G. Ritch House



Ritch Home and Hat Shop. Located on north side of Old Middle Country Road.
Longwood Public Library, Thomas R. Bayles Collection CS 27-7


Raymond and Isabel Ritch. Longwood Public Library, Thomas R. Bayles Collection CS 28A-21


Lewis Ritch. Longwood Public Library, Thomas R. Bayles Collection CS 27-9

The first members of the Ritch family to emigrate from England to America arrived here sometime in the 1600's and settled in Connecticut. Henry Ritch was apparently the original settler as he is listed in histories of Connecticut as one of the several proprietors who purchased the land at Greenwich from the Indians and also as his home was designated as the first public house in that area.

The Ritch family is known to have remained in Connecticut until the time of the Revolutionary War as John Ritch and two of his brothers, Edward and Thomas, enlisted in Captain Joseph Hobby's company of Greenwich, Connecticut militia on November 11, 1776. John was subsequently discharged, on January 11, 1777, and returned home to his family. He had previously married Molly Hyatt, in 1772, and on February 12, 1776, their son Lewis Ritch had been born.

Little is known of Lewis Ritch's early life in Connecticut, but in 1789 he married Elizabeth Wallace and settled in North Salem, Westchester County, N. Y., where he worked as a hat maker. Lewis and Elizabeth Ritch had three children, John Wallace Ritch, born in 1799; Lewis Ritch, born in 1801; and Lucy Ritch, born in 1803. In that latter year Elizabeth Ritch died and Lewis, remaining in North Salem, continued to make hats and bring them to New York City where they were sold.

According to family tradition, it was on one of his annual trips to New York City, probably in 1809 or early in 1810, that he first met Charity Hulse. She was a daughter of Caleb M. and Jerusha Petty Hulse and lived with her parents at Middle Island, where she had been born on March 11, 1788. On December 18, 1810, she married Lewis Ritch who, leaving his three children to live with relatives at North Salem, moved to Middle Island.

In 1811, Lewis purchased ten acres of land at Middle Island from Charles Gerard and subsequently, in 1827 and 1831, purchased an additional one hundred and ninety acres. Sometime shortly after making his first land purchase Lewis Ritch built or had constructed this house, where he lived until his death on September 3, 1825. In addition to this house, he also had built a small store, which he probably used to manufacture and sell his hats. The fact that he remained in that business is evidenced by the 1820 census records which note that he was engaged in manufactures and hat making is the only trade he is known to have had. Also, it is unlikely that he could have been a farmer, as was his son George W. Ritch, as he owned only ten acres of land until 1827.

Beside his commercial activities Lewis Ritch, between the years 1813 and 1829, served the Town of Brookhaven in the positions of Town Trustee, Overseer of Highways, Commissioner of Highways, and Town Assessor. When Lewis Ritch died, on September 3, 1835, lie bequeathed all his personal property to his widow, Charity Hulse Ritch, and his real property was devised equally to the six children by his second marriage. A valuable record of the contents or furnishings of this house is the attached inventory of the household furniture and personal possessions of Charity Hulse Ritch. As was noted she inherited all of Lewis Ritch's personal property and continued to live in this house with her son, George W. Ritch, until her death on March 3, 1871. This inventory and appraisal of her effects was made for the purpose of dividing her estate and in all probability includes most of the furnishings which were in this house at the time that Lewis Ritch lived there.

George W. Ritch, the youngest of these six children remained at the family home and succeeded in acquiring the interest held in this property by the other children, several of who had left the area. His brothers, Simeon, Isaac, and Ulysses Ritch had moved to the section around Washington, North Carolina, where they were engaged in shipbuilding and the coastal trade. His other brother, Thomas Ritch, remained at Middle Island as did his sister, Mary Elizabeth Ritch, who married Austin D. Randall.

George Washington Ritch is listed in the census records; from 1850 to 1880, as a farmer and this is probably the only occupation he ever had. He did, however, also serve the Town of Brookhaven as a Collector of Taxes, Inspector of Elections, Town Assessor, and Overseer of Highways. It was George W. Ritch who converted the store his father had built into a small grocery and general store and it was during his ownership of the property, in the early 1850's, that the larger portion of this house was added.

Following George W. Ritch's death, on November 10, 1889, his son, Lewis E. Ritch, inherited this property. Lewis was also a farmer and although he lived there until his death in 1966, he had sold this property to his son, Raymond Ritch, in 1945. Raymond Ritch retained ownership of the property until 1969, when he sold it to the Alpen Development Corporation. This house, therefore, was owned by four members of the Ritch family through almost the entire period of its existence prior to being moved to the Old Bethpage village restoration.


The Ritch House before it was taken down.

The Lewis Ritch Hat Shop. Formerly located in Middle Island NY the shop, beams and lumber from Lewis Ritch's house have been moved to Old Bethpage Village Restoration. This lumber was used in buildings needing repair.

Baltimore Sun article, January 1, 2009

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