The Rocklyn rabbit hole

barn in wheat field

Editor’s Note: The Rux homestead is on private property. The owner, whom you can learn more about in the comments section, has posted No Trespassing signs. Jerry is a great guy and more than willing to cooperate with photographers, provided they seek permission.

I get lost in detail sometimes.

When I got home from a road trip last week, I sat down to research the area I explored and the houses I found.

That’s when I fell down the Rocklyn rabbit hole.

Left alone

I was nearing the end of the day. Available light was disappearing with every inch the sun dropped toward the western horizon.

I already thought Bella and I had a winning day with houses and barns and schoolhouses.

abandoned house ritzville wa

I figured I should head for home. I had housewifing duties to attend to, after all.

But Rocklyn Road beckoned.

An earlier Panoramio search revealed no less than three spots within a few miles of Highway 2.

They didn’t disappoint.

And I only hit two out of three.

The second one was the one worth ending the day for.

rux homestead rocklyn

It was moody.

Gloomy.

And as I poked around, taking only pictures, I felt a sadness.

A sadness that such a beautiful sat empty, a little bit weathered by time, a lot bit damaged by vandalism.

The Rux residence

As it turns out, Rocklyn used to be a bustling burb.

A little bit west and a little bit south of Davenport, it was more than a stretch of paved road dotted with abandoned homesteads.

One obituary revealed it had a gun club and a car club, neither of which are in existence today.

It had a mercantile, a post office and a school.

All long gone.

It had two churches, one that still stands. The Zion German Methodist Church was built in 1905. It sits on a hill, overlooking miles of wheat fields and folks in the area attend services to this day.

The other church, the Salem Evangelical, was built in 1898 and torn down when it was no longer in use.

By Charles Rux.

The man who built the home that captured my imagination.

abandoned farm davenport

 

(Sidebar: The evangelical church had a cement cornerstone etched with “Eva. Gemein Schaf 1989.” Rux’s daughter donated the cornerstone to the Lincoln County Historical Society Museum.)

Rux is described as a “soft spoken, conscientious man” in Marge Womach’s Harrington History Volume 3: The Evangelicals.

According to his 1972 obituary, he was born on March 1, 1879, in Hammond, Minnesota. His parents moved west when he was seven years old and set up their homestead near Edwall.

Rux took up his own homestead near Rocklyn in 1989, when he became the first tractor farmer in the area.

He maintained his bachelor status for a couple years, not marrying until 1901.

From the May 3, 1901 edition of the Lincoln County Times:

Charles Rux and Miss Julia Bursch, of Rocklyn, were united in marriage by Rev. Joseph Hepp, on Thursday, April 25th, at the latter’s residence, only one or two immediate friends being present. Mr. Rux is one of the solid young German farmers of the Rocklyn community, and his young bride is a neighbor girl of equal worth.

Of equal worth.

The feminist in me makes me wonder what the hell that means. But I force myself to remember it was a different time.

The abandoned homestead

Charles and Julia built the house in 1903, according to another blogger who met the Rux’s granddaughter in her travels.

old washtub

His obit reveals he bought a half section of railroad land for $1,003 and another quarter section at $40 per acre. He kept adding on until he owned 820 acres.

They had four daughters: Aileen (Kruger), Bess (Rutter), Beulah (Olsen) and Mabel (Reker).

Their lives are detailed in Beulah’s obit, her death dated May 15, 2013.

Beulah and her sisters rode horseback to the one room red schoolhouse several miles from home. When it was time for her older sisters to attend high school in Harrington, it was too far to make the trip every day so the sisters boarded at the Methodist Church. Beulah joined them to attend 5th & 6th grades in Harrington.

Bessie earned a teaching degree and came home to teach at the “little red schoolhouse,” the one I assume no longer exists.

windmill davenport WA

The Rux family sold the farm and moved into Davenport in 1928, though, likely due to the matriarch’s health. Julia’s obit — her death dated Jan. 20, 1947, and just a month shy of her 71st birthday — says she was an invalid for 24 years.

(Sidebar: Her sister Lydia died in 1908 at age 25 after being an invalid “for some time.”)

Charles remarried two years later, finding another gal of “equal worth,” an Ada Haynes from Moscow, Idaho, who made his family larger by three stepdaughters.

