Jeff Cummings was born in Florida, but he has deep roots are in Missouri. And those roots are famous in Newton County. Cummings is the great-great-great-grandson of Mathew Ritchey, an early settler in these parts and founder of the village of Newtonia and Ritchey.
Cummings and his sister, Gini Roberts, along with her son, Miles, were in Newtonia over the Labor Day weekend, getting a look at the old mansion house that their great-great-great-grandfather built in the 1850s.
They had seen the mansion one time — 1989 — and that was their first and last visit to Newtonia.
"We didn't know what it would be like," Cummings said.
The mansion is very different than it was in 1989 and the brother and sister are so happy to find it in great condition.
"I'm very happy to know there is an organization that bought the house and is taking care of it," Cummings said.
Neither Cummings nor Roberts know much about the house. Cummings said he never really knew about Mathew Ritchey until he was 30 years old. That's when he and his sister came to Missouri to visit his mother's family. His grandmother, Lu Sanders, was living in Ritchey and she brought them to see the mansion. He was pleased to find a relative that was so prominent.
"Our grandmother talked a lot about the mansion and the Ritchey family," Roberts remembers. "She told many family stories, including how parts of the family living in Ritchey would come in a wagon to have a picnic at the mansion house in Newtonia."
Cummings and Roberts grew up closer to their dad's side of the family and learned late in life about the Ritchey family in Missouri.
Cummings is in construction and said when he heard about the tornado that went through Newtonia, he wanted to just pack up his tools and come to help. A friend in Joplin reported the tornado to them and has kept them aware of things about the mansion for years. At long last, however, they came back to see for themselves.
Roberts is very interested in genealogy so she was anxious to see what books she could buy to add to her study of the Ritcheys. Cummings was glad to see the beaver skin top hat that belonged to Mathew Ritchey.
"When I came here the first time, the Darch family was living here and they showed me the hat. I was afraid it would be lost, so I am happy it's on display," Cummings said.
Jeff Cummings and Gini Roberts had a very special visit to Newtonia this week and proved they are good neighbors.