War…… My story begins in Darby, (Deleware County) Pennsylvania
during the 1830’s. My great grandparents, William Ridgway and Margarette
Olden, were married and produced four children. My grandfather,
William Olden Ridgway was one of those four and was born in Darby
in 1837. He had an older brother, Ephraim Inskeep Ridgway, born
in 1834, plus two younger siblings.
THE GOLD RUSH of 1849 was in full swing and thousands of over-zealous,
eager folk were headed west to California, mainly by wagon train,
or maybe any other way they could get there. About that same time,
sometime during 1849, my great grandfather William, not participating
in the “Westward Ho the Wagons” gold rush, went into Philadelphia
on business. Darby was only 10 to 12 miles west of Philadelphia.
While in town, he contacted the dreaded disease cholera. There was
a serious outbreak; a very contagious cholera epidemic going throughout
the nation during that time.
Upon returning home, he transmitted the disease to his wife Margarette.
They were both dead within a week, leaving four orphaned children
who weren’t affected by the disease. My Grandfather William Olden
Ridgway, one of the orphaned kids, was only twelve years old at
The four little children left without parents were taken in and
raised by (their mother’s) Margarette Olden’s stepfather, Ephriam
Inskeep. He operated two thriving mills on Muckinapattus Creek;
a gristmill and a sawmill that were apparently very prosperous and
kept exceptionally busy by local farmers.
was a successful entrepreneur who owned a nice home and acreage.
He later named his mill and their home village GlenOlden, Pennsylvania,
in honor of the beautiful creek valley (a Glen) where they lived,
and his stepdaughter’s maiden name, Olden.
GlenOlden, Pennsylvania, today is a large bustling, thriving
city of it’s own right; a Philadelphia suburb. In modern language,
known as a “bed room” community with a current population of about
9000 residents, many of whom are commuters daily into Philadelphia.
My wife and I visited there for a week last October.
This entire family was known as Pennsylvania Dutch, hard working
Quakers, a peace-loving breed strongly opposed to conflict, wars,
fighting and blood shed. Regardless of that, Grandfather William
Olden Ridgway, at age 24, felt a strong and loyal patriotic urge
to serve during a time of great military need. That is, if he could
serve without bloody fighting, conflict and active combat duty.
Some say the family must have had influence or a bit of political
clout in order for this to come about.
In 1861, soon after the Civil War started, he lined up and enlisted.
Officials found a non-combative place he could serve as a Commissary
Officer. Therefore, he never entered into active combat duty nor
had to kill or injure anyone. Never-the-less, serving near the front
lines, he was later wounded to some degree and was placed on the
inactive, disabled list for a time. I have never learned how he
was wounded or the extent of his injury.
Upon recovery from his wound, it was time for Grandfather William
to re-enlist for a second stint of wartime service. He did so, re-enlisting
as a Commissary Sergeant and there is where he continued to serve
until the end of the Civil War, when he was honorably discharged.
Post-Civil War…… By the time he mustered out and got back home
to Darby, some of his siblings had already moved out west to California.
It wasn’t long before he decided to go west and join them. That
was along about 1867 or ’68. Sometime past his thirtieth birthday,
he arrived in California and spent the next 30 to 35 years out west.
Those 30 to 35 years are just a blur to me. I have never followed
up with trace research to try and find anything on his California
abode or records there. It is highly probable he had a wife and
family in California, which he may have left when, near the turn
of the century, he decided to pull up roots and come back east.
That is only a possibility I have never documented, but am very
interested in doing when the time and opportunity arise.
Later, I do
find Grandfather William at Starks, Louisiana, in Calcasieu Parish,
north of Lake Charles. He was serving as US Postmaster at the Starks
Post Office when, in December of 1905 at age 68, he married 21-year
old Addie Clark of the large south Louisiana Clark family.