Water ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ #14

Peter Rucker huguenotMy 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.

huguenot settlement Virginia

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 shipwreckthan 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.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

52 Ancestors Week #10- Stormy Weather – Peter Rucker, First to Come to America

peter ruckerPeter Rucker is said to be the first of the Rucker line to come to America. He was born in Germany and his family fled to France during an uprising in their native land. Peter and his 3 brothers boarded a ship traveling along with 3 other ships to come to the new land and reached the shores of Virginia in the late 1600’s. There are several stories as to how Peter arrived here. A great storm arose as they were approaching land and it is proven that one of the ships sank before reaching the dock. This is where things change. The debate is how Peter, who was on the sinking ship, got to shore. Below are some of the accounts that can be found. I really like number 6 as this would be a great story to tell!

  1. “Peter Rucker floated for three days on a piece of driftwood, being picked up by a passing vessel.” (From Edythe Whitley’s History of the Rucker Family, p.9)
  1. Peter’s ship was “wrecked in a heavy storm 12 miles from the Jamestown shore—nearly all were lost. [Peter] tied two casks of rum together which buoyed him up and he floated for two days” until rescued. (This story was handed down in the family of Thomas B. Rucker, b. Oct. 29, 1807, Caldwell Co., KY and printed in Eva Cutts Davidson’s Rucker Kinsmen, p.45)
  1. “Peter Rucker . . . landed in Norfolk in 1701 after being shipwrecked and floating on a timber in mid ocean for three days. He landed at Norfolk with two brothers possibly three brothers . . . He left Norfolk in 1715 for the upcountry, and settled in Amherst Co., [VA]. (Written in a letter found by James M. Rucker, Gladys, VA, among his mother’s papers. This version came through the family of Edwin Sorrell Rucker, born April 8, 1803 [Wood, p.82])
  1. “The family of Ruckers were Huguenots and left France in the 17th century and settled near Fairfax, VA . . . The vessel which brought them to America was wrecked and everyone on board lost, except Rucker himself and one companion. (This story came through the family of Jonathan Rucker [Wood, p.299] of Mississippi, printed in The Alstons and Allstons, by Joseph A. Groves, p.147)
  1. “That there were three Rucker brothers who came over from Holland in Colonial Days. Their ship sank and only one lived to get to shore and that all the Ruckers were descended from this one man and most of them lived in the south.” (Neil Lewis Rucker, Burdett, KS, 1966, in a letter to Paul H. Rucker of Burlington, Iowa, submitted by Neil’s son, Clair N. Rucker)
  1. “The first of the name in America was Peter Rucker, a native of France. On the voyage to America, the vessel in which he sailed was wrecked about 12 miles from shore and nearly all on board were lost. Before leaving the wreck, Mr. Rucker took the precaution of tying a couple of large flasks of rum to his neck which buoyed him up. By that means and by taking an occasional drink of it, he was enabled to reach shore.” (‘Early Settlers of Sangamon County, IL,’ by Powers, 1876, submitted by Bette Lou Upton Nienstedt)
  1. “By the grace of God, a deck of cards, and a keg of rum, you are here today” (A talk by Edith Copeland Rucker to descendants at the Rucker Family Reunion, 1994.) “ . . . Peter Rucker was the first Rucker on American soil, and he came on a ship that was wrecked just before reaching the shores of Virginia back in the late 1600s. It seems that there were two potential survivors of the disaster, and they gambled in a game of ‘seven-up’ to determine who would win the remaining keg of rum to use to float to shore. Peter won, and ‘a keg of rum’ has over the years, been used as the password of Peter Rucker’s descendants.” (First printed in Days Gone By in Alpharetta and Roswell, GA, by Caroline Matheny Dillman, Nov. 15, 1986.)

Peter Rucker is my 7th Great Grandfather.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.