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Rittal, Francis, Captain (1764-1824) | Maine Maritime Museum Manuscript Collection Online Catalog

Name: Rittal, Francis, Captain (1764-1824)

Historical Note:

Captain Francis Rittal was born April 22, 1764 and was the fourth child of a family of six sisters and four brothers. His parents were Francis Rittal, Sr., (1724-1795) a tailor born in Ulm, Germany and Lucille (AKA Louise Wiullemine) Houdlette (1736-?) born in Neu Isenburg, Germany.1 They lived on Dresden Neck in Dresden, Maine where they kept a tavern which, in later years was called “Granny Rittal’s Tavern.” In 1791, Rear-Admiral Bartholomew Jones made a trip up the Kennebec. In his journal, he writes about spending a night in a tavern. This is the very same tavern kept by Francis and Lucy Rittal.  Jones writes a brief description of the family in his journal:

“who had a family of two sons and four daughters. Two of the latter were extremely handsome, and the civility of the whole house induced me to take up my quarters there for the night.”3

Capt. Francis Rittal had six sisters—Mary (1757-1852), Sally (1762-1846), Lucy (1769/71-1865), Nancy (1773-?), Elizabeth or Betsy (1772-1821), Charlotte (1779-1857) and four brothers—James (1759-?), Martin (1776-1879), Louis (1769-1801) and John (1765-1800). 1,3

He married Elizabeth Mayer on June 17, 1788 in Pownalborough, Maine. Francis and Betsey raised a family of five sons; James (1790-?), Francis, Jr., (1792-?), Charles (1797-?), Louis (1799-?), Philip (1807-?) and three daughters; Rose Ann (1803-?), Mary Ann (1805-?) and Sara (1812-?).3

From what we can determine from Francis’ account book, he was master of the schooner Sally from June to October of 1794. Capt. Rittal next assumed command of the schooner Rainbow June of 1795 taking her from Kennebec River to Boston before voyaging to Liverpool and back to Boston in the fall of that same year. From September 1796 to May 1797, Capt. Francis Rittal commanded the 123-ton schooner Camillus.2

Capt. Rittal then took over the schooner Commerce and in February of 1798 left the Kennebec for the West Indies with cargo of lumber, fish, butter and red oak staves. He returned that same year in September with sugar, rum and coffee.

In 1800, Capt Rittal commanded the Bath built ship Eleonora. The Eleonora made stops at Norfolk, London, Barcelona, Villanova, Malaga, Falmouth, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Lisbon, and the Isle of Mayo before returning in 1802.2

There follows a five year gap between the last entry in May 1802 until late summer/early fall in 1807.  It is interesting that Rittal’s career began on the Kennebec River, where he lived, but later he sailed larger vessels belonging to Biel Wood or Wiscasset, on the nearby Sheepscot river. Capt. Rittal is now commandeering the ship Union. We see from entry records, he  returned from Kingston Jamaica November 1807 and left for Greennock, Scotland from Charleston on December 25, 1807, three days after the United States Congress passed an embargo act prohibiting all foreign trade to British and French ports three days prior. Capt. Rittal stayed with the ship Union until 1810 when he took the ship United States.2

Account records show us that his eldest son James was aboard the ship United States as a (green) “hand,” which was one step lower than a seaman. Capt. Rittal continued to make trips to British ports on the ship United States between 1810 and 1816 with a short break from sailing during 1812.2

The last entry in the account book records Capt. Rittal’s voyage to the West Indies in 1819 aboard the schooner Amanda Malvina.2

Other vessels Capt. Francis Rittal was master of, but not mentioned in the account book, are the ship Juno and the schooner Rover

It has been noted that Capt. Francis Rittal died in 1819 or more specifically, October 7, 1819.1


1. Eastham, Wellfleet and beyond. http://capecodhistory.us/genealogy/family/f846.html

2. Lipfert, Nathan R. “The Rittal Collection.” Quarterboard, Summer 1980.

3. Allen, Charles Edwin. History of Dresden, Maine. 1931.

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