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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

Attention: Ruark's

William F Ruark has been reported as the son of John C and Mary Smith Ruark born about 1815. While the Native Americans had vacated the country that became Lawrence County, that could not be said of northwestern Illinois in the 1830s. Black Hawk, a Sauck, wanted his lands there returned and the settlers evicted. Captain John Barnes’ Company was organized in Lawrence County on Monday May 5 1832 after Black Hawk’s warriors won a significant victory against troops stationed in northern Illinois. Illinois Governor Reynolds called for a thousand additional troops and Captain Barne’s company marched from Lawrence County June 2, 1832, arriving in Springfield June 9. William F, probably about 18, and his cousin John W Ruark, maybe 20 years old, were mustered into U.S. Service June 19, 1832 as privates. On August 1832, the U.S. soldiers caught up with Black Hawk’s band as it attempted to escape west across the Mississippi, and after a bloody battle, Black Hawk finally surrendered. The Ruark boys were discharged August 2, 1832 and made their way back to Lawrence County.

After the license was taken out on May 6, 1834, William F married Phebe Flint Ruark, reported to be the daughter of Arthur and Lucretia Hopkins Ruark on May 15, in Lawrence County, Illinois. If she was, she and William F were first cousins. When the 1840 census was taken in Lawrence County, Illinois, William and Phebe had one son under the age of 5 - this would have been Jacob L. Ruark, born about 1836 in Lawrence County, Illinois. He later married Olive Butler. (Two of their children are buried at Moffett Cemetery near their grandfather.)

The 1840 census taker also recorded that William and Phebe had one daughter under the age of 5 - this was probably Elizabeth as her birthdate was later given as December 15, 1840. There are three tombstones beside William’s at Moffett. A H Ruark born March 7 1846, died July 19, 1846; J A Ruark, born July 17, 1843 but the date of the year the child died has been broken, and all that can be read is simply October 16; and lastly F M Ruark, born July 8, 1838, died December 25, 1838. These infants are probably William F and Phebe’s.

The 1850 census in Lawrence County lists William age 35, Phebe 36, Jacob 14, Elizabeth, 10, and William Ruark age 3, (born Jun. 28, 1846). Little William G. Ruark died Mar. 22, 1851 at age 4 years, 8 months, and 22 days and was buried at Moffett cemetery beside his father.

William F. Ruark died June 2, 1855, aged 43 years, 4 months, and 26 days without a will. His wife Phebe was appointed administratrix along with William Goslen as administrator. Notice for Creditors to Appear was published May 3, 1856 in the American Banner, a Lawrence County newspaper.

William F Ruark was buried in the Ruark family cemetery. Under the 1855 Script Warrant Act, Phebe F Ruark received 120 acres in Warsaw, Missouri as payment for William F’s service in Captain Barnes Company, Illinois Militia. She was named as the widow and the warrant was signed Dec 10 1859. She assigned it to William H Shackelford.

The Ruark family cemetery eventually became a public cemetery known now as Moffett. At least 26 Ruark family members are buried there and their tombstones are some of the earliest found in the county. Time and weather has not been kind to these memorials. Most are unreadable, semi-buried in the ground, and/or broken. In a few years, all trace of these early Ruarks will be gone. Lawrence County Historical Society is committed to preserving local history but we can't do it alone. Every Saturday volunteers have been cleaning stones at Moffett, but the Ruark ones are beyond our skills to repair and reset. WE need Ruark descendants to step up and sponsor an ancestor's stone. It generally costs $100- $250 per stone for a professional to reset and repairit. We know you care--we see your artificial flowers. Please help us. Send checks to Lawrence County Historical Society PO Box 425 Lawrenceville, Illinois 62439 (If you can't affaord to, please forward this to your rich relatives.)

These are nine of the twenty-six Ruark stones. Please help us save them. If you are related to the Ruarks, consider making a donation, even a small donation will help. Don't let your family history disappear.

(Photos by Ed Brumley and others.)

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