History of John Ritchie
Contributor: Rbemis01 Created: 3 years ago Updated: 3 years ago
History of John Ritchie
Written by his daughter: Mary Ritchie Wagstaff Cranner
January 17, 1932
John Ritchie was born the 28th of November 1843 at Ayrshire, Scotland. He was the youngest of seven children in the family. His father, James Ritchie Sr., and mother Agnes Robertson Ritchie were Latter Day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), and many missionaries found a home with these people while they were laboring around Ayrshire. John's father was a fisherman and was away from home, a great deal. Brother Ritchie, being quite well to do, the missionaries, you might say took advantage of the fact and would sometimes infringe. The company of God-fearing men was pleasing to Sister Ritchie. But to the father, it seemed a little too much for them to take such liberties while he was away, which in turn caused him to gradually drift away from the church. The spirit of apostasy came upon him and he asked to be disfellowshipped, because he thought himself unworthy to be a Latter-Day Saint. But mother remained a staunch member of the church, thus the family was separated. She moved to another part of the town, taking the three children who were alive at the time with her. Agnes, Jenny, and John were the names of the children. The afore mentioned sisters were the only two of the family that the father, John Ritchie, of Provo remembers.
It would perhaps be interesting at this point to mention a little accident which occurred to John, then a lad of four years of age. As has been mentioned before, Father's father was a fisherman, and the boy, John was very interested in going out to sea on the fishing boat with his father. One day on one of those trips, Father was standing on the boat looking over the side, and in his great excitement, watching the fish, he fell overboard into the sea. One of the sailors on another boat saw him fall into the water and hurried to his rescue. It took him about two minutes to reach the boat. After taking John from the water and working on him for a long time his breathing was restored. He was taken home, where his mother cared for him. This was a very narrow escape.
Not long after the home was broken up, Jenny, a beautiful girl of 16 years, just blooming into womanhood contracted tuberculosis and soon left her earthly home to come back to her Maker. On her dying bed, she asked for her father. For her only hope was to see the family reunite. She begged him to be good to her mother. But the family was never reunited.
Agnes, that other sister, married a man by the name of William McGhie. This union was blessed by one child, but the mother soon fell ill and died. Later the child died of measles. William McGhie been made his home with Sister Ritchie.
During this time, and when Father was 7 1/2 years old, he had a great and desire sincere desire to see an angel. So one day while playing ball with some of his playmates. He stopped suddenly to listen. From somewhere he could hear strains of beautiful music. He wondered if the others could hear it. But the expressions on their faces showed they did not. The music continued and finally an angel appeared blowing a trumpet. It was the same angel whose likeness appears on the top of the Salt Lake Temple. The beauty of the vision caused him to cry and his mother came to his assistance. He told her what he had seen and that he wanted to be baptized at once. His mother asked the authorities of the Church if her son could be baptized at the age of 7 1/2 years old. They told her, by all means, yes. So in about two weeks her son was baptized by Peter Robinson. This vision to Father was a testimony to the truthfulness of the Gospel and has remained with him throughout his life.
Another incident, which came to Father's mind, occurred when he was nine years old. In his childish innocence, he drank some poison fly water, a neighbor lady had fixed to catch flies. The lady said it was strong enough to kill five head of horses. The doctor said, the only thing to do was to keep giving him quantities of very hot water to drink to keep him vomiting. They continued this treatment for 24 hours, being sure to keep him awake. It meant death if he were allowed to sleep. The next morning he asked his mother to pray for him. He felt sure he would get well. This she did. It left him so weak he could not speak and was not able to stand on his feet for two weeks.
John and his mother moved from Ayrshire to Kilmarnack and from there to Greenock. Here Father began working in the shipyards. The latter occupation proved to be very successful for him. While at Greenock, Father’s father came to visit him. The father tried various ways to get sent to go back with him, for he had heard John's mother was planning to go to America. He offered Father 10 shillings more a day than he was getting if he would go with him. Father hesitated because of his desire to go to America. Not once did he indicate this to his father for he knew he would try to prevent it. To his father, he made it appear almost impossible for him to even think he could go to America. So the father finally left thinking that later he would have his son with him. This was when Father was 20 years of age.
