Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Visitor, Relative of Students
Baylis Wilmer Ritchie Jr. Visitor


TAGS: Balis Wilmer Ritchie Jr., Sam Ritchie, Singing Family of the Cumberlands, ballads, WWII, Louise Haga Ritchie, Betty Woods Ritchie, Jean Ritchie

Photo of 9 members of the Ritchie family.
Ritchie family portrait. (Nine people standing in front of shingle- roofed building with wreath on outside wall.) FN []

Balis Wilmer Ritchie Jr., later known as “Sam,” was not a student at Pine Mountain Settlement School but he had many siblings who attended in the 1920s.

He was next to the youngest of fourteen children (3 boys and 10 girls) of Abigail (Hall) (1877-1972) and Balis Ritchie Sr. (1869-1958). His brothers and sisters were Jean Ritchie Pickow, May Ritchie Deschamps, Ollie Ritchie Estepp, Una Ritchie Yahkub, Raymond Ritchie, Jewel Ritchie Robinson, Pauline Ritchie Kermit, Opal Ritchie, Patty Ritchie Reynolds, Truman Ritchie, Mallie Ritchie, Kitty Singleton, and Edna Ritchie Baker.

He did not follow his brothers Raymond and Truman, nor his sisters, May, Kitty, Patty, Jewel, and Una, to Pine Mountain Settlement School in the 1920s. Balis’s other siblings, Edna, Mallie, Ollie, Pauline, and Opal, attended nearby Hindman Settlement School in Knott County where the family lived before moving to Viper, Kentucky. Jean Ritchie, the youngest of his siblings and the most well-known, attended public school before going on to the University of Kentucky. Although Balis was not a student at Pine Mountain, he visited the School from time to time.

Like many of the Singing Family of the Cumberlands, Sam (Balis) took great joy in the world around him. His repertoire of jokes was a legend as were his always welcoming and engaging conversations. He often corresponded with members of the family and friends and often he left them a little cartoon and “sayings” from his favorite alter ego, “Ethel” or “Sam.” Balis got his nickname “Sam” from a cartoon character who was a salesman — and quite a talker — so the family has related. Fun-loving and spirited, Baylis never met a stranger, and, like so many of his siblings, he was story-ful, color-ful, and confident.

Balis was born April 9, 1919, in Viper, a small village in Perry County, Kentucky. He was an Army Veteran who served in the European Theater (Rhineland, Central Europe) as a combat infantryman. He worked for 30 years for Ford Motor Company in Michigan where he married Louise Haga, his first wife. He and Louise had at least two children: Susan (Susie) Ritchie and Patty Tartar (Tarter?). He was married a second time to Betty Woods, a licensed practical nurse, born in Viper, Kentucky (1927-2009), who was previously married to Cecil Henry Allen (1921-2007). Cecil and Betty’s children (and Baylis’s stepchildren) were: Richard Fayne Allen, David Allen, Ronald Allen, Benjamin Allen, Cecil Karr “Buddy” Allen, Sidney Earl Allen, and Cynthia Fleming. Both wives preceded him in death.

Balis Wilmer Ritchie died in Lexington, Kentucky, at the North Point Healthcare Center on January 13, 2019, just short of his 100th year. In his last years, he lived close to his daughters Patty T. and Susan Ritchie, in Berea, Kentucky. His younger sister Jean Ritchie had also moved to Berea where the two were surrounded by family and friends. Jean, though younger, preceded Balis in death in 2017, leaving Balis as the last surviving member of the famous “Singing Family of the Cumberlands,” in that year.

A veteran of WWII, Baylis was honored with a large gathering for his memorial service at the George W. Weaver Chapel in Princeton, West Virginia, on January 13, 2019. The service was punctuated by many of the favorite family songs and hymns sung by his daughters, Patty and Suzzy, and by his nieces, Joy, and Judy. A full military funeral at graveside in Restwood Memorial Gardens. Hinton, West Virginia, left him resting in peace in the West Virginia mountains where he and his second wife spent many good years of their lives.

See Also:
KITTY RITCHIE Student – Biography
MAY RITCHIE Student – Biography



Alt. Title

Sam Ritchie ; Baylis Ritchie ; Baylis W. Ritchie ; 



Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Baylis Wilmer Ritchie, Jr. ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; PMSS visitors ; Sam Ritchie ; Singing Family of the Cumberlands ; ballads ; Jean Ritchie Pickow ; May Ritchie Deschamps ; Ollie Ritchie Estepp ; Una Ritchie Yahkub ; Raymond Ritchie ; Jewel Ritchie Robinson ; Pauline Ritchie Kermit ; Opal Ritchie ; Patty Ritchie Reynolds ; Truman Ritchie ; Mallie Ritchie ; Kitty Singleton ; Edna Ritchie Baker ; WWI ; Louise Haga Ritchie ; Betty Woods Ritchie ;

Subject LCSH

Baylis Wilmer Ritchie, Jr, — 1919-2019.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.


2020-02-12 hw


Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Collections ; text ; image ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in vertical filing cabinet


Series 09: Biography – Visitors




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 09: Biography – Visitors.  

Coverage Temporal

1919 – 2019

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Viper, KY; Perry County, KY ; Rhineland, Central Europe ; Michigan ; Lexington, KY ; Princeton, WVA ; Hinton, WVA ; 


Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.




Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Baylis Wilmer Ritchie, Jr. ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Baylis Wilmer Ritchie, Jr. ;




“[Vertical File],” Baylis Wilmer Ritchie in Ritchie Family: Visitors to PMSS; Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2021-02-28 hhw ; 2021-04-15 aae ; 



KITTY RITCHIE Student” and “MAY RITCHIE Student.” Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.

“Baylis Ritchie” Obituary. Seaver Funeral Home, Princeton, WVA, Obituary. (Accessed 2021-04-14) Internet resource.

“Betty Woods Ritchie” Obituary. Engle-Bowling Funeral Home, Hazard, KY. (Accessed 2021-04-14). Internet resource.

“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch  ( : accessed 2021-04-15), Betty Woods Ritchie, 2009; Burial, , ; citing record ID , Find a Grave,

“[Vertical File],” Baylis Wilmer Ritchie in Ritchie Family: Visitors to PMSS; Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival material.


Ritchie, Jean. Singing Family of the Cumberlands. Lexington, Ky: Univ. Pr. of Kentucky, 1988. Print. “The ‘singing family’ of which Jean Ritchie writes is that of her parents, Balis and Abigail Ritchie, and their fourteen children, all born and reared in Viper, Kentucky, deep in the Cumberland Mountains. Singing Family of the Cumberlands is both an appealing account of family life and a treasury of American folklore and folksong.” llustrated by Maurice Sendak.

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