William Howard Rickenbach


William Howard Rickenbach (1853-1927) was the first child of James Rickenbach and Eliza Hinnershitz. No doubt Howard (as he was known) worked with his father to establish the drydock at Rickenbach Station around 1874. Somewhere around 1880, Howard met his young future wife Lydia Knarr (1866-1911; pictured below). Lydia's father (Benjamin) and uncle (Isaac) were boatmen from Schuylkill Haven, and perhaps Howard knew the Knarrs from business at the drydock.

At that time, Lydia, at age 15, was expecting a child with a man named Buzby, who left to sea and was never heard from again. Howard and Lydia were married, and Lydia's baby was born in 1882. It is very likely that this was the reason that Howard's father James disinherited his oldest son until such time he "severs his tie with her before God and man" (c.f. James' will). This estrangement of Howard and Lydia from his father James apparently did not extend to Howard's brothers, suggested by his brother Wilson's work diary and by the fact that many of Howard's nephews were named for him.


Probably because of the alienation by his father, Howard at age 29 moved with his young wife Lydia from Rickenbach Station to Chester, Pennsylvania in 1881. Although Howard became a schoolteacher in Chester, he did maintain some ties with his family's drydock business over the years.


He eventually went to work with his brothers Curtin and Wilson at their shipyard in Camden NJ in the early 1900s. Noecker Shipbuilding Co. (formerly Rickenbach, Noecker and Ake) was located in the Cramer Hill section of Camden, NJ, and Howard lived just two blocks from the shipyard. All three brothers divested from the shipyard around 1908, but Howard and perhaps Wilson remained in some capacity. Howard started there as a boat carpenter at the shipyard. Later he had an accident that left him severely crippled in the legs, and could no longer do carpentry work. He worked until a few years before his death as a caulker, and when he could no longer move around well, he could be found spinning oakum in a small building at the yard. He died in 1927.

Howard and Lydia (pictured below) are buried at Bethel Memorial Park in Pennsauken, NJ, 3 miles north of Camden NJ.


Photographs and information courtesy of Nancy Rickenbach Kemmerer and George Wagner.