Early Generations

The Descendants of  Peter Ruffner and Mary Steinman

Children of Peter Ruffner and Mary Steinman

The children of Peter Ruffner (1713 – 1778) and Mary Steinman (1714 – 1798) were the first Ruffner children of our family to be American-born.  Most of them lived to see the days of the American Revolution, the formation of a new nation of states—our United States of America. Some also were witnesses to the expansion of this new nation along its Western Frontier.  Some even took part in one or more of these happenings.  We are proud of the part they played in these events, and we are grateful for the sacrifices and contributions they made to help assure the many opportunities we, and each of our fellow citizens enjoy today.

Each of these eight children of Peter and Mary was born at Big Spring, the Ruffner home place, located in what is today the town of Luray in Page County, Virginia.  Herein, we give you a brief account of these children and list the children of their marriages.

Joseph Ruffner

Joseph Ruffner, the first child of our pioneers Peter and Mary, as well as the first son, was born September 25, 1740.  He married Anna Heistand on May 22, 1764.  Anna was born October 15, 1742, the daughter of Henry Heistand.

Joseph and Anna settled and lived at what is now Mundellsville, close to his parent’s home.  Joseph built and owned the first mill on this site.  The original Willow Grove Mills was destroyed by fire.  Today on this site there is a mill of the same name, which was constructed in the nineteenth century.

Various accounts tell us Joseph was a very successful farmer and businessman who traveled far and wide buying and selling.  Original receipts indicate that he did a lot of trading in Fredericksburg, which required him to go east over the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wagonloads of goods.  These same receipts indicate he dealt on numerous occasions in very large quantities of trade goods and money.  For thirty years he and his family prospered as he pursued his farming, raising his livestock, and crossing the countryside with his wagons filled for trading.

About 1794, after a fire destroyed a barn containing much grain and many of his animals, Joseph set out on a journey along the upper James River in search of iron ore.  On this fateful journey, he met and traveled for a time with Colonel Dickerson from Point Pleasant.  After hearing Col. Dickerson talk so glowingly about the buffalo salt licks on the Kanawha River and the prospects of producing salt on the Western Frontier, Joseph bought the Colonel’s land containing the salt licks without seeing it.  For the 502 acres of land he paid 500 pounds, plus future considerations if producing the salt proved to be profitable.

In the spring of 1795, Joseph made a journey by horseback to inspect the land he had bought.   Upon his arrival in the Kanawha Valley, he was so impressed by the lands of the river bottom he bought all he could obtain.  The thousand or so acres he acquired included the log structures of Fort Lee, all of the unsold lots of the young town, and all the bottomland surrounding the Fort.  This land covered most of what is today known as Charleston, West Virginia.

Upon his return to the Shenandoah Valley, he sold all his lands there and in the latter part of 1795 moved his family to the Kanawha Valley.  He left his eldest son David behind to settle his affairs.  A year later, David and his family followed Joseph to Kanawha.

Joseph’s initial interest in the potential of the salt was quickly replaced by his enthusiasm for farming the rich bottomland in this new territory.    He did not live to see the development of the salt industry.  But, in his will he specified his sons were to either utilize the salt resources or sell the land and divide the proceeds.  Joseph’s fateful directive led to the Kanawha area becoming the leading salt producer on the Western Frontier.  His sons did devise and develop the method of drilling and extracting the brine from a depth, which provided a higher concentration and quality brine.  They then began to produce the prized commodity – salt.

Joseph and Anna were the parents of eight children.  They were:

Esther (1765-1783) — David (1767-1843) — Joseph, Jr. (1769-1873) —  Tobias (1770-1834) — Samuel (1773-18–) — Eve (1775-1821) — Daniel (1779-1865) — Abraham (1781-1854).

Joseph and Anna both died in Charleston, Kanawha County, Virginia (now West Virginia).  Joseph died on March 23, 1803, and Anna on August 19, 1820.  They are buried at Charleston beneath the towering trees in the quiet beauty of Ruffner Hollow, which is known today as Rifleman’s Memorial Park.