Father tried to persuade his mother to go to America and leave him behind. He thought he could make enough money for himself to go to America after his mother left. But his mother would not listen to it. She said, “John, I will never leave you in this country. You will have to come with me to America”. John listened to his mother and together they made plans for their trip to the New World. Just before leaving Scotland, however, Father had one off his fingers taken off by machinery in the shipyard. He lost a great deal of blood at this time, which made him almost too weak to undertake the journey. But due to his great faith and his mother's desire to come to America they started out soon after. Later, when they reached Liverpool, he sat down and wrote to his father telling him they were on their way to America. So the time his father visited him at Greenock was the last time father and son met on this earth. Father learned later that his father was taken to a mental hospital where he died.
Father and his mother were eight weeks and three days on board this ship “Cynochore” before they landed in Castle Garden, New York. From New York, they, and other Saints went to St. Joseph, Missouri in cattle cars, thence up the Missouri River to Florence. While in Florence, these Saints were organized into a company with Brother White, as Captain. William McGhie had traveled with them to the new country and he was made Captain of the guard. Tom Bennett was the Captain's assistance. There were 52 wagons in the company. It took them eight weeks and two days to cross the Plains. Finally, they arrived at Heber, Utah. Heber became Father’s home for a number of years. Father walked every day while crossing the Plains. But Father's health was poor during this time, owing to the great loss of blood he had sustained as a result of the accident to his finger.
Soon after reaching Heber he hired out to a man by the name of Jeremiah Palmer. He was to receive for his work a yoke of steers and cow. Mr. Palmer became discouraged with the way he father handled the steers while breaking them. So he decided not to let him have them. But he got the cow. It was the first one he ever owned. He next hired out to a man named Johnny Lee. There he worked and saved until he was able to build a little home for himself and his mother. The first home they had, after arriving in Utah was a dugout in the hill.
One of the experiences which father was very fond of relating occurred about this time. His mother and one off her lady friends wished to go to Salt Lake City. His mother had a wagon and the friend had a yoke of oxen. So they decided to take these and let father drive them. Father was a little nervous because the oxen were strange to him. It took them two days to reach Salt Lake. So they were obliged to camp at night on the road. The oxen were turned out to graze on the grass during the night. It worried father for fear they would wander away. His mother and her friend made a bed in the wagon and father slept under it. About 12 o'clock in the night father was aroused from a deep sleep by an unusual noise and some large objects rushing past. Thinking it was the oxen running away he leaped up and pursued the flying objects at full speed. After running for quite a distance he came to the realization that what he was so energetically pursuing was the stagecoach making its daily route from Park City to Heber.
It was soon after this time that his mother married William McGhie, who had continued to make his home with the family. She lived out her life in Wasatch County and died November 20, 1900 at the age of 87 years.
After his mother's marriage Father began to look around for a helpmate for himself. To him, Sarah McAfee, daughter of John Sharp McAfee seemed to be the only girl for him. So he asked her to be his bride. She declined the first time, but later accepted. They were married by Brother Thomas Rasband in Heber City on the first day of January 1867. Later, Father and Mother made a trip to Salt Lake City to the old Endowment House and received their endowments. Again, some years later, when I was 13 years old, we went to the Manti Temple and Father and Mother had the sealing done for themselves and children.
Father, previously sold the first little house he had built and the young couple lived in one room of his mother-in-law’s home. The next year they moved to Charleston and bought their first land during the following year from John Taylor.
When father was 25 years old, while hauling tan bark down Provo Canyon to Salt Lake, a fly got in his ear and laid some eggs. The fly was quickly removed but for 14 days he suffered great pain in his head. A night or two before he got relief his wife, who later became our mother, had a dream that she saw three large worms, each about 1/2" long coming from his ear. And in the course of a few days the larvae developed and three worms of the dimensions Mother dreamed of came from his ear. The pain left immediately. He was very thankful for this relief and quickly gained his normal health.
Father and mother were very busy in their married life, and took great pleasure in building their home together. This included seven girls and four boys. One daughter, Agnes, and one son David, died in infancy. The remaining children were named John M., Sarah Ann, James, Jane, Mary, Phoebe, William G., Margaret, and Ella. All these children are living at this writing, except Margaret who died in April of 1919 from influenza. All of the children were married as follows: John to Sarah E. Wright, Sarah Ann to Wilford D. Wright, James to Annie T. Wilson, Jane to Joseph S. Wright, Mary to James C. Wagstaff, Pheobe to George B. Wright, Anna to William Frisby, Margaret to John W. Stubbs, and Ella to John W. Stubbs, who was a husband to her dead sister Margaret. Each of these children, have children in the same paths of right and truth which their grandfather so nobly taught them.
