Gustavus Roescher (1860–1925)

aka: Gus Rusher

Gustavus Roescher, who later went by the Anglicized version of his name, Gus Rusher, was a leading figure in the town of Brinkley (Monroe County), serving as an alderman, restauranteur, hotelier, and banker.

Little is known about the early life of Gustavus Roescher. Born in 1860, he immigrated to the United States with his father, Charles Roescher (1833–1890), from the German town of Baden-Baden in the mid-1800s. They settled on a farm outside of Brinkley.

Gustavus Roescher owned the Arlington Hotel, which was struck by a cyclone in 1909. Roescher also purchased the Brinkley House, which burned down in 1914. This event prompted Roescher to begin construction on a new hotel with three stories and sixty rooms, which was christened the Hotel Roescher. The original budget for the project was $35,000, although overruns ultimately led to a construction cost of $60,000. The hotel’s 1915 opening was celebrated as an important social event in Brinkley, attended by over 300 citizens. Roescher himself was lauded as “a credit to not only the city of Brinkley, but to the State at large.” After the opening, he and his family lived on the second floor of the hotel and had a private balcony.

The hotel enjoyed much success by providing convenient accommodation for travelers using the Cotton Belt and Rock Island train depot located next door. The constant noise of the passing trains was less ideal, however, and Rusher’s great-grandson, Gus Rusher, recalled in a family anecdote that one traveler, who had been awakened several times, stormed down to the front desk in the middle of the night to ask: “What time does this hotel get to Memphis?”

Roescher changed the spelling of his own name and that of the hotel to Rusher in 1918 in response to the anti-German sentiment following the United States’ entrance into World War I, and later new owners operated the establishment as the Malmar and the Great Southern Hotel. The building still stands in Brinkley in the twenty-first century and houses a bridal shop.

In addition to his businesses in hospitality, Roescher joined the board of directors of the Bank of Brinkley in 1924, after buying the holdings of the bank’s largest stockholder, John Gazzola. Gazzola had been a frequent patron in the restaurant of the hotel and lamented that as a bachelor he had no descendants to pass on his bank shares to, at which point Roescher offered to buy his shares. Roescher served on the board for one year until his death on February 7, 1925, although his descendants would continue to steer the bank for decades to come. He was survived by his wife and two children, son Albert Rusher and daughter Mrs. W. W. Sharp. He is buried in Oaklawn Cemetery in Brinkley.

Roescher’s descendants have held influential places in the history of eastern Arkansas. His son, Albert Louis Rusher (1897–1991), and his son’s eventual wife, Dorcas Rusher, met when she, as a professional pianist, played a concert in Brinkley while employed by a traveling music show that was part of the Chautauqua movement. Albert Louis Rusher took his father’s place on the board of the Bank of Brinkley and served on the board for sixty-six years. He served as board president from 1955 to 1969 and was named the board’s first chairman in 1969. Albert Louis Rusher’s son, Albert Holly Rusher (1922–2017), also continued in the family business and served on the board for fifty-two years, from 1965 until his death. Albert Holly Rusher’s son, Gus (Gustavus) Rusher, served as the fourth generation of the family in the bank, beginning his career in 1972 and serving as president beginning in 1983. Gus Rusher’s brother, Albert Holly Rusher Jr., was a surgeon in Jonesboro (Craighead County) and served as a missionary to Mongolia for five years; his sister, Debbie Rusher Nix, also lives in Jonesboro.

For additional information:
“Bank of Brinkley: 100th Anniversary.” Pamphlet of the Bank of Brinkley, March 11, 2003.

Obituary of Gus Rusher. Arkansas Gazette, February 8, 1925, p. 11.

“Rusher Hotel.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/MO0110.nr.pdf (accessed February 21, 2020).

Kathleen Condray
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Last Updated: 02/21/2020

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