Their eldest son David became the family’s first historian, leaving our family with a personal account of the early years of Peter and Mary’s union.

Benjamin Ruffner

The second child, another son, was born on August 14, 1742 at the Ruffner home on the Hawksbill Creek.  His first marriage was to Ann Burner, the daughter of Jacob Burner of Shenandoah County, and a sister to Elizabeth, the wife of Benjamin’s brother Peter Ruffner, Jr.

Benjamin grew up on his parent’s farm where he learned the art of husbandry from his father.  He acquired 640 prime acres of farmland from his father when he came of age.  This farm, located just one mile south of his brother Joseph’s farm at Mundellsville, is where he took his new wife Ann, and where they lived and raised their six children before her death.  Ann died sometime prior to April 5, 1785, the date her father Jacob executed his will.  At that time it was noted that she was deceased.

After his first wife’s death, Benjamin wed a second time—this time to Elizabeth Heistand, who was born in 1756.  Together they had seven more children.

Benjamin, like his brothers, was a tall and burly man of unusual strength.  He served in the local militia, Michael Rader’s Company, during the American Revolution.  He saw duty along with his brother at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) in 1775.

Upon his death in 1806, he left an extensive will and estate inventory, indicating a certain amount of financial success.  His will was written on May 9, 1806, he died shortly thereafter, the will being proved in court on July 7, 1806.  He left his farm to his second wife Elizabeth.  Before 1812, Elizabeth migrated to Ohio with her son Michael, age 13.

When Benjamin executed his will, he knew his eldest son Peter had died in Ohio.  He did not mention this son’s widow, nor did he know the names of his grandchildren by this son.  However, he did provide for any grandchild in the distribution of his estate.  All of Benjamin’s children eventually migrated to Ohio, except Reuben, Elizabeth and  Catharine

The old home place of Benjamin and his two wives still stands today, a short distance from Luray.  This house is one of the best preserved of Page County’s early dwellings.  Originally a two-story log home built on a stone foundation, much like his parent’s original house, it has an added third story and extensions.  The major portion of the ground floor is dug into the hillside.  The original log walls are encased in the current exterior walls.

Shortly before Elizabeth and her son Michael followed the other family members who had gone to Ohio, the Samuel Forrer family acquired Benjamin’s farm.  Abram Kendrick later owned the house and property, and then his son Timothy obtained possession.  Both of these Kendrick men are buried in the Benjamin Ruffner Burial Ground.  Later, the house was owned by the Moyer family, and then the Frank family, who added the third story.  In 1956, the Frank family sold the farm, which over the years had been reduced to only 75 acres.

The six children of Benjamin and Ann were:

Peter (1770-1805) — Benjamin, Jr. (1772-1831) — Regina (1773-1855); Martin (1775-1812) – Mary (1777-1807) — Anna

The seven children of Benjamin and Elizabeth were:

Emanuel — Barbara (b. 1788) — Abraham (1791-1867) — Elizabeth (b. 1792) — Catharine (c.1794-1842) — Reuben (1797-1885) — Michael (1798-1877)

Benjamin and his first wife Ann, whose date of birth and death are unknown, are buried in the family burial ground on Benjamin’s home farm.  Benjamin’s second wife, Elizabeth, died January 20, 1820 in Fairfield County, Ohio, and she is buried on her brother-in-law Emanuel’s farm at the Ruffner-Friend Cemetery.  The grave of Elizabeth’s son Abraham is next to her burial spot.

Catharine Ruffner

Catharine was the third child born to Peter and Mary—their first daughter.  How happy Mary must have been to have a daughter.  Catharine was born May 13, 1744, and as her nephew David Ruffner (1767-1843) wrote, she died as a young woman.  Because David, Catharine’s nephew was the closest to a primary witness our family has, his writings, teamed with the fact that Catharine’s name was omitted from her father’s 1778 will, allows us to safely accept the fact that Catharine did indeed die as a young woman.

