History of Ruff WA

I have been doing research on the town of Ruff, Washington. My family’s farm was just northeast of this once thriving little town that is located in Grant County, Washington. My father’s birth certificate actually lists Ruff as his birthplace and I wanted to research what I could find about the community.

Many of the early settlers including my grandparents were Bessarabia Germans as they came to America from Bessarabia, Russia which is known as Moldova today. My great grandparents on my father’s side came to American in 1891 when my grandfather was 5 years old. It was interesting to find that my grandmother was also from Bessarabia and came to America later and married my grandfather in Washington state. They eventually homesteaded near Ruff Washington and were dry land wheat farmers.

I believe the town of Ruff was established around 1900 and had several businesses and at least one church the Ruff Evangelical Church. Here are a few photos that I found in my father’s old photo album.

I remember going to the Ruff store as a young girl with my Dad in the early 60’s and bought a soda pop there. I am not sure that the original store building still exists. When you look at an aerial satellite map of the area I can’t see much in the once downtown area still standing anymore.

(Photo source: Odessa Record)

The only images I was able to find on the Internet today is this you-tube video taken of Ruff in 2009 which shows the grain elevators and tanks and just a glimpse of the remaining buildings in the town.

There are at least two rural cemeteries near Ruff. One is the Kappel Cemetery or East Ruff Cemetery and the Ruff Schultz Memorial Cemetery.

Maggie Rail verified and transcribed both of these cemeteries. You can see her detailed records of the Kappel Cemetery and the Ruff Schultz Memorial Cemetery on the links on each I have attached.

While this is just a little of the history of the Ruff Washington area, I hope if you found it useful that you let me know. Leave a comment or add any additional knowledge you may have of the area for me in your comments. Thank you!

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36 Responses to “History of Ruff WA”

  1. June 29, 2015 at 6:33 am #

    Do you have any more pictures of the town of Ruff? It isy understanding that there were four churches. I have a copy of a check written on the Ruff State Bank. It would be nice to know a little more about the town and businesses that existed there. I know get moved some of the buildings to Moses Lake when it was started.

    • Cindy June 29, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

      Don – I don’t personally have any other pictures of Ruff but have you checked with the Odessa Record? Also the Odessa Historical Society in Odessa, Washington is said to have more photos and information. I did find this Big Bend railroad site that does have some additional information about Ruff that you may find interesting. This article has details about some of the old businesses and history behind the area that I found useful. I also sent you an email if you’d like to correspond further.
      Best wishes!

      • July 30, 2019 at 3:18 pm #

        I live in Ruff. There’s only one building that I know of that’s “original” still standing. If you really want more info let me know.

        • Cindy July 30, 2019 at 7:23 pm #

          Aspen – Thanks for replying. What is the last original building that you know of?

    • December 18, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

      Hello, wife & I were cleaning out a house found a pic that may interest you, it is a pic of a group of people in front of a church or school maybe, the writing under the photo is ” Ebenezer Jugend Verein, Ruff, Wash. Sept. 23, 1917.” On back it says # 1 Henry Miller # 14 Dorothy Miller #21 Eva Miller # 30 Clara Miller. The photo is very clear & sharp, the glass & frame has what looks like paint over spray on it but am sure it can be cleaned up. Let us know if interested, we live in eastern Washington, contact e-mail. Thanks Dave

      • Cindy December 28, 2015 at 8:26 am #

        Dave – Wow such an old picture. I think the title is “Ebenezer Youth Association, Ruff, Wash” I sure wish my Dad was alive to see if he knew the names. Can you scan the photo? I’d love to see it.

        Thanks so much for reaching out to me about this.


  2. May 31, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    I will check for more pics for you. My great grandparents, and grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc are buried in the Kappel Cemetary. Farmed the area for a long time.

    • Cindy May 31, 2016 at 7:00 pm #

      Kathy – Thank you for the comment. I sent you an email and hope to share some family history and photos with you if possible.

  3. June 14, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

    I lived there in the late 70’s my parent owned and ran the general store. We also owned the 2 lots acrossed from the store and I believe the water well. I know there there was a hotel there and the church was almost completely down. What great memories of this little town.

    • Cindy June 14, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

      Hellen – So glad you shared your history of Ruff and your family’s store information with me. I remember going in the store in the early 60s for a pop with my Dad. I don’t think the store is there anymore but I have fond memories of it.

  4. December 14, 2016 at 9:11 pm #

    My dad was born here and played baseball for the fabulous Ruff baseball team. He died when I was young and I was interested in the team. It seems it was special and well known in the area. His name was Albert (Skin) Schell. He was a pitcher for the team. Have you heard anything about this.

    • Cindy December 16, 2016 at 6:49 am #

      @Phillip – I am not familiar with the Ruff baseball team but my Dad and other neighbor kids got together at our farm and played baseball. One of the Kagele’s was telling me that they rode horses up to our family’s farm to play baseball. I just learned about that recently. I wish my Dad was still alive so I could ask him more about the area baseball teams and games. Thanks so much for sharing your family’s history here.

    • March 14, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

      I have a picture of an Odessa baseball team. I am not from the area so would welcome any info. As I said below, my grandmother’s sister Maud Johnson Thiel taught school in the area I believe and this picture may have been associated with her family there in Washington. Any info is welcome regarding the ball team or the school. They are pretty cool pictures, and old.

      • Cindy March 15, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

        Nancy – I loved hearing about your family and the photo of the Odessa baseball team. My Dad went to school in Odessa in his later years when there wasn’t at Ruff school any longer. I know baseball was an important sport in the area and neighboring kids got together at my grandparents farm for baseball games. I sent you a PM with more info and so happy we could connect and share our family’s history of the area.

