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Conrad Z. Reitz


Posted By: Deborah Gilbert (email)
Date: 9/12/2016 at 18:16:06

Maxwell Book: 1883-1983

Conrad Z. Reitz was born in a log house, November 25, 1840, in Somerset County, Stoney Creek Township, Pennsylvania. The log house was close to the big log grist mill which was operated by his father. He was one of a large family. Seven of the Reitz brothers were millers by trade. Conrad, who was the second to the oldest, learned the blacksmith trade and practiced it many years.

Mr. Conrad Reitz's father, Hartman Reitz, came from Germany to America with his widowed mother. He married Catherine Gindelsberger and they had two sons, John and Conrad. When his mother died, Conrad was only four years-old. When he was 14 years-old, his father hired him out to a neighbor for six months for $3 month. He continued working there for four years and then began to learn the blacksmith trade.

On October 29, 1861, Conrad Z. Reitz and Elizabeth Keller were married and started out on their own. She had $2.50 in cash and he had $1. As was often done in those days, when they walked to church they carried their shoes until they were almost there and then sat on a log and put them on again. The process was repeated on the way home. Of the nine children born to the couple, two died in infancy. Their children were as follows: Allie (Sutter), Ed Reitz, Annie (Goughenour), Nettie (Hull), Lizzie (Enfield), Alice (Lookingbill) and Jessie Reitz.

An article in the Maxwell Tribune following Conrad Reitz's 97th birthday states, "Mr. Reitz worked at his trade in the town of Roxbery, Pennsylvania, for three years. He shot a great many horses and oxen, receiving as pay fruit, vegetables, sugar and many other articles to use, but very little cash. At one time, he shod horses continuously for two nights and a day, because by shoeing at night, he would receive a little necessary cash instead of food. Many times, he would set out afoot for towns three and five miles distant for some blacksmith iron, carry it home on his back and be ready to go to work in his shop before sunrise."

From Roxbery, the family moved to Dixon, Illinois,where Mr. Reitz worked on a farm for a while and then went back to his blacksmith trade, walking three miles to work every morning. In 1868, he came west looking for a new location. Finally he purchased 160 acres of raw prairie land in Boone County, near Ontario. He then returned to Illinois to bring his family out the following spring. He worked in town as a blacksmith for two years while his land was being broken and a house built.

The family remained there for 20 years and he purchased 160 acres across the road from his home farm. They came to Maxwell in 1892, according to a newspaper article written after his 100th birthday. The article stated, "After 20 years as a farmer he moved to Maxwell and entered the mercantile business with his son-in-law, G. E. Goughenour. About this time, he purchased 190 acres southeast of Maxwell. Six years after moving to Maxwell, he and his sons-in-law, W. C. Enfield and C. E. Lookingbill, started an electric business." They brought electricity to Maxwell, purchasing the electricity from a company in Nevada and wiring the town. He was interested in the Shepherd Publishing Company and also built new homes and business buildings and bought and sold farms. "He was a very busy man during his business career. Mr. Reitz always had the welfare of the community at heart. He was an active leader in building the Church of the Brethren in Maxwell."

By his 100th birthday, Mr. Reitz had been a member of the Brethren Church for 80 years. Several years before when the Maxwell church was about to be sold, he stepped in and bought the buiding to keep it from being used for secular purposes. He made improvements and it continued to serve the congregation.

At the celebration of his 100th birthday, which was sponsored by Maxwell businessmen and held in the Presbyterian Church, there was a turkey dinner followed by singing and speeches. In replying to the many tributes, Mr. Reitz gave this recipe for long life, "Serve the Lord and keep away from the evil of the world." He stated that he thought the youth of the day were exposed to greater dangers than those of his day - when apple coring and apple peeling parties provided major entertainment. He remembered apple boiling parties when a boy and a girl were assigned to stir each kettle.

Jacob Reitz, of Akron, Ohio, the youngest of the Reitz family of Conrad Reitz's generation, attended the celebration in maxwell and presented him with a leaflet titled, "From One Brother and the Families of Nine Brothers and Sisters to Conrad Z. Reitz on His 100th Birthday." It contained a family picture taken at Somerset, Pennsylvania in 1884 with nine family members and their families present.

Except for failing eyesight, Conrad Z. Reitz was in good health, had a good memory and was able to enjoy his family and friends to the end of his life at nearly 104 years of age.


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