Ruffner Family
The WVGenWeb Project

Ruffner Family




Charles Hedrick, the author of these sketches, was born at Fincastle, Botetourt County, Virginia. in December, 1815. In 1844 he settled in Kanawha County, where he made his home till his death. His wife was Cornelia H. Welch, of Malden, Kanawha County. Charles Hedrick was educated mainly at Ohio University, Athens; studied law under Colonel B. H. Smith, at Charleston, and was a practicing attorney in Charleston. On March 4, 1873, he was appointed by Governor John J. Jacob Secretary of State for West Virginia, which office he held until 1877. He died at Charleston in June, 1897.

These sketches were published in The Charleston Gazette in 1884.



Doubtless in due course of time Kanawha County will find a writer fully competent to the task of writing its history. But to attempt to write up the history of this county without introducing as prominent factors the Ruffner family, were to write up the history and making of England without bringing into the account the landing on the Kentish Coast, and occupancy of the Angles under Hengist and Horsa, or the invasion and occupancy of the Saxons and the Jutes. Or, to come down to later times, it would be the same thing as to attempt to write the history and making of the United States without introducing as prominent factors therein, the Pilgrim Fathers, the Cavaliers of Virginia, or the Huguenots of the Carolinas.

The chief element and agency in the making of England. no doubt, was the settling on that Island of the Angles and the Saxons, both being branches of the great Germanic family whose Teutonic tongue was the parent of the present Anglo-Saxon, or English language. No family of the human race has displayed more patience, energy and tenacity, or achieved greater victories in arms, letters, science and art than that great people, now compacted in their original seats, and ramified over the civilized globe, though in many countries, as in England and this country, they are losing their homogeneity as they mingle by degrees with other races.

The older subjects of these reminiscences were descendants of that great family, pure and unmixed when their ancestors emigrated from the Fatherland to this country.

The first of the Kanawha family of Ruffners that came over the water was Peter Ruffner, a native of the Kingdom of Hanover, and of the Teutonic-German stock. He was the third son of a German Baron who owned large landed estates in Hanover. He spoke the high dutch language (Hoch Deutsch), and was a Protestant of the Martin Luther School. He attended an Agricultural College, but before he completed his course of studies at that school, he left the school unknown to his parents, and came to America, having been attracted hither by glowing descriptions of the country published in the German States. This was the first quarter of the 18th century. He settled first in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Soon after settling there he married Miss Mary Steinman, the daughter of a wealthy German farmer there, who owned a large landed property in the Valley of Virginia. Steinman was a native of the Kingdom of Wurtemburg, in Germany—was of the Sclavonic German stock, speaking the Low Dutch (Platt Deutsch) language. He had been in this country some time. Having brought considerable means with him, he added largely to it by prudent investment in the lands which he managed successfully in farming and grazing, as Germans seldom fail to do. With the increment of means arising from his business, he purchased what was then called wild lands in the Valley of Virginia, lying along the Shenandoah River in Shenandoah County, and on both sides of Hawksbill Creek, in that county. He gave to his son-in-law a large body of land situate on both branches of Hawksbill Creek, to which Peter Ruffner and Mary, his wife, removed, and on which they settled and lived many years. This was adjoining the town of Luray, now in Page County, Virginia. This Peter was 6 feet 3 inches in height, athletic and fine looking. He possessed a vigorous mind and great energy of character, and exercised a large influence in his county. His wife was a mate well suited to him. They were industrious, frugal, successful, and added largely to their estate. Both lived to a good old age, and left their children, six in number, independent at their death. All of them engaged in the business of farming. Shenandoah County, at the time he came to it, contained a very considerable number of Sclavonic Germans, mostly from Pennsylvania, and some foreign Germans, or late immigrants, who all spoke Low Dutch. The children of this Peter and Mary Ruffner were born in the order named: Joseph, Benjamen, Reuben, Peter, Emanuel and Elizabeth.

Joseph, the eldest, settled first at the junction of Little and Big Hawks-bill Creeks, in Shenandoah County, but afterwards, in the year of 1794, sold out his property and moved to the County of Kanawha.

It is proper here to say that the foregoing geneological facts were condensed from a paper prepared July 4th, 1835, by W. S. Marye, who married Mary, the sixth of eleven children of Peter Ruffner, son of the first Peter we have mentioned. A copy of the paper was furnished the writer by Miss Annie M. Ruffner, an accomplished daughter of the late Joel Ruffner, of Charleston. The paper was prepared by W. S. Marye for his son, James T. Marye.

Some other authorities say Peter Ruffner came from Switzerland with a single sister and settled in Lancaster County, Pa. That she married John Strickler, the father of Jacob, Joseph and others of that name in Shenandoah County, Va., whose descendents are numerous in the Valley of Virginia.

In 1785, a man named John Dickinson, from the Valley of Virginia, procured a patent for 502 acres of land in Kanawha County, which took in the mouth of Campbells Creek, about 12 acres of which were immediately below the mouth and the rest just above it, from which the famous salt spring issued. He never attempted to make salt from the water, but meeting with Joseph Ruffner in Shenandoah in the year 1794, he gave him so glowing an account of the Kanawha country, and especially the salt springs, that Mr. Ruffner purchased the 502 acres of Dickinson before he saw it, and agreed to pay £500 certain for it, and other small sums according to the quantity of salt that might be made on it. He then sold his Shenandoah property, and in the fall of 1795 removed the Kanawha County, bringing all his family, except David, who came October 20, 1796, with him, intending to manufacture salt. But after his arrival, and looking around, his ardor for salt making grew cold, and his old love for farming lands returned. So he made a purchase of George and William Clendennin of a tract of 900 acres of rich bottom land immediately above the mouth of Elk. This tract included the bottom on which the then village of Charleston has been platted, and a town commenced the year previous. The interest he took in clearing and reducing this land to a state fit for cultivation delayed his carrying into execution his original scheme of making salt, which he had never wholly abandoned. He died in 1803, leaving the following children, viz: David, born 18th June, 1767; Joseph, born 14th February, 1769; Tobias, born 22nd October, 1770; Eve, born 29th September, 1773; Samuel, born 26th Octobcr, 1777; Daniel, born. 11th November, 1779, and Abraham, born 1st October, 1781. Esther, the eldest of all, died at the age of 18, unmarried. All were born in Shenandoah County, Virginia.

