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Ruggles of Maryland and Virginia -- a Family Reconstructed

This page was written in 12 July 2001 and updated on 6 April 2008 -- rak.

What follows was once our speculation regarding the prospective Maryland ancestors of the "Southern" Ruggles of Kentucky.  In that reconstruction we endeavored to use intelligently as much of the meager evidence available.  We doubted that we could have this exactly right and thought that the picture surely would change, perhaps dramatically as we learned more.  However, today I have received what looks like very good corroboration from cousin Roger Carr based on research started by his grandmother and continued by both his mother and himself.  Roger introduced us to the Hardesty biographical information used below.

James1 Ruggles -- (bef.1682 -- aft.1702)

This James Rugless married in Talbot County, MD in 1702.  We suspect he either 1) was a Northern Ruggles who somehow met a Maryland girl, came south to marry her and went back north, or 2) was a recent emigrant who did not live long after his marriage.  We find no trace of any issue in Maryland or Virginia.

I would tend to write off James1 altogether except for the following.  In 1930 when Thomas Ruggles wrote his History of the Buzzard Family, he said: 

"... your great grandmother Rachel Ruggles Buzzard who's family came to the United States from England, away back in the first settling of this country in the 16th century.  About this time several families of Ruggles' came here together and settled on the coast of Maryland and started a little town and called it Ruggles Town for a nickname, and it grew and grew and GREW, until it became a large town, when 75% of the population was either Ruggles or akin to them."

Cousin Madilyn Brown who is a Buzzard descendant and who sent this quote to me says she found a reference to Ruggles Town in Talbot Co, MD while researching in the Allen Co. Ind. Library in Ft. Wayne, IN.  I have asked her for the specific reference; there was no response to this request and I strongly doubt the information.

I get the impression that Thomas was passing on family legends and that the details were mostly wrong.  For instance, if true, it had to be the 17th or 18th century, not the 16th; the records indicate that there were a tiny handful of Ruggles in Maryland, not 75% of any population, etc.  However, most legends are built on a kernel of truth and it is not impossible that our Ruggles did first settle in Talbot County. 

James2 Ruggles -- (bef.1723,England -- 1778,Montgomery Co, MD)

This James Rugles, aka. Roughless and Ruglass, was convicted with others in London for mugging a homosexual in a public park in London in 1744.  Since no reference is made in the records of the proceedings to "youth", we guess that he was at least 21 in 1744.  Although he was sentence "for life", we guess that his sentence was commuted to transportation to the colonies, that he was purchased for seven years, that he served his time, and that by 1751 or 1752 was free to marry.  The earliest Kentucky Ruggleses we now know of seem to have been born in the period 1755-67, which would be the right time to have been the result of a marriage by James in 1753-54.  He is now, more than ever, our prime candidate for progenitor of the Southern Ruggles.

In 1882 Henry Hardesty wrote, on page 125 of his Biographical Atlas, volume 3 which includes the folk of Braxton County, WV,  that the James Rugless who was father to James (who married, in Maryland, Elizabeth Harding) and grandfather to Eliza Jane (who married Jonathan Caldwell Friend in Greenup County, KY) came from England to Baltimore County, Maryland.

We believe that he was the James whose 1777 and 1778 records are found in Montgomery Co, MD.  If we have this right, then  between 1751 and 1778, James managed to marry and produce at least four or five children, but was unable to buy land.  This would indicate that in his servitude he did not acquire skills sufficient to generate income adequate to both support a young family and to buy land.  He must have worked at wage labor in some semi- or un-skilled job or jobs.

The Hardesty information says James Rugless married [in Maryland] Mary Winfield whose parents came from Ireland.  Wright, Inhabitants of Baltimore County 1692-1763, p. 24 reproduces a 1737 list of taxables in the Patapsco Lower Hundred showing Richard Wingfield as a taxable in the household of Jacob Rowles.  Clements and Wright, The Maryland Militia in the Revolutionary War, p.147, reproduce records for 1777 service by Jona and Richd. Winfield in the Calvert County militia.

In our 2001 work, we had speculated that  the wife's maiden name might have been Brimmer, but this apparently was incorrect.  The speculation went as follows:  the only two hints we had were 1) the knowledge of John B. Ruggles middle initial and 2) the fact that the family name Brimmer has long been associated with our Ruggles family so much so that some have suggested it as the maiden name of a wife in the next generation whose maiden name almost surely was something else.  If James was poor, with no land and few skills, he would have been hard pressed to make a very good match, and would have tried hard to improve his lot and that of his prospective children by marriage.  And there was a Brimmer family on the margins of Maryland society.

According to Gust Skordas' Early Settlers, p. 57, James Bremer was transported to Maryland in 1678.  By 1687, according to Peter Coldham's Settlers 1679-1700, p.20, James Brimar [surely the same man] owned Weems, a tract of 424 acres, in St. Mary's County, MD.  According to Barnes' Maryland Marriages, p.20, Will'm Brimer married Catharine Gaskin in 1712 in Anne Arundel Co. and p.200 in 1768 Fanny Brammer married Jno. Wooler in Baltimore Co, MD.  So far, we have been able to find nothing else about this family.  But Mary Brimmer, born sometime 1730-40 could well have been a granddaughter of this small farmer in early Maryland.

But her maiden name seems to have been Winfield, not Brimmer.

In 1778-1779 Mary Rugloss served as a witness to John Holmes' will in Montgomery County.  This was not a very common thing for a woman to do.  We are guessing that James was the one who was supposed to do this, that he had died or was traveling at the time, and that his wife or widow, Mary, served in his place.  That his wife was Mary adds more credibility that he had a daughter named Mary as well.

Elsewhere we have speculated that this couple had at least five children:  John B. (1755, VA or MD), Thomas (1756), William (1760, VA or MD), James (1761, MD) and Mary (1767).  We suspect that there were more daughters who may have lived and married.  If we have placed this family correctly, the children were all likely born somewhere in what was then Frederick Co, MD or in nearby areas of Virginia.

The Hardesty information indicates that James was a had moved west to the Cheat River [in what was then Monongalia County] when that area was raw wilderness, where he drowned in that river while trying to cross it with a load of goods he had brought from Baltimore.   Cousin Roger Carr believes he can verify that James was a teamster and that this drowning happened while trying to ford the river at or near St. George (then known as Minear's Fort, now in Tucker County, WV).  Roger has found James on a Monongalia tax list and believes that the Ruggles lived at the time of James' death in either St. George (aka the Horseshoe Settlement) itself or in the Hardin Cove Settlement (named for the family of Elizabeth Hardin) some 20 miles further west. 

William Ruggles (bef.1734 - aft.1790)

William arrived in Prince George's Co, MD in 1755 and surely must have been 21 or older at the time.  We believe he was the William Rugless who saw Revolutionary War service in the Maryland militia, that he married Elizabeth Lowe in 1789 in Prince Georges Co. and that he headed the household listed as William Rugless, also in Prince Georges Co., in the 1790 census.  We have found no evidence that he had male issue and have found no evidence of the marriage of the daughters that seem to be indicated in the 1790 census.

To check on English Origins, click on them.

To look at all of the evidence we have found so far in Maryland and Virginia regarding the early Kentucky Ruggles' ancestors, click on it.

To check on other early Ruggles living in the "southern" area, click on them.