|Several years ago, Billy and Grace Lupfer came to our home for a visit. Our conversation centered on the weather, our children, the likelihood of a good wheat harvest, the usual topics for our families. Before they left, Billy mentioned a book he wanted Ronnie to have. It was Charles Henry Ruff’s journal with records of the baptisms, funerals and weddings he had officiated. He thought Ronnie should have it, as he was the fifth generation “Charles Ruffs.” So, they left it that night and we put it on the shelf in Ronnie’s study. There it set for five or six years.
For some reason, last year I pulled it out, blew the dust off and flipped through it. My first thought was, “This man kept records of everything!” I scanned it and put it back. Some weeks later, I got it out again and began to see obvious patterns and a wealth of information that I had not seen before. Each time I read through it, I saw something new.
What became apparent was that the author was intent on keeping his records up to date and precise. No, he did not have a large church congregation. And he was not a famous or highly educated man. Some may have in fact, criticized him because he did not strive for fame or money. Instead, he merely attempted to live a godly life, preach God’s Word and raise his large family to follow a godly path. What seemed to be an ordinary record book revealed a man who saw perfection in a child who had died sooner than any mother’s heart wanted to let him go. C.H. Ruff saw wonders in climbing into a borrowed automobile, and remembering at a friend’s funeral, that he had also performed that person’s marriage ceremony years earlier. Outbreaks of revival among various churches were seen clearly as baptisms counted on one day numbered up to twenty-one.
Another fact came to light as I charted the twelve Ruff children’s’ marriages and baptisms. All twelve of Charles Henry and Adela Ruff’s children were baptized and married by their father. He also performed the marriages of his brother, Walter, and his sisters Jessie, Mabel and Abbie.
An interesting note, found at entry #24, was a marriage ceremony conducted for William Shank and Katie Meyers on December 23, 1906 at Wellmonville, Kansas. Rev. Ruff’s notation for that entry was, “Night I was Lost.” He had traveled fifty miles north of Burdett that winter night to unite William Shank and Katie Myer, the great-great-grandparents of Katie Lynn Shank, who, eighty-one years later, married the preacher’s great-great-grandson, Travis Charles Ruff. In sharing this information with Katie last year, she said her grandfather, Harry Shank had heard family stories through the years about the preacher who got lost on his way to marry his great-grandfather. What wonder Charles Henry would have felt knowing of such a coincidence. Most likely he would have attributed the chain of events to the Supreme Plan of our Maker rather than coincidence.
Travis Charles is the sixth generation of first-born sons of Charles Ruffs-Charles Chester, Charles Henry, Charles Chester Silas, Charles LeRoy, Charles Ronald, and Travis Charles. All have served the Lord in the Hanston Baptist Church, which Charles Chester helped build in 1917. Charles Henry preached from its pulpit, Charles Chester Silas and Charles LeRoy served as trustees, and Charles Ronald served as a deacon and song leader. Charles Ronald is now teaching an adult Sunday School class in the same room and using the same podium that his great-great grandfather taught Sunday School from some 75 years ago. As of July 31, there is now a seventh generation of Charles Ruffs…. Braeden Charles, son of Brad Thomas and Cheri Ruff and Charles Garrett, son of Travis Charles and Katie Ruff.
C.H. Ruff, better known as “Charlie”, was the officiant at five of his nephew and nieces weddings. In all he performed seventy-five marriage ceremonies, traveling a total of 1,636 miles, most of which were traveled by means of a horse and buggy. For forty years, 1897-1937, Charles Henry Ruff joined couples in holy matrimony.
Charles Henry Ruff performed one hundred fifty-seven baptisms during his ministry, baptizing all of his children, three daughter-in-laws and two granddaughters, four nieces and one nephew. The last entry was for the baptism of his granddaughter, Mary Beth Nutt, June 28, 1930, who was eight years old. Most of the baptisms took place in the Pawnee Creek, with many in neighbors’ pools, even in irrigation ditches. Some of the last entries show that a degree of progress had taken place in rural Kansas, for the last five baptisms are listed at Hanston, where a baptismal had been built eight years earlier.
Rev. Ruff officiated at one hundred sixty funerals during the period between 1897 through 1940. He traveled a total of 6,661 miles to serve the bereaved, the majority of which were made by horse and buggy. He noted in each case, the cause of death, the age of the deceased, the place of burial, the bereft, the weather and mileage. One column was of particular interest. It was labeled, “Hope.” Under that column, he had noted for each deceased person their “hope” or the state of their soul. Some were simply listed as, “Baptist, Methodist, etc., or “no profession, claimed Christ and perfect.” Upon examining the entry of “perfect,” it was discovered that in each case of infant or childhood death, he had used the term “perfect” to describe the child’s spiritual condition.
Charles Ruff preached the funerals for four nieces and nephews, one grandchild and many dear, old friends. He, however, never had the sad duty of preaching at the funeral of one of his children. All twelve children lived to adulthood and well beyond.
On October 26, 1914, Rev. Ruff officiated at a funeral of new circumstances. His remarks read, “1st auto funeral.” It wasn’t until April 7, 1917, that he drove his own auto to conduct a funeral. Up to that time, he had relied on a horse and a buggy, or a neighbor drove him to his destination. Sometimes he received monetary thanks for his services. Sometimes he was given food, but most often, no notation of a gift was made at all. How often he was called to aid others and be taken from his home fires with no thoughts of being compensated.