Historic Ruskaup House in Drake, Missouri is an example of immigration to the Missouri River Valley in the 1800s

CJ Coombs

Front with gallery porch - Ben Ruskaup House, U.S. 50 West, Drake, Gasconade County, MO Photos from Survey HABS MO-1415.Photo byHistoric American Buildings Survey, creator/Library of Congress.

The Ruskaup House is a historic home located near Drake, Missouri in Gasconade County. This is a vernacular German farmhouse made of rubble stone. This house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 29, 1983.

Rubble stone is irregularly-sized, rough stone which can be used for a variety of purposes, including rubble walls, fill, and stepping stones. People have been building with this type of stone for thousands of years, and it continues to be a popular building material in regions where there are ample supplies of rough stone. (Source.)

The Ruskaup farmhouse and smokehouse were constructed with variations of the rubble technique. A large portion of the house contained rubble construction.

Doorway detail - Ben Ruskaup House, U.S. 50 West, Drake, Gasconade County, MO Photos from Survey HABS MO-1415.Photo byHistoric American Buildings Survey, creator/Library of Congress.

An original board and batten Dutch door is centered in the four bays of the facade.

A batten door is a simple door constructed of boards in a row, parallel, throughout the whole of its length held together by perpendicular and diagonal support battens. This kind of door is secured using battens that are nailed or fastened with screws in a crosswise manner. They are often used on barns and storage sheds. (Source.)

This house is important because it represents an early example of a Germanic stone farmhouse and a part of a German settlement in the Missouri River Valley. This is also part of the history of immigration in Missouri.

The history of the house can teach about the habits of construction used, especially by the immigrants in Gasconade County. In 1838, Charles Osterwald purchased a tract of land from the government which includes the site of the Ruskaup House. In 1842, the property was sold to Heinrich Peters. In 1845, the property was purchased by Heinrich Ruskaup.

Ruskaup's descendants say that Ruskaup and his wife, Maria, arrived in Louisiana from Germany in the late 1820s. From there, Ruskaup worked on a riverboat that was operating between New Orleans and St. Louis. His wife worked as a maid for wealthy French families.

It's believed that Ruskaup built his house in two phases and that the second one may have been intended to be a store that had a short life span (added around 1860-1864). The oldest section to the right of the central hall dates from around 1845-1850. The summer kitchen and cure house were added around 1880.

Heinrich Ruskaup died on January 9, 1864, at age 52 or 53. He's buried in the Atkins cemetery which was family-owned. His wife, Mary E. Witte Ruskaup, died on January 20, 1891, at age 78 and is buried there also.

Interior hall and door - Ben Ruskaup House, U.S. 50 West, Drake, Gasconade County, MO. Photos from Survey HABS MO-1415.Photo byHistoric American Buildings Survey, creator/Library of Congress.

The house was in the Ruskaup family until 1977 when it was purchased by Harry and Joyce Niewoehner. They and a son spent a lot of time restoring the house.

The front porch was rebuilt, and though new timbers were used, the design reproduces accurately the original plan. Both the plank floors and subflooring have been extensively repaired, and the badly deteriorating floor in the living room replaced. (Source.)

In regard to the building techniques used in constructing the house, it was hard to determine which part of Europe the techniques were from, or the stone mason. There was evidence though by 1860, that the Swiss and Dutch masons in Gasconade County trained in Hesse, Prussia, and Bavaria.

Not far from the Ruskaup House was another dwelling called the Nesse House that was similarly built according to the floor plan. It's believed the same mason was involved with the building of both homes.

Drake, Missouri

Drake is a small unincorporated village in Gasconade County, Missouri. There used to be a post office that was established in 1868 and operated until 1936. It’s named after U.S. Senator Charles D. Drake (1811–1892). Drake is south of Hermann by 18 miles.

It's believed that Greenberry Lee is the first settler in the area and he built a log cabin there in 1835.

The first frame house was built in l86l, by Dr. H. A. Gross. The first merchant was Casper H. Riepe in 1865; and the first druggist and physician, H. A. Green, in l860; the first blacksmith was Mike Miller, in 1863; and the first shoemaker Casper Binkhoelter, in 1856; the first grocery keeper was a Mr. Chapman, in 1855. (--Hist. of Gasconade Co., p. 685.) (Source.)

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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