Robert Lee Ruby

Robert Lee Ruby (Courtesy photo Linda Jones)

Robert Lee Ruby


Robert Lee Ruby
54 YOA
Bidwell Coal Mine
Blakesburg, Iowa
Wapello County
January 11, 1936


Case information provided by Mr. Ruby’s great-granddaughter, Linda Jones


Wapello County in Iowa
Wapello County in Iowa
Blakesburg in Wapello CountyBlakesburg in Wapello County

Robert Ruby, a 54-year-old Blakesburg miner, fell 87 feet to his death on Saturday, January 11, 1936, down the shaft of the Bidwell Fuel Co. mine on the Henry Oswalt farm, one mile south of Christiansburg.

An Ottumwa Courier article dated July 13, 1936, said most of the bones in Ruby’s body were broken in the mishap, which occurred, Coroner John Drake said, when Ruby wheeled an empty coal car into the open shaft. Both Ruby and the coal car fell to the bottom of the mine shaft.

Horse Moved Cage?

Coroner Drake said he could not determine just how the accident occurred because there were no witnesses.

It was thought, the paper reported, that the horse that hoists the cage in the shaft had moved and pulled the cage up, leaving the shaft unprotected.

The Courier also reported:

Ruby had wheeled a car of coal off the cage after it came up from the mine. He was wheeling the empty back to the cage, evidently, when the accident happened about noon.

No inquest will be held, Drake said.

In an August 13, 2011, email to Iowa Cold Cases, Ruby’s great-granddaughter, Linda Jones, wrote:

Per a newspaper article that was found in my mother’s belongings, my great grandfather was killed in a mining accident. The way the article reads indicates there was more to the “accident.” I was telling my dad about finding the article and he said, “If I am not mistaken, they think he was pushed and did not fall.”

I then asked my mother’s sister about this “accident.” She stated the same thing my dad did. “They think he was murdered but no one ever knew why.”

~ Ruby’s great-granddaughter, Linda Jones, in email to Iowa Cold Cases, August 13, 2011

About Robert Ruby (from Ottumwa newspaper obituary)

Robert Lee Ruby was born near Ollie, July 7, 1881, to Phoebe Elvira Keasling and Charles E. Ruby.

Robert Ruby (Courtesy Linda Jones)

Robert Ruby (Courtesy Linda Jones)

He married Miss Myra Ellen Locke on January 17, 1905, and the couple had seven children.

Survivors included six children; Lota Ruby of Blakesburg, Matie Ruby of Centerville, Mrs. Katherine Couger of Blakesburg, Cleo K. Ruby of Blakesburg, Mrs. Mercedia Sammons of Rome and Fern Ruby of Blakesburg; three brothers, Jacob of Blakesburg, Barney of Ottumwa and Jeff of Chillicothe; and three sisters, Mrs. Mettie Cook and Mrs. Caroline Weeks, both of Ottumwa, and Mrs. Mae Lemmons of White Lake, Wis.

Robert Lee Ruby

Robert Lee Ruby

Daughter Myra Lock Ruby preceded him in death from liver cancer in 1926.

He had 13 siblings: Caroline Ruby Weeks, Jacob W. Ruby, Elora Ruby, Jefferson Ruby, Mary M. Ruby, Jackson Ruby, Alfred Ruby, May Ruby Lemon, Jane Ruby, Nettie Ruby Cook, Inella Ruby, Genetta Ruby, and Barney Ruby.

Ruby’s body remained at the Needler funeral home in Blakesburg until time for the services.

Funeral services were held Tuesday, January 14 at 2 p.m. at the Christiansburg church and conducted by the Rev. Orville A. Dillon of Blakesburg.

Ruby was laid to rest in Memorial Lawn Cemetery in Ottumwa.

Robert Ruby headstone
Courtesy Linda Jones
Robert Ruby is buried at Memorial Lawn Cemetery.
Information Needed

If you have any information about Robert Ruby’s mysterious death, please contact the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office at 641-684-4350.



2 Responses to Robert Ruby

  1. Linda S Jones says:

    Update: From a granddaughter of Robert Lee Ruby –
    In regards to our Grandfather, Robert Lee Ruby, I can only go by stories my mother told me. She always told me that he “fell” down a “Well” and broke every bone in his body. My mother insists she was with him at the time and knew that he didn’t fall but he was pushed. My mother was only 13 at the time so to her the mine shaft was a “well”. She also told me that she saw who did it (they didn’t see her) and I was never to ask who it was. I asked her if I knew the person and she told me with a firm voice that she would never reveal that information and would take it to her grave; which she did. I asked her why she thought the incident happened and she stated that it was over money and probably the fact that our grandfather had more than most. Many people were jealous that he was able to continue to bring money in during the depression. He was also able to rebuild his finances after spending all he had for our grandmother, Mary Ellen Ruby, during her illness. He had the reputation of helping those in need and always provided food and a place to sleep for people who were traveling or just needed help along the way. My mother remembers a post on the fence that the people would put marks on to let others know that their farm was a place where they could be helped. The only rule……Grandpa took all of their matches and cigarettes before they went into the barn to sleep. What does concern me about the statements she made about grandfather’s death was the distress she felt when she told the story. If I didn’t know the person or know about the person she would have told me what she knew about them without giving me his/her name. This is why I have always thought I either knew the person or knew about them. It was never discussed again and I never mentioned it or asked. I do feel that it was NOT an accident but a murder. I don’t believe the story that the horse could have moved the wagon and caused grandfather to fall. He was also a farmer and knew about equipment and animals plus the fact that since my mother WAS with him he would have not taken any unnecessary risks etc. This added with my mother’s statements indicates to me it wasn’t an accident. I don’t have any proof other than what she told me which was all hearsay. However, my mother was always quiet about her father and didn’t speak of him much unless I asked questions. When my mother told me what she knew about the “accident” she was not ill nor on any medications that would cause her to tell outlandish stories. My mother and I were very close so I think she confided in me as much as she could just to release the burden of knowing more than what was told.

    • Jim Farrell says:

      It is sad how people from my generation dismiss the depression as a bad time in history. I am from the last of the baby boomers. Today it is practically mocked. Young people today have no idea what and who were sacrificed nor for how much.

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