Rulo -- Richardson County
Only a few miles from the iron monumen, which marks the beginning line between Kansas and Nebraska, is our town, "Rulo." Charlie Rouleau (born in Detroit of French lineage) had crossed the Great Plains with John Fremont's expedition, and later married an Indian woman and "took claim" to a piece of land near Sioux City, Iowa. He and Eli Bedard, who married Rouleau's sister-in-law, crossed into Nebraska Territory in 1854 and founded a town called "Omadi," near the present town of Homer.
In 1855 Rouleau and Bedard sold their interest in that site and moved to Richardson County to "satisfy the demands of the half-breed treaty" in claiming land given to their wives under the 1830 Prairie du Chien decree. They arrived along with E. H. Johnson, William Kenseleur, and Eli Plante, who were also of French descent, and set up camp between the Little and the Great "Ne-mohaw" (Nemaha). At that time, two white men lived in the area: an Indian trader, F. X. Dupis, and Charles Martin, who built the first store.
When Rouleau's wife and her sister joined them the following year, they founded a town on the land. There were two general stores and a blacksmith, and soon W. D. Easley opened a lumberyard. On February 13, 1857, the Rouleau name -- spelled phonetically -- "Rulo," was approved by postal authorities making it easier for people to pronounce the name of the new town. The first of two breweries began that year.
Rulo had two saw mills and one of the largest flour mills in the state. Richardson County's first newspaper, "The Rulo Western Guide" appeared in May 1858. Nebraska's territorial legislature granted incorporation to Rulo on November 1, 1858.
In July 1871 a short-lived railroad, the Atchison, Lincoln & Columbus, reached Rulo, three miles above the Kansas border. While an earlier company, the Burlington & South Western, attempted to establish a line to the west, the reorganized Atchison & Nebraska Rail Road completed rails to Lincoln by September 1872. This greatly enhanced Rulo's economy. The A&N was subsequently reorganized into the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.
On July 29, 1883, fire destroyed a large portion of the business district. Nine large businesses and several smaller ones were lost. By 1885 new brick buildings had risen from the ashes, and nearly every kind of business could again be found on First Street. In 1887 the "Rulo Times" carried ads from 40 businesses.
Additional growth was enjoyed as the CB&Q built its great bridge across the Missouri River. During the years it took to complete the project, the population in Rulo was as high as 1,800. When the bridge opened October 2, 1887, it put Rulo on a "main line railroad," which continued to improve the economy of the town.
Churches of six denominations held services over the years. Of these the Catholic church, started in 1863, and the Methodist congregation, established in 1865, remain.
Rulo's first school, established in 1860, was little more than a shack, and a second one, built the following year, was little better. In 1888 a two-story brick school was built for grades 1-12, and was a fine structure. From 1951 to 1971 high school students attended classes in Reserve, Kansas, after which the area merged with Falls City.
The Rulo Independent Telephone Company appeared in 1903, with the community now being served by Southeast Nebraska Telephone of Falls City. Rulo, currently served by Omaha Public Power, obtained its first electricity from Mound City, Missouri, in 1913. Rulo has purchased water from Falls City since 1968.
A highway toll bridge across the Missouri was opened December 19, 1939. It became a "free bridge" in 1968. A very sad chapter in our history evolved in late 1970s when we and the world learned of the bizarre cult murders that occurred on a farm not far from Rulo.
Rulo, population 265, is served by the post office, several restaurant/bars, a grain elevator, service station, and feed store. We have a large auditorium, an active Masonic Lodge, a library, a center for Iowa Indian families, a fire station, and a boat club.
As in early days, many Rulo citizens are of Indian and French lineage, but there are also other nationalities represented. This is probably as it will always remain.
By Marjorie Surman, RR 1, Box 94, Rulo, NE 68431, with correspondence from Ethil M. Liberty.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Richardson County History RCHS; and Evil Harvest , by Rod Colvin, 1992.