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.
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.
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.
It was moody.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.