Ruddell Hill (Independence County)
aka: Ruddell (Independence County)
Ruddell Mill, one of the first water-powered mills in the White River valley, was built in Independence County by John Francis Ruddell and his uncle, Abraham (Abram) Ruddell, shortly after their arrival in Arkansas in 1814. Brothers Abraham and George Ruddell from Kentucky founded a settlement at a place called Dry Run Creek, near Polk Bayou (a.k.a. Poke Bayou), around 1817. The city of Batesville (Independence County) annexed the community of Ruddell Hill in 1947. The still-visible ruins of the old mill, with their notable stonework, are a main historical site for Independence County.
According to local history, the entire Isaac Ruddell family was captured by the Shawnee in Kentucky. In 1782, they were all released except Ruddell’s sons Abraham and Stephen Ruddell; the Ruddell brothers lived with the Shawnee for fifteen years. They were brought to the Dry Run Creek region during a Revolutionary War raid on Ruddell Station. The station was the U.S. Army fort of their father, Captain Isaac Ruddell, in what would become Bourbon County, Kentucky.
Gainer Ferry across the White River and Ruddell’s Ford on Polk Bayou were used by Union infantry and mounted soldiers during the 1864 occupation of Batesville during the Civil War. At that time, the mill was destroyed by Captain Albert B. Kauffman’s Union troops. It was rebuilt after the Civil War, but it was later burned and then rebuilt a second time. The mill was still in use in 1927 but ceased operations and fell into ruin following World War II.
The Odd Fellows Home for Widows and Orphans opened in the fall of 1898 on North Hill Street in Batesville a few miles from Ruddell Hill. The home, which accommodated about 175, was funded by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), with widows and orphans working at the home to help support themselves. The home closed in about 1929 and was razed in 1937 to make way for the West Batesville School, later West Elementary.
John Francis Ruddell served as Independence County coroner and was instrumental in making the Ruddell waterways more navigable. His grandson, Lawrence Ruddell, was Independence County sheriff from 1914 to 1918. The Dry Run Creek area once had a reputation for moon shining, bootlegging, and occasional violence, especially during the Prohibition era.
The Arkansas Lime Company on Limedale Road operates a quarry for high-grade limestone. The company has a spur line railroad that connects to the Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern Railroads. The company, a major employer for the county, was founded in 1906 as the Young Lime Company. It was incorporated in 1910 by George and Junius Case and relocated to its present Limedale (Independence County) location in 1924. It went through more changes in name and ownership before becoming the Arkansas Lime Company.
Ruddell Hill had two schools. One was located near the site of the current Ruddell Hill Baptist Church close to the intersection of Bethesda Road and Tower Lane. The other was an African-American school at Dry Run. After the community of Ruddell Hill became part of Batesville in 1947, the schools were consolidated with Batesville’s schools.
In 2010, the City of Batesville and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism began developing Polk Bayou to make it more accessible for boating and fishing. Despite its attractions, Polk Bayou is prone to devastating flooding during heavy rains. The Batesville Chamber of Commerce announced plans to develop the four miles from the White Drive Bridge on Highway 69 to where Polk Bayou empties into the White River.
Ruddell Hill is home to four churches and several businesses. The Independence County fairgrounds, which host the fair each July, are in Ruddell Township. Between Ruddell Hill and Cushman (Independence County) is the picturesque but no longer operational Spring Mill, which belongs to the Lytle family and is often confused with Ruddell Mill.
For additional information:
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.
Hanks, Dale. “The Ruddell Family: Stuff that Movies Are Made Of.” Arkansas Family Historian 46 (December 2008): 229–245.
McGinnis, A. C. “A History of Independence County, Ark.” Special issue. Independence County Chronicle 17 (April 1976).
Varno, Susan. “Polk Bayou: Batesville’s Secret Stream.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 10, 2013, Three Rivers Edition. http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2013/nov/10/polk-bayou-batesvilles-secret-stream/?f=threerivers (accessed November 24, 2020).
Van Buren, Arkansas
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