History of The King William Ruritan Club

The King William Ruritan Club was chartered on September 12, 1938.  Forty community leaders saw the need to band together and make their community a better place in which to live and work.   According to now-deceased member B. W. White, Jr., they met in the early years at member M.H. Fitzgerald’s home, Mount Pisgah, on the Mattaponi River.  A short while later they began meeting at member Ben C. Garrett, Jr.’s cottage, also on the Mattaponi River.  The Club met the second Tuesday of each month and during World War II the members trained as “minute men” (ready to go to war in a minute’s notice) by shooting at balloons for target practice in the marsh across the river.  During the early 1940’s at their April meetings, the members would fry shad and shad roe they caught in the Mattaponi River and invite their friends to join them. After a few years the April meeting became so popular the members decided to sell tickets, hence its first fund raising event was born.   In 1969, the Annual Fish Fry moved just upriver to member Eugene L. ”Dick” Campbell’s cottage which had more room for parking.  Dick did not miss a Fish Fry for 60 years.  In 2010, after 40 years at Dick’s cottage, the Fish Fry event moved to the Club’s new facility at 156 Ruritan Lane on Route 30.  Over the years, Senators, Congressmen, Governors, state and local politicians have attended this “annual rite of Spring” and it continues to be a popular event today.

In the 1940’s the club, along with the WPA (Works Progress Administration) formed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938, worked together to build the Community Building on the grounds of King William High School. The Club met in the Community Building until it was torn down in 1976 to make way for the new high school.  After the new high school was built, the Club met in the new high school cafeteria.  In the 1960’s, Burton Atkinson, the Club’s most senior member at the time, attended the National Convention in South Carolina with member Colonel Kermit Mason. On the way home from the convention they received a helicopter ride from Byrd airport in Richmond to Burton’s home in Enfield because the roads were impassable due to heavy snow.  From the 1980’s through 2008 they met in the cafeteria in the winter months and at Dick’s cottage on the river in the summer months. At one time during the 1980’s the club had over 100 members and was the largest club in Ruritan National.   In 2005, a local benefactor donated 21 acres of land along Route 30 to our organization.  With the hard work of its members and help from people and businesses in the community, the Club began erecting a club building and pavilion in 2006.  The Facility was dedicated on September 9, 2008.

The club has donated well over $475,000 back to the community from its fundraising events such as the annual Fish Fry (one of our signature events), Shrimp Feasts, Steak Feasts, Stew and Q, Golf Tournaments, Gun Raffles and catering of various events in the community.  After nearly eighty-six years, the Club continues to be a leader among organizations in the community and strives to make King William County a better place in which to live and work.