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Hidden Heroes - Ruden Wheeler

Ruden Wheeler's roots in Cayuga County run very deep. His great grandfather, Capt. Edward Wheeler, one of the first settlers of this county, settled in Fleming in the early 1790's on land which was part of a Revolutionary Grant. Before leaving Salem, NY for Fleming, family lore tells us that Edward had a dream in which he envisioned the land on which he was going to settle. Once he arrived and saw the Ridge and Skillet Roads area of Fleming, he recognized it as the very land in his dream. The home built by the early Wheelers at the junction of Ridge and Skillet Roads still stands today as testament to the fortitude and determination of these early settlers.

Ruden Wheeler came to the attention of our museum only recently when an early photo of the Wheeler home and his baby cap were generously donated to us by museum friend Amy Weaver, who had found both during a clean out of the Wheeler attic. As we do with all donations, we researched for stories which would tell us more about the donation and the history of Ruden Wheeler. and, two of our tried and true resources, told us of Ruden's involvement in a slander law suit against Henry Whitehead which occurred in 1895. Ruden, it was reported, had allegedly stated that Whitehead "would take anything he could lay his hands on." Ruden prevailed when the case was dismissed as it did not constitute cause of action for slander. A comment which seems today to be everyday news was viewed as "fighting words" in 1895.

Both sources also told us of Ruden's service during the Civil War. In 1864 at age 18, Ruden enlisted in the 22nd New York Cavalry, Company 1, as a Private, rising to the rank of Sergeant in one year. He mustered out at Winchester, VA in 1865 eventually receiving a pension for his service. As a member of the 22nd, Wheeler would have seen hard fighting and death at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and Shenandoah Valley campaigns.

Finally a Google search of Ruden's name bought us an unexpected treasure - a photo of Ruden's Civil War cap which is posted on Pinterest. The cap had been sold at Heritage Auctions in 2014. Through this research, we were able to add dimension not only to Ruden and his life but also to these two important donated items.

We hope that this story will encourage you to entrust attic and other treasures you may find to the Frontenac. Due to space considerations, we are unable to accept every item offered. We do appreciate the opportunity to consider items related to the Towns of Aurelius, Fleming, Ledyard, Springport and the Village of Union Springs as those are the areas which the NY Department of Education has chartered our museum to serve.


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