The Many Children of Ruffin S. Loy

The last four children of Ruffin S. Loy appear a mystery…considering he died in 1884 and continued “fathering” children long after his death. All in an era before modern science could make reality multiple posthumous births from same set of parents. The following is my theory of what really happened, which might be proven through future DNA samples.

Ruffin S. Loy (17 August 1854 Alamance Co., NC–10 September 1884 Alamance Co., NC) was son of Calvin Loy, son of George Loy, Jr., son of George Loy, son of John Loy, son of Martin Loy (to America 1741). Ruffin was likely named for Thomas Carter Ruffin (1787–1870), a Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court (1829–1852 and 1858–1859), for whom Ruffin, Rockingham County, North Carolina was named. It is more likely Ruffin Loy was named for Thomas Carter Ruffin than the town; as, in his youth, the Justice lived in what is now Alamance County, eventually relocating to neighboring Rockingham County. Additionally, the Justice studied law under attorney Archibald Murphey, for whom Ruffin Loy’s younger brother seems to have been named.

On 17 February 1876, in Alamance County, Ruffin S. Loy married Ellen Elizabeth Isley (17 January 1857 Alamance Co., NC–27 March 1935 Alamance Co., NC), daughter of Martin and Polly (Coble) Isley. I’ve found conflicting data whether she was Ellen Elizabeth or Elizabeth Ellen. She was “Elizabeth” in 1870 census with parents; Elizabeth E. in 1880 census with Ruffin; Elizabeth as widow in 1900; Elizabeth E. in 1910; and “Bettie” in 1920 and 1930 census. Marriage record lists her as “Ellen E. Isley,” while death record and obituary give her as “Ellen B.,” the B. obviously standing for “Bettie.” Her gravestone just gives “Ellen.” (Unlike gravestone and obituary with 27 March 1935 death date, her death certificate transcription at and has 28 March 1935.) For this article, I’ll just refer to her as “Bettie.”

After Ruffin died in September 1884, his death notice appeared in both the Thursday, 25 September 1884 The Greensboro Patriot (Greensboro, NC) and the Thursday, 18 September 1884 The Alamance Gleaner (Graham, NC). The slightly longer version from the Gleaner is as follows:

—A young man named Ruffin Loy, living about a mile north of Graham depot, died suddenly of a heart trouble last Wednesday morning. He was about 30 years old, industrious and stout looking. He leaves a wife and 2 or 3 little children to mourn their irreparable loss.

At time of his death, Ruffin and Bettie had four children:

  1. Daniel Luther Loy (1876–1948)
  2. David Martin Loy (1878–1941)
  3. Robert Lee Loy (1880–1943) The 1900 census gave birth as October 1879, but he was not in 1880 census with parents. His WWI Draft card and death record give October 1880 birth, which would complete the pattern of a birth every two years.
  4. Maggie Bell Loy (1882/3–1958) Although her gravestone gives 1882 date, the 1900 census and age at second marriage show 1883 birth.

Oddly, though, despite Ruffin’s death, Bettie continued to have children “by him.” On marriage and death certificates of these children, their father is named as Ruffin Loy.

  1. Rosa Loy (1886–1978)
  2. Georgia Loy (1888–1977) Her death record has 1886 birth year but date would conflict with Rosa’s birth. The 1900 census gives June 1888 birth, which sounds more logical.
  3. Lou Dora Loy (TW: 1892–1973) Her Social Security Death Index listing, transcribed death record, and gravestone has 1892 birth date.The 1900 census gives October 1890 birth, which would complete the pattern of a birth every two years.
  4. Nancy L. (“Nannie”) Loy (TW: 1892–1964) Her transcribed death record and gravestone has 1892 birth date.The 1900 census gives October 1890 birth, which would complete the pattern of a birth every two years.

For many years I questioned this posthumous discrepancy. I even mentioned this to a genealogist descendant of Ruffin and Bettie’s daughter Maggie, who was as perplexed about this as I was.

Despite Ruffin leaving four small children at his 1884 death, his widow had 8 children, 8 living in the 1900 census. Ruffin died months before their ninth year of marriage. Although census only asked married household members their length of marriage, Ruffin’s widow was listed as married 25 years.

So, why did these posthumous children have marriage and death records stating father as Ruffin Loy and mother as Bettie? After lengthy research, my suspicion is that Rosa, Georgia, Lou Dora, and Nancy belonged to Ruffin’s never-married brother Archibald Murphy Loy. (And a different interpretation of Deuteronomy 25:5.) This brother was living next to widow Bettie’s family in 1900 (as “Murph”) and 1910 census (as “Murphy”), and likely living in same place between 1880-1900 census. Oddly, in the 1900 census, the enumerator drew a mark from Murph’s census line to Elizabeth’s category tallying her 8 children. Why? Was enumerator trying to indicate he was father to some of the children?

1900 Burlington Twp., Alamance Co., NC census, showing Bettie, 2 children by Ruffin, and 4 children born after Ruffin’s death. Previous household is Ruffin’s younger brother Archibald Murphy Loy.

Of course, this is only my suspicion. Someone reading this, from this branch, might know the whole story. And, hopefully, share information as to who really was/were the father(s) of Bettie’s four youngest daughters. Had these daughters’ children ever visited Ruffin’s grave, I’m sure they would question his death date. And why their grandfather died so many years before their mothers’ births.

First paragraphs of Lou Dora (Loy) Murray’s 1973 obituary, stating she was daugher of Ruffin Loy— who died approximately 8 years before her birth!

First paragraphs of Nancy L. (“Nannie”) (Loy) Evans’ 1964 obituary, stating she was daughter of Ruffin Loy— who died approximately 8 years before her birth!

Leave a Reply