Rose Garden PhotographsNellie Grace (Miller) Ritter was born in Barrackville, Marion County, West Virginia, on March 20, 1882, the daughter of Enos and Mary Elizabeth (Pitzer) Miller. Her mother died in 1898. Nellie came to the Arizona Territory in 1902 to care for her brother, Curtis, who had arrived in Arizona before her and then become ill with tuberculosis.

Once her brother recovered from his aliments, Nellie was employed as a housekeeper for her friend who taught school, Lillie Morgan.  During this time, she assisted with school musical events and community gatherings. Nellie also taught piano to students in the homes of local ranchers.

Nellie married Edward Ritter on June 5, 1907, in Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona Territory.  Mr. Ritter was born in Prescott, but his family roots were from Illinois. His family moved to Texas before arriving in Arizona.

As they started their life together, the couple settled in Thompson Valley, six miles east of Kirkland, and entered the cattle business. Mr. and Mrs. Ritter were an enterprising duo and decided to increase the size and quality of the herd by raising Polled Herefords.  This was a successful enterprise.

They had three children: Curtis of the Ritter Ranch in Kirkland, who became one of the first participants in the World’s Oldest Rodeo, a school superintendent and a representative for Yavapai County in the state legislature; Edna Grace Lange of Fossel, Oregon, and Alta Rose Smith of Farmington, California.

Nellie was active in school and community affairs, serving on the school board for eighteen years. She was a charter member of the Yavapai Cowbelles, an organization of Arizona women playing a vital role in the cattle industry, and she was a member of the Yavapai and Arizona Cattle Growers Associations.   She also belonged to the Kirkland Women's Club and the Methodist-Episcopal Church.

When “Ed” died in 1939, Nellie assumed full responsibility for the viability of the ranch.

Sadly, in 1940 her brother Curtis passed away. Nellie accompanied his remains back to West Virginia for burial. She had not been back for thirty-eight years; however, she stated “Home is where the heart is,” and she boarded another train to return to her ranch in Arizona.  In 1955, she was honored by being named Mother of the Year by the Arizona American Mothers Inc.

Nellie passed to the great beyond on March 13, 1962 and was buried in the Simmons plot of the Arizona Pioneers’ Cemetery, Prescott, Arizona.

Donor: Yavapai Cowbelles
Photo Located: Yavapai County People & Family Collection - F-Ritter Family Collection
Updated: 06/25/2015, N Freer