My 7x Great Grandfather Peter Rucker was a Huguenot (French Protestant) who was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1661. He was the son of Ambrose Levi Rucker a German citizen and Elizabeth Ann Beauchamp a French citizen.
The Huguenots were oppressed and outright killed throughout France from the mid-16th to the early 18th centuries. The French Catholic monarchy conducted the infamous slaughter of an estimated 70,000 Huguenots from Aug. 23-24, 1572, in the “St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.” Approximately 400,000 Huguenots fled to Holland and England, and from there a small percentage came to Colonial America. They settled in New York, Boston, South Carolina and in Virginia, in what is now Powhatan County, on 10,000 acres ceded to them by Richmond city founder William Byrd I.
King William of England supplied more than 500 Huguenots with five ships and supplies bound for Virginia. However, when they arrived at Jamestown, William Byrd I and Gov. Francis Nicholson met them and instead steered the exhausted Huguenots 30 difficult miles upriver from Richmond to an abandoned Monacan Indian settlement, which later became known as Manakin Town.
This is how and why Peter Rucker came to the Colony of Virginia. Peter married Elizabeth Fielding in England before making the voyage across the sea. His first 2 sons were born in Gloucestershire, England in 1680 and 82. His first daughter was born in Virginia in 1702, so we know the Ruckers arrived here about 1700. Of the 5 ships that King William sent to Virginia only 3 of the ships manifests have been found. Peter and his family were not listed on those but he did arrive at the same time so we assume he was on one to the other two ships.
Since there is no definitive proof that Peter was on one of the ships, there are many legends surrounding his arrival. There are legends enough and the common thread is a “calamity at sea”. The most popular tale of Peter’s arrival is that his ship went down, and he swam ashore to the beach of the Virginia Colony. Some say that he bobbed ashore with the assistance of a keg or two of rum; some favor the alternative spirits of brandy or whiskey. Some say Peter buoyed in the surf by the buoyant keg until he was rescued, a romantic but purely fanciful image. In the biography of Rev. James Rucker from the 1882 History of DeWitt Co., IL it is claimed that Peter swam seven miles to Cape Hatteras, clutching a bottle of French brandy. In this case, the spirits were a reward, rather than being a savior. Another account appeared in a letter from Marie Keeble Rucker to Mrs. George S. DuBois it read: Frenchman Peter Rucker abandoned his warship, The Rising Sun when it was captured by the British, and he reached the shore “with great damage to his body from the effects of the saltwater.” Surprisingly, there is no mention of liquor in this version. It is a fact that a ship sank at the Jamestown Virginia dock in 1700 when Peter Rucker’s arrival has been suggested. Until a manifest or some other documentation is found we can just entertain ourselves imagining the “heroics” of Peter clutching a keg of rum and paddling toward shore.
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