David, Joseph and Tobias succeeded to the 502 acres below and above Campbells Creek with the salt spring; their father, in his will, advised them to carry out as speedily as practicable his plans for increasing the production of salt, as the demand was growing rapidly for that dispensable article, both from the immediate neighborhood and the vast and fertile country then opening up in the Ohio Valley. Instead of making salt himself, in 1797 he leased the salt water and the use of sufficient land to manufacture salt, to a citizen named Elisha Brooks, who in that year built a very imperfect salt furnace—the first ever erected in Kanawha or west of the Allegheny Mountains. This furnace, and the ways and means of procuring salt water were very crude and imperfect compared to what were in use a few years later when the manufacture of salt became the leading industry of the county—the territory of which at that time was very large, when all roads led to the salt works, as all roads once led to Rome.


These brothers addressed themselves with great energy to the work of enlarging the manufacture of salt, in 1805, and succeeded in having their first furnace running on the 11 February 1808. Every year they made some new and valuable improvements that increased the facilities for enlarging the production. They not only bored the first well into the rock, but were the first to use coal in boiling the water. Wood was first used, and all the hills along the Kanawha and Elk rivers near the furnaces—which in 1817 numbered about thirty,—were denuded of their growing timbers, and it was becoming very expensive to get sufficient wood to boil the water. All the hills facing the rivers were full of stone coal, as it was called. In 1817, David commenced making experiments to bring coal into use. After some months trial he succeeded, and all the furnaces in the course of a few years were converted into coal furnaces. This greatly increased the quantity of salt, and lessened the expense of making it, and the salt makers and public generally were wholly indebted to David Ruffner for these advantages—and mainly also for first boring wells through the rock and devising means for excluding the fresh from the salt water.

Dean Swift chronicles that the King of the Brabdingnags told Gulliver, the famous traveler, that "whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together." A noble truth this, written by a great man in a fictitious narrative, and finds its fitting application in the life of David Ruffner. And in such a light was Col. David Ruffner regarded for producing, and showing others how to produce, 100 bushels of salt in Kanawha for every bushel produced before.

In 1812, Joseph, the brother of David, removed, taking all his family, to Cincinnati, where he died May 10th, 1837, A fine monument to his memory stands in Spring Grove Cemetery. We have said that all roads led to the Salt Works, as all roads once led to Rome. This is not romance or idle statement when referred to the period from about 1808 to 1854. The staple of Kanawha Valley during that period was the salt which it produced. And for the earlier half of that period the manufacture of salt was, perhaps, the most important industry west of the Allegheny Mountains. All the Western and Southwestern States were nearly, if not entirely, supplied by the Kanawha works, except some rock or allum salt brought from Turks Island by way of New Orleans, at very high prices. This coarse salt was used only in making pickle pork, in connection with Kanawha fine salt. The production at these works rose as high as three million five hundred thousand bushels, of fifty pounds to the bushel, annually—fifty pounds being the statute bushel for salt. The mode of transporting this to the western and southwestern markets was at first by keel and flat-boats, employing a vast number of hands to load and navigate them. Afterwards (about 1825), steamboats began to ply the Kanawha River and carry salt, but the bulk of it was still, and for many years to come, carried in flats, the building of which occasioned a large and flourishing industry on Kanawha, Elk and Coal rivers; as also did the manufacture of barrels in which salt was packed for shipment. So that all the business in the Valley and contiguous counties, and much of the business in the other states mentioned, was in some way, more or less, connected with the salt business, and the Kanawha Salt Works became the centre of an immense trade. Immense, indeed, for that time in that part of the country lying west of the Alleghenies.

Asking pardon of the reader for this digression, I return to the chief subject of my sketch.

David Ruffner, better known as Colonel David Ruffner, being a County Militia Colonel who never set a squadron in a real battle field, remained in the salt business until 1823, when he turned his affairs over to his son, Lewis, who took charge of them and wound them up, and became his successor in the manufacture of salt. In religion Colonel Ruffner was a Presbyterian, and a devout Christian. He furnished a building to be used as a church, near his dwelling just below Malden, where he had started religious services and regular Sunday School. And he always led the service in both—praying and singing with as much enthusiasm as Martin Luther ever did. He would never permit any other to raise the tune, or permit any musical instrument to be used in his church.

About the year 1833 he donated by deed to the Presbyterian Church in Charleston, a lot of ground on which the First Presbyterian Church and a handsome parsonage now stand; and also a large lot adjoining the above, to incorporators for the Mercer Academy. These lots were then, and still are, in the most eligible part of the city.

He was a Justice of the Peace for 47 years, and ex-officia one of the Judges of the County Court, which at that time, had general jurisdiction in civil and criminal causes, and he was for many years the presiding justice of that Court. As a Justice of the Peace in the county, he had all the business pertaining to that office in his neighborhood, which was then performed without fees. The business was annoying as well as unprofitable, as that part of the county was infested with many rough and tough characters, including a great many flatboatmen. Many of these latter were good men in the main, but all more or less rude and but slightly educated. The Colonel, therefore, as a Justice of the Peace, had his hands full of bad cases continually. Not being technically learned in the law, he confined his rule as a Justice in the County, and a Judge in the County Court, in all cases within very narrow limits, to common sense and reason, to justice and lenity, and the speedy determination of civil and criminal cases. In wood-man's phrase, he invariably hewed to the line, let the chips fall where they might.

Colonel Ruffner was plain, bland and gentle in his manner, ingenuous in his actions and methods, and perfectly original in all his characteristics. He was not known as a wit, but tradition tells a hundred and one anecdotes of him full of what might be called dry and grotesque humor; more or less of them true, but all of them having some foundation in fact, and illustrative of his character. To properly depict this phrase of his character would require the pen of an Irving.. So the writer of these sketches will not attempt it. But apropos of this trait; one story may be pardoned. Once on a time during his long tenure of the office of Justice, a bold, raw Irishman was brought before him, charged with a small larceny. The proof was clear. The culprit not knowing but he might be hanged, said: "May it please your Honor, an' I crave the benefit of the Clargy." He was sentenced to go to prison unless he could give bail to answer an indictment. This he was unable to do. The Colonel was loth to send hm to jail, and mercifully commuted the sentence. A honey-locust tree, studded with thorns, stood hard by. The Colonel said to him: "You gits no bail, so I condemns you to climb that tree to the highest fork, an' I lets you go free." He gratefully embraced the alternative, and miraculously came down with only a few bad scratches. Turning to the Colonel the Irishman said: "An' thanks to your Lordship for letting me off so aisy; divil the bit would they 'ave done it in the ould country; the swate likes to your Lordship is not to be found in all Ireland."

