On mapping out our family tree Adam Ribble is as far back as anyone has been able to go. His history has been a mystery for many years. The following passage is taken from Ida Ribble Duckworth’s book “Buchanan, Copeland, Ribble” written in the 1930s. She sent letters to many post offices around the country to Anybody Ribble, General Delivery (remember when you could do that?), asking the recipient to reply to her giving their knowledge of the Ribble family history and all the Ribble and associated family names, birth and death dates and where they lived. She wrote all information from those letters she received into the Ribble chapter of her book.
In presenting Adam Ribble, the ancestor of our Ribble family, it is extremely embarrassing on my part to admit that it is impossible to make a definite statement, which will establish his nationality or name any true incidents pertaining to his immigration to this country, because we are without authentic proofs. From the beginning of this work until the present, every effort has been put forth to find some one who possessed a Bible record covering this forefather, but nothing can be found.
Several theories have been advanced, but no two of them are in perfect accord. Under these conditions, it has been thought best to relate herein these several versions in order that you may form your own conclusions. Perhaps some of you in future years, in some unknown way, may solve this important mystery by having this much to lead you to further investigation.
Our family [meaning her immediate family] tradition is to the effect that Adam Ribble came from Holland to escape Catholic rule and to avoid service in the standing army, that he was befriended and changed his name from John French to Adam Ribble to prevent discovery and possible deportation. As a child, I remember that it was said that our father’s people came from Virginia, but being small and not interested in those things the location in Virginia in which they were settled, is not distinctly recalled to mind.
From Cousin Florence Slatery, of St. Louis, Missouri, is the following: “Grandmother (Mary Ann Gaskins Rea) told me how our ancestor, fleeing from his King, was rescued by one Adam Ribble, living in New England, who hid him in a hay mow until the searching soldiers departed, and then sent him on his way westward. He used the name of his benefactor from then on.”
Again, to quote from Cousin Gladys Slatery Taylor, Lagrange, Illinois: “When asked about one named John French: In as much as no one in my family or the Ribble family either, know for a certainty what the gentleman’s name really was, and one of my earliest recollections of this story is that some mystery shrouded his own name and family, I am wondering how you have handled this matter. You perhaps, have been told all this before, if so, I am sorry to impose on your good nature, but I will repeat it. ‘Owing to either political or religious differences, and I may say it was thought by grandmother, Mary G. Rea, that it was religious in character. This founder of our line in this country fled from France and was befriended by the Ribble family and came to this country with them. If you have discovered him in the records of the family listed as John French, I do not believe it was his true name and therefore, in writing up this history it should be so stated. I have long realized that it would be scarcely possible to find out who he really was, even if we knew the exact date of his appearance in the Ribble household. I have discussed this matter with a family of French descent, who had the same difficulty, arriving during the period of the Huguenot persecution in France. However, one more bit of the family folklore on this subject and I am through. Of course, this may be only the wish for grandeur, adding glamor to the tale; he was supposed to have been invested with vast estates; left an orphan and placed in the hands of the Jesuits for training as one of them, in which case the worldly possessions would then be part of the Order. This would lead me to believe that the family was a strong Catholic one of some power. Now I believe in the interests of accuracy, this “John French” should be listed separately. It was truly a great and noble deed for the Ribble family to shelter the unknown, which must have been fraught with danger in those times. If for no other reason than to express my appreciation of their kindness in the above matter, I shall be glad to have a copy of your book.’”
Another cousin, Josie Gambill Power, of Gainesville, Texas, says: “Your tradition of our ancestor changing his name to Ribble also agrees with what my mother, Susan Ribble Gambill, related. She states that he was a deserter, that when he came to this country he changed his name, but she did not know the original name and because they could not prove their origin, their efforts in gaining their property in Germany was unsuccessful. She said that Strasburg was built on his property. She also said that she had heard her father (who was Joseph Ribble) say that two brothers came across and they talked of this property at Strasburg.”
Another cousin, Samuel A. Ribble, of Shamrock, Texas, says: “About the name of the early Ribbles being French, I have a different idea. I may not be correct, but I am presenting it here. I think that family having heard an ancestor say ‘the name was French’ have inferred that the family name was ‘French’, but I am of the opinion whoever first said that, that they meant the name was of French origin, or more exactly of Alsatian origin. We remember that these people had the German language forced upon them in early times. I met a German University man who was a doctor, who, upon hearing my name, at once said, ‘That’s an Alsatian name.’ When I told him the family tradition was that our forefather came from Strasburg and left very valuable property there, he exclaimed, “I told you so, I knew it was an Alsatian name. There’s lots of Ribbles over there.” Being an Alsatian name, it could be very easily understood to be a French name for they were part time under the French control. [This was written before WWII.] In our own remembrance of the efforts made by grandfather to get in touch with the deserted fortune in Strasburg through a newly arrived German lawyer, the question of the name did not interfere, as I have the account, but the destruction of the ship records. Why should our German-speaking ancestor desire to be known as French with a German speech? Seems that the Alsation origin would have been the most plausible explanation, the place being as a “bumper” or buffer state between warring nations, names would naturally get changed some. I have heard of some families of Rübles, which I am told is the true German spelling of our name. The fact that our spelling does not follow the German, but still claims to be French originally, strengthens my opinion in the matter. Has any one else ever mentioned this? Would like to know what you think of the idea. Perhaps the Virginia Ribbles are kinsfolks at last.”