  5. December 24, 2016 at 11:52 pm #

    My family.. The Warrens were born and raised there check out our page on Facebook.. Growing up in Ruff..

    • Cindy December 30, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

      Merrilyn – I sent you a private email but didn’t hear from you yet. I do remember several of the Warrens from Ruff. My Dad was long-time friends with many of the family. I hope you read this reply and respond again.

  6. March 14, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    I believe that my Grandmother’s sister Maud Johnson Thiel taught school in the area. I have a photo that was made in Ruff. I also have an old picture of an Odessa baseball team. Glad to have found your page! Are you familiar with a one room school in the area?

  7. July 3, 2017 at 11:42 pm #

    My great grandparents settled in Ruff. Also a wheat farm and were also Germans from Bessarabia Russia. The last name was Schwartz, I believe they settled in Ruff around 1880 or 1890.

    • Cindy July 4, 2017 at 9:23 am #

      Tracie – I bet our great grandparents knew each other. I recognize the Schwartz name and will ask my mom if she remembers the family from the Ruff and Odessa area.
      My great grandpa and grandma came to America 1891 and bought the farm near Ruff in 1920.

    • January 11, 2018 at 4:31 pm #

      Hi Tracie! I’m looking for information on the family Gottschalk. They were German from Romania. Thanks!

  8. July 23, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

    Great read. My family homestead was in Ruff. I have no pictures so if you could suggest where I could get a few pictures that would be great.

    • Cindy July 24, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

      @Dean- you might want to check with the Odessa Historical Museum for more info and photos. I know they have many old things from the area. Also the Odessa Record newspaper prints old pictures now and then. You might check out their archives for Ruff. I’m not sure what may be available on-line or you can call their offices. Best wishes and thanks for leaving a comment.

    • June 30, 2020 at 10:48 am #

      I really enjoyed your story of ruff wa. My grandpa Joe mende lived there while my mom was growing up there. Both my parents are buried at the schultz ruff cemetary. As my grandparents and great grandparents. My grandma lived there as well when she was little. Last name of Poggensee. I may have some pictures as well. I will look.

      • Cindy June 30, 2020 at 6:32 pm #

        @Gina – I remember the name Joe Mende. I believe he was friends with my Dad. Small world but then again Ruff was a small, rural community. I think back in the 40s and 50s everyone around there were either related or friends with each other.

  9. July 31, 2017 at 10:30 pm #


  10. Betty Clark January 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm #

    Do you know when the grain elevator was built . My husband was one of the building persons by pouring the concrete for Colville Valley Concrete.

    • Cindy January 15, 2018 at 9:38 am #

      Betty – I sent you an email with a few links to check out about the Ruff elevator. It looks like there was a wheat warehouse there starting in 1912. See these articles in this link. There appears to have been several additions to the warehouse over the years. What year did your husband work on the elevator?

  11. May 5, 2018 at 10:02 am #

    We have just come back to Alberta after visiting Ruff, Washington. We were delighted to find the grave of Godfried Ruff in the Ruff Shultz cemetery. Godfried is my husband’s great grandfather. Godfried’s son, August, immigrated to southern Alberta. Can you tell me about the state of the cemetery? It looked newly plowed with tractor tracks. Also it looked like new gravestones were piled on top of cement blocks. Delighted about the graveyard “find”,disappointed in the state of the town. There is one home that looks like any body cares. Can I “talk” to you via email? Lorene Ruff

    • Cindy May 18, 2018 at 11:27 am #

      @Harvey and Lorene – I sent you an email with more info. Thank you so much for your comment. It is sad that there isn’t really anything left in Ruff anymore.

    • July 15, 2019 at 5:33 am #

      The front fence and gate were recently destroyed by vandals at the Ruff Schultz cemetery. Harvey Ruff, my cousin actually owns the cemetery. He is putting together a work party to put the fence back up and reconstruct the gate

      • Cindy July 15, 2019 at 6:29 am #

        @Don – So sorry to hear vandals damage the cemetery. Hopefully they can repair the fence and gate soon. Very sad to think someone would want to bring harm to the resting place of our loved ones.

  12. December 27, 2018 at 10:07 am #

    I lived in Ruff from the time I was born until I was 19 I have a few pictures from Ruff. My maiden name is Schell.

    • Cindy January 6, 2019 at 6:45 pm #

      Thanks Gloria for the comment. I sent you an email and glad we could discuss further our common friends and people from Ruff. It is so sad to hear that the Ruff store is gone. I have such fond memories of going there with my dad and getting a bottle of pop in the summer.

  13. August 7, 2019 at 1:38 pm #

    hi, my name Paul Collins. I too lived in Ruff, I at one time owned the hotel, my mother and stepfather (corcorans,clyde &jimi) own and ran the town store for years, my sister own a house on main street. im writing this to let you know what happen to both the hotel and store, they were BURNT DOWN .. there was a feud on going with a family that lived there too that is witnessed by another family, just a little history, to a town never to forgotten.

    • Cindy August 11, 2019 at 7:13 pm #

      Thanks Paul for your comments. I did edit out the names as we don’t want to get in trouble for posting names concerning fires on this blog.

  14. September 17, 2020 at 3:03 pm #

    Hi… My name is Richard Walters. My mother’s maiden name was Florence Christina Ruff. She was born in Grant County. My grandfather was Jacob Ruff who passed away in 1947. My uncle Ralph had mentioned Besserabia. I was born in 1945 and unfortunately I do not recall my grandfather. He most likely was a interesting person.

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