Almon Burr Ruggles

Born in Brookfield, Massachussetts on the Ides of March 1840, Almon Burr Ruggles was the son of Sherman Booth Ruggles and Sara Burr (Oakely) Ruggles. He was a descendant of Aaron Burr’s sister, as well as Thomas Dudley, governor and deputy governor of Massachusetts from 1630-1635.
Almon received both a common school and academic education. At the age of 16, he began work as a clerk in the dry goods store of W.H. Clark of Danbury Connecticut, and the next year he taught at a school in nearby Bridgewater, Connecticut. After one term he was offered a position in the store of Starr, Clark and Company of Watertown, were he remained for two years.
In 1860, Ruggles entered business for himself and, with his brother, opened the general merchandise store of Henry B Ruggles (1837 – 1865) and A.B. Ruggles in Shelton, Connecticut. After one year his brother sold his interest to C.W. Randall and the store’s name was changed to Ruggles and Randall and so remained for eighteen years, the last six of which saw a branch store in Birmingham as well as Shelton.
Almon B. Ruggles and Susan Smith Shelton were married on April 28, 1862, and resided for ten years in the Shelton ancestral home in Southbury, Connecticut. In 1872, the family moved to Shelton, Connecticut. Over the years Almon and Susan became the parents of seven children, Sara Elizabeth, Henry Benjamin, Nell Hinman, Anne Jane, Frederick Shelton, Charles Almon and Susan Eloisa.
From 1882 until 1889, Ruggles was in the hardware business as a member of the firm of Ruggles and Clark and was, from 1878 to 1889, also the proprietor of a highly renowned toy manufacturing establishment in Shelton.
Ruggles began business in a modest way. By industry, honesty and ability during his 28 years of active mercantile life, he not only enjoyed financial comfort but won the esteem and confidence of the community and filled many offices of trust and responsibility. He was the postmaster of Southbury for eleven years, a justice of the peace, grand juror, assessor and town auditor. He was chairman of the Republican Town Committee for eighteen years in Huntington and for ten years in Southbury. He was a member of the Connecticut State Legislature in 1884 and served on the Committee on Banks. He was an active member of the committee to secure the charter for the Borough of Shelton. He was also one of its original incorporators and was similarly identified with the Derby Saving Bank. He was a member of the Odd Fellows and a Grand Master of the Ousatonic Lodge #6, I.O.O.F, of Shelton.
Following a very extensive business trip around the United States during 1889-1890, during which he explored Southern California, Ruggles sold out his business interests in Connecticut and brought his family to Redlands in March of 1891. He immediately established a home at the corner of Garden and Hilton in Redlands Heights, surrounded by a terraced orange grove.
This property was subdivided in 1960 and the Ruggles home was destroyed by fire on May 13, 1960 , while in the process of being moved.
Ruggles was one of the original members and the secretary manager of the Redlands Orange Growers Association and marketed his fruit as “Rose Brand” oranges. Much of the success of that association was due to his ability as a manager and to his integrity as a businessman. He was director and vice president of the Redlands Orange Grove and Water Company and a director and secretary of the Redlands Heights Water Company. He made a thorough study of the ever-present water problems in the area, and was well acquainted with the local conditions. He frequently wrote editorials for the New York Times, usually extolling the virtues of Southern California living.
Prior to Ruggles’ arrival in Redlands, in October, 1889, some of the wealthier women in the city had organized and conducted a Woman’s Exchange in the Book and Art
Store of Mrs. J. L. Jones, collecting some money in the process that they placed in the Union Bank as seed money toward the establishment of a public library.
Some two years later, when Ruggles learned of the effort, he bave the movement encouragement. The proposition of establishing a reading room and public library was brought to general attention by a meeting called by Alfred H. Smiley, J. B. Breed,
Albert K. Smiley, Ruggles and others on December 5, 1891. Consequently, in March, 1892, a coffee
parlor and reading room was opened in the old Y. M. C. A. Building on East State Street. On November 1, 1893, Alfred H. Smiley, raised the matter of a public library before the city trustees and asked their assistance. On November 23, 1893, a public meeting at Redlands City Hall was held, at which A. H. Smiley was elected chairman and Prof. C. N. Andrews’, secretary.
Mr. Smiley reported he had received subscriptions amounting to fourteen hundred dollars and presented a plan of temporary organization until the next city election.
On motion the meeting resolved itself into an association, the Redlands Public Library Association, and the trustees elected were A. H. Smiley, T. E. N. Eaton, F. P. Meserve, J. B. Breed, Almon Burr Ruggles, Mrs. W. Howard White, Mrs. N. S. McAbee and Miss L. E. Foote. Dr. Eaton subsequently resigned and was replaced by the Reverend A. L. Park.
These trustees immediately asked gifts of books, and in all about two thousand dollars was raised by voluntary contributions. January 1, 1894, the board purchased books to the value of a thousand dollars. The trustees on February 7, 1894, donated the library to the city, and the city trustees on the following day accepted the gift. The new library, consisting of about two thousand volumes, was inspected at a general public reception held in the Y. M. C. A. Building on Cajon Street on Washington’s birthday 1894. At a formal meeting in the city trustees’ meeting chambers Alfred H. Smiley on behalf of the trustees dedicated the library to the people and it was accepted on their behalf by Mayor Edward G. Judson.
In the meantime, on December 12, 1893, the Redlands Chamber of Commerce was organized and Ruggles was elected as its first president.
There had been a good deal of political discontent in the southernmost lying area of San Bernardino County as early as 1892. In early 1893, what is today Riverside County secceded from San Bernardino County. The new county was fomred on July 1, 1893. Albert S. White, who is considered a great patriot in Riverside County but a turncoat traitor in San Bernardino County, had been San Bernardino County’s Third District Supervisor. Residing in Riverside, he transferred his affiliation to his new county, and turned his back on San Bernardino county. With Fred Loveland of Winchester, S.A. Stewart of Elsinore, William McVicar of Corona and Martin Hoover of Riverside, white formed Riverside County’s first board of supervisors.
On July 17, 1893, Almon Ruggles was nominated by Mayor Frank Prescott of Redlands at a special Republican convention to become the new San Bernardino county Third District supervisor. He was elected, with only token opposition on August 8, 1893, and took office on August 14, serving San Bernardino County faithfully, indeed far more faithfully than had his predecessor White.
Ruggles remained in office until January 8, 1897. He did not seek reelection and was succeeded by James B. Glover, also of Redlands.
Following years of declining health, Mr. Ruggles died at his home on October 3, 1901. He was survived by his widow, four daughters, three sons and many close friends. He was a member of the Redlands Trinity Church and was the senior warden of the parish. He was highly respected as a Christian gentleman and Redlands was a finer place because of his having lived there.

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