This last quotation leads me to speak of a letter received from Dr. H.D. Ribble, Blacksburg, Virginia, received October 5, 1932, in which he stated: “His grandfather, Dr. Christopher Ribble (formerly written Rübel, Rübbel, or Ribbel, I call attention to the German “oom laud” in the first two spellings which gives the “U” the short sound of “E” as in it.), arrived at Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War, that city then being occupied by Lord Howe.” He further states that “He never heard of any Adam Ribble in the family, but he might have been related to his grandfather, Christopher Ribble, or perhaps further back. My grandparents started two years before they landed in America, lost all their possessions in a shipwreck; they were stranded on an uninhabited island and were rescued and taken on board ship on which they were forced to work for their passage. Then he came south, first settling in Franklin County, Virginia, where a large tract still goes by the name of ‘The Ribble Land.’ They settled later in Montgomery County, where I still make my home, part of the time.”
He did not mention from whence his grandparents came, but the name indicates German or Alsatian nationality. All this is rather puzzling, but I cannot quite connect them by blood relationship with us without further proof.
It could not be reasonable to suppose that the changing of the spelling of Rüble to Ribble would be sufficient to speak of it as a change of name because many families have changed the spelling of the name, yet it remains the same family name. The statement made by Cousin S.A. Ribble that when the name French was indicated, it was meant to mean the French country and not the sir name of the individual is plausible and really sound logic. We may have misinterpreted the term, but it continued to be traditional in our family, yet we may have been in error.
Another cousin, William Fuqua, son of Catherine, says: “He was told by his mother and aunts that Adam Ribble was born in Strasbourg, Germany, and came over in the 1700’s. His name was Adam French and there was war between Germany and France, so he came over here and changed his name to Ribble.” He further adds, “He was our ancestor any way.”
Another version of the ancestor, Adam Ribble, is given by Cousin Lyda Wilson McNeill, of Alexandria, Louisiana. “ I do not know very much from Grandmother Catherine Ribble Fuqua, as I was a very small child when I was first around her. Later, when she and my mother were living near each other, I was married, living in another state. I have heard my mother say that our ancestor was in some war and the soldiers were starving, sick and dying all around him and that he was so hungry that he would look at his fingers and contemplate eating them off his hands. (Seems there were two brothers of them, but cannot be positive.) He could not stand the starvation and hardship any longer, so he deserted the army and came to America. His real name was French, but when he got over here, he changed it to Ribble. They were originally from Alsace-Loraine, so I consider them Alsatians instead of Germans, but are of German descent. I suppose you know the Ribbles left property in Germany, so valuable that they were offered money for it ‘as long as one silver dollar would lay be the side of the other until the ground of the property was covered.’ A funny way to barter, but I have heard Grandmother Catherine and my mother too, relate it that way every time. Grandmother Catherine’s, father Joseph, wanted to go back to Germany to get it, but his wife would never consent. A sea voyage in those days was so perilous and took so long to make the trip; his wife could not stand the thought of his leaving her and the children that long and might never make the trip in safety. The property was in Strasburg. Catherine Coumtess (name unknown to me) was over to Strasburg, Germany, and located the property, but could not get it because she could not tell or prove in any way what ship our ancestor Ribble left there on to come to the United States. So the property is still there. Property once owned in Germany is always there, for their heirs, if they can prove it, because property there is never sold for taxes like it is in this country. Now, maybe some of all this tribe might have had it handed down to them, stating what ship he left Germany on.”
To add a little more glamour and to make this story of vast riches still more dazzling, comes a report from another member of the family, which says that “Our ancestor was from the nobility.”
As to some of the tribe having a true tradition handed down to them concerning our ancestor, that person is still in hiding, for in all letters that have been written soliciting family data, each and all have been earnestly importuned for these facts. You have been given in full, the results of all investigations. If Adam was reduced to such extreme sufferings as described, it proves a strong and valid excuse for his desertion of the army, and of necessity, he had to escape recapture which provides sufficient incentive for him to leave his country and come to America that he might be able to conceal his identity.