She left no descendants.  As to her actual date of death and her age at the time of death, the following information is very informative.  Among the papers held by the Ruffner Family Association, is the family tree of Dr. Richard Ellis Putney (1793-1862), the husband of Ann Eve Ruffner (David Ruffner’s daughter).  This document gives the date of Catharine Ruffner’s death as 1760.  Dr. Putney, a great admirer of his father-in-law David Ruffner, transcribed some of his journals.  Since the Putney family was privy to David Ruffner’s personal papers, his information should be considered reliable.  If we accept the year of 1760 as Catharine’s death date, she would have been 16 years of age at that time—an age that would certainly classify her as a young woman.

Through the years a few researchers, basing their findings on misinformation, have stated that daughter Catharine lived to an old age and had children.  There clearly are no sources to back this claim, and proper research completely refutes any writings stating that Catharine survived, married and raised a family.  She did not.

Peter Ruffner, Jr.

Peter was the fourth child, the third son born to Peter and Mary.  He was born on the pioneer farm on December 23, 1746.  He married Elizabeth Burner, the sister of his older brother Benjamin’s first wife Ann.

As per his father’s will, Peter, Jr. inherited the pioneer farm, with the arrangement that Mother Mary would continue to live in the home with them during her lifetime.    Peter, Sr. seemed to be correct in choosing son Peter as the heir to the home place.

Peter appeared to be a steady man—one with no wanderlust.  Because of his homebody demeanor and quiet ways, little is known of him.  We can get a small glimpse of his business sense from court records, such as recorded land transfers by way of deeds whereby Peter and Elizabeth Ruffner divested themselves of holdings left to them by inheritance or acquired during their marriage.  Other than the mention of Peter and Elizabeth, often with son Isaac, in these transactions, no mention is made of their personal life together.  With a prosperous farm to oversee and vast land holdings to manage, Peter was probably busy, as was Elizabeth with eleven children under her care.

Since Mother Mary lived with her son and daughter-in-law until her death in 1798, this was another responsibility they had accepted.

The eleven children of Peter, Jr. and Elizabeth were:

Isaac (d. 1820) – Elizabeth (1779-c.1850) – Jonas c.1780-1839) –  Joshua (1781- 1847) – Christina (c.1783-1806) — Mary (1785-1852) –  Esther (c.1786-1860) – Nancy (1788-1829) – John (1792-1863) –Barbara — Catharine

William Staige Marye, the son-in-law of Peter Ruffner, Jr. wrote in the Marye family Bible that Peter Ruffner, Jr. died at his house in Shenandoah County on the night of Monday, May 20, 1811, at about 11 o’clock.

If Peter, Jr. left a will, it has never been produced. Elizabeth’s death date is unknown, although it appears she may have died about 1821.  Both Peter, Jr. and Elizabeth are probably buried on the lands of the home place near his parents.

Peter and Elizabeth’s son Jonas was the last of the Ruffner men to reside at the pioneer home during its ownership by the family.  Following his 1839 death, the ancestral home was sold in 1840, and Ruffner ownership came to an end until over 150 years in the future.

Reuben Ruffner

Reuben, the fifth child and fourth son, was born October 22, 1748.  He married Catherine/Catherina Dager/Deger on April 10, 1775 in Virginia.  No clue as to her actual identity has been found.  Reuben and his family lived on the Big Hawksbill Creek, and their original log cabin is still standing.

In September 22, 1788, Reuben sold his farm and he and his young family moved to Lincoln County in what was Virginia at that time.  Kentucky did not become a state until June 1, 1792.  There is no actual date for the family’s move, but a deed bearing the date of June 15, 1789 executed in Lincoln County conveyed 150 acres of land to Reuben Ruffner.

Eight children, four sons and four daughters were born to Reuben and Catherine. The children of Reuben and Catherine were:

Barbara (1778-1850) – Henry (1781-1863) – Nancy (1785-aft. 1860) –  Emanuel (b.1786) – David (b.1787) — Elizabeth (b.1788) — Samuel (b. 1796) – Catherine (1797-1864)

Reuben died in 1822 in Lincoln County, Kentucky, and Catherine sometime after 1830.  They are probably both buried on what was their own land.

