for The Frostburg Express
Two James Ritchies
Robert and Mary Ritchie stood with their six children on the stern of the passenger ship Cambria and watched as their homeland slowly disappeared. The ship took leave from Glasgow, Scotland, and after a lengthy journey, arrived on Aug. 13, 1869, at the port of New York. The Ritchie family made their way to Westernport, where Robert plied his coal mining skills. The children ranged in age from 22-year-old John down to 1-year-old William. By the time of the annual census the following year, Robert and his oldest son, John, were working as coal miners to provide for the family. Next oldest son, Robert, was working as an engineer on the railroad.
According to the 1880 census, Robert, as head of household, had no profession. Three of his sons, (22-year-old Robert, 20-year old Alexander and 18-year-old James) were working as coal miners to support the family. Robert's name was not found in the census records after 1880; our research has not uncovered his fate.
On New Year's Eve in 1883, James Ritchie married Sarah Fisher in Mineral County, West Virginia; it was a joyous way to ring in the New Year. The Ritchies and their contemporaries were often subject to the perils of the era. Meager medical resources made childbirth, and life in general, a very precious affair. Nine children were born to James and Sarah within the next 15 years. Goldie, born in July 1893, lived 11 months. Isaac, born in May 1896, died four months later.
in 1892, the Ritchie family moved to the coal mining community of Borden Shaft, near Frostburg, and James went to work in the Hoffman Mine. At 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27, 1902, James was struck down by a sudden slip of breast coal, which killed him outright. He was laid to rest in Allegany Cemetery (now Frostburg Memorial Park). Sarah was suddenly left to provide for seven young children, ranging from 15 down to 4 years of age. The widowed mother was torn by conflicting emotions -- although she was thankful that she had sons who were old enough to go to work, she agonized over the thought of subjecting her sons to the same perils that claimed their father.
Following in his departed father's footsteps, James Ritchie, Jr. worked as an underground coal miner at the Consolidation Coal Co.'s No. 12 Mine near Wright's Crossing. James Jr. eventually asked Miss Sarah Cathcart to become his wife. Sarah was the daughter of Borden Shaft residents James and Sarah (Rank) Cathcart; Sarah's parents had also emigrated from Scotland. Sarah and James Jr., while raising their six children, resided in "New Shaft", the same community where James had grown up.
At 3:30 p.m. on Monday Dec. 14, 1931, James Jr. had finished his shift and was standing outside of the mine, talking to his brothers Benjamin and John; they, too were employed at Consol No. 12. James Jr. suddenly fainted and fell to the ground. Despite the efforts to revive him, James drew his last breath 10 minutes after his collapse. The cause of death was listed as "unknown". Besides his wife, Sarah, James left five sons: Albert, 17; Kenneth, 15; Roy, 12; Glenn, 10; Ralph 5; and a daughter, Ruth, 3. Sarah Cathcart Ritchie passed away on Nov. 29, 1958, and was reunited with her husband in Frostburg Memorial Park.
Even in eternal rest, the Ritchie family remains close. Eight of the nine children of James and Sarah (Fisher) Ritchie are buried with their parents in Frostburg Memorial Park. The only exception is Catherine Ritchie Watkins, who is buried in Winnipeg, Canada. Four children of James Jr. and Sarah (Cathcart) Ritchie are buried with their parents, grandparents and eight great-aunts and uncles in Frostburg Memorial Park.
(Courtesy of John McGowan ~transcribed by Genie)
"Miner Recollections Volume Two 2019" is now available.
This compilation includes 250 pages of stories, pictures, maps, and an updated list of deceased miners.
Proceeds support the installation of a life-sized bronze statue and the educational landscaping that will surround it.
Books are available at Armstrong Insurance in Frostburg or by contacting
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