"Tennessee Trails" through Bedford County


Ruth Family

Having been repeatedly asked by the immediate members of his own, as well as other branches of the family, to place in convenient form his knowledge of the family history, the writer has endeavored to outline briefly, such facts as may satisfy those who are interested.

A little more than a century has elapsed since our country took its place among the nations; that period may mark .the beginning of a family history as well as the birth of a nation. While our knowledge of those ancestors who existed before the first mentioned names, or of the ante-revolutionary period, has not come to us so complete as to be authentic, being only traditional, enough is known to say in truth, they were of respectability, with them, like those who succeeded them, “The post of honor is the private station.”

Of the record here made the writer has received much from his own parents; also from Mrs. Margaret Walsh, of Murfreesboro, daughter of James Ruth, now in the seventy-second year of her age. Some in­formation, also some interesting tradition, was obtained from the late Robert Ruth, who was a son of David Ruth, first mentioned. Robert Ruth was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. When a young man he came to Nashville, and died there at an advanced age. He was a man of much. strength of character, and by extensive reading and study he attained a high literary culture. For some of the facts here stated, as well as a verification of his own knowledge, the writer is indebted, to his sister, Mrs. W. G. Dorris, of Avondale, Sumner county, Tennessee.

David Ruth, with whom this record begins, was the son of James Ruth and Sarah Tenne Ruth, who came to Pennsylvania from Scotland with the tide of emigration to the Middle and Southern colonies, that began about the middle of the eighteenth century. David Ruth was a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was born about the year 1761. His ancestry were of Presbyterian faith. At the age of sixteen he was draughted. into the service of the Continental Army, and was engaged in the battle of the Brandywine, September 11, 1777. He was married a few years subsequent to that period to Mary McGlochlin, the daugh­ter of Joshua McGlochlin, a Presbyterian minister, who lived near the city of Wilmington, N. C. Soon after his marriage he removed to Granville county, North Carolina.

His immediate descendants were James, David, Sarah, Elizabeth and George Washington Ruth, the last named, being born October 6, 1799, was the youngest and father of the writer. There is a well au­thenticated tradition that he was honored with the name of “George Washington” by reason of the following circumstances -General Washington, during the month of November, 1799, made a tour of North Carolina and passed near the residence of David Ruth, the babe being a few weeks Of age and unnamed, he was held a few moments in the arms of the first President. It is an historical. fact that General. Washington. died of pneumonia contracted by reason of undue exposure on his re­turn from his tour, his death occurring the following month. About the year 1802 David Ruth removed to Raleigh, then coming into promi­nence as the capital of the state. At the age of seventeen George W. Ruth was apprenticed to Mr. Jehu Scott, the “Jeweler, and Silversmith” of Raleigh, who was reputed to be one of the most skillful and thorough of his craft, having mastered his trade in the mother country. At the end if his apprenticeship he was discharged with. full recommendations as to his skill as a workman, and as a “young man worthy of confi­dence.” With his discharge, he received a set of tools, some of which had been “much used but serviceable.” With these and a limited ward­robe, a bundle of modest weight, he left Raleigh, determined to estab­lish himself in some of the rapidly developing states of the southwest. Leaving Raleigh, he traveled mostly on foot, passing through the states of South Carolina and Georgia, he at length reached Mobile, at that time the most prominent point in the territory of Alabama. Finding the field occupied, he directed his course to St. Stephens, then the terri­torial capital and land office. The town he described as being filled up with land speculators, adventurers and gamblers. While successful in his trade, he fell a victim to chills and finally a severe attack of fever. After a residence of near five months, he left St. Stephens in search of more healthful location. The town, frora its unhealthy location, subse­quently fell into decay, and is now only known as a steamboat landing of little importance.

Leaving St. Stephens, he visited Tuscaloosa, and then Huntsville, and stopping in the latter place, he worked a brief period for Thos. Cain, the pioneer “watch maker and silversmith” of that place. From thence he went to Fayetteville, Tennessee, where he engaged to work for E. M. Ringo. His stay there was brief. He arrived in Shelbyville in the summer of 1822, and here he found he. had been preceded by Daniel Turrentine, who was somewhat his senior, having immigrated from Hilisboro, North Carolina, a short time previous, and had already established himself He, having had the advantage of a thorough master, Mr. Turrentine gave him employment, which position he re­tained for more than four years. On the 30th day of May, 1824, he was united in marriage to Miss Anne Downs, who was born in the state of Maryland, near Baltimore, her father being James Downs, whose immediate ancestors were residents of Virginia, and members of the Church of England, her mother being Arnie Shilcut, whose family were of Scotch origin, and of the Society of Friends (or Quakers). Her father died prior to her birth. Her mother died in giving her birth and she was given to her maternal grandmother.

When about six years of age she was taken from her grandmother by relations of her father. She remembered crossing a large body of water in a boat, which was probably Chesapeake bay, her destination some distance• from the opposite shore. She did not remain long, as an uncle Peter Shilcut, whom she quickly recognized, rode up to an or­chard fence, where he was playing with other children, she was taken upon the horse before him and carried away, he being on the road to Tennessee, where he settled. She was never informed as to the reasons that prompted either of those parties in their conduct to her, her uncle although treating her with great kindness and even consideration, gave her no intimation beyond expressing his purpose to give her means. He did give her a substantial and comfortable home. But his death. occurred soon after and no deed was given. He died intestate, being carried away after a few hours of illness of cholera in July, 1833. He was a pioneer merchant of Shelbyville, coming to that place soon after James Deery, who arrived with the first stock of merchandise in 1811. Peter Shilcut is described by those who knew him to be an up-right merchant, of a taciturn manner, yet of a kindly nature. In ap­pearance he was of medium height, a swarthy face, black eyes and dark hair, his place of business was a two-story building of hewn cedar logs, and stood on the spot now occupied by the Farmers Batik building, on the southwest corner of the public square.

