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The Story of the Ruby Brothers

The Ruby Brothers feted as Grand Marshals of the Veterans Day Parade   (Fresno Bee picture dated Saturday, November 12, 1977.)   The parade stepped off at 10:00 on a brisk Friday morning at Inyo and Van Ness Avenues. The parade marched along Van Ness to Tulare Street, Tulare to Broadway, Broadway to Fresno, Fresno to N Street, and lastly N Street to the Fresno Convention Center parking lot.


The grand marshals viewed the parade near the reviewing stand  stationed in front of City Hall.   American Legion Post 4 was the sponsor and the theme for the Eighth Division Parade was, “America and Beyond.” Brother Conrad  Ruby wrote several times to the Fresno Bee about Veterans of WWll.

Johann Rube, is recorded as being born in Wuttemberg, Germany, 1720.  He married Anna, also born in Germany.  They had one son, Johanne Friederich Rube. 

In 1758, King Frederick V of Denmark invited German immigrants to settle in its central Jutland to cultivate the marshlands called heath.  The immigrants were promised money, land, livestock, freedom from military service and freedom from taxation for 20 years in exchange for cultivating the Jutlandic heaths. Beginning in 1759, 965 men, women, and children representing 265 families responded.  The Rube people (along with Germans from Baden, Wurttemberg, and Hessen) were among those who migrated to Denmark.

The work was accomplished first by burning the marsh and then growing the potatoes.  Their official name was Kartoffeltyskere, "Potato Germans." And so,  Johanne Friederich Rube was one of the “Potato Germans.”


The land was very difficult to cultivate. Some of the immigrants moved back to Germany, however, the Johanne Friederich Rube family and 58 other families remained for a time.  In 1762, Johanne Freiderich Rube passed away in Denmark, his son, Johann Adam Rube became the head of the household.

Also in  1762, Johann Adam Rube and Anna Elizabeta Kraftinn (daughter of widow Anna Regina Kraftinn) married.  They quite probably met while traveling in the same convoy of December 1760 and arrived in Denmark with their families in 1761.  At the time of their marriage, he was 20; she was 17.

Promises made by kings and countries seemed at first to be a good deal and move the immigrant away from the harsh living conditions of their own country.  These offers and agreements often fell through, and living conditions were not improved, so immigrants continued to look for a better place.

In 1762, Catherine the Great, born Princess Sophie Fredericka Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst (after a coup d' etat and the murder of her husband, Peter III) came into power in Russia.  As a German nationalist and a young woman in a man's business, Catherine saw Russia as backward.  She wanted to connect Russia with European thoughts and cultures and education.  Her goals were for Russia to rise economically, socially, and politically.

In 1763, as one of her first official acts, Catherine the Great sent out a call in a manifest for immigrants to come to Russia to settle the vast lower portion of the Volga River region near Saratov.  This manifesto promised exemption from Russian military service, self-governance, tax breaks, initial financial aid, and 30 hectares (75 acres) of land per settled family.  They were also offered the freedom to use their language. However, the biggest draw was the promise of allowing religious freedom.  While the offer was directed to all people of foreign lands, she particularly invited the German people. 

On April 26, 1763, Johann Adam Rube and Anna Elizabeta Kraftinn Rube, with hope in the promises made by Catherine the Great, received permission to leave Denmark.  Along with his family, his mother and three children, they arrived in the Lutheran colony of Schilling in Russia, established on August 14, 1764. The colony was also known as Schmunk in its early years.

The port colony of Schilling received its Russian name of Sosnovka on February 26, 1768. At that time, German colonists were described as diligent workers identified as such because of their work in the fields, vegetable gardens and orchards.  They kept true to their German work ethic, even along the Volga River.  They were also known as keeping to their own colonies based on religion, yet they were also a mobile group. This was true even of the Rube family.  Schilling, and another Lutheran colony, Lauwe, founded on August 19, 1767, are recorded homes for five more Rube generations.

In 1883, Johannes Gottlieb Rube was born in Lauwe, Russia.  He married Elizabeth Bitter in 1910 in Lauwe.  Johannes was a laborer and worked in the fields.  He was talented with languages in that he could read and write in German, Russian, and other languages, which proved to be very useful throughout his life.

In 1911, his first child, John, was born in Lauwe.  Life in Russia was not safe for the Volga Germans.  Nomads habitually raided the villages, stole from the German colonists, and other harsh acts.  Catherine the Great had long since passed away, and new rulers were unwilling to honor her promises.  The Volga Germans were no longer allowed to practice their religion, speak and learn in their original language, and their young men were now required to enlist in the Russian Army.