I can’t find who bought the farm in 1928 and why the beautiful home is left to rot in the harsh sunlight under which wheat fields thrive.

But it is rugged, like the families that homesteaded the area, and leaves their legacy to stand the test of time.

And now that I’ve dug myself back out of the Rocklyn rabbit hole, it’s time to find another one and learn more about the people that made Eastern Washington happen.

 

9 replies
  1. Jeme Deviny
    Jeme Deviny says:

    I’m originally from Spokane, WA. I love your photos and research on the area. Hope you don’t mind if I follow you on-line for any news posts.

    Thank you! Your work is amazing!

    Reply
  2. Gerald Hardy
    Gerald Hardy says:

    Thank you for your interest in my Rux place homestead and the research you did to write your comments. I have mixed emotions about photographers and/or authors that ignore my No Trespassing signs I posted on about every other power pole and cannot take the time to ask permission to view the property. I have information that would have answered your questions as I plan to restore the homestead and the red and white school houses when time and money permit. I am on Facebook with pictures, photo albums and commentary. Have a nice day. Jerry Hardy

    Reply
  3. Gerald Hardy
    Gerald Hardy says:

    Thank you for your interest in my Rux place homestead and the research you did to write your comments. I have mixed emotions about photographers and/or authors that ignore my No Trespassing signs I posted on about every other power pole and cannot take the time to ask permission to view the property. I have information that would have answered your questions as I plan to restore the homestead and the red and white school houses when time and money permit. I am on Facebook with pictures, photo albums and commentary. Have a nice day. Jerry Hardy

    Reply
  4. Melanie (Olsen) Sperry
    Melanie (Olsen) Sperry says:

    Thank you for this very nice article and pictures of the Charles & Julia Rux homestead. I’m one of their granddaughters, born to their youngest child, Beulah. My Mom had so many wonderful memories of growing up on the farm. Julia became an invalid when Beulah was 3 years old. Her older sisters, Mabel (16), Aileen (12) & Bessie (11) took over caring for Julia, the household and raising their little sister. It was hard for Charles to maintain a farm with an invalid wife, 4 girls and no sons to help with the farm work. He sold the homestead to his neighbor, Wilbur Hardy and moved into Davenport where he used his carpentry skills to make a living.

    The farm had tenants over the years. Wilbur’s brother, Bob Hardy & family, lived there a number of years. Aileen’s son, Jerry Kruger & family, also lived there for a short time. Jerry said it was one of the coldest winters they ever spent as the old pioneer house didn’t have insulation!

    Yes, it’s sad to see old homesteads abandoned, but it is the cycle of life. They are a slice of history and when we see them, we imagine how brave it was for young men and women to leave their families behind to build a life on a piece of land abundant with sagebrush and rock. They had to be skilled to build a houses and barns, farm the land with a team of horses, raise a family and still have time to worship with their neighbors and help each other out. Rocklyn was and still is a wonderful, close-knit community of friends and relatives.

    Reply
    • thatangela
      thatangela says:

      Melanie, thank you so much for your comment. Your last paragraph nails it for me. I often stand by these homesteads and imagine what life was like and how hardy our ancestors were. My own mother grew up in Nova Scotia in a farming family. She has told me stories about how tough it was, how she and her sisters made dresses from sugar sacks so they could go to school. We live in wonderful times and visiting these old homesteads always underscore for me how convenient our lives have become.

      Reply
      • Melanie (Olsen) Sperry
        Melanie (Olsen) Sperry says:

        Every time I look at the Rocklyn sagebrush and scab rock, I wonder “What were you thinking picking this place to farm!” Much hardier souls than this generation. I can’t imagine the mindset it took to leave a home and family that you might never see again to go halfway around the world to start a new life. Wish I had their bravery. A cousin of mine read us diary entries of a relative that came west on the Oregon trail in a covered wagon. She was not happy to leave civilization behind! Eventually she accepted it, but the hardships were rough on a young family.

        Reply
  5. Gerald Hardy
    Gerald Hardy says:

    This excellent article has added some additional historical information but I need to clarify and/or add some items. According to our Hardy Family History, my grandfather (William Hardy) purchased the 820 acre farm from Charles Rux in 1935. My father (Wilbur) eventually owned it and passed it down me. Dad remodeled portions of the house such as installing three picture windows etc. I tried to have a new roof installed but no one was interested in the job.

    Reply

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