George W. Ruth after being in the employ of Mr. Turrentine for several years, at length entered into a partnership, the style of the firm being, Turrentine & Ruth. On the 30th of May, 1830, a de­structive cyclone swept over the business portion of Shelbyville, de­stroying totally their building, causing a serious loss in goods and mate­rial. This building stood on the spot now occupied by S. K. Brantley, and owned by him. It was a small frame one-story, and was rebuilt on the same place with a work shop and forge in the rear, and stood until removed to Depot street during the year 1855 or 1856, and. torn away by Moses Marshall Esq., giving place to his present brick building.

Soon after the storm he was induced to remove to Lebanon, Tennessee, by Dr. Frazer, a leading citizen of that place. Not being satis­fied with the outlook, he returned to Shelbyvile after an absence of nearly one year, again entering into business with Mr. Turrentine, which partnership continued, until January 29, 1833, when they dis­solved by mutual consent, Mr. Turrentine remaining in the original stand. The following July cholera broke out in Shelbyville, Mr. Tur­rentine falling a victim to the great scourge.

George W. Ruth lost by cholera three children within three days, Mary, the eldest, being eight years of age on the 3d of July, and Paulina aged six years, and David aged fifteen months on the 5th of July. Mr. Turrentine was a man of slight form, medium height, genial temperament, of strict integrity and great piety. The writer has been ‘informed by Richard Foreman, Esq., that he visited him in company with his father, Richard Foreman, Sr., while on his death bed, his residence being on the spot now occupied by the residence of 0. Cowan, Esq. ­In 1837, George W. Ruth removed to Nashville, and entered the employ of Paul Negrin, a leading jeweler and silversmith, whose place of business was on what is now the corner of College and Deaderick streets. He remained with Mr. Negrin only about a year and a few months, when he returned to Shelbyville and resumed business at the old stand of Turrentine and Ruth. John M. Seahorn, Esq., a jeweler and silversmith, came to Shelbyville from East Tennessee in 1842, and entered into a partnership with George W. Ruth, but the firm was of limited duration, no date having been preserved. His failing health determined him to engage in a more active business. In 1849 he formed a partnership with the Hon. James Mullins, the firm being Ruth & Muflins, their stock being family groceries exclusively, this being the first firm to engage in that business in Shelbyville, such goods having been sold in all stores with other merchandise. They continued business several years. He then resumed his former business as jeweler, and up to the time of his death, occupied a building that stood on Depot street nearly opposite the store-rooms owned by Moses Marshall, Esq.

George W. Ruth died on Friday morning, August 20, 1858. He was reared by Presbyterian parents, being early after his conversion or pro­fession of religion associated with Methodists, he continued a thor­oughly consistent member of that connection until his death. He was long a member of the Masonic fraternity, was mayor of Shelbyvilie, served many years as a magistrate, a steward in the church and filled other positions of trust in the community whose confidence he re­tained to the fullest extent.

The following extract from his obituary written by the Rev. Welborne Mooney, who was his pastor, will show in strong light his char­acter as a churchman:

“His life of unblemished holiness was indeed a living comment on the religion he professed; a comment known and read of all who knew him. He was a reading inteffigent christian; well. informed as to the doctrines of his church; in fact, he was one of the best theologians we ever met among the laity of any church. At different times in- his his­tory he filled the offices of class leader and steward, and filled them too with credit to himself and usefulness to his brethren. The death of such a man is a public calamity.”

The following is an extract from the notice of his death in the Shelbyville Expositor:

“There was perhaps, no man, in the community more beloved and respected than the deceased. No one knew him but to love him.”

The following is a note to the writer from Joseph H. Thompson, Esq., who, in his early life, was engaged in business with him:

“I knew George W. Ruth from my boyhood, but began to know him best when I entered his employ in 1846. He was then one of the merchants of Shelbyville. I remained with him until he went out of business, but my intimacy with him continued until his death in 1858. Mr. Ruth was a man of strong individuality. He was full of sympathy. for humanity; always a friend to the poor and the unfortunate. He was a man of nerve and courage; and open, frank and manly; hated sham; despised intrigue and corruption. Although born and reared by Pres­byterian parents, his early associations led him into the fold of Meth­odism. Mr. Ruth was a student, and to him the writings of the fathers of the church were familiar subjects. While a strong churchman, he. never closed his eyes to the good that was in others. He was a good citizen, faithful in all the relations of life.”

The descendants of David Ruth were: David, who married Martha Woodard. Born 1790, died 1863. James, who married Elizabeth Nutt. Born 1789, died 1837. Sarah, who married Miller. Elizabeth, who married Barbour. George W., who married Anne Downs.

The descendants of George W. Ruth were: Jane Maria, born February 11, 1828. Married Maj. Thos. J. McQuiddy, February 24, 1847. Elzira Stone, born October 26, 1829. Married Rev. Wiffiam G. Dor­ris, October 27, 1853. Died, February 1, 1911. John Wesley, born February 27, 1839. Married Fannie E. Newton, March 26, 1865. Died, 1906. Charles Leonidas, born January 17, 1841. Married Julie T. Hardwick, July 16, 1867. George Anne, born October 20, 1844. Mar­ried Robert Wright, October 31, 1872. Died March 8, 1880. Ambrose Driskell, born January. 12, 1845. Married Jennie S. Newton, Septem­ber 24, 1867. Samuel. Moody, born March 30, 1848. Married Sophia Winfred, October 24, 1871.

From "Tennessee and Tennesseans" Will Hale 1913 Pgs 1326-1330