Middle Island’s Oldest Resident Dies at Age 96

Footnotes to Long Island History

 Middle Islands oldest resident dies at age 96
May 12 1966

Thomas R. Bayles

Lewis Ritch                            

                     The death of Lewis E. Ritch of Middle Island at the age of 96 brought to a close the life of the oldest resident of Middle Island.

        He was born October 11,1869, in the family homestead on the farm in Middle Island, which was purchased in 1811 by his grandfather, Lewis E. Ritch, from Charles Gerard.

        When a young man, he married Katie F. Homan and they had three children.

         Mr. Ritch lived on an operated the family farm all his life and was a custodian and trustee of the Union Cemetery for over 40years. He was so familiar with the grave stones there that he could repeat the inscriptions on  most of them from memory .

        He was one of the last of the men who were engaged in the cordwood business during the latter part of the past century, when thousands of cords of wood were cut every winter through the middle of the island and hauled by teams of horses to the north side where the wood was piled along side the old "landing" roads that led down to the Sound shore. Here at various points along the sound the wood sloops came to the shore from Miller Place to Wading River at high tide and the wood was hauled across the beach and loaded on them. They sailed for New York and also up the Hudson River to the brickyards at Haverstraw, where the wood was used in curing bricks. Many a tale he could tell of those colorful days when the cordwood business was such an important industry in this area, and of loading and sailing on the wood sloops, many of which were loaded at night, according to the tide.

        Mr. Ritch had a keen  mind and a wonderful memory and was familiar with property bounds for miles around, old road and conditions that existed man-years ago. His help was sought by lawyers and title searchers, surveyors and those in search of information as well as those looking up their genealogy. He was a great walker and celebrated his eightieth birthday by walking from the steamboat dock at Port Jefferson, a distance of 10 miles.

         Up until his death he cut and piled a large pile of stove wood in the yard at his home every winter, which is burned in the family cook stove, as well as cutting and selling many cords of fireplace wood.

        Lewis Ritch will be missed by all those who knew him and valued his friendship. Never too busy to stop and give information or help to those looking for it, his place in the community will never be filled. He was one of the few remaining men of a past generation whose simple, kindly ways made him stand out prominently in these days of rush and tension. His passing brings to a close another chapter of our country  life in the years gone by.

        He is survived by two sons, Raymond of middle island and Alan of Durham; two granddaughters and six great grandchildren.

       Funeral services were held Saturday at the Middle Island Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Edwin G Townsend, pastor, officiating. Interment followed in Union Cemetery, Middle Island in the family plot. Arrangements were made by the Pettit Funeral Home.

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