Vision of Benjamin Ruffner Descendants
George Edward Ruffner and his cousin Lester Ward “Budge” Ruffner began to talk about a family gathering back in 1977 when George and his wife, Ruth, were visiting Budge and his wife, Bette, in Prescott, AZ. It would be 1991, before the reunion plans would finally take shape when Budge called George and asked, “when are you going to have the first Ruffner family reunion?” George thought for a moment and finally said, “how about this year?” Budge said, “that would be great and could we have it at Mason, IL as that was where all of Harrison R. Ruffner’s descendants were born?” Harrison Ruffner, son of Andrew Harrison Ruffner (son of Benjamin Ruffner II & Anna Coffman) lived most of his life on the land both purchased and homesteaded by his father.
George’s cousin, Gary Ruffner, was president of the new Mason Civic Center at that time, so he called him about getting the center for the reunion. With a great deal of help from Gary, plans for the first Ruffner Family Reunion were underway. George recalls that only two people other than Harrison Ruffner’s descendants attended.
Budge’s daughter, Melissa Ruffner, had completed an extensive research on the Ruffner family history, which made it possible to get in touch with many more family members by the time of the next reunion in 1993, held in Prescott, AZ. It was decided to meet next in 1995, at Charleston, WV to commemorate the two hundred year anniversary of the arrival of Joseph Ruffner (brother of Benjamin I) and his family in the historic Kanawha Valley. Shirley Sheets of Denver, CO agreed to chair the event and well over 50 descendants of Joseph, Benjamin and Emanuel assembled to walk in the steps of their Ruffner ancestors. The size of the reunions and list of interested cousins was growing by leaps and bounds.
In 1997, Doug Ruffner of Inola, OK, son of George & Ruth, chaired the reunion at Luray, VA. Approximately 145 Ruffner family cousins, descendants of all of Peter & Mary (Steinman) Ruffner’s children, came together from 19 different states – north to south – coast to coast. It was apparent that the time had come for further organization of the family.
Under the tutelage of Organizing Chairman, Robert Newman Sheets, a Board of Directors was established and the Ruffner Family Association was born.
Two years later, in 1999, Roberta (Ruffner) Kirwin chaired the reunion in Lancaster, OH to commemorate the migration of Emanuel Ruffner (Peter & Mary’s youngest son) and his family to the Northwest Territory in 1803, to homestead in Fairfield County, OH.
The reunion boasted 172 registrants from 22 states. There, the Association was chartered and incorporated; and its first president, Sam McNeely, installed. Plans were initiated to update the Ruffner Family History compiled and published by Doris (Laver) Ruffner & Olive (Taylor) Ruffner in 1966 and 1969.
As we meet once again at Luray in the land of our ancestors for our 6th biennial reunion (in 2001), the progress made to preserve our family history is apparent.
The Ruffner Family homestead is once again owned by two of Peter & Mary’s descendants, Jim and Judi McNeely. The vision of George E. Ruffner and Lester Ward “Budge” Ruffner for an ongoing gathering of the Ruffner family has become a reality.
This brief history was first printed in the May 2001 issue of the Ruffner Roots and Ramblings.