Ruddell Mill Site

Ruddell Mill SiteAddress Restricted - Independence
Address Restricted
Listed in National Register of Historic Places on 8/28/07

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SUMMARY

The Ruddell Mill Site, which first supported milling activities c.1830, is linked to the early industrial history of the Batesville area. Batesville was first settled in 1812 and the Ruddell Mill Site represents an important site associated with the industrial heritage of Batesville and Independence County. The site is also important to the history of the development of transportation networks in the Batesville area. The mill dam, which was built in 1894, and associated low-water bridge have provided a transportation artery across the creek since the completion of the bridge c.1930. As a result, the Ruddell Mill Site is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its associations with the nineteenth-century industrial heritage of Batesville and Independence County and also for its associations with the transportation history of the Batesville area.

The Ruddell Mill Site is also being nominated to the National Register with local significance under Criterion C for its remaining mill dam and low-water bridge. The mill dam represents an excellent example of a stone nineteenth-century mill dam, and the low water bridge, which was built c.1930 on top of the dam, is also a good example of a low-water bridge and a rare example of the type in the Batesville area.

ELABORATION

Although French traders and trappers were the first Europeans to visit the Independence County area when they sailed up the White River and camped at the area known as Oil Trough Bottom, permanent settlement of the area began c.1810. John Reed was one of the first settlers that arrived in the area, and he settled at the site of Batesville in 1812. Other people followed him to the area including Samuel Miller in 1813, Colonel Robert Bean in 1814 and James Trimble and his family in 1817. In response to the increased settlement, Independence County was created by the Arkansas territorial legislature on October 20, 1820, and the town of Batesville, which already existed, was in a central location, and had a location on a navigable river, was chosen as the county seat.

The exploration and early settlement of Batesville and Independence County was focused on the area's waterways, mainly the White River. According to Goodspeed, with respect to exploration, "French traders and trappers ascended White River long before the permanent settlement of the country traversed by it began. A party of these people encamped and hunted bear in the region now known as Oil Trough Bottom, in Independence County. These traders and hunters left many marks of their travels at various places up and down the river, which were plainly visible to the pioneer settlers. Not a few of the streams and other natural objects were named by the French and Spaniards."

When settlement began in the first decade of the 1800s, it also centered around the county's waterways. According to Goodspeed, "The permanent settlement of this territory is believed to have commenced about the year 1810, or perhaps a little earlier. John Reed located at the site of Batesville in 1812. Samuel Miller, of Tennessee, came in 1813, and subsequently settled on the creek that bears his name in this county. Col.Robert Bean ran the first keel boat up White River and established himself at the mouth of Polk Bayou (Batesville) in 1814. James Micham settled near the same place in the same year."

The location of the Ruddell Mill also reflects the fact that in Independence County's earliest days, life revolved around the White River and other waterways. The Ruddell Mill is located less than one mile north of the White River and approximately three miles west of the mouth of Polk Bayou at the White River, the location of Bean's settlement in 1814.

The town of Batesville, which was named after Judge James Woodson Bates, the first Congressional delegate from the Arkansas Territory, was the most important community in the county from the beginning, and by the late 1880s, "Batesville became, as it now is, a beautiful and substantial city of nearly, if not quite, 3,000 inhabitants." In addition to being the county seat, Batesville was also quite an industrial center boasting "a steam planning-mill and sash and door factory, two steam saw-mills, two flouring-mills, a wool carding-mill, a cotton-gin, [and] a large canning and evaporating factory." 

Although Independence County did have a lot of industry in the Batesville area, there was also a lot of agricultural activity taking place throughout the county. According to the Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas, "In 1880 the United States census showed that Independence [County] had 2,465 farms and 84,766 acres of improved land. From these the vegetable productions for the year 1879 were as follows: Indian corn, 691,188 bushels; oats, 61,209 bushels; wheat, 57,104 bushels; hay, 396 tons; cotton, 11,156 bales; Irish potatoes, 11,251 bushels; sweet potatoes, 16,583 bushels; tobacco, 21,726 pounds."

