I have set down some of the history of the Ragle Family of Indiana and Kansas which we have been able to uncover to this point. Its main significance to us is a highly personal one: individuals who made this history are our direct antecedents for the past 5 generations.
After much thought and frustration, I have decided to make the purview of this article fairly narrow. It starts in complete generality, but slowly focuses down to my direct family. I have therefore paid most attention to the following part of the Ragle family tree. An appendix contains a full listing of all Ragles known to me. I hope that my living Ragle cousins will take up the task of documenting their specific lines.
Tracing the Ragle family also outlines the settlement of this country as a whole; the history of the family is a microcosm of some of the general patterns of frontier settlement following the Revolutionary War. During this period, large population movements occurred. Moreover, many immigrant families americanized the spellings and pronunciations of their family names as they shifted from the language of the old country to that of the new.
I believe our Ragle subjects are Americans of German descent from the Rhine floodplain. The family name may have been 'Riegel' or the equivalent in the German of its time, or perhaps Raiguell, a name derived from the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Passenger lists contain variants of this name, such as Ragel, Rail, Raiguel, Reel, Regel, which may derive as much from the imagination and nationality of the ship's captain as from the origin of the passenger. Extensive lists are available in published form. To list a few:
1. "Bibliography of Ship Passenger Lists, 1538-1825," Lancour.
2. "Thirty Thousand Names of Immigrants in Pennsylvania from 1727 to 1776," by I. Daniel Rupp, Genealogical Publ. Co. Baltimore, Md. 1965 (facsimile edition; original published in 1876 and revised several times).
3. "Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia 1800-1819," Michael H. Tepper (Gen. Ed.) Genealogical Publ. Co. Inc. 1986.
Names which one might interpret as 'Ragle' are not common. Over the period from 1732 to 1820 there are perhaps 1 or 2 dozen such names. Not much is known about these ancestral figures. A quotation, given below, casts their condition in an interesting light. The quotation is taken from:
4. "Historic Background and Annals of the Swiss and German Pioneer Settlers..." by H. Frank Eshleman (reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1969), p. 349:
"In the (Penna.) Gazette of January 23, this year (1772) there is a notice dated at Philadelphia, Jan. 20, 1772, stating that "There are several German families on board the ship "Tyger," George Johnston, Master, lying in the Bird-in-hand Wharf whose freight are to be paid to Willing & Morris. These families are willing to serve a reasonable time for their freight money...
The names are as follows:
(note the use of the specific words 'German' and 'families.' The ship landed Nov. 19, 1771 (Vol. 17 2nd Series Penna. Archives, p. 497) and carried 118 male passengers. As is the case with many of these lists, only the adult males were listed.)
Nothing more is known about Johann Leonhard Ragel, and he is singled out for specific mention only because he appears explicitly in the Gazette notice.
The name 'Christopher Ragle' is contained in the Muster Roll of Capt. Philip Graybell's Co. of the German Regiment of the Continental Troops commanded by Col. Baron Arendt. Christopher Ragle appears as a 'private' and soldiers for this regiment were recruited in Pennsylvania and Maryland. He enlisted July 17, 1777 and deserted December 2, 1777. The surname also appears spelled "Regele" in related records.
The name 'Ragle' appears in the 1790 United States Federal Census for Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In roughly the center of the page, there appears "Jacob Ragle" as a head of household containing himself, a female over 16, and a male under 16.
The spelling of the Ragle name seemingly came into being in the period 1770-1810 as one American version of the original root family name. Our work addresses primarily the period after 1800. A tiny amount of material refers to the period before this time, but reliable and completely-convincing data only start to be available after about 1820. Our work began as an attempt to inform ourselves and our immediate families about who we are and what we have been doing over the past two centuries, but finally led us to many other Ragles who are some distance from us in the family tree. This has been an unexpected and happy by-product of our work.