Father and mother lived a peaceful in industrious life in a foreign people and they were prosperous in their home. During all of these years Father was a devoted member of the church and attended his meetings with great regularity, winning the love and esteem of all his neighbors. He was advanced in the Priesthood to the office of a High Priest. In his 47th or 48th year he had an attack of pleurisy pneumonia. He was seized while coming from Salt Lake and laid over a day in American Fork. But after arriving home, he was bedfast for two or three weeks. He was very near death at this time. Brother William Wright stayed constantly with him for three days when he was so low, as there was little hope for him. It was made known to Brother Wright what to do for father so he sent for the Elders to come. And they anointed his whole body with oil and administered to him. After which, Brother Wright told him he felt assured that he had passed the crisis and would soon recover, which he did. This incident helped to strengthen Father's faith as he acknowledged the hand of the Lord in all things.
Father gradually added to his farm and at the end of 34 years from his arrival in the Valley or at the age of 57 years, he moved from the farm to Provo, taking with him three children. This was 1900. The rest of the family was married before Father left Charleston. The father was always an example to his family and taught them in the ways of Truth. It was always a source of pride to him that he had three sons, who had fulfilled missions to the nations of the world. My brother John went to Australia and my brothers James and William G. to Scotland. Both of these boys met friends and relatives of their father while in the land of his birth. The family located in Provo in the Second Ward. Their first residence was a home on the Ninth West and Fourth South. Later father bought a home on Sixth West and Second South. This home is now occupied by Ella and her husband and family.
Our mother was interested in flowers and took great pleasure in beautifying the grounds around her home. She was a real home woman and her greatest pleasure was in making the way easy for her daughter Ella who devoted her time and talents to the work of the Lord. Ella was blessed with a rich soprano voice and was very much in demand to sing on every occasion and in and out of church.
Father remained faithful to the Church and many times during the late hours of the night and also in the daytime, he was called upon to go near and far to administer to the sick and he was always ready to help those in need. He had a great gift of appreciation and always felt he received more blessings than anyone else. His messages to us were over the same, that faith and good works means joy and real happiness. If you could see his face light up and the tears of joy that came to his eyes when he would relate some experiences in his life, you would not wander at the faith that God lives and that Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world and that Joseph Smith was the Prophet of God. How inspiring it always is to hear him relate the vision of the angel he received when he was a small boy. Another time, while living at his home in Provo he received another visitation. He dreamed he saw a large threshing machine. A number of men were working around it and seemingly they were much concerned about something inside the machine. He watched them for a while, not going near the machine. Suddenly one of the men motioned to him and told him to come. He walked over and a voice inside the thrashers said, “John, my son, I need you. You are the one to get me out on this machine”. The vision vanished and left him puzzled. What did it all mean? Thus, he pondered during the rest of the night. When morning came he recited what happened to mother. Together they reflected on its meaning. The conclusion of their reasoning ended in a decision that they must begin to gather genealogy and begin doing work for their dead relatives. In other words, they must release Father's father from the thresher.
On the 23rd day of June in 1919, and separated his dear wife from him. She was 74 years of age, Father being 77 years of age at that time. After the death of Mother, Father and Ella made their home together. In July of 1921, Ella was married to John W. Stubbs and they made their home with father. And Ella, with the help of her sisters took care of Father in his declining years. During the past two years he has suffered the ailments incident to old age. But other than the natural wearing out of his body, he was not afflicted with any other disease. He was a faithful member of the prayer circle of the Provo Second Ward. And even after his eyesight and hearing were gone, he continued to go Sunday after Sunday to his meetings. Though he could neither he see, nor hear to distinguish sounds or objects, he enjoyed this spirit of the Lord manifest in these meetings. It is impossible to put down on paper at the spirit which emulated from him. And his greatest desires were that his children could always remain in the path of righteousness and be a comfort and a joy to one another. He had a deep reverence for the Sabbath day. On the Sunday morning of January 10, 1932, I was looking at the light of sun on the beautiful snow covered hills surrounding our Provo home, thinking what a beautiful day, when word came Father had taken worse. Within a few hours he slipped peacefully away to meet our Mother and the other dear ones waiting him. He was 80 years of age. And this day concluded a long and useful life, and one that should be an inspiration and joy to his family and friends. This sketch of father's life has been compiled by conversations with him at various times during his life.
By his daughter:
Mary Wagstaff Cranner
Dated: 7 January 1932