Jefferson County


The following material was contributed by Mr. Bob Scott   []

Although Ryker historians often focus on the Rykers' Ridge area as being the center of the family's settlement in Jefferson County, the family was a pioneering group in other parts of the county as well. Col. John Ryker settled in Jefferson County in 1804.

What is notable is the family's willingness to stay on the leading edge of the frontier. After all, with Gerardus Ryker having been killed by Indians in Kentucky, it's surprising that members of this family are consistently found among the first settlers in different parts of Jefferson County. The family of John's sister Rachel and her husband Samuel Smock crossed the Ohio River in 1805 and settled at Hanover, according to an 1874 account by his son John Smock, who also stated that "Uncle Samuel Ryker crossed the river at Monroe's Ferry, near the mouth of Corn Creek."

Mason and Deborah Ryker Watts probably crossed the river at the same time, although Smock's account does not explicitly say so. He does state that the Smocks lived at 'Smock's Big Spring', located three miles southwest of Hanover; and the Watts, who lived a half mile south of Hanover, was the only family living closer than fourteen miles.

Whether Samuel Ryker stayed in Indiana at this time is not known. A 1910 interview with George W. Buchanan [1828-1911] by William E. Ryker, then president of the Jefferson County Historical Society, states that the Rykers settled around the area that became Jefferson Presbyterian Church, Shelby Township, in 1807. But it must be recognized that this is an old man's recollection of events that occurred long before he was born. Otherwise, Samuel Ryker cannot be placed in Jefferson County earlier than March 30, 1810 when he patented 320 acres of the "W1/2 Section 9 Twp. 5N Range 11E," the area around Jefferson Church. The land record calls him a resident of Shelby Co., Kentucky.

Mason Watts is reported as settling about two miles north of Canaan in 1809, according to a sketch of his nephew William Robbins in a history printed in 1885. This same sketch is the source of the 1804 date reported for Col. John Ryker's settlement. Certainly, the Rykers settled more heavily in Shelby Township than on Ryker's Ridge -- for the Watts family, Samuel Ryker, and sister Charity Ryker Robbins all lived in that Township in the early part of the 19th century.

Samuel Ryker's family was pivotal in the formation of the Jefferson Presbyterian Church in 1818. According to an account in a newspaper column called the "October Rambler" and printed in the Nov. 6, 1909 issue of the Madison Courier, the church descended from a congregation on Bull Skin Creek.  (The column was written by one 'Uncle Henry', the pen name for Minnie Whitham Baxter, 1875-1955.)  The name of that congregation is not known, but Bull Skin Creek is in Shelby Co., KY., an area in which the Low Dutch families lived.

The Reverend Orin Fowler, a Connecticut missionary, organized Jefferson church on Oct. 16, 1818 at Christopher Bergen's house. Fowler's published notes show the first fourteen members were "...Christopher Bergen and wife Anna, Samuel Ryker and wife Barbara, Jedithan Dodds, Jonathan McCoskey, Peter Ryker and wife Susannah, John Ryker and wife Nancy, Theodore VanOsdol, Peter VanCleave, Rachel VanOsdol and Rachel Weatherford." These are clearly Samuel Ryker, Sr. and wife Barbara Fullenwider, their son Peter Ryker and his wife Susannah Caplinger, daughter Rachel Ryker, wife of John Weatherford, son John Ryker and wife Nancy Ledgerwood, and Peter VanCleave, Samuel's half brother. Land for the church, "1 acre, 3 rods and 38 1/4 poles" in Section 9 Twp. 5N Range 11E was deeded by Jacob Ryker to Samuel Ryker, William B. Benefiel, and John Weatherford -- trustees of the Bethel meeting house -- on July 1, 1828 (Jefferson Co. Deed Book E, p. 316.) Called 'Bethel' from its founding, the church was also known as Ryker's Meeting House as late as 1841, as is noted in a quit claim deed involving Jacob Ryker's heirs.

Members of the Samuel Ryker family are buried nearby in a family cemetery.  This cemetery was not transcribed by the John Paul Chapter of the DAR in 1941, but has been transcribed recently by Jeannie Rhodes.    To 'tour' the old Riker cemetery, click here.



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[This page was last updated 09/27/02]