Colonel David Ruffner died February 1st, 1843, in the 76th year of his age, full of years and honors. "The noblest Roman of them all." His widow followed him November 22nd, 1852.

On the records of the County Court of Kanawha, may be found a series of resolutions adopted February 13, 1843, in memory of Col. David Ruffner. We quote the following five paragraphs: "That we individually and as a Court take pleasure in the avowal of the opinion that Col. David Ruffner as a member of this Court, and for many years its presiding officer, discharged his duties with diligence, ability and impartiality."

"That we highly appreciate the promptitude and alacrity with which he discharged his official duties in the country, administering justice without regard to rank or station, and that we esteem his whole official life as one which furnishes an example that any of his surviving brethren may adopt with advantage, and few can ever expect successfully to imitate."

"That we regard the citizens of this county in common with a large portion of the people of the West, as indebted to the memory of the deceased to an almost incalculable amount for his skillfully conducted experiments in disclosing the vast treasures in coal and salt which lay concealed in the Kanawha Valley, and for that fruitfulness of mind which devised the various plans for reducing those elements of wealth to practical enjoyment, by which his own country was improved and enriched, and without which the settlement of the Western States would have been seriously retarded."

"That the latter years of Colonel Ruffner have not been less distinguished for his generous devotion to the improvement of the moral condition of his county, by aiding with argument, persuasion and liberal donations in the establishment and maintenance of every society and institution, religious, moral or literary, which, in his opinion, was calculated to improve and elevate the moral character of the people."

"And that in the opinion of this Court one of the most amiable and excellent traits of  character to which human nature can aspire, has been beautifully exemplified in the acts and conduct of the deceased in the latter years of his life, by unostentation and open-handed charities to the poor and needy of his neighborhood; by untiring efforts to reclaim the abandoned and profligate; by ministering comfort and consolation to the sick, whether of body or mind, and going about as a Good Samaritan in search of his suffering fellow-men, who by the laws of humanity were entitled to any share of his kindness and benevolence."

"On motion of Col. B. H. Smith, the Bar expressed a cordial and unanimous concurrence in the above."

The attempt to add anything to the above beautiful eulogy, would be to "paint the lily, gild refined gold, or add another hue to the rainbow." Yet the writer will add in concluding this notice, that David Ruffner was not the man to hide or deny his faults and weaknesses whatever they might be, but recognized them and profited by the lessons they taught. Aspiring to build better for the future upon the dead and erring past.

"He held it truth with him who sings

To one clear harp in divers tones,

That men may rise on stepping stones

Of their dead selves to higher things."

His children were four in number, viz: Henry, born January 16th, 1790; Anne E., born May 11th, 1792; Susan B., born December 14th, 1794, and Lewis, born October 1, 1797. All born in Shenandoah County, except Lewis, who was born in Kanawha.


Having finished a sketch of Colonel David Ruffner, and endeavored to portray his character as a moral hero, I now come to his oldest son, the late Dr. Henry Ruffner, the beauty of whose character has never been excelled in Kanawha Valley. And I can only regret that with the scant material to which I have had access, I shall be confined to a very brief notice of the life and works of this eminently learned and good man, the best part of whose life was spent away from the Valley, and of whom even the oldest citizens know so little.

Dr. Henry Ruffner was brought up to labor on his father's farm at the salt works, just below Malden, receiving, as a boy, a common education. When near 20 years of age, his father observing his love for literature and fondness for books, sent him to an Academy at Lewisburg, Greenbrier County. This Academy was kept by Rev. Dr. McElheny, a Presbyterian Minister, and at that time the most successful teacher of youth in any of the western parts of the State of Virginia. While at this institution his mind took a religious turn and he joined the Presbyterian Church, of which he was ever a firm, consistent and devout member. He then determined to prepare himself for, and to enter the ministry. From Lewisburg he went to Washington College at Lexington, Va. After completing the usual course of college studies and graduating from that institution, he spent two years in the study of divinity; and being amply armed for the work, he undertook the duties and assumed the responsibilities of a minister in the church. He commenced preaching, and for some time preached the gospel with ability and much acceptance in Kanawha County. Indeed, he is accorded the credit of preaching the first Presbyterian sermon ever delivered in Charleston or Kanawha County, and organized the first Presbyterian congregation ever organized therein.

Now, here the writer will make an excursion into a field of controversy merely as a curious observer.

The controversy is between the two Presbyterian bodies, or congregations now existing in Charleston. For divers reasons the primative congregation has become divided; one portion adhering to the Northern General Assembly, and the other portion to the Southern General Assembly, and to the Presbyteries which belong to them respectively. Now, only one Church of that persuasion was ever organized in Charleston by Dr. Ruffner, and each of the two contending bodies claim that it is the true successor to the parent church organized by him. One is denominated "The First Presbyterian Church of Charleston," and in proof of its legitimacy claims to hold the archives of the original congregation, and cites a record alleged to be in Dr. Ruffner's own alleged hand-writing, in these words:

"Charleston, Kanawha Co., March 14, 1819. On this day, Rev. Henry Ruffner attended at the Academy according to appointment, for the purpose of constituting a Church to be in connection with and under the care of the Lexington Presbytery and then Synod of Virginia. Upon invitation given a number of persons presented themselves as candidates for membership; and an election being held for two persons to serve as ruling Elders. Samuel Beaumont and Thomas Law, who had previously been members of the Church of Christ, were chosen, and thereupon ordained to the office of ruling Elder in the congregation. The aforesaid Elders and the officiating minister having convened the session, several persons were upon examination received into the Church."

