Ruddell’s Mills

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

The location of Isaac Ruddell's grist mill, the "mill seat," required legal authorization and a proper location for the operation. Isaac Ruddell chose a good site for his home and mill at the confluence of Hinkston and Stoner Creeks, which formed the South Fork of the Licking River. John Hinkston had previously built a fort at this location, but abandoned it by 1776. The Ruddells and other families later occupied the place that became known as Ruddell's Station.

Although the highway marker tells the story of the mill, Ruddell's Station was involved in an earlier historic event. In 1780, the old Hinkston fort and Ruddell's home was captured by British Captain Henry Byrd in command of about 1000 British and Native American troops as part of the frontier action during the Revolutionary War. During the capture about 20 people were killed, including Isaac Ruddell's three year old child. A number of other pioneers were made prisoner and taken to Detroit. Among the prisoners were Ruddell's sons, Stephen and Abram.

Stephen and Abram Ruddell spent several years among their Native American captors. Stephen Ruddell later married a native woman, but returned to a home his father built for him to entice the young man back to Bourbon County. However, Stephen retained many of his Indian ways, including wearing his hair long and wearing earrings. Stephen later became a minister and eventually moved to Missouri in 1820. Abram Rudell ran a saw mill upon his return to Bourbon County and served as a volunteer in the War of 1812.

Abram Spears bought the mill in 1836 when it was a factory for cotton and wool. Later the mill was turned it into the Ford and Bowen Distillery. Distilling was a logical side product for mills, as they were often the place where grains were processed that were needed to produce whiskey. In addition, the river provided the mill's power source as well as the transportation system to get the finished product to market. The local rich Bourbon County soil produced surpluses of the necessary corn and rye, and the area's limestone water springs were also an important ingredient in whiskey.