The agricultural activity occurring throughout Independence County during the nineteenth century, especially the large amount of corn, oats, and wheat being grown, meant that the area was also ripe for the development of mills. In addition to the large amount of crops that were grown, Independence County also had a large number of streams and springs that supported the development of mills. No less than fourteen creeks were named in the Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas that drained the surrounding lands into the White and Black rivers. In addition, "Many springs abound, the most noted of which is Big Spring, about six miles northwest of Batesville. Here a volume of the clearest water rises from a cavernous passage at the foot of an amphitheatre of hills of cherty, siliceous limestone, sufficient in quantity to turn a small grist-mill, which stands a short distance below." (The mill mentioned is Spring Mill [NR-listed 03/01/74], which was built c.1869.)

John Ruddell (b: 06/12/1792, d: 04/17/1867), who developed and operated the Ruddell Mill, was one of the earliest settlers in the Batesville area, arriving with his brother, Abraham (b: 06/08/1785, d: 11/22/1855), c.1815 from the New Madrid, Missouri, area. Abraham and John, along with other members of the Ruddell Family, originally moved from Kentucky to the New Madrid, Missouri, area around 1800. After a split in the family, Abraham and John moved to Independence County.

Land patent records indicate that Abraham was first granted land in Independence County on March 1, 1827, when he was granted 80 acres in Section 18, Township 13N, Range 6W. He was granted an additional 80 acres in Section 20, Township 14N, Range 6W on November 1, 1834, and an additional 40 acres in Section 7, Township 13N, Range 6W, on October 1, 1839 (although the name is spelled "Abraham Ruddle").

John, on the other hand, received his first land patent on January 1, 1835, when he was granted 30 acres in Section 24, Township 13N, Range 7W. He received several additional patents throughout the area up until 1860, which included:

1) 40 acres in Section 24, JoTownship 13N, Range 7W on September 5, 1842.

2) 80 acres in Section 10, JoTownship 13N, Range 7W on July 10, 1844.

3) 33.01 acres in Section 20, JoTownship 13N, Range 7W on October 1, 1849.

4) 16.31 acres in Section 21, JoTownship 13N, Range 7W on October 1, 1849.

5) 83 acres in Section 18, JoTownship 13N, Range 6W on December 5, 1850, (Although the name was spelled "John Rudell").

6) 40 acres in Section 3, JoTownship 13N, Range 7W on March 1, 1855.

7) 41.87 acres in Section 6, JoTownship 14N, Range 7W on March 1, 1855.

8) 40 acres in Section 35, JoTownship 14N, Range 7W on March 1, 1855.

9) 40 acres in Section 24, JoTownship 13N, Range 7W on March 1, 1856.

10) 40 acres in Section 10, JoTownship 13N, Range 7W on July 1, 1859.

11) 80 acres in Section 12, JoTownship 13N, Range 7W on July 1, 1859.

12) 80 acres in Section 13, JoTownship 13N, Range 7W on May 1, 1860.

Although Abraham and John did not receive land grants until the late 1820s and 1830s, records also indicate that both of them (along with their brother George) were all paying taxes in Independence County by 1824.

When John and Abraham arrived in Independence County, they established several mills. In addition to the Ruddell Mill, John had at least one other mill, and Abraham established at least one mill in Jacksonport in Jackson County. (Interestingly, Abraham Ruddell's mill would be purchased by Townsend Dickinson, John Ruddell's partner, between 1830 and 1834.) Besides operating his mills, John also entered public service, serving as county coroner from 1827-1829.

In addition to serving as coroner between 1827 and 1829, John Ruddell remained prominent in local affairs up through at least the late 1850s. By the 1850s, there was a growing public interest in providing better transportation on the White River between Batesville and Jacksonport, and a large group of citizens met in 1859 to look at methods of improving the White River. Once the meeting began, the Honorable D. C. Montgomery was appointed chairman and W. H. Russell and Jesse Searcy were appointed secretaries. In addition, a committee of ten prominent citizens, including John Ruddell, was appointed to look at removing the navigational hazards between Jacksonport and Batesville. The committee toured the river on September 17, 1859, and released a report on their trip on October 11th. The report recommended the purchase of a snagboat and an expenditure of up to $15,000 to improve river navigation. However, the increased hostilities leading up to the Civil War eventually halted the plans before they could be carried out.