The other body or congregation is denominated "The Kanawha Presbyterian Church of Charleston," and allege that the Church was founded in the early part of this century. That the precise date is lost. And they assert that "The years 1815 or '16 (sic) are the accredited period, "and claim that it was the "First Presbyterian Church planted in this Valley, the parent church to all that have taken root here," and "That the Rev. Henry Ruffner, D.D., L.L.D., a native of the town . . first preached here and probably (sic) organized the Church. " The assertion that Dr. Ruffner was a native of the town is a mistake, as we have already seen.

This body does not claim to hold any of the original records respecting the organization of the Church in Kanawha County, but alleges that the body denominated "The First Presbyterian Church of Charleston," seceded from the primitive Church, which it says was "probably" organized by Dr. Ruffner, (Hardesty's Cyclopeadia, pp. 299-300).

In this grave controversy the writer takes no part, being only, as it were "a looker on in Vienna." He has stated the evidence respectively adduced by these two contending bodies as he has gathered it, and understands it, from their several statements of their respective claims, and leaves the reader to decide between them, it being sufficient for the purposes of the writer that both of the contending. parties agree that the subject of this sketch preached the first Presbyterian sermon ever preached in Charleston, and organized the first Presbyterian Church therein. Perhaps the best and safest solution would be to adopt the wise old rule: In medio tutissimus ibis, and come to the conclusion that the parent Church was organized by Dr. Ruffner, either in 1815 or '16, or in 1819, no matter which, and that the congregation agreed to disagree and divided in the year 1872, both the personnel and the property, one portion going to the West Virginia Presbytery and Northern General Assembly, and the other adhering to the Greenbrier Presbytery and Southern General Assembly, both of which General Assemblies being themselves but branches or divided parts of one original body. As the case of Paul and Barnabas, "the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other," both working for the same end—the salvation of souls. Trusting there is no case of casuistry involved in this unsettled controversy the writer dismisses the subject with the remark that it is fully established that Dr. Ruffner preached the first Presbyterian sermon ever preached in Kanawha County, and organized the first Presbyterian Church ever organized within its borders.

Dr. Ruffner, after preaching some time in Kanawha, was (in 1820) elected to the Presidency of Washington College, from which he had graduated. This was a distinguished honor. He filled the place with eminent success and retained it as long as his health would permit. He was soon known as an enthusiastic educator, and as a. learned divine and excellent writer. Mild in manner and deliberate in his delivery, his sermons were full of profound thought, expressed in the most terse, smooth and forcible style, such indeed as Goldsmith himself would not have disowned. In this the writer speaks with full knowledge, having heard him frequently in his latter years. By nature benevolent and kind-hearted, he was anti-slavery in sentiment and also from the standpoint of State policy. He desired the gradual and complete abolishment of slavery in Virginia, and proposed and advocated the post nati principle of emancipation. And with this view he wrote an able article on the subject of gradual emancipation, which he first delivered as a lecture before the Franklin Literary Society in Lexington, Virginia, and which was afterwards published in pamphlet form and became known as the "Ruffner pamphlet." This produced a great deal of excitement in Virginia, as everything written or said touching the subject emancipation, did at the time. The pamphlet was severely criticised and its utterances condemned in all the South.

Dr. Ruffner wrote an elaborate work published in two volumes, entitled "Fathers of the Desert." The subject of this work is the origin and progress of Monachism in the early days of Christianity. He wrote for the magazines, especially for the Southern Literary Messenger, in which he published a very interesting story, "Judith Bensadi," and a sequel entitled, "Seclusiville." These stories met with a fair public appreciation when they first made their appearance.

Dr. Ruffner was twice married. His first wife died in Lexington, Va. Some time after her death he returned to Kanawha with health very much impaired. He was married again November 20, 1849, to Miss Laura J. Kirby, of Cincinnati; and having improved some land he owned on Blue Creek, in Kanawha County, he lived on it some time, then he came back to Malden, where he died December 16th, 1861, leaving no children by his second wife.

The fruits of his first marriage were four children, viz: William Henry, Julia, Anna, and David Lewis Ruffner—all well educated. The first was for some time a Presbyterian divine of more than ordinary literary culture, has always resided in the state of Virginia, and was lately, and for some years had been at the head of the public school system of that state. He has withdrawn from the ministry of the church. Julia devoted herself to teaching school, and is now dead. She was never married. Anna married Arthur H. Howell, of Philadelphia, and now resides there—a widow. David Lewis Ruffner married Fannie, the eldest daughter of the late Col. Joel Ruffner, and has a family of four children. He is a civil engineer and resides in Charleston.

Ann E. Ruffner, daughter of Col. David Ruffner, married Dr. R. E. Putney, who came from Buckingham County, Virginia. Nearly the whole of their married life was spent in Malden. Dr. Putney was the chief physician in and around Malden for many years. Three of their children viz: Mrs. Ann E. Doyle, Susan T. Thayer and Richard E. Putney, Jr., are living in Kanawha county. The oldest son, Dr. James Putney, was a surgeon and physician in the Union army during the late civil war. He .came out of the service badly afflicted with rheumatism and was thenceforth an invalid, and died several years after the war closed. His widow and their children now reside in Charleston.

Susan B., the other daughter of David Ruffner, married Moses Fergna. of Kentucky. After their marriage they resided for some time within one or two hundred yards of the residence of her father on the river bank. The brick house in which they resided is still standing. He manufactured salt for sometime, and then moved to Missouri, where he and his wife both died.


This brother of David removed early to the State of Ohio, where he died.


David Ruffner's sister, married Nehemiah Wood. They moved to the State of Ohio. Both are dead.


A brother of David, settled in Ohio on Mill Creek, near Cincinnati, where he died. A monument stands to his memory in Spring Grove Cemetery.


