequea in Salisbury and Sadsbury Townships. Two of his children remained true to their native German heritage, making their spiritual and social home in the neighboring German Lutheran congregation, while his other three children adopted the Anglican Episcopalian faith. At least two of his children married English (Scottish) spouses, and Conrad himself may even have taken an English bride as his second wife. Thus, the Rutters likely served as a bridge between these two highly disparate groups, helping them to communicate, cooperate, and eventually come together as neither German nor English, but as pioneer Americans.


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

[ii] The graveyard is indicated in a sketch of the 588-acre Rutter farm drawn by J. Watson Ellmaker for Amos Rutter, located in the Rutter folder at the Lancaster County Historical Society, Lancaster, PA.

[iii] Personal research by Peter and Jane Topoly notes: “The administrative bond of Andrew Rider by Mary Rider and Peter Rider, his administrators, dated 1 January, 1750. Manassah Loage and James Boyles placed sureties of 500 pounds sterling for the estate on 1 January, 1750. The document was recorded on 26 March, 1750. Source cited as: Maryland Hall of Records, Annapolis, MD, Prerogative Court Testamentary Proceedings, Vol. 33, MDHR# 989-1, pg 103

[iv] Henry C. Peden, Jr., Early Anglican Church Records of Cecil County, Maryland (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007), pg. 39

[v] Glen P. Schwalm, Fredrick S. Weiser, Records of Pastoral Acts at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (Brienigsville, PA: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1977), pg. 149

[vi] Lancaster County Historical Society, Lancaster, PA, Lancaster County Will Book B, Vol. 1, pg. 735

[vii] See research conducted by John Parmer documenting the marriage between Joseph Rutter and Barbara Bichler

[viii] Lancaster County Historical Society, Lancaster, PA, Lancaster County Will Book J, Vol. 1, pg. 217

[ix] Lancaster County Historical Society, Lancaster, PA, Lancaster County Will Book C, Vol. 1, pg. 35

[x] Debra D. Smith, Frederick S. Weiser, Trinity Lutheran Church Records, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Vol. 1, 1730-1767 (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1995), pg. 238

[xi] The fact that Andrew served as a witness to Henry Sluyter’s will, dated Feb. 16, 1717, indicates that he had come of age by that time. Only those who had reached maturity, usually considered 18 years of age, were allowed to serve as witnesses.

[xii] The preamble to Joseph Rutter’s patent, granted in 1763, states that Conrad’s sons (Joseph, Peter and Conrad Jr.) were all of full age in 1728, when they settled on the 588-acre farm in Lancaster Co.

[xiii] Elizabeth’s children Elizabeth Evers and William Evers are mentioned in Conrad Rutter’s will dated April 19, 1734

[xiv] Maryland Hall of Records, Annapolis, MD, Prerogative Court (Wills), MSA citation: SM16 (microfilm)

[xv] Maryland Hall of Records, Annapolis, MD, Prerogative Court (Wills), MSA citation: SM16 (microfilm)

[xvi] Courtland B. Springer, Ruth L. Springer, Communicant Records, 1713-1756, of Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church (Wilmington, DE: Historical Society of Delaware, 1953-1956), pg. ?? [located at WI historical society]

[xvii] Henry C. Peden, pg. 39

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

[xix] The preamble to Joseph Rutter’s patent, granted in 1763, states that “in or about the year One thousand Seven hundred & twenty eight Conrad Ruter came with his three Sons” and “did settle upon a Tract of Land on or near Mill Creek then in the County of Chester but now of Leacock Township in the County of Lancaster then computed to contain Six hundred acres or thereabouts”

[xx] John Crowman deposition of 1723 indicates that Conrad Rutter was still in Cecil Co., MD, at that time. Conrad Jr. is listed as a sponsor at the baptism of Wilhelm Skiles, held at the New Holland Trinity Church in 1730, indicating that the Rutters were living in Lancaster Co., PA, by that year.

[xxi] June D. Brown, Abstracts of Cecil County, Maryland, Land Records: 1673-1751 (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 1999), pg. 157

[xxii] Preample to Joseph Rutter’s patent, granted in 1763, states that Conrad Rutter and sons settled “by the Consent of our then Commissioners of Property” on their land in Lancaster Co., PA.

[xxiii] Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives & History, PA State Archives, Records of the Land Office: Copied Surveys, 1681-1912, survey no. A-56-93; www.phmc.state.pa.us/

[xxiv] Joseph Rutter patent: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History, Pennsylvania State Archives, Records of the Land Office, Lancaster County Patent Books, series AA, volume 4: 369-372

[xxv] Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives & History, PA State Archives, Records of the Land Office: Copied Surveys, 1681-1912; www.phmc.state.pa.us/

[xxvi] Glen P. Schwalm, Fredrick S. Weiser, Records of Pastoral Acts at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (Brienigsville, PA: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1977); see also Robert L. Hess, F. Edward Wright, Lancaster County Pennsylvania Church Records of the 18th Century, Vol.6 (Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2012)

[xxvii] Martha Reamy, Early Church Records of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Vol 3 (Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 1958)

[xxviii] Henry C. Peden, Jr., Early Anglican Church Records of Cecil County, Maryland (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007), pg. 39

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