In 1912, Johannes, Elizabeth, and one-year-old John left Russia.  They traveled across the Atlantic Ocean in a German-made ship named the Prinze Adalbert (Prince Albert.)  Arriving at the Port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 4, 1912, they had immigrated to the United States of America.  They came most likely by train from the New Jersey train station (presently a museum) to Lincoln, Nebraska, where 150-200 Volga Germans had already settled.  Many of these sponsored other family members and friends.  Farming was their way of life, and the sponsorship funds were to be repaid, so they set to work.  While there, they were scorned and called "Rooshians," "dirty Rooshians," or "dumb" Russians because mainstream Lincolnites did not understand them and were not comfortable with their dress and language.  Just as the Volga Germans wore in Russia, they arrived in sheepskin coats, felt boots, black shawls, and wide-brimmed hats.  It did not help that they wore these in the fields in the heat of summer.  While aware of these prejudices, they rarely feared the Lincolnites and kept farming and working.

In 1913, from Lincoln, Nebraska, where they worked in fields, to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where Johannes then worked for the Kohler Manufacturing Company , to Rocky Ford, Colorado, where the whole family with seven children worked in the sugar beets.  In Rocky Ford, Colorado, they worked for their relatives, the Kecks, harvesting sugar beets at the Keck’s farm.  Because food was so scarce, the whole family suffered, as well as mother Elizabeth, who could barely feed her baby, Lydia.  In 1923, at one month of age, Baby Lydia died of starvation.  The parent's motto was, "If you don't work, you don't eat!" As they followed the crops to earn their living, they lived as migrant workers.  (Interestingly, the name Rube translates into sugar beet, turnip, carrot, beetroot.)  

In 1924, they boarded the train to Fresno, California.  Johannes had a stepsister who lived in Fresno, and he had been encouraged to see her.  There were other family members in Fresno, and they likely stayed with them for a time.  Johannes was a skilled worker working in the packing plants.  The four older boys (John, Scott, Conrad, and Henry, ages 13 to age 9) worked and soon traveled from field to field picking almonds, peaches, grapes, apricots, oranges, any crop they could to support the family.  Johannes also spent time in the schools translating information from German and Russian and many other languages.  Since he was fluent in speaking, reading, and writing, his work there was invaluable.  Later, with their farming knowledge and now ten children in total, Johannes and Elizabeth bought a 40-acre farm and rented another 80 acres south of Fresno.  Here they grew grapes for raisins (as their main crop), as well as peaches, plums, strawberries, walnuts, oranges, grapefruit, and livestock, including geese, chickens, cows, horses, and donkeys.  In those days, much of the work was done by hand in every kind of weather, and horses and donkeys were used to pull trailers and heavy loads.  (The 40-acre Rube Ranch from the 1950’s through the 1980’s still had fuzzy, yet wonderful, juicy Elberta peaches, nectarines, and clings, apricots, plums, cherries, pomegranates, almonds, walnuts, oranges, grapefruit, and early on a vegetable garden of corn, carrots, radishes, free growing asparagus, and a coop full of chickens.  The main crop continued to be grapes, sun-dried into raisins wooden trays at first then in later years on  paper trays, harvested and sold to the Sun-Maid Raisin Packing Company.)

On January 24, 1940, due to an ankle injury which resulted in a blood clot going in her heart, Johannes suddenly lost his loving and supportive wife. The family lost a truly kind-hearted and hard-working mother.  Near-death, Elizabeth spent time individually with each child to encourage them and guide them on.  She was described endearingly as a "Peach of a Mother" by one son, Pete.  Son Conrad called her "Ma." The whole family suffered without her loving presence.  The farming went on, the children remained close and were productive workers and citizens of the United States of America.  

Johannes had used his talent with languages to help people who needed to send letters to family members in Europe.  During World War I, he had been of great assistance as he provided the necessary translations.  In order for the letters to be sent without being noticed, he appropriately used the language of the country to which the envelope was sent while writing the inner letter in the family's language, be it German, Italian, or Armenian.  During the Armenian genocide, Johannes translated the envelopes into the languages of each new location. 

During World War II, family members and others again came to him to seek his help with translations of letters.  He knew the language called Ladinisch, a German language consisting of a group of dialects spoken in Northern Italy. 

As the Germans in Germany progressed in their language, being influenced by the surrounding countries, the Volga Germans stayed true to the knowledge of their language.  Because the Volga Germans had  been isolated for about 150 years,  there was difficulty with communication even though each group spoke in German.  And church leaders often spoke different languages and needed records of baptisms, marriages, or deaths translated.  He assisted schools with translating school records.  He was a great resource for them.

Each of the seven sons of the Rube family decided how to protect their family and their country, which had given them such wonderful freedoms and opportunities their ancestors had been denied. Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, (December 7, 1941), four of the seven brothers had enlisted in the service. The seven sons of Johannes became soldiers enlisting in the California Army National Guard,  the Army, or the Military Police of the United States of America.  Six brothers served overseas at the same time, participating in and witnessing harsh battles.  Their children would give reports of loud noises affecting one of the brothers who would go into hiding long after the war.  One brother, while taking a tour of a ship similar to the one he had sailed on during the war, viewed a bunk area and immediately took off, subsequently running off the ship. The tribulations of war affected many soldiers.  We were so blessed;  all seven brothers were able to return home and their Dad was able to see them again.