Tobias, the third son of Joseph, Sr., made salt for a number of years on the 502 acres of which he owned a third, his share including the twelve acres below and a part of the bottom land above the mouth of Campbell's creek. He build a residence on his land, which still stands there, but now belongs to the estate of the late John D. Lewis. He did not always prosper in his business, and the year 1830, being much embarrassed, turned his business over to his sons, Isaac, Benjamin Franklin and Silas, who operated his salt property with such success and profit that they all became independently rich and sold the property—the twelve acres below Campbells Creek to John I.Cabell, and the residue to Lewis & Shrewsbury. He had a son named John who early removed to Missouri, and one named Jonas who, about 1835, remove to Iowa where he died. Franklin after residing some years in Putnam County, West Virginia, removed to Kansas City, Missouri. Isaac also removed to that state, but returned to Kanawha, and died in Charleston at the residence of his son-in-law, W. C. Reynolds, on the 14th day of March, 1884. Silas remained in Kanawha and now owns and resides on the old homestead and a portion of the large farm formerly owned by his uncle, Daniel Ruffner, about two miles above the Court House at Charleston. He married Miss Hydassa Morehead of Rockbridge County, Virginia, and is without offspring.


Lewis, the youngest of the four children born to Col. David Ruffner, both as a business man and a public man, from his early manhood, occupied a high and enviable position in the community where he was born and lived the whole time (except a residence of a few years in Louisville, Kentucky) to a venerable old age.

When quite a boy he attended a school in Charleston, kept by Herbert P. Gaines, and afterwards went to school to Levi Welch at Charleston. In 1808 he attended a select school for one year, taught by Prof. Duvall on the farm of Robert Johnson, father of Hon. Richard M. Johnson, at the crossing of Elk Horn Creek, Scott County, Kentucky. In 1812 he entered a high school taught by Rev. John McElheny, at Lewisburg, Greenbrier County, where he remained until January, 1815. He then went to Cincinnati to an Academy where he remained one year. Thence, in 1816, he went to Washington College, Virginia. where he remained two years. He returned to Kanawha and taught school one year. In 1820 he commenced the manufacture of salt on a small wood furnace. He continued in this business with occasional interruption until November 20, 1873.

In 1820 he built a new furnace adapted to the use of coal for fuel. In 1823 he took possession of the property and salt business of his father, who retired and settled up his business. In 1825 he was elected to the Legislature of Virginia—was re-elected in 1826, and again in 1828. These were times when an election to the Legislature was a compliment of which any one might well be proud.

On the 2nd of November, 1826, he was married to a daughter of the late Joel Shrewsbury, Sr. In 1828 he was appointed by the County Court and commissioned by the Governor a Justice of the Peace, (dnm bene geserit) which position he held without an interval until he vacated it in 1845, when he removed to Louisville, Kentucky. Here he remained until 1857, acting as agent for the sale of Kanawha salt. In 1857 he returned to his old home in Kanawha, and resumed the manufacture of salt.

From 1828 to 1861, General Lewis Ruffner ceased to mingle in politics. On the 4th Thursday of May, 1861, however, being a staunch Union man, he was again chosen to represent his native county in the Legislature of Virginia. On the 12th and 13th of April of that year, Fort Sumter had been fired on, the secession spirit was red-hot, and a destructive and bloody war loomed on the National horizon. The signs of death and ruin hurtled through the air and "the boldest held his breath for a time." General Ruffner, against the wishes of most of his relatives and many of his warmest personal friends, declared for the Union, and stood for it with the courage of inflexible  conviction. Nor did he ever waver from the path he had chosen respecting the impending bloody crisis. In June of that year he was invited by leading citizens of other parts of what is now West Virginia, to meet them at Wheeling, with a view of taking action in reference to restoring Virginia to the Union—she having declared her secession therefrom by an ordinance in April preceding. He accepted the invitation, took a leading part in the convention which, by what was regarded by the people of some other parts of the State as a revolutionary method, declared the state restored to the Union, and that the delegates assembled at Wheeling constituted the legitimate Legislature of the state. He was elected as a member of the Legislature of the restored government of Virginia at Wheeling. In 1863 he was one of the delegates to the convention at Wheeling which framed the first Constitution of the new State of West Virginia, which went into operation June 20, 1863. In the same year he was appointed by the Legislature a Major-General of Militia for the state. He was also about that time tendered the position of Colonel of a regiment in the Federal army, which he declined on account, among other reasons, of the business interests which he represented at home, and which were continually in peril. His public life closed with the war.

In 1868 some four or five negroes from Tinkersville, just below Malden, went up to Malden to a trial before a magistrate, in which they were interested. A mob of about one hundred whites, including some returned soldiers from both sides, collected at Malden, told the negroes they should not attend the trial and drove them from Malden, and were pursuing them with stones and other weapons and threatening to drive them from the country - saying the negroes were the cause of the war and should not stay in Kanawha. The mob was entirely composed of laboring men who no doubt thought the negroes were in their way in the labor field. General Ruffner being informed of the difficulty went out to quell the difficulty and protect the blacks. He remonstrated with the mob who were still pursuing the negroes, and while standing between the pursued and the pursuers, some one not yet known with certainty, threw a stone which struck the General on the head just above the left ear. He fell as if dead and was thought to be fatally stricken. In an unconscious condition he was carried to the house so badly injured as to be unable for several months to attend to any business, and he never wholly recovered from the injury. His memory was ever afterward affected, and also his vision. What, with age and the injury just mentioned, he became quite decrepit and infirm, and could not walk more than a few steps without the aid of two canes or crutches. His mind continued sound, but not nearly so vigorous as formerly. Recognizing his infirmities, and his incapacity to continue to manage his large property, he, on the 20th of March, 1873, turned it over to trustees, to manage for the benefit of his children, reserving an annuity sufficient to maintain himself and wife whom he leaves a sorrowing widow, for the remnant of their lives. He lost his first wife in January, 1843, and married his second, Miss Viola Knapp, of Philadelphia, in December, 1843. Of the children of the first marriage four are living, two sons and two daughters. There were but two of the second marriage, a son and a daughter, both now living. The youngest of all is Ernest H. Ruffner, who graduated with honor at West Point, June, 1867, and now ranks as captain in the engineer service of the General Government. Stella, the daughter of the General, last marriage, was recently married to Mr. R. H. Wiley. They now live with her mother at the old ancestral homestead just below Malden.

General Ruffner was for many years a member of the Presbyterian church, firm in the faith to the day of his death. He died at 12:30 o'clock at night, November 10th, 1883.

Such is a cursory and unvarnished sketch of the chief events in the life of the late General Ruffner.

