Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Dec. 17, 2001

Howard Lake inventor created RR coupling, wooden washer

By Don Danford
Howard Lake Historical Assn

Few may know it, but a noteworthy inventor, and builder, lived in Howard Lake nearly 100 years ago.

Enoch Ezra Ritchie invented the railroad coupling, which was used to fasten boxcars together.

He never patented the invention, and probably missed untold amounts of money for his efforts.

Another interesting invention is the wooden Cataract clothes washer (see photo), which he patented in November of 1895.

The word "cataract" means a "large waterfall, or any strong flood or rush of water; deluge," (as well as being the definition of an eye disease), according to Webster's New World Dictionary.

He had a workshop in the Vogel garage, which he helped build. This is where he puttered around with his various ideas and inventions.

The Vogel garage was situated where the Cartmakers shop is now.

It was also noted that he had the contract to build the Middleville town hall for the outlandish price of $1,580. He also had a hand in building the present historic city hall.

Many of the original buildings in Howard Lake were memorials to his excellent skills in this field.

Ritchie was born near Taylorsville, N.C., Dec. 13, 1854.

Son of Moses and Rebecca (Rogers) Ritchie, his father was an excellent wagonmaker and spent a lot of his life as a farmer.

After moving to Kentucky, he went to Missouri for a year, and then moved to Annandale.

Living in and around the Minnesota area, he settled in Howard Lake in 1879 with his family. His father took a homestead on what was then known as the town site of Jenkens, Minn. There were 13 other children living through the the state of Minnesota.

Ritchie received very little formal education in North Carolina in public schools there. When he came to Minnesota, he established himself as a carpenter, contractor, and builder. He was also known to do some farming.

In 1907, he purchased a furniture store and undertaking parlor, which he ran until 1912. In July 1913, Ritchie was appointed as the Howard Lake postmaster.

He served many terms on the village council, was a stockholder in the creamery, and a member of the Masonic Lodge number 82, in which he served in many ways, and served on many of the official offices there.

He was married to Mary Robinson. Ronbinson was born in Ontario, Canada, Oct. 7, 1883.

Ritchie was buried in the Howard Lake cemetery in 1931.


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