The pressures for assimilation in the new country were accompanied by Americanization of the name: Ragel, Ragle, Raigle, Rail, Rayle, Reagle, Reel, Reigle, Reyel, Riegel, and Riggle are common known variants. Some of these families are closely related to ours and others are either very distantly or not at all related to us. A convergent evolution of the name exists with some of the Ragles and Ragels of southern Illinois, who are members of a family descending from a Rechel who landed in New York and located in the area of southern Illinois just prior to 1850. Other Ragles in this geographical area derive from various other Ragle families who came over much earlier. The name 'Riegel' is strongly represented in the US population and an extensive investigation of the history and genealogy of the Riegel family is on the bookshelves as we write. Many Riegels landed at Philadelphia; records are available for the period from 1700 to 1800 and later. The name is common among the deutsche (German) settlers of what is now called the "Pennsylvania Dutch" country of Pennsylvania.
At the present time I have no documentary evidence that our surname Ragle is derived from "Riegel." In 1943, Annice Clayton Crimmins talked with her great-uncle William Eugene Ragle, b. Nov. 25, 1866, the son of Alonzo and Susan Ragle. The following paragraph is a transcript of part of these interviews:
"Raglesville was named after Grandfather Peter Ragle [Will Ragle speaking]. He was a small man, wiry and ornery mean. He had a stern face and puritan-fanatic eyes. His wife [Margaret Wadsworth] was a large, intelligent, placid woman. He emigrated here from Germany [sic] and in Germany there are many relatives by the name of 'Riegle' or 'Reigle.' There are many Ragles in Indiana. About half of Daviess County and Mortenson [sic] are related to me. Lots of Truebloods and Toons."
There are obvious errors in this paragraph. Census records show clearly that Peter Ragle did not migrate from Germany, but was born in Sullivan, TN. There was at least one previous generation in this country bearing the Ragle surname, Jacob and Susanna Ritchey Ragle, the parents of Peter. In the phrase "About half of Daviess County and Mortenson..." there is a transcription error...Mortenson has been substituted for Martin County. The phrase should read "About half of Daviess County and Martin County..."
In this era, a large migrant population flowed south from Pennsylvania down the Shenandoah valley, and from the Holston River valley in western Virginia through eastern Tennessee and into Kentucky. The route used the northern portion of "The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road", as well as the Indian trail system west from Virginia sometimes called "The Wilderness Road," which branched west from the Wagon Road at Big Lick, VA (site of Roanoke).
The Wilderness Road was the main migration route for almost a quarter of a million settlers headed into the Old Northwest. The Holston River settlements themselves were a marshalling area for emigrants, but their permanent population seems to have been made up mainly of Scottish migrants from eastern Virginia. Black's Fort at the present site of Abingdon, VA was established around July, 1776 to protect the Holston settlements from the Cherokee Indians. A stage line ran from Abingdon, VA to Knoxville as early as 1780. The road was passable to wagons by 1795 and received further improvement in 1818. A part of the route branched to the west-southwest in the direction of Nashville downstream along the Cumberland River, while a second segment went through the Cumberland Gap, and into central Kentucky. This second segment was completed before December, 1781. A detailed description is given in Summer's "History of Southwest Virginia and Washington County,: pp. 278 ff. [reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. Baltimore, MD, 1995]
Maps of this area are given below. They are very large, and the reader will have to maximize the browser window and use the scroll bars to examine them in toto.
"The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road" according to Rouse.
"The Wilderness Road and Kentucky" according to a map by Samuel Cole Williams.
There is a significant Ragle population in Tennessee, particularly around the areas of Church Hill and Kingsport at the eastern door to the Wilderness Road. There are also strong Ragle representations in Kentucky around the area of Russell Springs. Around 1800-1820, Ragles moved into North Carolina and Alabama. These destinations could all have been reached following the routes described above. Our particular interest is in the part of the route which branched off to the north toward Fort Nelson and Louisville at the Falls of the Ohio.
The area around the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville was used as a crossing pont for the river. Across the river from Louisville in Indiana, an early route of transport within that state, called the "Buffalo Trace," ran from New Albany through Paoli and Shoals to Vincennes, passing through Orange County and paralleling present US-50. Our immediate family probably arrived in the Hoosier State via this route or one of its variants. The earliest Indiana mention of the family is in Probate Court records held at Paoli.
1. "Early Indiana Trails and Surveys," George. R. Wilson, Indiana Historical Society, 1919.
2. "The Great Wagon Road," Parke Rouse, Jr., Dietz Press, 1992.
Ragle Family Relationships and Interconnections