Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ruhama Heath McKim Buck

As noted previously, Ruhama Heath was the second wife of Thomas Buck V. Most of the following information about Ruhama Buck is based on article about her granting freedom to her slaves, particularly the family of Maria Cooper. The article, “Freedom Without Independence: The Story of a Former Slave and Her Family” is by Ellen Eslinger, a professor of history at DePaul University, and was published in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography in 2006. Although the article is complimentary of Ruhama Buck, it is not so complimentary of the family of Thomas Buck V. Even so, the article appears to be well researched and presents information previously unknown to me.

In her article about the family of Maria Cooper, Ellen Eslinger gives the name of Ruhama as “Ruhanna” but other references that I've used (especially “The Blakemore Family and Allied Lines” by M. N. Blakemore and “The Buck Family Virginia” by W.P. Buck) spell her name as Ruhama. It is easy to see how “nn” could be taken as “m” or vice versa.

I've also recently received more background information from Carolyn Gutermuth who is a McKim descendant and has published a book of deeds for the McKim family. She spells the name as Ruhamah but I've decided to continue with “Ruhama” for now.

It is important to note that Thomas Buck was 67 years old and Ruhama Heath McKim was 47 when they married in 1823. Thomas' wife, Ann, had been dead for only a few months. No doubt his children were upset with his sudden marriage. Ruhama's husband, James, had been dead for 3 years and her only child, William, had been dead for one year. Thomas would live another 19 years; Ruhama another 28 years.

Upon the death of her son, Ruhama had inherited his estate – presumably left to him by his father, James McKim.

Thomas Buck soon recorded a deed of gift to Ruhama of the slave Maria Cooper and her three children. These slaves are assumed to have belonged to Ruhama prior to her marriage to Thomas. Upon his death, Thomas confirmed and extended this gift to Ruhama in his will.

Ruhama apparently had taken Maria Cooper and her family under her wing and tutelage some years previously. She had educated Maria well – much more than simple reading and writing. In turn, Maria and her family cared for Ruhama in her old age. Theirs must have been a special bond as Maria named one of her children Ruhama and another McKim.

According to the census of 1850, Ruhama Buck had thirteen slaves. Just prior to her death in 1851, she freed those slaves, including Maria Cooper and her family. Because Virginia law required that manumitted slaves must leave the state within a year, Ruhama Buck's will provided a wagon with horses and eight hundred dollars for their relocation. Fitted with the wagon and horses but without all the money, Maria Cooper and her family left the Buck plantation in the fall of 1852 and settled in Washington, Pennsylvania.

Ellen Eslinger was able to study a number of letters written by Maria Cooper. At first Maria and her family were doing well in Washington; however, her letters continually asked for the remainder of the money, apparently five hundred dollars, left to her by Ruhama. Most of these letters were to the executors of Thomas Buck's will, William Buck and Thomas Ashby. In 1855, Thomas Ashby visited Maria Cooper and her attorney David Wilson – presumably to close the account; however Ashby decided not to close it. Instead, he transferred fifty dollars to Maria. Eventually the account must have been closed because in 1859 Maria Cooper was able to purchase the house she wanted.

After his marriage to Ruhama, Thomas Buck began to have conflicts with the various movements within the Baptist Church but these conflicts are not attributed to Ruhama.

Ruhama Buck died on November 29, 1851. She was buried in Buckton Cemetary, but the name on her tombstone is given only as “Mrs. R. M. Buck”. Her grave is not particularly close to the grave of her husband, Thomas Buck.

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