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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.
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
Robert Lee Ruby was born near Ollie, July 7, 1881, to Phoebe Elvira Keasling and Charles E. Ruby.
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.
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.
If you have any information about Robert Ruby’s mysterious death, please contact the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office at 641-684-4350.