Ludwig and Katharina Graf Rittel – Family History

(This post was originally written in 2006)
When we lived in Kansas, I did quite a bit of research on my great grandfather’s family history. His parents (German colonists from what is now the Ukraine / Moldova area) settled in east central Kansas and I was able to visit the places they worked and lived, as well as their gravesites. I have only one remaining relative in Kansas that I know of: Jerry Rittel, owner of Rittel’s Western Wear in Abilene. I met him in the autumn of 2002 on my first trip to Marion and the surrounding towns.


The Rittel family story (what little is known, anyway) is quite fascinating; I only wish I had more details of how the family came to America and what their life in the old Russian Empire was like. The story of the German colonization of the Black Sea area has been well documented, but I wish my family had been more interested in preserving their family stories. I get the feeling that my great grandfather didn’t want to have much to do with the culture of his immigrant parents, preferring the anonymity of American individualism to his parent’s traditional ways.

This entry represents my attempt to summarize the biographical details of Ludwig and Katharina Graf Rittel, my great-great grandparents, and their children. The photos are courtesy of JD (Jerry) Rittel, who generously allowed me to take them home to Topeka and make photocopies.

A complete collection of the Rittel photos I have can be found by clicking here.


ludwig&katharineLudwig Rittel was born was born November 26, 1868, the sixth child and third son of Johann Karl and Elisabeth Margaretha Neuffer Rittel. In 1888 he left his birthplace of Bergdorf, Russia and emigrated to the United States with other German colonists. He married Katharina Graf in South Dakota on October 26, 1888. One source writes that Katharina (Katherine) was pregnant at the age of 17 when she left her homeland in 1886; I do not know whether her baby, Lydia, was the daughter of Ludwig or some other man. The couple lived in Texas, North Dakota, and Herington, Kansas before settling near Herington in the German colony of Marion in 1919. Ludwig and Katharina raised ten children in Marion and were members of the Emanuel Baptist Church. Ludwig walked every day into town to run his blacksmith shop across the street from the park. On the evening of February 24, 1943, he died suddenly at his home on South Freeborn Street. Ludwig Rittel was buried in Highland Cemetery.

Katherina Graf was born on June 25, 1868 in Neudorf, Russia, the first daughter and second child of Johann and Christine Mitleiter Graf. She emigrated in 1886. At the age of twenty, Katherina married Ludwig Rittel in South Dakota and eventually settled with him in Marion, Kansas. After Ludwig died in 1943, Katherina tended the family home in Marion but later decided to join several of her sons in the railroad town of Herington, Kansas. She moved there in 1947. She married a second time in Herington to a Mr. Wunsch. After his death, she moved to the Herington Rest Home on September 1, 1962, and passed away at the age of 94 on Friday, April 26, 1963. She was buried beside her first husband at Highland Cemetery in Marion.


Lydia Rittel was born at Kunk Vine, Logan County, North Dakota, on August 17, 1886. She was the oldest daughter of Katharina Graf Rittel. Lydia’s mother married Ludwig Rittel when she was about two years old, if my dates are correct. Lydia married Wilhelm (William) Grentz, also a native of Southern Russia, in 1902. William and Lydia (Linda) had ten children, two of whom died as infants. Lydia appears to have lived most of her married life away from the rest of the family, in California. William died in 1946 at Sacramento. A degree of her distance from the rest of the family, both physically and emotionally, can be understood when reading the story of how she visited her younger brother Art after a separation of 54 years (see the entry for Arthur Rittel). Lydia passed away on June 30, 1973 at Sacramento.


Samuel Rittel was born at Napoleon, North Dakota on January 27, 1889. He moved to Herington, Kansas in 1918 where he worked as an oiler and hustler for the Rock Island Railroad. He married Leona Blumenhurst on November 8, 1915. After a divorce, he remarried to a woman named Alta, whom he also later divorced. He and Leona had at least one daughter, Beulah K. Rittel, who lived in Kennewick, Washington. As the oldest and largest brother in the Rittel family, Sam was a quiet, taciturn man who often shunned the company of his family and neighbors. At the age of 75 he moved into a Lutheran rest home and passed away at the age of 81 on May 15, 1971 in Herington.


August Rittel was born October 11, 1890 at Richville, North Dakota, where he grew up with his parents Ludwig and Katherina Graf Rittel. On April 2, 1918, Gus enlisted in the army at Jamestown, North Dakota, and served until May 2, 1919 when he was discharged at Camp Dodge in Iowa. For a time he lived in Marion where he married Mary Kleiber on March 30, 1929. The couple moved to Herington where Gus became a store clerk for the Rock Island Railroad. Mary passed away August 30, 1945. He retired from his position March 7, 1959, and died February 15, 1962 in Herington. Gus was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and was an active member of his community and the Church of God. He and Mary had no children.


