John Baptist Ritzmann, with one exception the oldest merchant of Burlington, in years of continued connection with commercial pursuits here, was born in Sheffhouser, Switzerland, March 12, 1834, his parents being Casper and Margaretta (Deuber) Ritzmann. He pursued his education in the public schools, and afterward learned the blacksmith's trade, which he followed until his immigration to America in 1854. He crossed the Atlantic in a sailing vessel, which completed that voyage in forty-two days, dropping anchor in the harbor of New York. He afterward went to Toledo, Ohio, and in 1856 he came to Burlington, where he secured a situation in a machine shop, being thus employed until after the outbreak of the Civil War.
In September, Mr. Ritzmann, in response to the call of his adopted country for aid, enlisted in the army, becoming a member of Company F, Fifth Iowa Cavalry, with which he served for three years. He was stationed at or near Fort Donelson, and did actual duties for scouting parties in that portion of the country. In July, 1863, he went with General Cook on a scouting expedition to Huntsville, Ala., after which he returned to Pulaski, Tenn., reaching that place on Christmas Day of 1863. He was in many skirmishes, and was for a time on detached duty, serving with the Michigan Cavalry, on account of having no commissioned officers in his own company, because of re-enlistment of the men of the regiment. He was then sent with the non-veterans to Chattanooga, and was attached to General Thomas's courier line, and had command of Post No. I, going with him as far as Atlanta, after which the regiment returned to Nashville with General Thomas. It was at that place, on Oct. 30, 1864, that Mr. Ritzmann was honorably discharged, his term of service having expired. While with General Thomas he was wounded in the head by a rebel ball, but he continued in the ranks, not losing any time. He was always a faithful soldier, true and loyal to his duty, and with a creditable record he returned to his home in Iowa.
Again locating in Burlington, Mr. Ritzmann embarked in the grocery business, and is now the second oldest business man, being located at 875 Jefferson Street, where he has remained continuously since 1867. He has for many years enjoyed a large patronage, handling a general line of groceries, and also dealing in hay, grain, and feed. His business has had a steady and healthful growth, and its extent is now such that he annually receives a good income, which supplies him with all of the necessities and many of the comforts of life.
Mr. Ritzmann was married Sept. 21, 1861, to Miss Mary A. Mischler, a daughter of Baptist Mischler. They have six children, namely: Rosalie, the wife of J. C. Kimball, a resident of Burlington township, Des Moines county, where he follows farming; Adel and Clara, both at home; John N., who is living in Pike county, Missouri: and Matilda and Mary, at home.
In his political views Mr. Ritzmann is a stanch Republican, and is interested in the growth and success of his party, but has not sought or held office, save that he served on the relief commission of the county. He is a prominent and valued member of the Grand Army post in Burlington, in which he has held all of the offices. He takes great pleasure in this association with his old comrades-in-arms, and in recalling the signals and events of the war. He has ever been progressive in citizenship, desires the progress and improvement of his city, State, or nation, and during his long residence in Burlington he has made a most creditable record as a reliable business man.