Solomon Jennings, a participant in the infamous Walking Purchase, was probably the earliest settler in the Rittersville area. In 1736, he established a farm, in what was actually Salisbury Township, two miles west of Bethlehem. This farm was located on the south side of the Lehigh River just below the Rittersville area, and also included some land on the north side of the river in Hanover Township. In 1764, ownership of the farm passed to Jacob Geisinger, who bought the farm at a public sale.
In 1761, a road was built from the Philadelphia Road through Salisbury Township, that passed by the Jennings farmhouse, crossed the Lehigh on a ferry run by Solomon Jennings, proceeded up through what was to become Rittersville and Schoenersville, and ended at the Lehigh Gap. This road was abandoned in 1825 after the road from Rittersville to Bethlehem was opened.
The probable path of this 1761 road up the south slope of the mountain into Rittersville can be seen today. (See The Geisinger Farm )
Another early township settler in the Rittersville area was the Sterner family. About 1760, they settled on some of the best farm land in the township. This is the land now occupied by the State Hospital. The original farm occupied approximately all the land from Hanover Ave. up to the top of the hill where the State Hospital buildings are situated, and all the way down the south side of the mountain to the river.
In 1780, the Houers settled a farm near Rittersville. Their son Charles lived on the Geisinger farm.
Sometime prior to 1781, Charles Colver also settled on a farm near Rittersville, and his son Jacob settled on a farm in Rittersville that was probably located near what today is the north side of Eaton Ave. east of Club Ave.
Henry Fatzinger was another early settler establishing a 116 acre farm near Schoenersville about 1790. His land abutted lands owned by M Kelchner, Daniel Klint, Joseph Albright, Henry Fogelman, Jacob Sterner, and George Meyer. In 1804 he purchased a tract of land from the descendents of Nicholas Steiner.
Following the Revolutionary War, Philip Kleckner came to the township with his wife Elizabeth and settled on a farm northeast of Rittersville along what is now Schoenersville Road.
Jacob Bast was also another early settler in the area. He had a farm along what is now the north side of Hanover Ave around Irving St.
In addition to the farms in the area, there were homes in Rittersville that pre-dated the arrival of Michael Ritter. In 1790, a log cabin was built at the location of 1814 Hanover Ave. Nothing remains of this house. The site is now a parking lot for Stahley's Sports Bar customers; however, according to the Lehigh County asssessment site, one of the earliest houses still standing is this home at 1002 Club Ave. It was built in 1800. Also built in 1800 is the home at 1418 E. Tremont St.
|1002 Club Avenue||1418 E. Tremont Street|
This house at 1940 Hanover Ave., in the photo below at left, was built in 1850, and the house in the photo on the right was built in 1860 and is located at 1991 Eaton Ave.
Another early home is the one below at what is now 1815 Hanover Ave. It is unique in that it has a chimney in the middle of the house.
This home at 1801 Hanover Ave was built in 1860. It also happens to be where I grew up.
This house, at 1909 Hanover Ave., was once the site of the first supermarket in Rittersville, American Stores. It was built in 1875. (It is also where my mother was born. Most of my family are natives of Rittersville, as you may have surmised.)
These are some other old homes still standing in Rittersville today, according to Lehigh County assessment records:
211 N Jane St - built 1850
422 N Jerome - built 1850
918 E Turner - built 1850
1412 E Gordon - built 1865
©2005, 2013 Robert M Reinbold Jr