Captain Jacob Ruger came to Momence in 1856 and in 1858 went into the harness business with a shop on River Street. His reputation for turning out honest goods caused his business to expand and in December 1889 he moved his harness shop into the building he purchased at 119 East Washington Street. He rented the upstairs office to J.W. Tower, notary and insurance salesman.
An article in the September 8, 1911 edition of the Momence Progress Reporter paid homage to Jacob Ruger upon his retirement and sale of his business to his son, Roderick R. Ruger.
"Monday marked the retiring from active business one of Momence’s oldest, best known and most respected citizens. Capt. Jacob Ruger has disposed for his harness business to his son R.R. Ruger. It was on the 19th day of May, 1856 that Mr. Ruger came to Momence from Joliet. He had learned his trade at Joliet and came here to work for David Harriman, who operated a shop in the building now occupied by Barsalou’s news stand. A few months after Mr. Ruger’s arrival his employers’ business went to the bad, and the creditors placed Mr. Ruger in charge; in fact sold him the entire business giving him his own time to pay for it. By hard work, honest business methods and close application to business, his trade began to build up, and he was soon obliged to see larger quarters, and moved into a building which stood on Range Street where Melby’s furniture store now stands.
About a year later Mr. Ruger purchased the building now occupied by Herman Zahl, and in 1890 built the business block he now occupies.
When the civil war broke out Mr. Ruger enlisted and went out as a lieutenant. On the death of Capt. Plummer, Mr. Ruger was commissioned Captain. He served three years, during which time his place of business was closed. On this return home from the war he went to work with his old time vim and again built up a large business which he has enjoyed ever since. Mr. Ruger is today, the oldest business man in Momence actively engaged. For over 55 years he has served the wants of this section in the harness line. No man is better known or held in higher esteem. He has been honored on several occasions by the voters of this township. For over 20 years he has held the position of supervisor of Momence Township, and also served one term as county treasurer. He has probably done as much for the development of Momence as any one man. His place of business has always been a welcome one to the old soldiers, where the genial Captain could always be found ready to aid in any way all in distress. While Mr. Ruger gives up the active cares of business, his many old friends will find him around the old stand most of the time as ready as ever to greet them.
Seldom, indeed, is that a man continues in business for over a half a century, and retires with the esteem and good will of every person in the community. Mr. Ruger has well earned a vacation, and the Press-Reporter joins with his many friends in hoping that he may be spared for many years to enjoy the happiness which is due to those who have spent a life against which no word of reproach has ever been made.
The business will be conducted in the future by “Bud” Ruger. He is so well known that no word of introduction is needed. He is a Momence boy, full of energy and enjoys the esteem of everyone. That he will continue the business in a manner in keeping with his father’s policy goes without saying. The people of this city will extend to “Bud” a hearty welcome into the rank of its business men, and will enjoy to see him prosper. He took possession of the business on Monday of this week."
Captain Ruger passed away on March 4, 1916. In his obituary, it was written "To write a history of Capt. Ruger would be to write a history of Momence. During the past sixty years there has not been a movement which had for its aim the betterment of this city in which Mr. Ruger was not prominent. As a citizen or official he was always fighting the battles of Momence. He did it in an unostentatious manner he never claimed any credit, but to those who were interested his real worth as a citizen was best known. His life was such a one as gained the confidence and esteem of all who knew him. His word was good as his bond. He was given positions of trust, often unanimously. He never was defeated for a public office, and never solicited a vote - he never was obliged to." Click on the photo to the right above to be taken to Ruger's full obituary.
In 1916 Jacob's closed the harness business and the building housed many businesses over the years such as Canavan Shoes, Resort Bakery, Curl's Radio & Television, and Dick's Cyclery. It is currently occupied by People 4 U and the building is owned by Kathy Morris.
Credits: Momence Progress Reporter, the Graham Historic House, the Prairie Family, Cheryl J. Smith Hess, Steve Harvey
Captain Jacob Ruger
Momence History Museum
PO Box 221, Momence, Illinois 60954, United States
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