The writer does not hold the pen of a panegyrist, and will not say his character was perfect. Perfection is a chimera, and not to be found in mankind, either in business, morals or religion. But in the qualities that go to make up the character of a good man General Ruffner was far above the average. His character may be summed up, within the bounds of truth, as follows, or at least this is the estimate of the writer:

A man of sound practical mind, he was well read in books; and, until he received the injury above spoken of, he kept up with the current literature of his day. He conversed and wrote with much force and clearness,but was not a public speaker, and made no pretension to rhetorical display. In public life and in matters of business, he was regarded by his associates as a thinker, and much deference was paid to him in this respect. Whether in public life, or engaged in the large salt and mercantile companies of which he was often a member and a large stockholder, he never permitted others to think for him; and although he thought and reasoned for himself, he gave ear to the argument and plans of others, and willingly yielded to them when convinced of their correctness. Some of his friends thought him to be inclined to obstinacy and self-will in matters of business. The writer, who knew him well, never found him so. On the contrary, he was not in the habit of making up his mind on important matters without due consideration and consultation with friends possessing his confidence, and when he made up his mind he was frank in declaring his views and opinions. So long, however, as he was satisfied in his own mind he was right, he was immovable. Conscious of being an honest and a just man himself, he scorned and detested everything that savored of dishonesty, trickery or duplicity in public men or business men, and never failed to denounce these vices unsparingly. He freely aided to the extent of his means, the inauguration and prosecution of every public enterprise that had for its object the development of the resources of his country and state. No charity that was brought to his notice went unblessed by his contribution. In a word, General Ruffner indulged, as much as any one within the knowledge of the writer, in the "Luxury of doing good." A phenomenal virtue this may seem, but it is nevertheless true of him whose character the writer has thus attempted to describe.


Was the fifth son of Joseph. He was tall and of great muscular power and physical endurance. No man was better known or more respected throughout the County of Kanawha. Imbued with an extraordinary fund of common sense, which was methodized by much reading and close observation and thorough investigation of all practical subjects, he was emphatically a man of his own head, and what is aptly called a long-headed man in business transactions, rarely erring in his judgment of men and affairs.

Though never a member of any church organization, he was in his personal conduct and bearing, and in his intercourse with his neighbors, uniformly kind and charitable. Always polite and gentlemanly; his rule was that it cost nothing to be polite to everybody. That that quality should be asiduously cultivated; being like proverbial honesty, the best policy. His politeness, however, was natural. Obliging and accommodating to all his neighbors and they esteemed and respected him accordingly. He was firm and stern in his enmities, but considerate and forbearing, and not given to rash resentments.

His chief business in the first forty years of his adult life was cultivating his splendid farm just above Charleston, and on which he resided many years. He planted and beautified his lands with the choicest fruit trees and shrubbery. Cultivated the ground according to the best methods then known, both for beauty and productiveness. He had a great many evergreens on his place, and among them many cedars which all grew in the form of perfect cones without any pruning or other care; so it was often remarked that he might stick a tree anywhere in his grounds, and it would grow up in any way or any shape he wanted it. Nature seemed to aid his good taste in everything connected with his farm and its cultivation.

On the upper part of his farm he built a salt furnace, which he sometimes ran or operated himself, and at other times by lessees. This property brought him considerable revenue. Rarely did he ever make a mistake in business or fail in anything he undertook. But what seems remarkable in a man of his breadth and activity of mind, he had no taste for public employments; nor did his ambition covet public honors. Unsought he received from the Governor of the state the appointment of Justice of the Peace in the year 1809, and was invested by operation of law, with the office of High Sheriff when he held the oldest commission as a Justice.

While he lived on his farm he accumulated a large estate. On the 9th of May, 1841, he lost his wife, who was some ten years his senior. She was a Miss Elizabeth Painter, of Shenandoah County, Virginia. Was born 27 January, 1769. They were married in the year 1799, in his 20th year. And to use his own words, she was a most excellent wife and mother, and a faithful Christian. His children then all grown had left him and were in business for themselves and self supporting.

Being thus alone, he concluded to marry again, and did so in 1844. His second wife was Elizabeth Singleton, a widow, and daughter of Samuel D. Honeyman, one of Charleston's earliest citizens. Of course his children opposed his second marriage at the age of 65. Nevertheless he did no injustice to either of them, but gave his large farm and other lands and some other property, in equal proportions, to them, making them all independent. After his second marriage he lived for a while in Charleston and then removed to Cincinnati, where he purchased considerable real estate with a portion of his fortune that remained to him after giving what he gave to his children as already stated. From Cincinnati he removed to a farm he owned in Fairfield County, Ohio. This was in 1850.

In a pond on this farm a much loved son of the second marriage, named Walter, was accidently drowned. This home became intolerable to him after this sad event, and shortly after it he returned to Kanawha where he purchased for a residence the house lately occupied by the family of the late George Jeffries. on Capitol Street. In 1858 he purchased a farm two miles south of Newport, Kentucky, to which he removed with his family. During the war he found himself so much annoyed by the troubles incident to the hostilities that he removed with his family to his old residence in Cincinnati, where he remained until the end of the contest, when he returned to Kentucky; and died there on July 31, 1865, in the 86th year of his age. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, back of Newport.

By his first wife, Daniel Ruffner had seven children born in the following order, viz: Catherine, 24 September, 1799; Charles, 24 February, 1801; Joel, 11th December, 1802; Augustus, 15 June, 1805; James and Andrew L., (twins) 27 December, 1810.


The oldest child of Daniel Ruffner, married a cousin, David C. Ruffner, of Ohio. They lived in Fairfield County, Ohio, where she died October 20th, 1849.


The oldest son of Daniel, was very tall and muscular, and possessed an iron constitution. Though of strong will, unflinching courage and fair intelligence, he seemed to be purposeless in all his aims and methods, and frittered away his opportunities, which were many, of being a useful and wealthy man. The nimrod of the family, he wasted a large part of his early years, and many of the years of his prime and even of his old age, in pursuing the bear, the deer and other game, which were formerly abundant in the neighboring mountains. Indeed, he enjoyed the pleasures of the chase more than any other species of amusement. Unfortunately he was too fond of his cups, and wasted too much of his time and substance in riotous living. He was popular in the county, however, and well known in it and adjoining counties. In the year 1857 or 1858, he was elected to the Legislature of Virginia, and served one session. At one time he operated a salt furnace on his father's property above Charleston, was successful and made some money, but his generous nature exhausted it as fast as he made it. Afterwards he was chosen salt inspector (an office that paid well) by the salt makers, and served in that capacity for a number of years.

