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The Ritchey Mansion in Newtonia, Missouri, is a treasure! This Civil War-era home is a great artifact in the area. And its paranormal happenings make it all the better.

One of our favorite things to do when traveling is to take a ghost tour. You’ll get a dose of history with some spooky on the side. It’s also a great thing to do in the evenings when most historic sites have long been closed for the day.

We’ve also discovered the joy of seeking out ghost tours in our area.  We’ve been following Paranormal Science Lab and Dark Ozarks, and they coordinate tours and paranormal investigations of local (to us) historic sites. The proceeds of these tours go to the maintenance and restoration of these sites, so it’s a no-brainer for us. We get to contribute to preserving history while visiting a cool site, known for paranormal activity, as an outing? Yes, sign us up!

When we had the opportunity to visit the Ritchey Mansion, also known as the Ritchey House, in Newtonia, Missouri, we jumped on it. It was Halloween season, so our tour and investigation was also quite popular, which was good news for the Ritchey Mansion.

Brief History of the Ritchey Mansion

Built in 1840, the Ritchey Mansion saw two Civil War battles, the First and Second Battles of Newtonia. The battles happened right on the Ritcheys’ lawn, and the house was used as a hospital. This is an idea that I can’t wrap my head around. Two battles. In your yard. And ready or not, your house turns into a hospital full of blood and agony. It’s difficult to imagine.

Southwest Missouri During the Civil War

Mathew H. Ritchey seems to be the embodiment of the complex history of Southwest Missouri leading up to and during the Civil War. Ritchey was a slave owner, and the Ritchey home was built using slave labor. Still, history reports Ritchey as a supporter of the union. This is an example of the political complexity of the area. Union and Southern supporters lived side-by-side until the war broke out. Missouri entered the union as a slave state, but its location as a border state mixed people together holding a variety of beliefs. During the war, many people fled the area, and it became a desolate, dangerous place. Those who stayed behind often met unthinkable tragedies at the hands of bandits and bushwhackers.

Ritchey’s home is often referred to as a mansion because of its uncommon architecture in a wilderness more commonly sprinkled with log cabins. It is similar to the Kendrick House, another surviving Civil War-era home north of Carthage, Missouri. A second-story bedroom is believed to have been an operating room, and the floor has been painted black to hide bloodstains, not unlike other structures that served as hospitals during the war.

The Ritcheys

Ritchey lived in the home with his first wife Mary Ann “Polly” King who died in 1855 at the age of 37. They were married for twenty years and had ten children. In 1857, Ritchey married Mary E. Clark; they had three children together. Ritchey died in 1889 at the age of 76. Mary died in 1895.

Ritchey is credited with founding and laying out the town of Newtonia. He operated a farm and grist mill, and he served as a captain in the Civil War. Prior to the war, he also was a delegate who voted to keep Missouri in the union and he was elected as a county judge. After the war, his slaves were freed and he gave them sections of his land. In his later years, Ritchey helped establish the Greene County National Bank. He also founded another town–Ritchey.

Ritchey Mansion Stories

The house is most known for its Civil War ties and its owner, but other stories are woven into the history of the Ritchey Mansion. Belle Star is said to be detained here during the Civil War. She was accused of aiding her brother, a bushwhacker. The story goes that she either escaped or was let go when enough time had passed that she couldn’t warn her brother that the Union army was coming for him. Either way, her brother eluded the men.

Another story claims that Sterling Price, one-time Missouri governor and eventual Confederate general, once spent a night at the Ritchey Mansion.

One of the paranormal reports at the Ritchey Mansion involves the apparition of Polly. She seems to appear during events as if she’s checking out the guests and festivities. We didn’t see her during our visit.

The Ritchey Mansion Today

The mansion stayed in the family until 1948. In the seventies, the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was spared from a fire in the city of Newtonia at one point, and in 2008, the mansion sustained tornado damage. We are certainly fortunate that a home like the Ritchey Mansion still stands and continues to educate visitors on the area’s involvement in the Civil War and beyond.

Sources:

Bill Caldwell [email protected]. “Bill Caldwell: Belle Starr Was Her Own Woman.” Joplin Globe, 29 Feb. 2020, www.joplinglobe.com/news/local_news/bill-caldwell-belle-starr-was-her-own-woman/article_be989c66-6523-53f5-974a-c1612c164a25.html. Accessed 23 Oct. 2023.

“Judge Mathew Harvey Ritchey (1813-1889) – Find A…” Findagrave.com, 2023, www.findagrave.com/memorial/11344821/mathew-harvey-ritchey. Accessed 23 Oct. 2023.

“Mathew H. Ritchey Home / Battles of Newtonia (Price’s Raid) – Clio.” Clio, 2014, theclio.com/entry/52951. Accessed 23 Oct. 2023.

