RITTS, JOHN V., a son of Mr. Elias Ritts, one of the leading pioneers, and an estimable
and successful business man of Clarion county, was born in St. Petersburg, in the year 1852. His early life, outside
of school days, was devoted to agricultural employments on one of his father's farms. He received an academic education,
and afterwards entered the Iron City Commercial College, at Pittsburgh, Pa. His aptitude and studious habits won
for him not only class honors, but the esteem of the faculty and patrons as welL Upon his graduation he was tendered,
without solicitation, a special professorship in book keeping and banking in the institution, which he accepted
and filled with marked ability for nearly two years. Desiring to complete a classical education, he determined
to enter Yale College and resigned his position, notwithstanding persistent efforts made to induce him to remain
permanently in the faculty of the Iron City Commercial College.
But fate determined otherwise, and the crisis was precipitated by the discovery, development, and large production
of petroleum in territory contiguous to St. Petersburg. The necessity of banking facilities was soon apparent,
and resulted in the establishment of the St. Petersburg Savings Bank, in the year 1872. Its organization was effected
by the election of the officers named: Hon. Jno. W. Hammond of Erie, presi dent; Hon. Jno. Fertig of Titusville,
vice president; and Charles Horton of Erie county, cashier.
Young Ritts, who was then not twenty years old, was called home, and assumed charge of the books and accounts.
The business rapidly increased, and within a year he was promoted by the unanimous vote of the board of directors,
to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of the then cashier. The original stockholders, in obedience to the
demand, established additional banking houses at Foxburg and Turkey City. The business at. the St. Petersburg bank
exceeded the most sanguine expectations of the parties in interest, and required the employment of several assistants.
During the years 1876 and 1877 the price of oil advanced from below, one dollar to four dollars and twenty-five
cents per barrel. Deposits increased in proportion until the amounts exceeded seven hundred thousand dollars daily.
The resources of the "Boy Cashier" responded to this volume of business, which culminated in a daily
aggregation in excess of one million of dollars. This immense business continued down to the year 1878, when the
owners of the three banks mentioned conferred on Mr. Ritts the honorable and responsible post of general manager
of their banks. After the first few years the personal attention of the stockholders, who were non-residents of
the county, gradually decreased until after the year 1878, their visits were limited to the semi-annual dividend
periods, and they recorded on the minute books of the banks resolutions attesting their approval of all the efforts
made by Mr. Ritts to advance the welfare and prosperity of the several banks, and expressing their personal regard
for his integrity and ability in management. Certainly few men of his age in the State were ever more rapid in
advancement, more implicitly relied on by the commercial community, or more deserving of that advancement and reliance.
After these years of prosperity the oil production declined in Clarion county, and active operations were transferred
to the Bradford and Richburg regions. Many of the bank's largest customers removed, but continued their banking
business with Mr. Ritts. The Turkey City and Foxburg banks were disposed of, and subsequently the stock in the
St. Petersburg bank was purchased by Elias Ritts, J. V. Ritts, C. H. Martin, J. J. Ashbaugh, S. Foust, W. S. Blakslee,
and others, and Elias Ritts was elected president, J. V. Ritts continuing as cashier, and C. H. Martin assistant
cashier. The retiring shareholders expressed their satisfaction with the result of their financial ventures, and
indorsed the. high reputation of their cashier for business knowledge, justice, and economy.
Prior to this time Mr. Ritts became largely interested in the field production of oil in the upper oil districts,
and having opportunities to sell, disposed of the greater part of his interests, realizing a handsome competency.
He is yet extensively engaged in producing oil in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Enterprises of importance were constantly seeking his advice and co-operation. In railroad interests he was identified
with the Foxburg, St. Petersburg and Clarion Railway (now the Pittsburgh and Western) as its treasurer, and was
for many years a director of the company, and was also treasurer of the Foxburg, Kane and Bradford Railroad; a
large stockholder in the Parker, Karns City and Butler Railroad, and in the Parker Bridge Company, and secretary
and treasurer of the Foxburg and St. Petersburg Turnpike Company.
He was interested in, and assisted in organizing, the following banks: the Eldred Bank; First National Bank, of
Salina, Kansas; Seaboard National Bank, New York; Dallas National Bank, of Texas; Meridian National Bank, of Mississippi,
and the Keystone Bank, of Pittsburgh. None of the banks mentioned in Clarion county were involved in unsuccessful
litigation, and their per centage of uncollectable assets was the lowest average known in the history of banking.
The counsel retained for the banks were Hon. Theophilus S. Wilson, now president judge, Hon. George A. Jenks, solicitorgeneral
of the United States, and John W. Reed, whose successors are Reed & Wilson. In the year 1884 the St. Petersburg
Bank had hundreds of thousand of dollars loaned out, principally on oil collaterals, and when the financial panic
of that year caused a rapid and ruinous decline in the price of oil, the safety of the institution seemed endangered,
and it was deemed prudent by the management to withhold general payments for two months; at the end of that period
business was resumed, and has continued uninterruptedly in the usual way.
During this time it was fully developed that Mr. Ritts was possessed of an energy which no ordinary impediment
could resist, and an ambition that difficulties only served to strengthen.
In August, 1882 he was united in marriage to Irene C. Blakslee, daughter of the late W. Z. Blakslee, of New York
City, an amiable and accomplished lady. Their conjugal relations have been most happy, and the union blessed with
two lovely and interesting children. For the past fifteen years Mr. Ritts has been a member and officer of the
Methodist Episcopal Church. To this, as to all other Christian churches in the neighborhood, he has been generous,
and his liberal contributions have established a record that has endeared his name and acts as worthy of emulation.
History of Clarion County, Pennsylvania
With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches
of some of its prominent pioneers.
EDITED BY: A. J. Davis
D. Mason & Co., Publishers
Clairion County Pennsylvania Biographies
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