Colonel Charles was married twice. First to Miss Ann Hedrick, of Botetourt County, Virginia. His wife died November 6th 1852. Two or three years after her death he married Miss Elizabeth Wilson, a daughter of Dr. Wilson, a celebrated physician of Kanawha. By his first wife he had two children. Mary, the elder, married Charles Rolf, of Cabell County, West Virginia. Rolf is dead and his widow now resides in Huntington, Cabell County.

The other child is Lucius, who went to California when quite young— was never married. He returned recently and is living in Kanawha.

The fruits of Col. Charles' last marriage were several children. A son, who died in his youth in 1871. The others are daughters, married and living in Cabell County. His second wife died before his death, which occurred two or three years ago in Cabell County, at the home of one of his daughters.


It is said that Old Homer, author of the Illiad and the Odyssey, sometimes slept, or at least nodded, while engaged on his immortal work; so the humble writer of these pages has found that he was once at least a napping or a nodding while engaged on this, his ephemeral work; or that the printer was—but no matter. The writer stated in his sketch of the late General Lewis Ruffner, that the General left surviving him, four of the children of his first wife—two sons and two daughters. And thought he had stated their names and what became of them, and where they now reside. But on looking over that sketch as printed, he finds that such information was omitted. This omission was certainly not intentional on the part of the writer, and he now takes pleasure in making reparation as follows:

Lewis Ruffner, Jr., one of the four, was engaged for some time in the sale of salt in St. Louis, where he married. Was afterwards in the same business in Evansville, Indiana. Removing thence to Kanawha, he manufactured salt for several years and otherwise managed the property of his father, as trustee. He is now in active business in Nashville, Tennessee, where he resides with his family. Sallie, the oldest daughter, married Dr. Smith, of Kentucky. She is now a widow and resides in Missouri. Julia married Samuel Gwynn, then of Louisville, Kentucky, but they now reside in Brooklyn, New York, where he is in business as a cotton broker. Joel S. resides in Malden, Kanawha County. He married a Miss Stanley.

Resuming the regular thread of these sketches we now come to:


He was the second son of Daniel—was domestic in his habits, and emphatically a useful man, whose chief ambition was to make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow on a spot of ground where only one grew before. Then he was one of the very few who obeyed and practiced each and all of the Ten Commandments laid down by Moses; and he also scrupulously practiced what is sometimes called the Eleventh commandment — "attend to your own business and let that of others alone."

He was born in Kanawha county, and spent his long life, after attaining his majority, on his farm just above Charleston—the same farm given him by his father.

Notwithstanding he raised and liberally educated a large family, yet he kept out of debt and accumulated some money. Prudent and economizing, he shunned hazardous speculations and enterprizes. For although he was not without a reasonable share of public spirit, nor inclined to retard the wheels of industrial progress, yet he never took serious risks where an untoward turn of fortune might endanger his pecuniary independence. He was often entrusted by the courts and by individuals with important business affairs, and handled many and large sums of money for others, but never was he a defaulter, or neglectful of any matter that was entrusted to him. He never sought any public position. But, without any solicitation of his, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the county. This was then an honorable, but not a profitable office, no fees were allowed for any business performed by the Justice. Not in any sense a brilliant man, Colonel Joel was remarkable for his sound sense, clear judgment and sterling integrity. He was married in early life to Miss Diana Marye, a distant relative, in Shenandoah County, Virginia. She died 23rd October, 1881, and he September 8th, 1882. They were both members of the Presbyterian Church, and regular attendants on its ordinances at Charleston.

They had 16 children, of whom the first three died very young. Two sons, Daniel and Joel, died during the war. The following are now living:

Frances, married to David L. Ruffner, before mentioned in these memoirs.

W. Marye, unmarried, is in the grocery business in Charleston with Wm. H. Truslow, the firm name being Ruffner & Truslow.

Annie M. has remained single, and has devoted much of her time and talents to literature and teaching. After teaching some time at home, she taught at Russellville, Ky. She then made a trip to Europe, passing much of her time while there in Paris. Upon her return she commenced a private high school, boarding many of her pupils, and is now engaged in that way on a beautiful place a few hundred yards from her father's late residence.

The other children of Joel, are Alexander and L. Diana, both unmarried; Kate A., married to W. H. Fant, of Owenshoro, Ky.; Jennie A. and Theda,  both unmarried; Willie A., married to C. Blaine, of Kentucky; Louisa B., married to John Hopper, of Cincinnati, and James A., who spent some years in Nevada, married in Arizona, where he now resides.


Augustus was a steady and good business man, and possessed a bright mind well cultivated. He married Miss Mary Rogers, a daughter of the late Dr. Rogers, of Charleston. Besides cultivating a part of his father's farm adjoining Charleston, he was engaged early in the lumber and milling business on Elk River, within the corporation limits of the town. He built a neat residence on the farm, being the same residence now owned and occupied by his son, Col. H. D. Ruffner. Suddenly he was taken with a nervous affection in one of his heels, and which soon after affected his whole frame, rendering him entirely helpless. For 18 or 20 years he was thus afflicted, and though he consulted the best physicians in all the country and visited various watering places, he got no relief. His mind, however, continued sound to the last, he died at his home March 3rd, 1855.  

Augustus left three children; Col. Henry D. Ruffner, who married Miss Sallie, a daughter of Dr. Spicer Patrick. They reside at the old homestead of his father as before stated. He was in the whole of the late war, and was a Colonel in the Confederate army. He went to Leadville some time ago, leaving his family at home, and opened a silver mine, which he found after a considerable trial would not pay. He came back to his old home after varied money expenses, no doubt a sadder and a wiser man. He is now a contractor on the State Capitol building.

Leonora married William Alexander, a highly respectable and independent farmer of Putnam County, West Virginia. Mary married Dr. L.L. Comstock, a citizen and prominent physician of Charleston. His mother in-law, Mrs. Ruffner, lives with him.


