Rittersville history is pre-dated by the settlement of farmers in the area of the lower part of Allen township in Northampton County, and the establishment of Hanover Township.
The settling of what was to become Hanover Township was later than most other townships because most of the land, 23,000 acres, was known as the Manor of Fermor, which was a proprietorship granted to the Penn family. Technically, this land was not available for public settlement, however many "squatters" established farms and homesteads on the tract, as early as the 1730's.
Some of these early settlers of the future Hanover Township area were people such as Solomon Jennings, the Sterner family, Jacob and Jonathan Houer, Charles Colver, Henry Fatzinger, and Philip Kleckner. (see Early Rittersville Settlers)
Another reason for the relatively late settlement of Hanover was that much of the land was considered to be unsuitable for farming. In fact, portions of what were to become Hanover Township were called the "Barrens" or "Drylands". Eventually, farmers proved that description to be wrong and agriculture thrived in Hanover Township.
The "squatter" situation came to a head in 1795 when a US Circuit Court in Philadelphia prepared to hear a case in which the Penn descendents attempted to eject the squatters from their lands, even though the settlers had agreed to pay for their lands as long as they received title. Prior to the trial being heard, the parties reached an agreement wherein the settlers agreed to pay about $1.75 an acre for title to their lands.
In 1798, a number of the residents of the lower part of Allen Township petitioned to establish a new township, which the Northampton County court approved. This new township was named Hanover.
In 1800, Hanover Township had a population of 736 residents. By 1810, the population of the entire township of Hanover was 850, an increase of 15% over the decade.
The last major change that affected early Hanover Township occurred in 1812, when Lehigh County was formed from part of Northampton County. Lehigh County's eastern border was the Monocacy creek in Bethlehem, which meant that Hanover Township was now split between two counties. As a result, two-thirds of Hanover Township land was in Lehigh County and about one-half of the population. The remaining part of Hanover Township was and is in Northampton County. Hanover's boundaries remain as such today.
©2005 Robert M Reinbold Jr