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Chestnut Grove area WWI veterans recalled at school reunion

By Staff | Aug 30, 2017

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary (Left to right) Ruth Ann Minnick, Bert Ritter, Carol Mordan and Matt Ritter view a WWI display including a photo of a relative during the Chestnut School reunion near Pine Summit on August 26, 2017.

PINE SUMMIT – Funston Hill Road is a high and winding byway connecting routes 118 and 442. Along this road on the southern section of Franklin Township, the Chestnut Grove one-room school opens annually the last Saturday in August. Former students attending prior to its closure in 1948, and their descendants, were welcomed by host Barry Farnsworth.

For an indication of those educated there, one need only note nearby road signs bearing family names. Adjacent the school, Ritter Ridge Road is one example, with Gardner Road a bit further south. Persons akin to these families plus Crist, Farnsworth, Hill and Snyder, were among the 27 reunion attendees.

Grandchildren and a great-grandchild represented the Harry “Bert” and Dora (Williams) Ritter family of Ritter Ridge Road. They included Peggy Kramer Holdren of Jerseytown, Ruth Ann Ritter Minnick of Orangeville, Bert Ritter of Belleview, Florida, Carol Ritter Mordan of Nordmont, and Matt Ritter of Muncy.

Following lunch, a program noted WWI veterans of the Chestnut Grove area included Truman Brown, Richard Gordner, Loyal Houghton, W. Clyde Long, “Sim” Rider and Thomas Sones. Bits of information about these interred in cemeteries at Pine Summit or Gordner’s Grove were shared.

Truman Brown’s orders were to remain stateside at Camp Lee, Virginia. A life-long farm laborer, he’d been employed by Dan Billmeyer of Washingtonville, Ralph Enterline, Turbotville, and lastly for son Harvey Brown at Lairdsville.

Richard Gordner was a lumberman, both in this area and in the early 1920’s, at a lumber camp in Rockbridge, Virginia. Serving with Co G, 25th Infantry, Gordner was part of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, one of the goriest battles leading to war’s end. In 1952, the veteran who’d remained single, drowned in the Susquehanna River at Williamsport. His death was unconfirmed as a possible suicide. Most soldiers fighting on foreign soil witnessed horrific sights, and suffered from what has now been identified as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Loyal Houghton also remained stateside. When the war began, he was employed by Milton Manufacturing Company. In 1942 during WWII, the bachelor was employed by Stone & Webster Contractors, building the Ordinance Works in White Deer Valley.

When called to war, Clyde Long was in his second year at college. Upon return home, he was a farmer and a teacher, for a time at Chestnut Grove School.

Theodore Simpson Ryder, or “Sim” was the most recognized name. Following retirement from Sprout-Waldron in Muncy, the veteran and wife Edith Crist were proprietors until 1966, of the Pine Summit General Store.

During the 1942-43 term at the VFW in Muncy, Ryder was post commander. This former soldier too had seen action at the Meuse-Argonne in France with a field artillery unit.

Another WWI veterans was Ryder’s brother-in-law, Thomas R. Sones. The latter wedded Hattie Mae Ryder, a member of the prolific Ryder families from North Mountain in an area near Sullivan County.

Farming was the livelihood for Sones, first in Moreland Township and lastly near Washingtonville.

The current Ritter family of the ridge have a distinction of their own. They are closely related to the well-known Franklin Township native William “Mac” Ritter. During WWI, the diversified businessman served on the President’s war council.

Another relative, Verus Ritter, served in France with the 103rd Ammunition train. Better known was his wife, the former Catharine Shipman, who taught in several one-room schools in the eastern sections of Lycoming County.

The reunion concluded with the election of officers. For 2018 they are president Ruth Ann Minnick of Orangeville, vice president Vivian Keller of Hanes City, Florida, secretary Joan Swisher of Muncy, and Vivian Zeisloft of Hughesville as treasurer.

Displays pictured WWI men and women veterans. A plea for anyone with photos of those mentioned from the Chestnut Grove area, and/or identifying another with possible connections to the Farnsworth family, are urged to contact The Luminary and leave a message at 570-584-0111.