With respect to the mill on this creek, it is unknown when John Ruddell built the first mill on the creek, but by 1838 he had two mills operating and also had a partner, Townsend Dickinson. An advertisement in the Batesville News in September 1838 stated, "The mills on [the] creek, near Batesville, are now in good repair. The subscribers intend to prepare them for the manufacturing of flour of a first rate quality. They will give One Dollar, in cash per bushel, for good clean wheat delivered to their mills. John Ruddell, Townsend Dickinson, Batesville, Sept. 20, 1838." The location of the Ruddell Mill on this creek was already a well-established milling location by the 1830s. The earliest known water-powered mill in Independence County, Hadly's Mill, was located at or near the spot of Ruddell's mill, and was in operation by 1813. Hadly����s Mill was sold to Asa Musick in 1814.

The Ruddell Mill Site reflects the earliest days of the milling industry not only in the Batesville area, but in all of Independence County. The earliest mill in the county was in operation in the area by 1813, and likely had been open for a short time, since settlement did not really begin in the area until c.1810. Other mills of the type were found throughout the county by the late 1880s, according to Goodspeed, including two flouring-mills in Batesville, and grist mills in Jamestown and Newark.

Although Ruddell and Dickinson had developed a partnership by 1838, it apparently did not last very long. In 1848, Ruddell's first dam at the site on the creek washed away and the partnership with Dickinson had dissolved by that time. However, Ruddell continued to be successful in the milling business after the partnership dissolved, operating his original mill until it was destroyed during the Civil War. Even though the first mill was destroyed, Ruddell rebuilt at the same location after the war ended.

The location of Ruddell's mill was ideal for its operation. The mill dam and pond were very important parts of the mill complex. The dam not only raised the water level to aid in the mill's operation, but it also created the mill pond, which acted as an "energy bank." Since water flows at the same rate day or night, the pond saved the water during the night in order for it to be used the following day. The pond also had to impound enough water so that the mill's machinery could be operated during periods of relative drought. It was best if ponds were built in areas that were not confined between steep valley walls because they would not be able to hold much water unless the dam was high. Ideally, as at the Ruddell Mill Site, an area above a natural constriction would be the best place to build a mill pond. Dams that were lower were cheaper to build and maintain and they were less affected by excessive water pressure, ice jams, or flooding problems. The fact that the creek was fed partially by a spring meant that there was always a supply of water for the mill. Also, if water levels were low, the construction of the dam helped to ensure that there was adequate water for the mill's operation, and there was plenty of stone, both limestone and sandstone, and timber in the area to provide an ample supply of building materials.

The mill's location was also ideal from a transportation standpoint.A road was in place through the area connecting Batesville with Richwoods in nearby Izard County by 1854, according to Colton's railroad & township map of Arkansas. The road would have meant ease of transport for the mill's goods. The construction of the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad line from Batesville through Denieville and James Switch to Cushman prior to 1895 also would have meant that the mill would have had easy railroad access, especially since it passed by just a few hundred feet to the northeast. Finally, the mill location's proximity to the White River would have also been beneficial in transport of goods.

John Ruddell continued to operate the mill until his death in 1867, after which the mill passed to his daughter, Betty Ruddell Goodwin. Goodwin had no interest in operating the mill apparently, and sold it to her brother, William Byers Ruddell. The mill prospered under William's ownership, just as it had under John's, and in 1894 he expanded the building and rebuilt the dam into the dam that exists today. After the renovation, William opened a large flour mill and began milling "Lily Brand" flour. The brand proved so popular that the original water-powered mill was insufficient to meet the demand and a steam engine was installed to increase the mill's capacity. The mill continued to operate until William's death in 1917, after which the mill closed and the machinery was sold to Avery Blair. Blair established a flour mill at Red Stripe, which operated for six months before burning. Since Blair did not have insurance to cover his losses, the mill was not rebuilt and the machinery from the Ruddell Mill was destroyed.

