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)

Additional photos added January 2021 are credited to Michael Giese who has agreed to allow me to post them on this page. The first photo is of Hotel Ruff on Main Street looking West with the Ruff Bank on the right.
Hotel Ruff Washington

One more closeup of the Hotel front and what Michael said was Post Office shown too.
Ruff Hotel

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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70 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 19, 2020 at 8:04 am #

            The old FORD Garage is still standing I helped the guy that owed it put tin on it . He has passed away and the House across the street is still standing the last original building’s the only two left , everything else is gone except for the old water well, which is in the lot beside / behind the old ford garage . RUFF what a town.

          • December 8, 2022 at 4:11 pm #

            I couldn’t tell who the original author is of this post. I have family from there. Please contact me. Thank you.

          • Cindy January 8, 2023 at 9:47 am #

            Thanks for the comment Joanna. I will email you.

        • February 24, 2023 at 12:38 pm #

          I’m not sure if this page is still active but I’m so emotional reading this blog and these comments. I know the history behind this town as this town was named after my family, The Ruffs. I am interested in any photos, stories or information you may have. I know that one of the last few houses left standing there belonged to my great grandpa, Reuben Ruff, where he farmed until he & his brothers sold their remaining pieces of land to the government. However, those photos and home videos of the farmhous, barn and cemetery are all I have left. Please let me know if you have any information…

          • Cindy February 26, 2023 at 9:17 am #

            Glad you enjoyed reading the blog and seeing the photos I have posted. I will reach out directly to you in a PM to talk further.

          • April 6, 2024 at 3:32 pm #

            Hi there,
            My wife is a Ruff, the granddaughter of August Ruff and daughter of David Ruff. August, a son of Gottfried Ruff, moved to Schuler Alberta and then homesteaded in Thorsby Alberta. My wife grew up in Thorsby.

            We are hoping, health allowing, to visit Ruff WA this summer.

            Please reply to my email address so that we may contact you if and when we visit.

            Ian Simpson

          • Cindy April 7, 2024 at 10:20 am #

            @Ian, I don’t live in the area so I won’t be able to visit Ruff with you. Thank you for posting about your family and I hope that you do get the chance to visit the area someday.

          • July 5, 2024 at 3:24 pm #

            Please fill me in on your family history, pictures or information you may have. My family homestead was in ruff

          • Cindy July 6, 2024 at 9:55 am #

            @Dean, read through these comments and check out the pictures I have posted. I will also send you a PM.

          • July 10, 2024 at 2:29 pm #

            Trying to research Ruff as my family settled there anything you could share would be great

    • 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.


      • December 3, 2020 at 8:52 am #

        Hi my name is Michael Miller my grandma lived in Ruff as a child her last name before she was married was Zundel however my dad and his two brothers had Miller as a last name but for some reason he said he didn’t know his dad a no one would say clearly who he was or want to talk about the father.
        I clearly have the last name Miller because my father but none of my other relatives on his side have miller as a last name.
        I would love to see this picture and if possible have a copy.
        Thank you,
        Michael Miller

        • Cindy December 11, 2020 at 1:40 pm #

          @Micheal – I recognize the last name of Zundel but do not personally know anyone in the family. I sent a message to Dave in hopes that he will respond to your question. Hope you can find out more or get the pictures you were asking about.

  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.

        • November 28, 2023 at 1:28 pm #

          Hi Cindy, My grandma was from Ruff. Her dad was Fred Bohnet. She was Julianna Witt. Don Kingsley

    • June 30, 2023 at 10:21 pm #

      I didn’t know that the Ruff baseball team was considered fabulous but I recall a game they played at Harrington in the late 40’s. Harrington won the game 32 to 0. I was 10 or 11 at the time and remember it because the score was so lopsided.

  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.

      • July 21, 2021 at 5:37 pm #

        yes i too knew marlene and jereld,bobby and lesa,richard,linda.cal,tommy

    • July 21, 2021 at 5:49 pm #

      richard was the only warren still living there,in the new house jerrold built after the original burnt down

  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.

    • August 17, 2023 at 12:50 pm #

      Hi. This Dennis Ruff. I am the grandson of John Ruff who is your grandfather’s brother. I own property in ruff. Is Harvey the Don of Sam Ruff?

  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.

    • December 19, 2020 at 6:21 am #

      The store and Motel was taken down not burnt down Josh my brother in law took down the Motel and my brother took down the store and sold all the wood from them.

  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.

    • June 19, 2022 at 5:33 pm #

      Hi. My grandfather was John Ruff, brother to Jacob Ruff. You must be related to Doris Ruff Huffman who died recently.

  15. December 19, 2020 at 5:48 am #

    The Hotel and store was Not burnt down my brother in law took it down and the store my brother took it down and the sold the wood from them. Yes I used to live there.