Skalicky, Michele. “Sense of Place: The Battles of Newtonia.” KSMU Radio, KSMU, 6 Sept. 2018, www.ksmu.org/local-history/2018-09-06/sense-of-place-the-battles-of-newtonia. Accessed 23 Oct. 2023.

Arriving at the Ritchey House

We arrived in Newtonia on a chilly, damp evening the weekend before Halloween. As we pulled up to the property, we were instructed to head to city hall to begin the evening.

Oddly, this sign says the mansion was built in 1851. Records from the National Register of Historic Places and other sources say the home was built in 1840. One source suggests that the initial part of the building was built in 1840. Even if we can conclude that an initial part was constructed in 1840, other sources do not discuss an addition until the 1880s. Still another source suggests that the home was built between 1850-51.

Ritchey House in Newtonia, Missouri

Whatever the exact story, the neo-classical mansion is beautiful, if not eerie, on a rainy fall evening.

Ritchey House in Newtonia, Missouri

Our Tour Begins

After we checked in down the street at the city hall, we heard a brief history of the area and the Civil War. Soon, the guides divided us into three tour groups. Since it was so wet, the trek to a cemetery was optional. Over the evening, the three groups were to rotate among three stations near and inside the house.

Our group started with a discussion on Civil War hospitals and surgery on the back porch.

Ritchey House in Newtonia, Missouri, Surgeon Demo

Yes, medicine during the Civil War, especially on the battlefield, was certainly horrific and sad. But in light of Halloween and Ozark storytelling, the ambiance and decor were perfect.

Ritchey House in Newtonia, Missouri, Surgeon Demo

Inside the Ritchey House

After a presentation outside in the damp wind, I was certainly glad to go inside. We entered through the back door into a room that had some historical displays to help us understand the events at the Ritchey Mansion.

Below is a model of the house.

Ritchey House in Newtonia, Missouri, Model

And here is a painting depicting one of the two battles. In the painting, you can see the rock wall that is on the property. This wall is still standing, and the painting helps you picture what happened here. This is also a good time to remind readers that the house and wall were built by enslaved people. The bricks were handmade.

Battles of Newtonia Painting

Slowly, we moved on through the house to see other downstairs rooms. Below is the fireplace in the parlor. The home has five fireplaces.

Ritchey House fireplace Newtonia, Missouri

We were able to explore some period artifacts that make up the museum displays. The Ritchey Mansion is available for tours regularly. Click here for contact information to confirm the museum will be open during your visit.

Ritchie House Interior, Writing Desk

Later, we went upstairs where more of the paranormal discussion was happening. The hosts discussed some stories of apparitions and unusual happenings. We also watched some demonstrations of EMF detectors and voice recorders. Since we also brought our own EMF detector to try to get some readings, we gave that a go; we had a few spikes.

Ritchie House Interior

Since the tour was so popular, it wasn’t easy to do a true investigation. There were a lot of people around. Still, we had a lot of fun and enjoyed learning more about the history of our area during the Civil War.

The Ritchey Family Cemetery

Though we didn’t go to the cemetery in town, we did check out the family plot on the Ritchey Mansion property. Apparently, there is also a cemetery for enslaved people nearby, but we didn’t see that one. Maybe if it hadn’t been chilly, rainy, and nighttime, we might’ve explored a tad more.

Below is Polly’s grave marker.

Ritchey Family Cemetery

And here is the marker for Mary’s grave.

Ritchey Family Cemetery

As you can see, we had a great evening of spooky stories and area history. I’m also glad that we were able to contribute to restoration projects at the Ritchey Mansion and other area historic sites. We are so lucky to have these structures still in existence.

If you make it to the Newtonia, Missouri, area, I hope you’ll check out the Ritchey Mansion. And I also hope you’ll check out the history in your own neck of the woods, spooky or otherwise!

Ritchey House, Newtonia, Missouri
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9 Comments

  1. You go to some of the most interesting places!! Loved hearing about the history (and some of the historical inconsistencies) from this excursion!

  2. I love a great ghost story. The Ritchey Mansion sounds like it has lots of history — both good and not so good.

  3. I found it interesting to learn about the history of the Ritchey Mansion. And, hear about your ghosthunting venture.

  4. I love historic homes and especially those with a ghost story. I would love to tour Ritchey Mansion in Newtonia, Missouri.

  5. Cindy Moore Reply

    I love doing local ghost tours too! And my “local” is the same as yours. I’ve done tours with PSL and Dark Ozarks however I haven’t made it to the Ritchie House. On my list though.

  6. Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog Reply

    The Ritchey Mansion would make a great place to explore! Who wouldn’t want to go ghost hunting!

  7. I love a good haunted house! It was great to learn more about the Richey Mansion – I’ve never heard of it before but certainly love learning about the ghosts.

  8. What a fun place to visit for Halloween! I love learning about historic places!

  9. How exciting! This sounds like something my grandmother would have loved. I enjoyed learning about The Ritchey Mansion.

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