Thomas Sanderson Ruddock, biography c. 1895
[Industrial Chicago]
  Source: Hotchkiss, George W. Industrial Chicago: The Lumber Interests. Chicago: Goodspeed Pub. Co., 1894. pp.580a-580c.

Thomas Sanderson Ruddock. The history of Thomas S. Ruddock carries the mind of the lumberman back to the early days of the development of that extensive slaughter of the forests which has marked the history of Wisconsin and Michigan.

Born in Massachusetts February 17, 1818, he obtained a common-school education at Syracuse, N. Y., whither his parents removed in 1820. His father was of Scotch-English extraction, of a family which settled in the Bay State early in the seventeenth century, whose characteristics of industry, independence and sterling honesty were transmitted to their descendants.

At the age of thirteen Thomas began to earn his own living, and when about twenty-five years of age, in 1846, he came West and settled upon a farm near Southport (now Kenosha), Wis., and the following year, 1847, was married to Miss Maria N. Newell, whose parents resided near Southport, and the young couple settled down upon a rented farm of 1,000 acres. Two years laterThomas was stricken with the California fever, and became one of the vast army of argonauts which laid the foundation of that wealthy State, and although he returned in 1853, he in his subsequent busy career never lost his love for its delightful climate and fertile soil, as the sequel will disclose.

His journey was by way of the Isthmus of Panama at the time when the "bungo" of the Chagres River and the packing mule across the mountain ranges afforded the only means of transportation.

Returning to the East Mr. Ruddock engaged in the lumber business at Berlin, Wis., combining with it soon after, steamboat navigation upon lake Winnebago and the Fox River, from Berlin to Oshkosh. During the early sixties he was joined by James H. Palmeter, then of Oshkosh, and Ruddock & Palmeter built two mills at Berlin, obtaining their logs largely from the Wolf River, towing them upstream in the "Little Fox" in rafts towed by horse-powerboats, which introduced an element into log towing of which we can learn in no other section. The horse power being unable to tow directly, was supplied with a "growser," answering to the "kedge" of ordinary vessels, being a long pole with steel pointed arms; the boat stemming the current to the length of the lines, and dropping the growser, held on until the raft was hauled up by the boat's capstan, when a similar growser dropped from the head of the raft, held it until the boat could again run up stream and make fast. Market for the product was found in the surrounding country and the territory reached by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, and with an increasing demand the firm erected a mill at Winneconne, on the Wolf River.

The Berlin mills were equipped each with single circulars, shingle and lath machinery. At the Winneconne mill were two circulars, with newly introduced gang edgers, and other improved machinery. In 1867 the firm organized a partnership with Gifford, L. W. Nuttall and A. B. Leonard, of Manistee, under the name of Gifford, Ruddock & Co., and erected a two-circular mill, with all modern improvements, especially designed for cutting bill stuff or dimension lumber, together with shingles and lath. In connection with this mill the company purchased large bodies of the high-grade pine timber lands, for which the Manistee river has been noted, to the extent of 400,000,000 feet, stumpage estimate. In 1872 Gifford, Ruddock & Co. opened a sales yard in Chicago, locating on Laflin Street south of Twenty-second Street, the premises having previously been occupied as a brick yard. Here the firm and its successors remained until the final closing out of the business in 1887, when the Chicago business was taken charge of by Mr. Palmeter, that of the woods and mill by Mr. Ruddock. In 1876 Mr. Gifford went out and the firm became Ruddock, Palmeter & Co., Charles H., a son of Mr. Ruddock, taking his place as a member of the firm. This continued for five years, until in 1881, when the designation was changed to Ruddock, Nuttall & Co., Mr. Palmeter retiring. In 1885 the Manistee property, consisting of mills and timber lands, was sold to E. Buckley, of Manistee, and the Chicago yard passed into the hands of Ruddock Bros. (Charles H. and Frederick S.), sons of Thomas. Frederick S. died in California in 1887. About 1885 Mr. Ruddock purchased a large ranch near Los Angeles, Cal., where he set out about 26,000 fruit trees, including 9,000 orange, 3,000 lemon and 14,000 prune, apricot, fig, walnut and olive trees. In the beautiful residence which he erected upon this earthly paradise he resided from 1886 until January 17, 1890, when the angel of death summoned him to the sweeter groves and more enduring habitations, to which his younger son had been called three years before. His widow, with one son (Charles H.) and two daughters, survive and make their home at "Covina," as the California ranch is named. Few men have lived busier or more useful lives.

Charles H. Ruddock, the oldest son of Thomas S. Ruddock, a pioneer in the lumber manufacture of the Northwest, was born at Racine, Wis., in 1848, and was educated at the schools of Berlin, Wis., to which point his parents had removed a short time previous. At the age of sixteen Charles left school and began work in and about the saw mills and lumber yards of his father at Berlin, filling various positions, from the log jack of the mill to the shipment and sale of lumber from the yard. In the spring of 1868 he came to Chicago and entered the office of J. Beidler & Bro. as shipping clerk, where, remaining but one year, he returned to Berlin to assume the duties of receiving and paying teller of the First National Bank of Berlin. In the spring of 1871 he returned to his first love, and, in connection with E. B. Simpson, opened an office in Milwaukee for the sale of lumber on commission, the designation of the firm being PL. B. Simpson & Co., and the business prospering Mr. Ruddock came to Chicago, and, as resident partner of the same firm, opened an office at 238 South Water Street. This continued until 1876, when Mr. Ruddock withdrew and became a member of the yard firm of Gifford, Ruddock & Co., as a junior partner, and in 1881 as managing partner of their successors, Ruddock, Nuttall & Co., so remaining until the firm closing out its business in 1887, Mr. Ruddock went to Minneapolis, Minn., and incorporated in connection with his brother Frederick S., the C.

H. Ruddock Lumber Company of that place. Frederick S. dying in California the same year, the business continued until closed out in 1890, in the spring of which year Mr. Ruddock purchased a large tract of cypress lands in Louisiana, thirty miles from New Orleans, and established the Ruddock Cypress Company.

In 1881 Mr. Ruddock was married to Miss Nellie Richards, of Springfield, Mass., who died during the same year. In 1885 Mr. Ruddock was married to Miss Sarah, daughter of A. M. Billings, Esq., president of the Chicago Gas Light Company, of Chicago, by whom he has one son.

While a resident of Chicago Mr. Ruddock divides his time largely between his cypress operations in the South and the beautiful orange groves planted by his father at Covina, near Los Angeles, Cal. It is no flattery to add that his reputation as a business man of the strictest honor and integrity is held in the highest esteem.

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