A Biographical Sketch of Ambrose Clark Rucker

Ambrose Clark Rucker was born 7/19/35 in Amherst County, Virginia, the third child of Edwin Sorrel and Lucy Jane Hylton.  The second, Elizabeth P., died in infancy before he was born.  In 1850, fifteen year-old Ambrose was at home, " The Orchards", with his parents, older brother Valentine, younger brothers Hylton G. and Washington Irving, and sister  Lucy E.  " Long Ambrose"  was 6'7", a tall man even in a family of tall boys (Valentine was six-foot).  He married Philadelphia Kathryn (Kate) Clarke 9/25/58, and Edwin Sorrel died 5/6/59 without seeing the birth of his first grandchild, Edwin Samuel, on 11/1/59.  Kate died two weeks later, 11/17/59.  Only 24 years old, already a widowed father, both parents dead (Lucy died 10/28/52), Ambrose must have sought solace in his remaining family.

In 1860 Ambrose was at The Orchards with brothers Valentine, Washington, and Wilber, the last child of his parents before Lucy died; sister Lucy; his son, Edwin Samuel; and half-sisters Cora G. and Margaret, from his father's second marriage to Emily Jane Clarke.  That year was to be another one of tragedy, as his brother, Hylton G., died 8/1/60 of typhoid fever, while in medical school, and his stepmother died 10/11/60.

When Valentine and Washington joined the cavalry 5/23/61, Ambrose was the head of a family of five minors and at  least 30 slaves inherited from his father.  He was probably the logical choice of the three brothers to remain at home, being  father to Edwin Samuel (and the largest target).  Surely he was as patriotic as his brothers, and in August, gave $50 to help raise a company of volunteers from Pedlar Mills.  No doubt he welcomed the help on the farm when Valentine returned from service in April of 1862, and Washington, in July.  The Confederacy began drafting men that Spring, but none of the three was immediately conscripted.  Ambrose would have been exempt from the draft since April by virtue of a law excusing overseers of 20 slaves.  This exemption was later modified to require the exemptee to pay a $500 yearly fee, give an extra 10% of pork production to the army, and prove his inability to hire a draft- exempt man to work as overseer.

With help at home, Ambrose found time for romance, and 12/ 9/62 wed Rosalie M. Acree, daughter of Thomas Acree of Bedford County, at her father's home.  The farm workload increased December 30, when Valentine was imprisoned on a murder charge, and tragedy struck again when Rosalie died 4/13/63 after a five-week illness.   Valentine returned in May cleared of wrongdoing, but it is doubtful that Ambrose and the family felt much like celebrating.

Did Ambrose ever take his turn in the military?  The family history claims he was a private in Company E, 2nd Virginia Cavalry, the same unit his brothers joined.  Up to the Spring of 1863, there seems to be no time when Ambrose was not at home.  He then found a way to remain in civilian life.  He earned another draft exemption by submitting the low bid to carry the weekly mail from Lynchburg to Pedlar Mills; the four year contract began 7/1/63.  On 9/11/63 he provided one slave to the state for work on the public defenses, and in November received a deed in trust for E L. Rucker.  In February, 1864, he witnessed to a will of a deceased Amherst citizen, and transacted more court business in June.  At least until then, it seems that Ambrose avoided military service entirely.

The postwar years saw Ambrose's third attempt at marriage, when he wed Sally M. Mason 4/30/68.  He and Sally were in Amherst's Elon district in 1870, and the following year he was elected to the first of three consecutive terms as an assessor.  By the time he bought 210 acres of land in Amherst called "The Wigwam" on 9/12/73, he and Sally had two children, Sally N (Birdie) and Margaret M. (Maggie).  In 1880, the family had expanded to Charles Hylton, Mary Massey and Helen.  Marcia was born after the census in 1880, and died in 1882.  The last born, Ambrose C., died 1/6/85.

Ambrose Clark must have taken ill and progressed rapidly, for his will is dated 6/14/90, and he died three days later.  He was followed by Birdie the next year, Maggie in 1894, and his wife in 1895.  The 1900 census shows Massey (23) and Helen (21) at home, and both would be dead by 1902.  Of Ambrose's seven children, only one lived beyond age 25 years, unusual even by 19th century standards.  The Wigwam, which had witnessed the loss of so many young lives, was sold in 1909 by his son, Charles Hylton.

Where is Ambrose buried?  Almost certainly, in the Rucker Cemetery on Graham Creek, near his boyhood home, The Orchards (called "Graham Cove" by his grandfather).  There are nine inscribed stones there, from 1811 to 1860.  They include two grandparents, his parents, stepmother, brother, and first wife.  After 1860, Ambrose's second wife was the next family member to die, and her obituary clearly states she was laid to rest "in the family burying ground, on the farm of her husband."  She has no stone, understandable since it was the middle of the war and  money was tight.  His two-year-old daughter was the  next to die, followed by Ambrose, Jr.  Ambrose died next, and his obituary states that the funeral was at his "residence... and his remains were laid away in the family cemetery. "  Even if little Marcia and Ambrose, Jr. had been buried at the Wigwam, it is doubtful that their graves would qualify as the "family cemetery"; more likely that they preceded their father to the cemetery on Graham Creek.  Ambrose's wife and his other four daughters died in rapid succession, five burials in 11 years.  It is likely that they, too, are at the family cemetery, their graves unmarked due to the decrease of wealth at the end of the Civil War.

Based on Sudie Rucker Wood's claim of his military service, the author erected a memorial headstone for Ambrose in the family burying ground on Graham Creek.  Subsequent research, cited earlier, suggests that a Confederate memorial may not have been appropriate.

Compiled by Christopher D. Rucker, M.D., August, 1999
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