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Hopewell Museum


Ruddell’s Mills

Marker #1462, “Ruddell’s Mills”, Bourbon, Ruddell’s Mills, KY 1940

Historical Marker #1462 in Bourbon County tells the story of one of Bourbon County’s first industrial districts, Ruddell’s Mill.

The location of Isaac Ruddell’s grist mill , the “mill seat” required legal authorization, and a good location for a mill. Isaac Ruddell had a good place for his home and mill at the confluence of Hinkston and Stoner Creeks which forms the South Fork of the Licking River. John Hinkston had built a fort at this location, but abandoned it by 1776 and Ruddell and other families occupied what became to be called, Ruddell’s Station. The marker tells the story of the mill, but there is another story about the Ruddell family. In 1780, the old fort and Ruddell’s home was captured by Colonel Byrd in command of about one thousand British Canadian and Native American troops as part of the frontier action during the American Revolution. About 20 people were killed, including Isaac Ruddell’s three year old child, but many were made prisoner and taken to Detroit. Among the prisoners were Ruddell’s sons, Stephen and Abram. [Nancy O’Malley, Stockading Up, Kentucky Heritage Council, 1987, p. 241.]

Stephen and Abram Ruddell spent some time in the Native American villages, likely those of the Shawnee. Stephen even married an Indigenous American woman (likely a Shawnee woman), but abandoned her and returned to a home his father built for him to entice him back to Bourbon County. Stephen always wore his hair long, and wore earrings. He became a minister and eventually moved to Missouri in 1820. Abram became the miller upon his return home, and served as a volunteer in the war of 1812. [William H. Perrin, ed., History of Bourbon , Scott, Harrison and Nicholas Counties, Kentucky, Chicago, 1882, p. 149.]

Abram Spears owned the mill from 1836 when it was a factory for cotton and wool. In 1855 he turned it into the Ford & Bowen Distillery. [Perrin, p. 150.] Distilling was a logical side product for mills. A mill was the place to process the grain needed for whiskey, the river provided quick and reliable transportation to get the product to market, and in Bourbon County the rich soil produced surpluses of the necessary corn and rye with consistency. The limestone water was an important part of the product, as well as the local tradition for producing corn whiskey. [ H.E. Everman, The History of Bourbon County 1785-1865, Bourbon Press, 1977, p. 36.] The Spears family was well known in Bourbon County for their production of what came to be called Bourbon whiskey. [See marker #2295, Bourbon whiskey/Jacob Spears]

Mill Map

Ruddell Mill

The first mill that Isaac Ruddell built was a gristmill for grinding corn. This is a restored mill from the 18th century, likely similar to the one built by Isaac Ruddell.

The Water Wheel Box
The water wheel turned a shaft which turned the millstones. Grain was put into the hopper and the grain was ground between the two stones. The stones were enclosed in a box.

Water Wheel with box removed
The stones with the box removed.

Saw Mill
The second mill was a sawmill. The action of the water wheel turning the shaft was converted to the sawing motion required to cut lumber into boards. Cut lumber was in great demand as the frontier was being settled.

Ruddell Grave
A stone honoring Isaac Ruddell was recently erected in the Stoner Mouth Cemetery. Most of the stones in the cemetery are gone, but there is a list on record of the names of people buried there.