A Toast to Pioneer Spirit (Ringgold County, Iowa, in the 1850’s)


story written by Florence (Utterback) Richardson


“In September 1851, Belle Groves, of Springfield, Iowa, a little inland town, received word, by letter, from her sister, Sabrina Stevens Ridpath, of Greencastle, Indiana, that the Ridpath’s were starting to Iowa. On that crisp October afternoon, the dull chuckle, in the distance, of the heavily loaded wagon was recognized as that of the long looked for immigrants.


In the wagon with Sabrina and her husband, James Ridpath, were their four daughters: Anna, Ellen, Evaline, and Sudie. [In] the entourage were 7 cows, 1 horse, 1 yoke of oxen, and Old Brindle, the dog. On horseback, bringing up the rear, was the hired man, brought along, not only to help drive the cattle, but as a protector. James Ridpath could find no other family to come to Iowa with him at the time.


Springfield ... was to be merely a stop on the trip; the destination being Bloomfield, Iowa, where lived another of Sabrina’s sisters, Mary Kelsey. After two days rest, leaving the stock in Springfield, the trip was resumed with the understanding that if no house was to be found in Bloomfield, Iowa, the family would return to Springfield to winter in a one room cabin, which was ... being used as a corn crib.


There was no house to be had in Bloomfield, and, as winter was not far off, after a three week visit at the Kelsey’s, the family returned to Springfield, threw the corn from the little one room cabin, and wintered in it. The only light being what came through one six-pane window, and living conditions were cramped, but as their neighbors had very little more, life didn’t seem too hard.


Pioneering was not new to the Ridpaths, not many years back James and Sabrina had come to Indiana in a covered wagon from Virginia, from the foot of the Cumberland Mountains. In the spring of 1852, the family moved to the Shabundy farm one mile east of Arnbaum, Iowa, now known as Rose Hill, Iowa; there, life was hard, they had the ague (a fever with recurring chills and sweating) the entire two years they lived there, shaking was so much a part of their life, that they always called it “The Shakey Place”.


James and Sabrina left two other daughters in Indiana near Greencastle. One, Sarah Elizabeth, married David Allen Pierson, the other was Belle [Isabelle], who married Enoch McAnnich [sic].


James had fifteen hundred dollars in gold, which he left in Greencastle, Indiana. When he decided to buy land in Iowa, he sent his son-in-law, Enoch McAnnich (who had moved later to Ringgold County), back to Indiana on horseback, to bring the money, and, after a long anxious wait, he returned with it.


Of necessity, the money must be kept in the cabin until paid out, and, in spite of the secrecy, it was found out that so large a sum of money was in the cabin. While James was on a trip looking for land, Sabrina and the girls were left alone for a week, and the terror of those nights left an imprint of fear as long as they lived. ... Inside, the cabin doors and window were barricaded with beds and chairs, while the children, wide eyed with fear, cowered in the loft, the mother, with gun in hand, kept vigil all night.


When James returned, he had decided to buy one hundred twenty-five acres, five and a half miles south of Springfield, ... in Keokuk County, for which he paid less than one thousand dollars in gold.”


Source: Researched and written by Florence (Utterback) Richardson, daughter of Elizabeth (Ridpath) Utterback, and grand-daughter of James and Sabrina (Stevens) Ridpath, pioneers in Ringgold County. Elizabeth Ellen Ridpath, 1841-1924, one of six daughters born to James and Sabrina, lived in KeokukIowa, with her husband, Mahlon Willis Utterback, 1836-1925. In the 1960's, a copy of the story was  given to Roger W. Ridpath (601 Ellington St., Atlanta, Texas 75551), a descendant of James’ brother,  John C. Ridpath (born 19 July 1798, Virginia, died 13 Oct. 1879, Boone Co., Iowa). Roger believes that the original article was done for a school project (in Iowa), and that it has never been published.


McAninch Family History NL, VI-4  October, 1998  Copyright Frank McAninch   page 1998-35


Table of Contents for this Year

First Page of this Issue

Previous Page

Next Page