Nielsen Hayden genealogy

Willem Rittenhouse

Male 1644 - 1708  (64 years)

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  • Name Willem Rittenhouse  [1
    Birth 1644  near Mülheim, Broich, Rhineland, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Gender Male 
    Death 1708  Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Burial Mennonite Churchyard, Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Person ID I34931  Ancestry of PNH, TNH, and others | Ancestor of JMF
    Last Modified 11 May 2021 

    Father George Rittenhausen 
    Mother Maria Hagerhoffs 
    Family ID F20533  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    +1. Elizabeth Rittenhouse   d. Aft 19 Feb 1708
    +2. Nicholas Rittenhouse,   b. 15 Jun 1666   d. Between 24 May 1734 and 4 Jun 1734, Roxborough Township, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 67 years)
    Family ID F20532  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 11 May 2021 

  • Notes 
    • From A Genea-Biographical History of the Rittenhouse Family (citation details below):

      In the year 1688, Wilhelm Rittinghausen came to Germantown with his two sons Nicholas and Gerhard (or as abbreviated Claus and Garret), and a daughter Elizabeth, who afterwards married Heivert (Howard) Papen. His forefathers had long carried on the business of manufacturing paper at Arnheim, and in 1690 he entered into an agreement with Samuel Carpenter for 20 acres of land in Roxborough Township, County of Philadelphia, for the purpose of erecting a paper mill thereon. The paper mill was built at once on a branch of the Wissahickon Creek, and was the first paper mill in America. There was made the paper used by William Bradford, the earliest printer in the Middle Colonies. [...]

      It appears from a letter in the Mennonite Archives at Amsterdam that Willem Rittenhouse endeavored to have the Confession of Faith of the Mennonites translated into English and printed by Bradford. Said Confession of Faith was printed in English in Amsterdam in 1712; and a reprint by Andrew Bradford in 1727, with an appendix, is the first book printed in Pennsylvania for the Germans, a copy of which is yet in the Rittenhouse family in Germantown and held in high esteem.

      The erection of the paper mill is likely to keep his memory green for many generations to come, and its value was fully appreciated by his contemporaries. In a "Description of Pennsylvania," in verse, by Richard Frame, in 1692, we are told, "A paper mill near Germantown does stand;" and says the quaint Gabriel Thomas, six years later, all sorts of very good paper are made in the German town." [...]

      When the original settlers of Germantown cast lots in the cave of Francis Daniel Pastorius, in Philadelphia, for the town lots which were numbered, Willem Rittinghausen drew lot No. 19, on the east side of Germantown Avenue, on which is now the Mennonite Meeting-house and graveyard, in Germantown, where he was chosen their first minister. But he was not yet ordained as Bishop, and as the congregation at Germantown had no Bishop, and, according to the discipline of the Church, no one to ordain him, consequently a letter was sent from Germantown to the congregation at Altona, Hamburg, for advice, requesting one of the Bishops to come over to install a Bishop at Germantown. The Bishops and ministers of the Altona congregation took the matter under earnest consideration, and as no one seemed willing at that time to undertake so tedious and dangerous a voyage across the sea to install a Bishop at Germantown, they wrote a letter to the Germantown congregation authorizing one of the brethren to perform that duty. This letter was signed by four ministers of the Hamburg, Altona congregation, viz.: Bishop Gerritt Roosen, at the age of ninety years; Pieter van Helle, Jacob van Kampen, and Jean de Lanoi. In consequence of the above instructions, Willem Rittenhouse was installed as Bishop of the first Mennonite church in America, at Germantown, about 1701. Willem Rittenhouse, as stated above, was the first preacher in the Germantown Mennonite congregation, afterwards elected and ordained as Bishop, the first in America in said Church.

  • Sources 
    1. [S5697] The Dewees Family: Genealogical Data, Biographical Facts, and Historical Information by Mrs. Philip E. LaMunyan. Ed. Ellwood Roberts. Norristown, Pennsylvania: William H. Roberts, 1905.

    2. [S5696] A Genea-Biographical History of the Rittenhouse Family and All its Branches in America by Daniel K. Cassel. Volume 1. Philadelphia: The Rittenhouse Memorial Association, 1893.