And what of Johannes Gottlieb Rube (John G. Rube, Johnnie, Dad, Grandpa)?  After he retired from farming, he purchased a house on Belgravia Avenue in Fresno across from Kirk Elementary School.  He visited his children now and then.  Children and grandchildren remember his strict no nonsense manners-all work and no play.  No games were ever played in his presence.  He had high standards and no smiles.  He passed away on August 8, 1962 in Fresno and is buried with his wife, Elizabeth, in the Mountain View Cemetery.

(On the next page you will see the sons, in order of birth, and their service records.)


John Ruby                                                                                         (age at enlisting-27)

Master Sergeant John Ruby was married and was in the Army National Guard by 1938.  He worked making and upholstering furniture until he was called into the regular Army.  Throughout the war, he served in the Pacific Theater, including three campaigns:  Bismarck Archipelago, Southern Philippines, and New Guinea.


Gottlieb Ruby                                                                                  (age at enlisting-28)

First Lieutenant Gottlieb Ruby enlisted in the Army in February 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He was a "take charge" person and was selected for Officer Candidate School.  His unit left New York aboard the Queen Mary and arrived in England to prepare for the D-Day invasion.  Landing near Cherbourg, France, three days after D-Day, his unit fought through France to Germany.  Eventually, his unit was assigned to General Patton's 3rd Army.  He interrogated prisoners because he could speak German, complaining that other interrogators did not have compassion for the prisoners.  He was wounded in battle and spent 18 months in the hospital.  He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor in World War II.


Conrad John Ruby                                                                          (age at enlisting-27)

Staff Sergeant Conrad Ruby enlisted in the California Army National Guard in 1939.  Because he was proficient in typing, he progressed up the ranks and into the Headquarters.  While he never saw combat, he was proficient in all weapons, including the Browning Automatic Rifles.  He was part of the invasion force at Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines.


Henry Ruby                                                                                      (age at enlisting-25)

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Ruby enlisted in the California Army National Guard in 1940.  He became an anti-tank platoon squad leader and orchestrated changes to the artillery unit that increased the proficiency and accuracy of the unit.  He was sent to Officer Candidate School and then to the Pacific Theater, where he saw combat in  Morotai, New Guinea.


Pete Ruby                                                                                         (age at enlisting-21)

Sergeant Pete Ruby enlisted in the Army in 1942.  He was sent to Fort Hamilton, New York, and was assigned to a landing ship.  He saw combat in the invasion of Sicily and the invasion of Anzio, Italy, while offloading men and equipment to support the invasions.  He recalled that a German aircraft was about to strafe his ship, but had run out of ammunition.  As the pilot flew over the ship, the aircraft was so low that Pete could see the pilot salute him from the cockpit.


William Ruby                                                                                   (age at enlisting-20)

Staff Sergeant William Ruby enlisted in the Army in 1944.  He saw combat in Mindanao, Philippines, and witnessed some of the heaviest fighting in the Pacific theater.  The United States had over 4,000 casualties, while the Japanese had over 21,000 casualties and prisoners.  William was reassigned to Japan at the end of the war.

David Ruby                                                                                       (age at enlisting-20)

Staff Sergeant David Ruby enlisted in the Army in 1946.  While wartime combat operations were ongoing, the war had been officially declared over.  He served with the Military Police.

The seven Ruby brothers were honored as the Grand Marshals of the 1977 Veterans Day Parade in Fresno.  While Brother Conrad Ruby thought it was quite an accomplishment that seven brothers went to war and returned alive, they had cousins with eight brothers who had served and returned alive.

Records show Johannes Gottlieb Rube with perhaps an older spelling of Rubi'. While one may notice the spelling change from Rube to Ruby, we have the date when four brothers changed their spelling.  The story goes that during the war, the mail clerks would call out names during mail call, the clerk would often mispronounce their name, calling "Roob" (like a tube), so the brothers didn’t answer.  Later, they would inquire whether there was mail for them, and the mail clerk would say, "Well, I called your name." It became known they needed to change their name from Rube to Ruby, and in 1946, this was recorded.

Notable individuals of German-Russian heritage

1947 at the Rube Ranch south of Easton, California

Top Row:  Conrad, David, Henry, John

Bottom Row:  William, Scott, Pete

Also noteworthy, is the story of their sister, Anne.  As the brothers requested of Anne that during the war, they had their paychecks sent to her to care for the family, but they had a surprise waiting for them at their return.  She held all the soldier brothers' funds, but she returned the funds to each brother when they arrived home.  Like her mother, Elizabeth, she was a blessing. 

Two other sisters, Mary and Emma, also supported their brothers with love and were thankful for the return of their brothers.


Respectfully Submitted to the Central California Chapter of the AHSGR

by Joanne Ruby Campbell, daughter of Conrad John Ruby and Thelma Lena Steinhauer Ruby, with great help from Brother Kenneth Ruby, Cousins Beth (Sinner) Barker and June Sinner.  Additional Resources:  Brent Mai, UNF, ( of Schilling from his website and The Fresno Bee and my parents’ torn, but well-kept photo albums.

September 9, 2021  and updated June 7, 2023

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