So Far Away From Me

Nicholas Wilhelm Reiter

This week’s theme for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “so far away”. I decided to use last week’s blog about Nicholas REITER (which got set aside in favor of the Civil War tale of John C. BATES) and tell his story. Nicholas is my 2nd great-grandfather on my mother’s side. I chose him for this week’s theme because out of all my lines, I have made the least amount of progress on this one. Meaning- I’m “so far away” from answers about this family!!

In addition to the information posted below, I did an earlier blog post analysis of Nicholas’ and Sarah’s marriage record and the preacher who married them (Alpheus Brown). You can find that blog post here

Nicholas Wilhelm REITER was born in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany on 9 June 1825. He immigrated to America at a young age. My granny always said he was a stowaway but another story is that he came over on a ship with his parents when he was 5 years old. Granny always said there were 3 brothers and when they were young, they split up and each moved to a different place and they never saw each other again. I don’t know if that’s true.

What I know for sure is that I can pick him up in records on 16 August 1852 the day he married Sarah C. DAVIS in Pike County, Illinois. Nicholas and Sarah lived (as far as I know) in Perry, Illinois, until sometime between 1880 and 1900. Nicholas and Sarah always lived close to Sarah’s family and in Nicholas’ last decades he continued to live close to her family- even moving to the panhandle of Oklahoma to where Sarah’s sister lived. I have always assumed that he stayed close to her family because it is the only family he had and he needed help raising the young children he had because he was single. Nicholas and Sarah’s known children are John Wesley, Rachael Davis, Jennie Hurst, the twins (both of whom died at a very young age), and William Sherman (my ancestor). Granny always told me that the twins were one boy and one girl and they were named George and Georgie. She said they died as infants.

Nicholas’ name has been spelled several ways on official documents including Reiter (the original spelling as far as I know), Riter (the name as it was when Granny was born), Rider, and Ryder. On a record about his son William, I saw the name spelled Ritter.

Nicholas registered for the Civil War draft as Nicholas RYDER. As far as I know, he never served.

The family was still living in Perry, Pike County, Illinois, in 1870. The family name was shown as RITER. Living in the home were Nicholas and his children: John, Rachael, Jennie, and Willie. Nicholas’ birthplace is Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany. Nicholas could read but he could not write and he was working as a laborer. The family was living next door to Sarah’s sister Chloe (DAVIS) REEDER.

Sadly, Sarah was not with the family in the 1870 census because she passed away in February of 1870 due to consumption. Consumption was the name for Tuberculosis in 1870. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that most commonly attacks the lungs but can also attack other parts of the body. Classic symptoms include chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, fatigue, and loss of appetite/weight loss. The final stage of the disease occurs about 12-24 months after the initial infection. It was not until the 1820’s that Tuberculosis was identified as a disease and it was not called Tuberculosis until 1839. In 1882, twelve years after Sarah’s death, Robert Koch was finally able to identify the particular bacterium causing Tuberculosis and he received the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery. The first successful immunization against Tuberculosis came in 1906- 36 years too late to help Sarah.

In the late 1860’s to 1870, she likely did not receive good treatment. Toward the end of her life she was probably separated from her family. The disease would have caused clubbing in her fingers and toes. She would have been feverish, extremely tired, and in pain from all the coughing. She would have had to have a rag with her to catch the blood she was coughing up. Her body would have been thin and frail. I have not found her burial place.

Up until this week when I was writing and doing final research for this blog post, I believed that Nicholas never remarried after Sarah died. However, in reviewing each document to make sure I had everything straight, I noticed that in 1880, Nicholas was married to a woman named Sarah who, if she gave her age correctly, would have been about 6 years older than Sarah DAVIS. I have not been able to find a record of a second marriage for Nicholas so I have no other information about this second Sarah or the marriage between she and Nicholas. In 1880 the family was still living in Perry, Pike County, Illinois. Nicholas listed his birthplace as Baden (Germany) and stated both his parents were also born in Baden. The second Sarah was born in Illinois and stated her parents were also born in Illinois. If she had children of her own, they were not living with she and Nicholas in 1880. Jennie was not in the home at the time of this census. She was living in Perry, Illinois, with the William and Almena Taylor family and working as their servant.

On 7 October 1884 in Dubuque County, Iowa, Nicholas finally officially became a U. S. citizen.

The next census that is available is 1900. In 1900 Nicholas and his son William were living in Webster Township, Woodward County, Oklahoma, with Nicholas’ daughter Jennie REITER FULLER. Nicholas was no longer farming and stated he was a widower. He was now a cabinet maker. He could read, write, and speak in English. Nicholas died on 27 October 1904 with all of his children living near him except Rachael (who stayed in Illinois) and the twins who were buried in Illinois.

Nicholas Reiter’s grave

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