John and Mary Ritchie when they married in 1892.  He was 15 years her senior.
John and Mary Ritchie when they married in 1892. He was 15 years her senior.

John Ritchie, eldest of seven children, was born in the Elma Township, Perth County, Ontario.  In 1878, at the age of 18, he came with his parents to British Columbia.  He had four brothers – Robert, William, Archibald, and Henry.

John and his family came to Albion in 1882 and took up a crown grant. John obtained the 160 acres from James Thorne who had already given his name to “Thorne’s Hill”. The family home, built by John in 1882 and located near River Road on 240th, was made from wood brought around the Horn by ship.

The Ritchie family played a large role in the economic, social and spiritual development of Albion. For instance, the Ritchie family home was used as a schoolroom in the early 1900s until a proper school house was built.  John was also a trustee of the 1910 Albion church.

Ritchie’s Store near the end of its days in 1974.
Ritchie’s Store near the end of its days in 1974.

John built a general store, called Ritchie’s Store, on the family property in 1913. After a few years, he also held the position of postmaster at the store. When John passed away in 1931, the store continued on in the hands of his son Roy, who ran the store and post office until 1956.

John married Mary Docksteader, daughter of Daniel Docksteader, in 1892 and they had two daughters, Ester and Anna, and four sons: Norman, Ronald, Roy, and Edward.

Two of the John Ritchie’s brothers, William and Archibald, also took up land in the area. Archibald W. Ritchie was a resident of Albion for 50 years and died at the age of 70 in March of 1939.

The Ritchie family home in Albion in the 1920’s.
The Ritchie family home in Albion in the 1920’s.

Another brother, Henry, married into another pioneer family when he wed Mary Christina Robertson, who was the daughter of pioneer Samuel Robertson’s eldest son, James. Henry worked as an engineer on the railway and as a boat maker. In addition, their marriage cemented the relationship between Robertsons and Ritchies which, coupled with their adjacent land, led to cooperative production from their combined orchards.

John Ritchie died “a sudden and unexpected” death at the age of 71. One son, Norman, predeceased him, but all the rest of his family attended his funeral at the Albion Church. With the exception of one year spent on the famous A. C. Wells diary farm in Sardis, he had spent all the rest of his 53 years in British Columbia in Albion. He was known, according to his obituary, as “a man endowed with the instinct of kindness. He felt the touch of love and the tear of sympathy came readily to his cheek. Coupled with this quality he had a cheeriness of disposition which made him willing to meet friends with banter and smile.” [MR-PM Gazette, Nov 5, 1931]