Another cousin, Elbert A. Ribble, of Paris, Texas, quotes from his father’s (Abraham) memoirs: “Family tradition says the Ribbles were from Germany. A great grandfather (which would be Adam I) either to keep out of serving in the army or for pleasure, left that country and came to America. It seems he ran out of money and had to work a long time after he got to America to pay his fare over here and in the meantime married. His wife would never consent to his returning, although he arranged to do so some two or three times. The story relates that he was immensely rich, owning some five acres in the heart of Strasburg. Whether this is true or not, all efforts to obtain any property from there have failed. We learn later of many Ribbles in the vicinity of Roanoke, Virginia.”
Ida’s statement, “Perhaps some of you in future years, in some unknown way, may solve this important mystery by having this much to lead you to further investigation” to a certain degree has happened and hopefully as technology progresses more will be learned. DNA has answered a couple of things brought up in the passage. The Y-DNA for the Ribble line shows that it comes from the Alsace Loraine area. Also, it shows that the Adam Ribble line is not related to the Dr Christopher Ribble nor any of the other Ribble lines thus far tested which include the Nicholas Ribble line and Johann George Ribble line.
On the theories presented by the letters Ida received can be a little confusing when lumped together. Several of them have the same source so their stories are similar and should be offered together. However, Ida, more than likely, didn’t know that. Due to the Internet and ancestry.com etc. we have a more complete tree and she was just at the beginning stages of hers.
If there were truly any large amount of money to be had Adam or Joseph (Adam’s son) or William (Adam’s son) would have gone back for it whether their wife was in favor of it. Whatever the problem if he had that much money why couldn’t he buy help there? Why would he have to come all the way to America to escape? With money comes power and privilege. If he had grown up with the Jesuits there would be Catholicism throughout the family or a rejection of faith. Adam and his children were very active in the Brethren and Dunkard faith, which was similar to the Mennonites. Although, I don’t know if that still holds true. Both sons serving as preachers or deacons according to what the community needed.
Personally, I think a combination of several of the theories is true. It is just combining the correct theories. Huguenot persecution could very well be true, however, the timing is off by fifty to hundred years. Brethren and similar faiths from the Strasbourg and Palatine areas did move to Holland for religious acceptance and later to America. Therefore, the statement that he came from Holland could very well be the truth. Because I want to be optimistic about tearing down this brake wall and because it doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t think he changed his name. I don’t think he was in fear of someone chasing him and hunting him down in America. He could have been an indentured servant, but the majority of those were British. He perhaps had nothing when he got here and had to work hard to get anything, especially if he were an orphan he was probably alone. Being an orphan would explain why no one knows anything about his parents.
It looks like our Adam Ribble arrived before or around the time of the revolutionary war. But neither this nor his time or place of birth can be proved. There are several other Adam Ribel or Rubel or various other spellings, but those are different men. I could be wrong, but I have based my Ribble research Ida Ribble Duckworth’s book, “Buchanan, Copeland, Ribble”. In her writing, you can tell she is trying to present the information correctly. She quotes from many different letters. Of course, those letters are long gone and we only have her book and my gut feeling that it is a correct start. Alma Louise McClintock Shelton wrote “McClintock Memorial” book, but I think she has based hers on Ida’s also. My intent is not to redo their books, but to just update it. Information is not complete on Adam’s grandson, John’s descendants. Both books are good and thorough. Ida’s has more descriptions and stories of various family members. Also, in dealing with family history there are many stories that need added to print, so future descendants will have them if they are interested.
Our Adam Ribble did not marry Agnes or Catherine Stahl or Kneul. That is one or two of the other Adams. We do not know who or where he was married. Nor did our Adam have children by the name of Regina, Rita, or George, that is another Adam.
Few records exist for Adam Ribble, but some are dated after 1798. Therefore, the death date of 25 Aug 1798 is incorrect, but many people are showing that as his date of death. A will is filed in Washington County, Indiana that could be, but probably not the file date for the will and not the death. For the most, part the will is illegible so no usable information has been gathered from it.
His known children are Elizabeth, Catherine, Margaret, Joseph, John, Samuel, William, Sarah, and Susannah. No known information has been found yet on Elizabeth or Samuel. No burial ground for either has been found. Marriage record exists for Catherine Ribble marrying John Phillips in 1800 in Shelby County, Kentucky. Ida Ribble Duckworth’s book, “Buchanan, Copeland, Ribble” states that she had 6 children. However, as of yet names and other information has not been found on the 6 children and Ida does not list a source. Catherine probably married a brother to her brother, Joseph’s wife, Catherine Phillips. Their father’s name has been listed as Abraham or Conrad in various places, but nothing more. At this date, information on Catherine Ribble Phillips stops.
Marriage record exists for Margaret Ribble marrying John Compton in 1812 in Shelby County, Kentucky. Ida states that Margaret had 4 children and again there is no source listed. As with Catherine no further information has yet to be found.
Joseph Ribble married Catherine Phillips and they had 9 children. Records exist for this family. John Ribble married Margaret Strait and they had 5 children. Records exist for this family. William Ribble married Elizabeth Berkey and they had 7 children. Records exist for this family.