Tobias Ruffner

Tobias was the sixth child, the fifth son of Peter and Mary.  He was born March 11, 1752 and did not live to adulthood.  Little is known about Tobias.  It was simply reported that he was killed while loading a saw log at about the age of 15.   This seems to indicate that although he was still a young boy, he was doing the work of a man on the family farm.

This is a sad reminder of the hardships, sacrifices, and tragedies these pioneers and their families endured to make a frontier wilderness into a home and we should never forget their endeavors and the legacy they left to us.

Evidently, Tobias died about 1767 and is probably buried beside his parents on their land.

Elizabeth Ruffner

Elizabeth, the seventh child was born March 4, 1755.  She married Jacob Stover, who was born about 1753 in Frederick County, Virginia.  Elizabeth and Jacob lived in Stovertown, now known as Strasburg, Shenandoah County, Virginia.  They raised a family of eight children.

Most of what is known about them is taken from information contained in Jacob’s 1816 will.  Elizabeth was not mentioned in Jacob’s will, so it is presumed that she was deceased by that time.  His will mentions the division of monies, land, slaves, and gives directions for the custodial care and guardianship of one of their daughters.

The children of Elizabeth and Jacob were:

Mary – Barbara – Catherine – Frainey – John – Joseph – Anna – Elizabeth

Jacob died in 1816, and as stated previously, Elizabeth probably died prior to her husband’s death.  They are both very likely buried in the vicinity of Strasburg, but the location is unknown.

Emanuel Ruffner

Emanuel was the eighth child and sixth son born to our pioneers.  He was born March 31, 1757.  He married first Magdalene Grove, who was born November 12, 1757 in Virginia.  Her parents were Christian Grove and Anna Roads.  Magdalene was a granddaughter of Rev. John Roads, a Mennonite minister, and his wife Eve Albright.

In Virginia, Emanuel and Magdalene lived on a farm near where Blackford’s Furnace stood.  Later they sold the farm and bought another one on the Big Hawksbill.  In 1803, Emanuel traveled to the Ohio country and purchased a section (690 acres) of land.  A short time later, Emanuel and his entire family, except for one married daughter, left Virginia and moved to what is now Fairfield County, Ohio.  The married daughter, Barbara, and her husband David Pence (Bentz or Pentz) moved to Ohio a couple of years later.

Emanuel and Magdalene were original members of the Predestinarian Baptist Church of Pleasant Run, which was organized in 1806.  Other members of the congregation also were from the same area of Virginia.  The members of the Baptist Church were against slavery.

Emanuel later purchased three more sections and an additional 220 acres of land in Fairfield County.  Two of the structures of land were sold shortly after being purchased.  Emanuel divided his original section, the other section, and the 220 acres between his living heirs before his death.  The 220 acres has remained in Emanuel’s family to this day.

Emanuel was said to have been a giant in size and strength, six feet three inches tall with arms as large as an ordinary man’s leg.  Many of his children were often described in the same manner.

Emanuel and Magdalene were parents of eleven children:

 Jacob (1781-1839) – Barbara (1782-1831) – John (1785-1863) – Henry (1789-1806) – Anna (1790-1863) – Elizabeth (1794-1860) – Magdalene (1796-1876) –  Joseph (1796-1871) – Emanuel II (1798-1852) – Susanna (1801-1885) –  Mary Ann (1802-1828)

Perhaps there were additional children.  Emanuel’s obituary states that he was the father of 14 children.  Also, a great-great granddaughter of Emanuel’s wrote of another child—Joshua—who never went to Ohio.

Magdalene died November 20, 1822 and was buried next to her son Henry who had died before her.

Emanuel married again in 1824, this time to Elizabeth Whitman in Fairfield County, Ohio.  Elizabeth died December 1, 1842, and Emanuel died June 4, 1848.  All are buried in the Ruffner-Friend Cemetery, which is still under the care of one of Emanuel’s descendants.

Thus, Ends the First Generation!