Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vintage Photos: Old Ruddells Depot, Ruddells, Arkansas

Photo from Ruby Jett Hightower Collection

The settlement of Ruddells stood about two miles downriver from the present site of Sylamore. The little town grew up around the operation of the Young Lime Company which mined limestone from quarries on the hillsides of the White River Valley and crushed it into various limestone products beginning as early as 1906. The company operated a large cylindrical kiln that "cooked" the limestone into quick-lime, an important product used for a huge variety of construction and manufacturing applications. Sometime after the original owner, Edgar Young, sold the operation to the Case family in 1907, more kilns were built and in 1924 a hydration plant was built to produce hydrated lime, also used in multiple ways in indusrty as well as domestic settings.

Ruddells, Arkansas

The kilns were fired using hardwood as fuel which provided many jobs for the community...especially for blacks who lived in the area...until the hardwood forests were depleted and the quarries played-out prompting the whole operation to be moved to Limedale near Batesville and Cushman where it still produces product today under the name, Arkansas Lime Company. The kilns, which were built below the quarry, were fed with rock mined from the quarries and were delivered to the kilns by way of a cable and drum system which allowed the weight of a loaded cart rolling downhill to pull the empty carts back to the quarry. After the operation moved to Limedale, the company built a narrow gauge railroad to haul rock from its quarry to the site of the kilns. This railroad continued in use until only recently and was one of the last remaining narrow-gauge lines to operate in North America.

Very little remains of old Ruddells. A cemetery, a rock building, and foundations are all that indicate a community once thrived in the area. The depot shown in the photo above was constructed of two refrigerated box-cars put together and was put in place sometime before 1913. There were also other buildings in the little town including a school, churches, and the White River Canning Company which provided employment for area women. Stave Mills, like the large ones operating in Mount Olive and Guion at the time, provided the components to build the 10,000 barrels per month needed to ship the "White Owl" finished lime products from the quarries and kilns.

Old Ruddells, named after Edgar Young's Father-in-Law, a descendant of Abraham Ruddell who migrated to the White River Valley around 1813 building several water-mills, no longer exists...but because of its importance to providing employment for the citizens of Izard and Stone Counties during the time of its existence, it's vital that the community is remembered!

To learn more about Ruddells, see the April 1971 Issue of the Izard County Historian.

Here's an interesting link containing correspondence of Abraham Ruddell who settled near Batesville after his long Indian Captivity with Tecumseh. Note - Clicking on the "Abraham Ruddell" link will open a MS Word Document telling the story of the Ruddell brothers (Abraham and Stephen) who became captives of Tecumseh...and later...his adopted sons!

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