Curtin Rickenbach

Curtin Rickenbach (1863-1934) operated the drydock and boat repair business following the death of his father James in 1891. In 1890 he married Lizzie Noecker and soon had two daughters, Minnie (1891-?) and May (1894-1955). They rented and lived in the Maurer home a few hundred feet south of his father's house. Sometime after this, Curtin and his family moved to Camden, NJ, where he started a tug boat and barge shipping line, operating between Boston, Philadelphia and Norfolk, Virginia. Curtin's wife Lizzie died in 1900 of the flu. He then married Jennie Rakestraw (1873-1961) and built his retirement home adjacent to his great-grandfather Jacob's homestead.

The photograph on the left shows Curtin in his mid 20s, probably in the mid 1880s.Below, Curtin is shown at the drydock in the mid 1890s. Click here to see Curtin with his family in about 1910 at about age 45.

1st wife Lizzie, 2nd wife Jennie. Jennie lived at the house

at Rickenbach Station on Cross Keys Rd. until she died

in 1961, according to Dad and Grandmother. According to H.F. Rickenbach Sr., Curtin was "gruff, had white hair and a walrus mustache".

Was in the boat building business with father James and brothers Wilson and Edwin. Retired from the business in 1907 and lived on the boat money. His cousin Silas' lived in "the old fieldhouse" at the time his daughter Carrie was born (1884). Later, Curtin rented the same house where his daughter May was born (this is from independent photographs of the same house from Carrie Rickenbach (Silas) and from May Rickenbach Jones (Curtin)).


This from Curtin's granddaughter Jeanette Jones Pollard:

"Curtin Rickenbach owned a tug boat and barge line shipping coal and other commodities between Boston, Philadelphia, and Norfolk VA. One of the tugs was named May. He commuted to his office on Dock or Front St. in Philadelphia by ferry across the Delaware to his home first on Linden St. and then 428 Penn St., Camden NJ. He had a partner named Gring. He hadone of the very first automobiles and hired a chauffeur to drive it for him up to Rickenbach in the PA countryside. His first wife Lizzie Noecker, the mother of his daughters Minnie and May, died while May was a toddler, and he then married Jennie Rakestraw.

Curtin retired early and returned to live at Rickenbach, PA. where the train stopped at Rickenbach Station and the Rickenbach family had many early fieldstone houses and an old burial plot near the tracks. He purchased the farm then belonging to a cousin (Jacob). On it he built a new Dutch colonial house across from the old one-room red brick schoolhouse for which Jacob Rickenbach (d. 1912) and his wife Rebecca had donated the land in 1890 . Previously Curtin and his friends had vacationed in a cottage (later torn down) down the lane (old road) to the right as you face his new house. At this time the Reading railroad stopped at Rickenbach station to pick up milk cans and at other times it could be flagged to stop. During the peak of the Schuykill Canal and the Rickenbach boatyard the train stopped regularly bringing many passengers.

Bern School District deeded the schoolhouse property back to Curtin Rickenbach August 1, 1931. Here a single teacher taught all the children, no matter what grade. The schoolhouse had a pump and old fashioned pine wrought iron school desks with built-in ink wells, one at which Jeanette Jones played for many years and daughter Jennie Kurtz now has in Denver. On the large schoolyard on an embankment across the lane from Curtin Rickenbach's new house was a double swing hung between a tall black walnut and a hickory tree from which stepgrandmother Jennie Rakestraw Rickenbach took 'switches' with which she laughingly threatened naughty children and from the hickory nuts made memorable meringue 'kisses'. On the foundation of the demolished school privy she grew a vegetable garden with prize sized crops, beautiful button zinnias and veronica. It is interesting that she particularly liked the dainty blue spike flower veronica, which it happens is the name of the first Rickenbach wife in America.

Curtin hired tenant farmers to farm the land. One was named Miller, who had a son Earle. Curtin enjoyed the life of a gentleman farmer here walking across the fields divided by split rail fences overseeing the barley, corn, hay, milk cows, etc. He sometimes met and chatted with his genial brother 'Uncle Ad' (who lived down a side road and in an old fieldstone house in a hollow near Maidencreek, who also ambled on walks). In Leesport, where there was an old general store with penny candy, lived some Howard Rickenbachs and a relative who telegraphed and changed the signals up high in the railroad tower.

Many friends drove up in early automobiles for a country outing to enjoy a game of pinochle with Curtin and his second wife (Punch and Judy as they were affectionately called). 'Judy' was famous for serving extra special treats. She churned homemade ice cream, collected dandelion roots as salad greens, made chow-chow relish from corn and red pepper, and kept candy in the blue glass gold rimmed pedestal dish on the oak buffet - non pareil chocolate wafers, Hershey's kisses and toffees covered with foil...She gauged baking cakes by the number of corn cobs she threw in the black iron stove".