James and Andrew, twin sons of Daniel, both started with fine opportunities. But there was a notable difference in their careers. The former was a careful and prudent man and valuable citizen. In 1826 he married Miss Martha Morton, of Greenup, Kentucky. They lived a long time at the old homestead of his father, the present residence of Silas Ruffner, to whom he sold it about 1859 or 1860. He then removed to Charleston. They had four children, two sons and two daughters. One of the latter died at the age of seven years. James Ruffner spent the greater part of his life on his farm, but for several years was engaged in the manufacture of salt. A good business man, he succeeded in all his enterprises. He was strictly honest, and never failed to meet any and all of his obligations. His wife died in August, 1865, and he married again in 1866. His second wife was Miss Ellen, youngest daughter of the late James C. McFarland, of Charleston. He died the 6th day of February, 1867, leaving surviving a widow with one child, a daughter. Nellie J. His widow is again married. Her second husband being Dr. Houser. They reside in Charleston.

He left three children of his first wife, viz: Andrew L., Meredith P., and Anastien W.


These two gentlemen are both unmarried. They compose the firm of Ruffner Brothers, and are engaged in the wholesale grocery business in Charleston, and other enterprises. They own two fine two-story brick store houses in the city, one of which they built themselves, and also other valuable property in and around the city. These gentlemen are entitled to the credit of starting the first regular jobbing and wholesale trade in the County of Kanawha. And in this they have met with remarkable success. It is but justice to say they have shown a commendable spirit of enterprise, calculated to build up and promote the material prosperity of the city, and whole Kanawha Valley as well as their own.

Anastein W., the surviving daughter of James Ruffner, by his first wife, married Col. William H. Hogeman, in 1869. They reside in Charleston. Col. Hogeman came to Charleston from New York just after he attained his majority. Having studied law in that state, he was licensed and admitted to the bar by the Supreme Court thereof in the City of New York, Dec. 16, 1867. But having previously been in Kanawha on some business and made the acquaintance of some of the prominent men, he chose Charleston for his future residence, and is now engaged in active practice, with more than ordinary success. Though he has taken much interest in the political questions of the day, he has never sought any political office. He was appointed by Governor Jacob one of his aids with the rank of Colonel, and the same compliment was paid him by Governors Mathews and Jackson. For some years he has been, and still is counsel of the Chesapeake and Ohio railway. He is now about 37 years of age.


The twin brother of James, like all his brothers, was a tall man of fine proportions and vigorous mind. He was never married. When a young man he first engaged in the business of salt making. Being of a rollicking, jovial disposition, he became fond of river life and went to steamboating as an owner and commander. "Captain Andy" possessed a noble nature, but what with the jolly life of steamboating, and visiting Cincinnati, Louisville or some other city every week or so, with boon companions, he acquired an inordinate thirst for his cups. Steamboating was then a very profitable business and it brought money to him rapidly; but all this ended like the labor of the Danaides; the money ran out as it came in, so he never laid up or saved any.

Courtly, manly and liberal to a fault, bright and intelligent, he was a great favorite with all his associates. The victim of a wild and disipated career, he died on May 27th, 1850, in Fairfield County, Ohio, while on a visit to his father who was then living there.

"No further seek his merits to disclose,

Or draw his fralities from their dread abode,

There they alike in trembling hope repose.

The bosom of his Father and his God."


Elizabeth, daughter of Daniel Ruffner, married N. V. Wilson. She now resides in Charleston with her son-in-law, Charles C. Lewis. Mrs. Wilson has eight children — five daughters and three sons. Kate married P. H. Noyes, a wholesale grocer of Charleston; Betty married C. C. Lewis, late Cashier of Kanawha Valley Bank and stockholder therein. Anna married A. W. Allemong of the firm of Henking, Allemong & Co., wholesale grocers of Gallipolis, Ohio. Virginia married Rev. John G. Hall, a Presbyterian minister and missionary. Willie married Charles Rooke of Malden. The sons are Daniel, Nathaniel V. and James, all living and in business in Kanawha County.

Daniel Ruffner had by his second wife the following children, all born in the State of Ohio, viz: Walter, born in the year 1845; Daniel, born February 1, 1847; Joseph born 29th October, 1848; Virginia; born in 1851 and William St. Elliot, born in 1853.

Walter was drowned by breaking through the ice on a pond on his father's farm in Farfield County, Ohio, when about nine years of age. Daniel resides in Covington, Kentucky, and carries on business in Cincinnati. Virginia married Mr. James M. Stoughton, of Kentucky, and resides in Glendale, a suburb of Cincinnati, in which city her husband is engaged in business. He is a member of the firm of Smith, Stoughton & Payne, wholesale manufacturers and dealers in boots and shoes. William is a farmer and resides in Todd County, Kentucky. Joseph studied law in Cincinnati, came to Charleston in 1871, and commenced the practice of law. in which he made a fair start. In 1875 he married Miss Mary A. Jackson, of Richmond, Indiana, and after living in Charleston until the fall of 1878, he went to Richmond, Indiana, and from there to Cincinnati, in which places he was engaged in thc practice of his profession. Not liking these locations he returned to Charleston in 1881, where he is now engaged in the practice of the law.

And now, Mr. Editor, you have many thanks for the space allowed in your valuable paper for the foregoing sketches. Much more of interest to many, if not to the general public, might have been said of Col. David Ruffner, Dr. Henry Ruffner, General Lewis Ruffner, Daniel Ruffner and Col. Charles Ruffner, and some others. But the limits prescribed by the writer for this work, would have been excluded. And if any Carping Zolius shall complain that these sketches are too brief, or imperfectly written, or infected with any other vice, all the writer has to say is, take up your pen and do better.

But, whatever may be said in the way of criticism, the writer has this consolation: that in what he has written, he has endeavored to tell the truth, and believes he has done so, from title page to COLOPHON.

Submitted to for you benefit by Joe and Melissa Ruffner descendants of the Ruffner Family.   [email protected]

USGENWEB NOTICE: In keeping with our policy of providing free information on the Internet, data may be freely used by non-commercial entities, as long as this message remains on all copied material. These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format for profit or other presentation.

Back to Kanawha County Biographies