The Rucker House (302 LaVerne Avenue)

Enter the Ruckers
 The Ruckers of Amherst County were a proud and ambitious clan. They traced their lineage in Virginia back to Ambrose Rucker, born in 1725 in Orange county who served in the Revolutionary War at Yorktown and moved to Amherst County after the war to set up what would become the ancestral farm there.

 At the turn of the century the patriarch was Daniel Rucker (1835-1908), a prosperous farmer whose wife Mary bore him four sons and three daughters. The outside world beckoned, and all of the sons moved out and went on to lead professional careers, but none more pronounced than the eldest, George Hilton. George was born in 1862 and married Elizabeth (always “Lizzie”) White Councill in June 1892. Both being college graduates the appeal of farm life was probably limited and they moved to Washington, DC where George went to work for the US Post Office, attempting to streamline the delivery system.

 The bureaucracy was confining, however, and he decided to step out on his own. It was a busy time, for Lizzie gave birth to daughters Marianne Councill in April 1893 and Claudia in 1894. That latter year they purchased St Elmo lots 401 and 402 and immediately put up what is now 302 La Verne Avenue1, which was to be the springboard for greater things in the developing northern Virginia. It would have been a busy household, for also living there were Lizzie's parents, James and Georgia.


Moving Up
 George threw himself into the local scene, both civic organizations and the powerful local democratic party. He set his sights on the position of clerk of the county circuit court and in May 1899 he beat the incumbent Howard Young, and three others with a “substantial majority”. It was a position he was to hold onto until his death. The win under his belt, he bought lots 400 and 403, one on each side of his house, in 1900 to give a yard a hundred feet wide.

 The position of court clerk was just a beginning for Rucker. In 1906 he formed a real estate development company with two brothers-in-law, Ashton C Jones Sr. and N.A. Rees, the George H. Rucker Company. They bought the land, platted it out and put houses up on the Rucker Subdivision west of the county court house. A particular area of activity for the company's development was Clarendon. Indeed, it was to be so central to his plans that in 1907 he and Lizzie sold their house on La Verne and moved into a new one in his Clarendon development.

The Rucker house in LaVerne is still in its beautiful original configuration. It is seen here in 2005.

The Ruckers Move
After the move, the two daughters got married, Claudia to William Stone and Marianne to Norris Bowen. George worked, covering both his county job and the real estate empire, which had expanded to include construction and insurance. Perhaps he worked too hard, for his health deteriorated noticeably and in August 1919 he passed away at age 57 of a heart attack at home while getting ready for bed. The Rucker women were well provided for, and Lizzie traveled extensively before moving in with the Ashton Jones family. She died in July 1949 at 78, and the two girls had full lives as well, Marianne finally passing away at 82 in 1975 and Claudia at 90 in 1985, both still in Arlington.

From Clerk to the Railroad
 The Rucker house was purchased by Ernest R Adkins, a railroad engineer. He moved from Delaware with his widowed mother Martha, older brother John and sister Mary. They continued to live there, with Martha passing away at 72 in 1923, until they sold the house in 1925.

 None of those Adkins married and they moved into 415 Overlook Drive together where they lived until Mary passed away at 80 in 1960 and John at 88 in 1961. Ernest then moved into the Hermitage until he too died in 1963 at 85.

No, Not the Actor

 Adkins sold the house to another railroadman, Robert Duvall and his wife Katherine. Robert had been born in Fairfax County in January 1899 to Abraham Lincoln Duvall and the former Laura Virginia Rhine. Tall, of medium build with brown eyes he worked as a carpenter at Camp Humphries (now Ft Belvoir) until the end of WW I halted most construction work.

 In the meantime his older sister Helen had married Kenneth M Springman in 1916 and given birth to a son, Fague, two years later. Kenneth owned a house on South Lee Street in Alexandria and Robert and two other brothers moved in there, joining Helen. For whatever reason, Kenneth fled and in 1923 Helen was granted a divorce based on desertion and abandonment.

 Apparently Robert had been able to save money from his new job as a brakeman at Potomac Yard and in 1925 he was able to buy 302 La Verne and move out of his rental accommodations on Clifford St. He and Katherine were joined there by his widowed mother along with Helen and her son, and then his two sons born there, Robert Jr (1926) and Joseph (1929).

 In April 1932 Robert Duvall, by then a widower, sold the house back to Ernest Adkins. Little more is known of the Duvalls. Helen passed away in Alexandria in 1969 at age 77, survived by her son, while Robert died in Palm Beach, Florida in November 1972.

The Next Step

 Adkins only held the house the second time for a month before turning around and reselling it to Byron Sutherland, an electrician, and his wife Maud Julia, the Sutherlands taking out a $2,000 mortgage. Byron was a WW I veteran, who had previously lived on South Fairfax Street.

 The depression hurt the job market and by 1938 Byron was a guard rather than a tradesman and in August 1939 he sold the house to Curtis and Addie van Dornes, who took out a mortgage for $5,950.2 Curtis was a 35-year-old trainman from Alabama who, with his 28-year-old wife had two daughters, and also provided lodging for Curtis' brother and his wife.

 For reasons unclear, the Van Dornes sold the property back to Byron in May 1941, still subject to the $5,950 mortgage, and moved to Manassas. Tragically, Addie died of cancer two years later, just 31 years old. Daughter Catherine married in 1953 and Joyce in 1954, the latter just a month after her father's remarriage. Curtis passed away in 1982, living long enough to see at least one grand daughter into the teenage years.

 Byron and Maud Julia had moved into a house on Alexander Avenue, then into 211 E Mason, and did not bother to move back to the house on La Verne. Instead, they rented it out to John and Daisy Sharrah, who had moved down from Pennsylvania. John had been a butcher but on moving to Alexandria took a job with Hopkins Furniture Co. In July 1946 the Sutherlands sold the house to the Sharrahs, who took out a $5,100 mortgage. They lived there into the 1950s.

1 Before the renumbering program of the late 1930s, this was 300 Laverne.

 2The Sutherlands took advantage of this opportunity to split the land in two. The Van Dornes got 55 feet of frontage and the house, while the other 45 feet went to BH McCreary to become part of 306 La Verne.