Born in Brocks Gap in 1838, Jacob H. Ritchie wrote his life stories on December 24, 1923, his 85th birthday. His family moved to Illinois in 1855 and later lived in Missouri. First published in his local Illinois newspaper, they were reprinted in Vergie Lantz’s Ritchie history. His homeplace is still standing near Mountain Grove church.
“I was born in Rockingham County, Virginia, December 24, 1838. My parents were John Ritchie, born in said county Feb. 5, 1799; Mary Magdalene Fawley Ritchie, born in above county in 1800 and died in 1855. Father died in September 1860 in McLean County, Illinois.
My grandfather Jacob Ritchie, born in above county, died at the age of 88; Grandmother Maria Turner Ritchie died at the age of 95. The Ritchies were early settlers from Holland and Switzerland and talked the Dutch language.
My Grandmother Fawley [Magdalene Wolf Fawley], whose maiden name was Wolf died at the age of 88 years at my father’s house. Her early [ancestors] came from Germany but adopted the Pennsylvania Dutch lan¬guage in this country.
My father owned a farm of over 300 acres. He built a spacious house of hewn logs, cracks neatly plastered, built two and one half stories, all sided with clear white pine lumber and weather-boarded outside and of course a fireplace, then a large kitchen with a large fireplace with cranes and hooks swinging in it for cooking and the Dutch oven on the hearth to bake johnny cake in, with coals under and on top, also all the paraphernalia [for cooking]…
At my seventh year I had not started any language only the Pennsylvania Dutch. So, when I started to school, I had to learn the English language as well as the school books. We did not have the free school system. The rule then was if a capable man wanted to teach a school, he took a subscription paper into a neighborhood and got sign¬ers for a certain sum per month or for certain months. If he got enough to remunerate him, he taught, if not he went elsewhere. So it was uncertain whether you got a schooling or not. It was a tough job on me, but I learned the English language much better than the Dutch parents tried to teach English to the children.
My home for the first 17 years was on the old home¬stead situated in a section of 6 to 15 miles toward the head of the Shenandoah River known as Brock’s Gap. The gap was formed by two mountains, one running from the southeast and the other from the northwest coming to a gap at an exact point where the Shenandoah River passed out into the Shenandoah Valley and emptied into the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry. So on the above homestead was spent my early boyhood recollections.
Before there were any matches, we had to keep fire in the fireplace, borrow it or strike it out of flint. Also, no cook stove, no reapers or mowers but many great inventions were made since my boyhood days…
I am the only child living in a family of eleven, five boys and six girls. My mother died before I was sixteen. Father sold the farm in 1855, so on October 3, father and I, cousin Hannah Ritchie, John Baker and family, Daniel Huffman and family, brothers-in-law and Paul Freed and family with three wagons and a carriage started overland to Illinois. Mr. Freed and I brought rifles along. I killed many squirrels and Mr. Freed a deer so we had fresh meat by the way.
We were four weeks on the way but laid over Sundays and several days at my Uncle Phillip Ritchie’s near Zanesville, Ohio. Our stopping place was three miles south of Bloomington, Illinois. We arrived in McLean County on November 4. We settled between Bloomington and Shirley where we lived until the fall of 1856 when we moved to Dale Township where we took an eighth and fractional forty belonging to W. C. Warlow being east of the Principal Meridian where we farmed until December 22 when I was married to Sally Hurt and continued to farm…
Now I must write some items of my traveling trips. First a I made a trip back to Virginia in the fall of 1857, then I went east the year of the Centennial  and visited Harrisburg, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and up the Shenandoah Valley to my old home.”
Jacob and his siblings were early settlers in McLean County, IL. He played a role in county development as a road commissioner, school trustee, and tax collector. He moved in 1890 to Missouri where he farmed. He died at age 88 years and is buried in Barton Co., Missouri.