Founding father of Karnes County, Ruckman was born in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1848 from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and taught in South Carolina for a year. But the lure of Texas-- then a frontier state where land was cheap and opportunity boundless-- brought him on Christmas morning, 1850, to San Antonio.
In 1851 he started a trading post in the little Mexican settlement of Alamita, located on the Old Ox-Cart Road between San Antonio and Goliad. Other businessmen followed his example, and soon Ruckman was able to build a gristmill near the San Antonio River, enlarge his store, and erect a stately home. Soon after, Ruckman took as partner Dr. L. S. Owings, and together they foresaw a metropolis arising at this important and inviting roadstop. Their store once stood near the site of this marker.
In 1852, they laid out a new town, which they named "Helena", in honor of Owings' wife. When Karnes County organized in 1854, Helena was chosen county seat. Ruckman was postmaster here, 1854 to 1857, and he continued nearly 40 years as leading merchant and banker. In 1872, he helped found the Helena Academy. He is buried in the Masonic Cemetery of Helena.