'Ruddell Riddle' aims to highlight State Archives


The State Archives’ “Ruddell Riddle” event on Jan. 30 is moving to a new location in Olympia to accommodate a larger-than-expected gathering. The Ruddell Riddle now will be held in the auditorium of the General Administration Building, 210 – 11th Ave. SW, on the north end of the Capitol Campus. Click here for a map and directions to the “GA” Building — http://www.sos.wa.gov/heritage/pdf/Directions-to-the-General-Administration-Building.pdf . The free event originally was scheduled to be held at the State Archives Building, but more Ruddell family descendants and other visitors are now anticipated than can be fit comfortably inside the Archives facility. The number of available seats for the event and the $10 lunch is limited, so people are asked to RSVP soon at http://www.sos.wa.gov/heritage/RuddellRSVP.aspx .


Have you ever wanted to explore your family’s history but don’t know how? Are you into genealogy and want to learn more about this increasingly popular activity?

The State Archives is hosting an event on Jan. 30 that is open to the public and designed specifically with genealogy and history buffs in mind.

Called the “Ruddell Riddle,” this free event will use exhibits and workshops provided by State Archives and State Library staff to explore the history of the Ruddells, one of Thurston County’s most influential pioneer families.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said the event will show visitors the wide array of resources and information that the State Archives, State Library and Washington State Heritage Center make available to the public, especially those interested in genealogy or Washington history.

The State Archives, State Library, Washington State Heritage Center, local heritage organizations and volunteer genealogists are collaborating on the project.

The open house will feature historic photographs and documents dating back to the 1800s. Some Ruddell descendants will share photos and stories about their family history. About 30 Ruddell descendants, living in Elma, Sequim, Mount Vernon, Raymond, East Wenatchee and Yakima, as well as Oregon and California, already have indicated they will be at the event, with more anticipated to attend.

“The Ruddells are one of many pioneering families who made their mark in this state,” said State Archivist Jerry Handfield. “Their inspiring story is just one story among millions and it demonstrates clearly the value of preserving our basic legal and historical records so future generations can learn more about the people and events that shaped Washington’s early years as a territory and state.”


Here is the event’s itinerary:

9 – 10 a.m. / Open house, with tours of Archives Building. Coffee, juice and pastries provided.

10 – 10:20 a.m. / Remarks by Secretary Reed, Assistant Secretary of State Steve Excell, State Archivist Jerry Handfield and State Librarian Jan Walsh

10:20 – 11:15 a.m. / Stories of the Ruddell family from Ruddell descendants.

11:15 a.m. – 12 p.m. / Workshop: Finding Families: an Introduction to Genealogy. Using the Digital Archives’ online resources.

12 – 12:45 p.m. / Lunch (box lunches must be ordered in advance for $10 apiece. To order, go to http://www.sos.wa.gov/heritage/RuddellRSVP.aspx .

12:45 – 1:15 p.m. / Workshop: Starting your family history. Researching your home.

1:15 – 1:45 p.m. / Workshop: Capturing the oral histories of your family.

1:45 – 2 p.m. / Concluding remarks by Steve Excell and Jerry Handfield with Ruddell family members who wish to participate.

2 – 2:30 p.m. / Shuttle/bus ride or drive to Pioneer Cemetery on Ruddell Road.

2:30 – 3 p.m. / Wreath-laying ceremony at Stephen Duley Ruddell’s grave at Pioneer Cemetery.

The State Archives is located in Olympia at 1129 Washington St. SE, one block east of Capitol Way S. The State Archives is a division of the Office of Secretary of State.


The Ruddell family has a long and eventful history, dating back to colonial times. Stephen Ruddell was born in Virginia in 1768. His father, Isaac Ruddell, moved the family to Kentucky in 1774 or 1775. In June 1780, Indian forces attacked a fort located at Ruddell Martin Station, Kentucky, placing most of the captured party among the Shawnee and Deleware tribes. Most of those captured were freed, except for Stephen Ruddell and his brother, Abraham.

Stephen Ruddell lived with the Shawnee tribe for 15 years. He was raised in the same village as Tecumseh, who later became a Shawnee chief who led his tribe in a war against U.S. forces in 1812. Stephen Ruddell and Tecumseh became friends. Stephen Ruddell later became a Baptist preacher, converting many Shawnees to Christianity.

One of Rev. Ruddell’s sons, Stephen Duley Ruddell, moved to Washington territory with his family. They settled in Thurston County in 1852, farming its land on Chambers Prairie.

Stephen Duley Ruddell was Washington’s first territorial assessor, a county commissioner for two terms, and served one term in the state Legislature. According to the Thurston County Historic Commission, Ruddell died in 1891.