After William's death, the Ruddell Mill passed out of Ruddell family ownership for the first time in approximately a century. The mill was purchased by Jim Luster and was then inherited by his son, Sid Luster. A small store operated in the building until 1938, but apparently the building's days as a mill were over. The store remained in the mill building until a fire on the evening of September 10, 1939, destroyed the building.

Even though the site's days as a mill were over, it was still an important place for the local community. By the early twentieth century, a crossing was needed to allow automobile and truck traffic to cross the creek in the area. As a result, the current low-water bridge was built, likely in the 1930s, and possibly by the WPA. The low-water bridge and road across the mill dam would have been the main highway through the area. However, the low clearance under the railroad line just to the northeast of the site meant that large vehicles could not use the road. As a result, the road was bypassed in 1987 which eliminated the low and narrow clearance under the railroad trestle to the northeast.

After the mill burned in 1939, the building was not rebuilt and the ruins were left to deteriorate. The original mill race still funnels the water of the creek under the road and down stream, but the building's ruins no longer serve any function. However, the site has been a popular hangout spot (and had been a popular place for picnics and swimming since at least the 1890s), and one stone is inscribed "HH + WS," reminiscent of the chorus of the popular song, "Down By the Old Mill Stream:"

Down by the old mill stream,
Where I first met you,
With your eyes of blue,
Dressed in Gingham too. 
It was there I knew,
That you loved me true. 
You were sixteen, 
My village queen, 
By the old mill stream.

Today, the site remains a popular ruin, mainly known and visited by the local residents.

Even though the Ruddell Mill Site is mainly known to the local community, the site could yield information important to people beyond the Batesville area. The site has been reported to the Arkansas Archeological Survey, although their most recent information (until it was documented by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program in 2006) dated from 1987. However, additional systematic study of the site could yield a wealth of information on a variety of topics including 1) the development of the milling industry in the Batesville area from the early nineteenth century up through World War I, and 2) the evolution of mill technology including water-powered and steam-powered milling technology during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is also possible that systematic study of the site may yield clues and additional information on the location of Hadly's Mill, the earliest known water-powered mill in Independence County.

1) Although the Spring Mill, built c.1869, has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR-listed 03/01/74), there is little knowledge of the milling industry in Independence County in the first part of the 1800s. The Ruddell Mill Site, which had an operating mill at least as early as the 1830s, could help provide information on the early days of milling in the county. (Additionally, if Hadly's Mill was at the site, it could yield information on milling from as early as the 1810s.) Also, the fact that it operated until World War I means that its operation spanned almost a century, which would allow the site to have the potential to yield information pertaining to a long span of the county's history.

2) When the Ruddell Mill first opened, it was a water-powered mill, and it remained so until after 1894 when it was expanded by William Ruddell. Ruddell's installation of a steam engine to increase the mill's capacity and meet the demand for flour creates the unique opportunity to study a small rural mill that used two different kinds of milling technology. Further study of the site could yield information concerning the evolution of water-powered mill technology as well as the development of steam-powered milling technology.

The Ruddell Mill Site represents and important nineteenth and twentieth-century industrial site in Independence County. For its associations with early settlement and with the industrial development of the area, its associations with important Independence County resident, John Ruddell, and for its good example of a nineteenth-century mill dam and early twentieth-century low-water bridge, the Ruddell Mill Site is important to many aspects of the county's history. In addition, the Ruddell Mill Site is important in that it has the potential to yield significant amounts of information on a number of aspects of early Independence County history to further our understanding of the area and its development.


 Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889, pp. 621, 623.

 Ibid, p. 623.

 Ibid.

 Ibid, p. 628.

 Ibid, p. 626.

 Ibid, p. 625.

 Information on the Ruddell Family from http://www.shawhan.com/ruddell.html.

 Federal Land Records for Independence County, Arkansas, (Mc-R) found at http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/ar/independence/land/indepen4.txt.

 Ibid.

 Information on the formation of Independence County found at http://www.knology.net/~lizglenn/april76.htm.