    • July 21, 2021 at 5:23 pm #

      i owned the hotel, my parents owned the store ‘my sister owned

  16. December 19, 2020 at 6:14 am #

    Yes I hated that place as a kid. Ruff best place to be away from. I have my three grand parents my mom and dad two brothers all buried out there and after we kids are all gone they all will be forgotten about. Sad but true

  17. December 19, 2020 at 7:21 am #

    ( Rick Mende ) was at one time married to my sister, He is the one that took down the old rail-road House and sold the lumber and used some of it on his shop in Marlin town . Yes I knew Joe/ Berry/ Rick/and Don Mende. How about Norman / John/ Harvey/ Betty / loma / Bischoff . Monti Ring/ moved there when I was just 5 years old now 60. And most of the Cagle’s ( RUFF WA ,)

    • March 18, 2024 at 1:30 am #

      My aunt Kate (Becker) was married to Bill Bischoff. I may have met her kids once at my Grandma Barbara Becker´s funeral. I know that one of her sons was named Norman. My Grandpa, Jacob Becker and family moved there in 1905. .

  18. December 25, 2020 at 8:46 am #

    My mother, Verna (Peggy) Katharina Huether Giese, was born in Ruff on July 28, 1920 as were her two other sisters. Her older brother, Herbert, was born in Issaquah, Washington on February, 25, 1916. Her father and mother were John and Emelia (Mettler) Huether and were of German descent. John was in charge of the post office. John died on February 25, 1924 of cancer. Their son, Herbert, was 8 years old on that day. My mother and her remaining family moved to Eureka, South Dakota after John’s death. I have an old photo someplace with several buildings dated in the 1920’s.

  19. January 7, 2021 at 12:12 pm #

    Hello I am not from the town of Ruff but I’m very interested in eastern Washington history. While looking for a place to hunt pheasants years ago I came across an old one room school located east of Ruff. It is located on the west of N. Deal road between Schoessler road and W. Tokyo road. I recall that it was almost completely covered with vegetation and barely visible. I looked inside and noticed that the slate blackboards were still on the wall and a lot of paper articles spread all over inside. There was a question on the blog dated Mar 14, 2017 asking if you knew of a one room school east of Ruff and did not see a reply from you. Could this possibly be it? The name or any information about this school would be greatly appreciated. Bill

    • Cindy January 8, 2021 at 6:32 am #

      @Bill – I am not familiar with this old schoolhouse building. Hopefully someone else will respond. Edward Warren might be know about it. I will email him.

  20. June 3, 2021 at 8:56 pm #

    My Great grandfather Henry Peters ran the Hotel / boarding house in 1950’s , early 1960’s I remember visiting there as a child, buying candy at the gas station / grocery. I will check with family to see if there are any pictures from that time frame. As a child, I lived several miles south of Shrag and attended the Mennonite church on Deal road. they still have their annual auction on the first Saturday in October.

  21. July 21, 2021 at 5:32 pm #

    familys that owned and lived there-corcoran,riellys,collins,marshans, warrens,pierce. those are people i know that lived there, i was one of them, the only place that was torn down was the train depot by bobby warren with permission

  22. December 16, 2021 at 10:44 am #

    Hey! Very cool article! I recently started looking into my ancestry and I have ancestors buried out in the Ruff Schultz cemetery.. I have not gone out to look at the cemetery but it seems like they are buried in the center surrounded by the fence.. Christina Willging, if I’m not mistaken would be my great great great grandmother..

  23. September 29, 2022 at 12:18 pm #

    Thank you for this Ruff history which I just discovered. One of my family treasures is a large wedding certificate written in German. It announces the marriage in Ruff of my paternal grandparents in 1920. Both their parents (Beckers and Lehmans) were Volga Germans who eventually settled in the Ruff area. My dad went to school in Ruff through the eighth grade at which time the family moved to Cashmere. In 2000, my brother and I drove our father to Ruff to attend a gathering in Odessa. When we arrived, Dad exclaimed, “I know that woman!”, pointing to an elderly lady. It was one of his Ruff teachers, and she recognized him immediately. He was eighty, and Miss Lenhart (sp?) was in her nineties. They reminisced non-stop!

    • March 18, 2024 at 1:39 am #

      My grandparents were Beckers in Ruff. What was the first name of your grandparent that was a Becker.

      • Cindy April 7, 2024 at 10:24 am #

        @Lyle, I shared your post with a friend whose Grandfather was Emanuel (Manny) Becker. Not sure if you are related but they were from the Odessa area.

  24. March 17, 2023 at 10:11 pm #

    My grandparents were some of the earliest settlers in Ruff, before it was a town. They were Germans from what is South Ukraine today, and their town in that area was Kassel, Russia when they left in the early 1880’s. They homesteaded in Ruff around mid 1890’s, and farmed land there.
    The various Millers mentioned in the picture of the Ruff church, Henry, Dorothy, Clara, etc. were my aunts and my father Henry, named after my grandfather Henry Miller.
    We often visited Ruff in the 1950’s and 60’s as my father was close friends with Charlie Schell who owned the gas station/store/pool hall in Ruff. Charlie Schell helped my father and my family when my grandfather died in 1914, and my father was 10 years old. The woman who mentioned her maiden name was Schell, I am guessing is related to the same Charlie Schell?
    Dorothy was the oldest of my dad’s sisters in Ruff, as my older aunts stayed in the Dakotas when the family moved to Ruff. Originally there were three brothers who came to America, Christian, Frederich, and Henry Miller. But when my grandfather moved the family to Ruff, Wa. his bothers stayed in the Dakotas.
    I have the same picture of the church with numerous people standing in front of it, but no names on my copy, so I’m pleased to hear someone has a copy with some family names written on the picture.

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