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Ruddells (Izard County)

The once-thriving unincorporated settlement of Ruddells (Izard County), located near the White River in the southwest corner of the county, was a major producer of quick lime for approximately twenty-five years during the early part of the twentieth century. Today, little remains of the settlement other than the abandoned mines and a cemetery.

The mining of lime is said to have begun in the area as early as 1906. At that time, what would become Ruddells was known as East Sylamore. A post office opened there on December 18, 1905. On February 7, 1911, it was renamed Ruddells, with William W. Brooks as postmaster. The name had been changed to honor Abraham Ruddells, father-in-law of early mine owner Edgar Young.

The settlement developed around the Young Lime Company, which began mining operations and manufacture of quick lime about 1906. Quick lime is used for a number of purposes including mortar, plaster, and the production of paper. Young sold the business to George Case in 1907. During peak production, three kilns, necessary to fire the lime, were in operation.

The mining operations provided labor for many people of the area. Workers were needed to dig out the lime and crush it—in the early years by hand with a hammer. Many area African Americans, as well as itinerant workers, were employed in the nearly unbearably hot work at the kilns. Large numbers of additional jobs were provided in cutting the wood necessary for firing the kilns.

The settlement grew quickly and, within a few years, was home to a school, hotels, and other businesses. The White River Canning Company, which processed vegetables, provided jobs for many of the area’s young women. Nearby stave mills provided the estimated 10,000 barrels used each month to ship the quick lime. At one time, a commissary operated by Marion Morris provided goods in exchange for tokens provided as pay by the company. Typical pay by 1917 was seventeen and a half cents an hour. An employee could obtain company housing for $2.50 a month. When the railroad was built through the area, a depot, operated by agent Frank Forrest, was fashioned in 1913 by connecting two refrigerated railroad cars. A major flood in 1916 disrupted business, leaving behind a foot of mud. During the flu epidemic of 1918, so many people died that burials continued into the night.

Business prospered into the early 1920s with the construction of a lime dehydration plant in 1924. But as adequate supplies of timber and limestone began to diminish, operations began to slow. Decline accelerated in 1925 with the sale of the mining operation to the Batesville Lime Company. Shortly after the purchase, the kilns were removed, and the processing aspect of the business was relocated to Cushman (Independence County) and Limedale (Independence County). Mining continued at Ruddells, and a narrow gauge railroad was constructed to move the rock lime to the new operations. Production at Ruddells slowly dropped and was completely shut down in July 1930. What remained of the operation was dismantled and moved to the new locations. Workers also began to move as the settlement slowly began to die. The cemetery and abandoned mines are about all that remain of the once-thriving settlement.

For additional information:
Harris, Mertie. “An Interview with George Weigart Concerning His Memories of the Ghost Town, Ruddells, Izard County and its Lime History.” Izard County Historian 2 (April 1971): 2–9.

Stowers, Juanita. The History and Families of Izard County, Arkansas. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 2001.

Mike Polston
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 7/21/2010

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