 Luker, Lady E. "Abraham Ruddell's Mill." Stream of History. April 1965, Volume 3, Number 2, p. 4.

 Ibid.

 Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889, p. 622.

 Huddleston, Duane, Sammie Rose, and Pat Wood. Steamboats and Ferries on White River: A Heritage Revisited. Conway, AR: UCA Press, 1995, p. 54.

 Huddleston, Duane. "Ruddell Mill Site, A Landmark Worth Preserving." The Independence County Chronicle. January 1972, Volume XIII, Number 2, p. 60.

 Huddleston, Duane. "Ruddell Mill Site, A Landmark Worth Preserving." The Independence County Chronicle. January 1972, Volume XIII, Number 2, p. 60, and McGinnis, A. C. "A History of Independence County, Ark." The Independence County Chronicle. April 1976, Volume XVII, Number 3, p. 22.

 Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889, pp. 628-629.

 Huddleston, Duane. "Ruddell Mill Site, A Landmark Worth Preserving." The Independence County Chronicle. January 1972, Volume XIII, Number 2, p. 61.

Sources. Map. Unknown Publisher, New York, 1854.

 Cram's Township and Rail Road Map of Arkansas. Map. Chicago: George Franklin Cram, 1895.

 Huddleston, Duane. "Ruddell Mill Site, A Landmark Worth Preserving." The Independence County Chronicle. January 1972, Volume XIII, Number 2, pp. 61-62.

 Huddleston, Duane. "Ruddell Mill Site, A Landmark Worth Preserving." The Independence County Chronicle. January 1972, Volume XIII, Number 2, pp. 62-63.

 Information on Independence County highways from Bob Scoggin, Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.

 Lyrics of "Down By the Old Mill Stream" found at http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Plains/1433/oldmill.html.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Ruddell Mill Site, which first supported milling activities c.1830, is linked to the early industrial history of the Batesville area. Batesville was first settled in 1812 and the Ruddell Mill Site represents an important site associated with the industrial heritage of Batesville and Independence County. The site is also important to the history of the development of transportation networks in the Batesville area. The mill dam, which was built in 1894, and associated low-water bridge have provided a transportation artery across the creek since the completion of the bridge c.1930. As a result, the Ruddell Mill Site is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places with local significance under Criterion A for its associations with the nineteenth-century industrial heritage of Batesville and Independence County and also for its associations with the transportation history of the Batesville area.

The Ruddell Mill Site is also being nominated to the National Register with local significance under Criterion C for its remaining mill dam and low-water bridge. The mill dam represents an excellent example of a stone nineteenth-century mill dam, and the low water bridge, which was built c.1930 on top of the dam, is also a good example of a low-water bridge and a rare example of the type in the Batesville area.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.

Colton�۪s Railroad & Township Map of Arkansas Compiled from the U.S. Surveys and Other Authentic Sources. Map. Unknown Publisher, New York, 1854.

Cram�۪s Township and Rail Road Map of Arkansas. Map. Chicago: George Franklin Cram, 1895.

Federal Land Records for Independence County, Arkansas, (Mc-R) found at http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/ar/independence/land/indepen4.txt.

Huddleston, Duane, Sammie Rose, and Pat Wood. Steamboats and Ferries on White River: A Heritage Revisited. Conway, AR: UCA Press, 1995.

Huddleston, Duane. ���Ruddell Mill Site, A Landmark Worth Preserving.�۝ The Independence County Chronicle. January 1972, Volume XIII, Number 2.

Information on Independence County highways from Bob Scoggin, Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.

Information on the formation of Independence County found at http://www.knology.net/~lizglenn/april76.htm.

Information on the Ruddell Family from http://www.shawhan.com/ruddell.html.

Luker, Lady E. ���Abraham Ruddell�۪s Mill.�۝ Stream of History. April 1965, Volume 3, Number 2.

Lyrics of ���Down By the Old Mill Stream�۝ found at http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Plains/1433/oldmill.html.

McGinnis, A. C. ���A History of Independence County, Ark.�۝ The Independence County Chronicle. April 1976, Volume XVII, Number 3.


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