Jacob Rittel was born November 9, 1892 at Napoleon, North Dakota. He married Lydia Schmerer in about 1916 and moved to Cordell, Oklahoma, where he was a barber. Jake and Lydia had one daughter, Ruby. Jake passed away on December 28, 1957 in Cordell.


Adolph Rittel was born on September 13, 1894 at Napoleon, Logan County, North Dakota. He was married on December 22, 1914, to Heinericka “Tessia” Kuebler, a native of South Dakota. The couple had four children. Rica died in 1958 and Adolph continued to work for the railroad. He died at Silvis, Illinois on June 19, 1969.


My great-grandfather Arthur Rittel was born February 18, 1898 at Napoleon, North Dakota. He seems to have been a very restless man, never feeling completely at home even among his brothers, sisters, and parents. The story of his later life is told in detail in a book written by his second wife, Beatrice Williams. Art was married in 1915 at the age of 17 to Bernice Mae Ecton, a Kansas girl from the ghost town of Penalosa. They had a daughter, Grace, and a son, Arthur Alfonso. They divorced over what appears to have been Art’s suspicion that Bernice had been untrue. Since Arthur disliked farm work and life in small-town Marion, Ludwig gave him $150 to attend barber school in Kansas City. After his divorce, Art left Kansas and his entire family behind and moved to Idaho. He met and fell in love with Beatrice Williams, a proper girl of English parentage who called him the “cleanest and neatest person I had ever seen”. Art and Beatrice were married at Idaho Falls on February 26, 1923, much to the chagrin of Beatrice’s father.

Their life together was one of settling in one spot for a time while Art pursued his trade as a barber, then moving on when he became restless for the next venue. Beatrice and Art had four children. They eventually settled in Burley, Idaho, where Art died on December 11, 1973. Beatrice was later married to Herman Stoker. She passed away March 13, 1997 in Burley.


Ludwig “Louis” Rittel, Jun. was born 10 April 1900 at Napoleon, North Dakota. He moved to Herington with his parents in 1918 and married Mary Hilderman on December 21, 1919. They had one son, Jerold “Jerry” Dean Rittel, who as one of the last surviving Rittels in Kansas now operates Rittel’s Western Wear, a retail store in Abilene. Louis worked for the Rock Island Railroad for 39 years and served as chairman for the Board of Trustees in the Church of God. He died suddenly at his home on June 27, 1958 at the age of 58.

Mary Hilderman was born July 1, 1899 at Rosenburg, Russia. She came to Herington, Kansas as a little girl. On December 21, 1919, she married Ludwig “Louis” Rittel, Jun. Mary and Louis were very active in the Church of God. She passed away August 29, 1965 in Herington.


Bertha Rittel was born August 20, 1902, at Napoleon, North Dakota. She married Ezra H. Riffel and had three children. Later in life she lived at San Diego, California.


Ed Rittel was born July 30, 1904 at Lehr, North Dakota. He married Nettie Irene Rempel of Marion, Kansas and had three children. Ed and Nettie were the only couple of Ed’s family that stayed in Marion, where Ed worked at a chicken packing plant. Edward died on December 28, 1974 at Marion. Nettie passed away March 13, 2002, the last of her generation.


Julia Anna Rittel was the youngest child and daughter of Ludwig and Katharina. She was born May 8, 1906 at Napoleon, North Dakota. She married Roy Ernest LaRue on August 19, 1943. They had at one daughter. Roy “Peck” LaRue died on August 31, 1983, and Julia passed away January 29, 1992 at Dinuba, Tulare County, California.

| September 25th, 2014 | Posted in Family RITTEL |

2 Responses to “Ludwig and Katharina Graf Rittel – Family History”

  1. Michael J. Rittel Says:

    A friendly hello from Germany! I have found a lot of relatives in America. From there came the indication that the family originally came from Russia. In Koblenz am Rhein / Prussia was a center of Rittel family. If you have connections to Koblenz?

  2. James Scott Says:

    Hi Michael – I’m not aware of any connections to Koblenz but it is entirely possible. As far as I know, my great-great-great grandfather Karl Rittel was from W├╝rttemberg. They must have emigrated to the Russian Empire between about 1840 and 1857. But I don’t know anything about their lives in Germany.

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