RUDDLES MILL — Since Philip and Michele Foley moved here 35 years ago from Cynthiana, they have worked to restore not one but two houses built in the 1790s.
Few people would be that tenacious — or, as the Foleys say, that foolish. But tenaciousness comes naturally to this town. Its founders returned here after surviving a bloody attack and years of captivity in Shawnee villages near Detroit.
Both the elegant home where the Foleys live and a rough, stone house the town's founder built for his son will be on tour Sunday afternoon during Historic Paris-Bourbon County's annual Fall Open House. The tour also includes nearby Moore's Chapel, the 1850s Greek Revival sanctuary of Ruddles Mill United Methodist Church.
Even today, few people agree on how to spell this unincorporated community of about 75 households at the confluence of Hinkston and Stoner creeks in northern Bourbon County. It goes by various singular, plural and possessive forms of Ruddle, Ruddel, Ruddell and Mill.
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But there is no uncertainty about the town's founder and namesake. Capt. Isaac Ruddell, a pioneer and Revolutionary War officer, is buried here, too, at Mouth of Stoner Presbyterian Cemetery.
In 1779, Ruddell enlarged and fortified pioneer cabins built a few years earlier in a nearby area of what is now Harrison County. But the next summer, a thousand Shawnee warriors and Canadian soldiers under the command of British Capt. Henry Bird attacked Ruddell's Station and other nearby settlements.
More than 20 settlers were killed, and dozens more men, women and children were taken prisoner, marched to Detroit and held captive for years. After their release, Ruddell and most of his family returned to Kentucky and built a mill here in 1788.
But two of Ruddell's sons, Stephen and Abraham, had been adopted by the Shawnee and stayed with the tribe for 15 years. Stephen, who married a Shawnee woman and was a chief, rejoined white civilization and became a Baptist preacher and missionary among the Shawnee, Delaware and Wyandot tribes in Ohio and Indiana.
Abraham returned to Kentucky in 1795, and his father built him the stone house the Foleys are gradually restoring near the creek banks. Abraham Ruddell operated a saw and grist mill there for several years before moving to Arkansas and fighting in the War of 1812.
The Foleys have removed wooden additions to the house, rebuilt the chimneys and put a steel frame in the basement to keep the cellar from collapsing. "All I can say is it's not going to fall down," she said. "We hope to do more one of these days."
Things are much nicer up the hill, at the Federal-style house where the Foleys have lived since 1979. They think the main rooms, each built as a separate unit with thick brick walls, were constructed in the 1790s and early 1800s.
Making the place habitable and comfortable was a long process for them and their two daughters, who are now grown and living near Nashville and Cincinnati.
The biggest chores — aside from electricity and plumbing and restoring the original woodwork — were undoing previous owners' "improvements". The Foleys found the house's original wooden mantles in a barn, but one was badly warped from years of storage. A neighbor built a wood frame to gradually bend it back into shape so it could be returned to the house.
"Every morning we would water it down and tighten the clamps until it got straight," she said. "At one point, all of the oil paint and buttermilk paint just started popping off."
The Foleys are retired from state government jobs. They have planted their big yard with more than 20 varieties of magnolia trees, gardens and beds for their business, Ruddles Mills Perennials and Native Plants.
It is one of the few businesses left in Ruddles Mill, which once had several mills and distilleries. The town has many early 19th-century structures, most of which are still in use after multiple renovations. People here don't give up easily.