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JPR Feature
The Ruch Family Tragedy   
Monday July 18, 2005
By Dawna Curler

Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson

Ruch (ROO-sh) is a thriving little community in Southern Oregon's Applegate Valley. It is named for Casper, or Cap Ruch, who established a post office and store there in the 1890s. While some may know the Ruch family were early pioneers, few are aware of the heartbreaking tragedy that marred Cap's childhood.

Cap's parents, Fritz and Anna, were Swiss emigrants living with their six children near the current community of Applegate in 1875. That spring Fritz bought a half interest in a mining claim. Two days later he poisoned himself with strychnine. There is little explanation for the act other than his wife Anna saying he'd been having "spells," and a neighbor suggesting that lately Fritz hadn't been acting "right."

Overcome with grief, two weeks after Fritz's death, Anna drowned herself and their four-year-old son, William, in a five-to-six-foot deep mining reservoir. Several emigrant families, also from Switzerland, took care of the children, including ten-year-old Casper.

This sad story is just one of countless examples of suicide documented in historical records. Modern statistics show suicide as the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S. demonstrating that depression, despair, and mental illness are unfortunate ties we still have with our past.

Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler, the program engineer is Raymond Scully.  I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society.  To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org

Black, John and Marguerite. Ruch and the Upper Applegate Valley, an Oregon Documentary. Medford, OR: Webb Research Group, 1990; Miller, Alan Clark. "Peter Britt: Pioneer Photographer of the Siskiyous." MA Thesis, Trinity College, 1972; American Association of Suicidology website,

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