Friday, July 17, 2015

Sepia Saturday: The Butcher of Shenandoah

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.


This week’s Sepia Saturday photo is of a handsome display of hanging meat and the proud butchers who were responsible. If my great-great grandfather Frank Rucker and his son Robert E. Rucker ever posed for such a picture, I have nothing to prove it. However, between the two of them, they butchered for the citizens of Shenandoah in Page County, Virginia for 70 years.

Frank Rucker 1870 Rockingham County Census http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
from 1870 Rockingham County, Virginia Federal Census
In 1870, Frank Rucker was enumerated in the Rockingham County census as a Shoemaker. That same year William Milnes, Jr., one of the principal landowners and developers of the young town of Shenandoah in neighboring Page County, convinced Frank to open a meat shop. That is why in 1880 he was listed in the census as a “Butcherer.” I suppose it was a logical progression.

Frank Rucker 1880 Rockingham County Census http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
from 1880 Rockingham County, Virginia Federal Census

When Frank died in November of 1890, Robert may or may not have stepped in right away to fill his father’s shoes.

                                          However, by 1900 when this photo was taken, the Rucker Meat Shop was a thriving business.

Rucker Meat Shop Shenandoah, Virginia  http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Side view of Rucker Meat Shop in the early 1900s
from Shenandoah: A History of Our Town and Its People



When the store building was torn down in 1920, Robert moved the shop to his home on Third Street. “Uncle Bob” was often seen in his bloody apron with knife in hand. My maternal grandmother often recalled how he used to swing that knife and chase kids around the yard just to scare them. He thought it was funny.
Robert E. Rucker (1863-1951) http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
"Uncle Bob" Rucker in his trademark bloody apron
(1863-1951)
Maybe the people in town thought so too. In Bob’s obituary he is remembered fondly as “cheerful and lovable.”

from the obituary of Robert E. Rucker

However, this description is nothing like the memories of at least two members of the “Remember Shenandoah” group on Facebook. One woman wrote that she was always afraid to walk past his house on her way to visit her grandparents because she always saw him with a big knife and a bloody apron. Another reported that her family’s dog was found dead behind the meat shop and that Bob Rucker “never denied” killing it. Hmm ~

I like to think “lovable” Uncle Bob would not have killed a dog. Let’s hope he limited himself to cows and pigs.

I’m sorry if I butchered this story. You might find choice cuts and prime photos at Sepia Saturday.


© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

21 comments:

  1. Another interesting and humorous post!

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  2. Wow - I can only imagine what might have happened in this day & age if Uncle Bob was caught chasing his children around the yard with a butcher knife by someone who either didn't understand or agree with his 'funny'' tactics. Hello Child Protective Services!

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    1. Really! I know I wouldn't want to see that today.

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  3. Perfect family history post! Most people would probably rather not know exactly what butchers do, although I guess that these days the actual killing is done at the abattoirs. Our daughter and son-in-law who had the pig Miss Peggy also have 3 steers they are raising for home slaughter. Their names are Porterhouse, T-Bone and Rump, just so they don't get too attached to them in the meanwhile :-)

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    1. Good names for the steers. My in-laws raised steers and butchered one for themselves every year. I never wanted to know which one it was. Cows have such sweet faces.

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  4. Those stories always grow legs, but seldom have any substance. I'm sure he didn't kille the dog.

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence! I think Bob must have enjoyed the reputation that the apron and butcher knife brought him.

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  5. You got everything but the squeak with this one, Wendy. I don't suppose that Uncle Bob's shop has survived, but that exterior advertisement of the happy cow is a hoot, and worth preservation.

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    1. I like that outside ad too, but I know for sure that the building is gone. Using Google Maps street view, I see a shed or garage in the back yard but I don't know that it is the same one Bob used.

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  6. He had a bit of a mystery about him if he didn't deny about the dog. I bet he enjoyed it to keep people guessing. Did anyone else in the family take over the business?

    betty

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    1. From what I know of my grandmother's family, this kind of "humor" or "mean streak" - whatever it was - is exactly the kind of response I would expect. I am sure Bob got a kick out of letting the family wonder if he killed their dog, even if he didn't do it.

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  7. He sounds quite a character. It's a shame that these days most of our 'characters' are liable to be punished for their sense of humour.

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    1. You are so right -- no chasing kids with a butcher knife these days. I'm not sure it was all that funny back in the 1930s-40s either.

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  8. What a fascinating post - and dead on theme. As I read it I was reminded that I had a great uncle who was a butcher in Bradford. Now why didn't I think of that before writing my post this week!

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    1. "Dead on" -- now there's an apt phrase for a butcher!

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  9. Great story about your Uncle Bob...and a picture to support it. I'm with other commenters and agree that the sense of humor would support leaving the dog owners hanging.

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  10. A very clever psot - I enjoyed all your butcher puns at the end.

    Family History Fun

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  11. I guess someone had to be the butcher :-)

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  12. Wendy, the title of your post pulled me in. I wondered if this was about a soldier who did more than his share of killing in the war. But, no, an actual butcher! ha!

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    1. Ha Ha - made you look! Your assumption actually sounds more interesting.

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