David Ruggles Jr. was an Black American abolitionist in Brooklyn, businessman, journalist, and self made hydro therapist.
David Ruggles was born in Lyme, Connecticut on March 15, 1810, to free black parents, David Sr. and Nancy Ruggles. David Jr. was the oldest of eight kids. While David Jr. was still very young, his family moved to Norwich, Connecticut. David Jr. education began at the Sabbath School for the poor which admitted people of color starting in 1815. In 1826, at the age seventeen, Ruggles left his family home and moved to New York City alone, where he operated a grocery store. At first Ruggles sold liquor, but after becoming involved in anti-slavery and the Free Produce Movement, he stopped selling liquor. Four years operating a grocery store Ruggles decided to close the door and open the first African-American bookstore. Ruggles also did some editing in a New York journal called “The Mirror of Liberty” and also published a pamphlet called “The Extinguisher”. Ruggles became deeply involved in the abolitionist movement. His activism earned him many enemies and in September of 1835, a white anti-abolitionist mob physically assaulted Ruggles and burned his bookstore, but Ruggles did not let this stop him. He quickly reopened his library and bookstore. In March of 1834, Ruggles along with others prominent African-Americans such as, Henry Highland Garnet (December 23, 1815 – February 13, 1882), and William Howard Day (October 16, 1825 – December 3, 1900), created the Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association. The main purpose for the organization was to promote the abolition of slavery and the reformation of society.
Ruggles was also very active and an important figure in the Underground Railroad from 1835 to 1838. In 1835, when the New York Vigilance Committee was organized, Ruggles became the secretary and general agent of the organization. His work with the committee led to his involvement in many court cases, where he helped organize the legal defense against fugitive slaves who had fled to the North. Ruggles helped more than 1,000 fugitive slaves escape via underground railroad, Including Fredrick Washington Bailey (February 1818 – February 20, 1895). Later Bailey changed his name to Fredrick Douglass. Ruggles shelter Douglass for nearly two weeks at his home. Ruggles also help to arrange Douglass marriage to Anna Murray Douglass (1813 – August 4, 1882). Ruggles then sent the newlyweds to Massachusetts with money and a letter of introduction to a prominent African-American abolitionist there.
By 1842, Ruggles became very ill that he was almost completely blind and his physician told him, he didn’t think he would live more than two weeks.
Lydia Maria Childs (February 11, 1802 – October 20, 1880), a fellow abolitionist and friend learned about Ruggles health and had him brought to Northampton, Massachusetts to the Northampton Association of Education and Industry. They began applying home treatment hydropathic and after eighteen months of hydrotherapy Ruggles health was restored, but his eye sight was not completely restored. While in Northampton Ruggles learned about hydrotherapy Ruggles recovery convinced others of the effectiveness of hydrotherapy. He was said to have the ability to diagnose ailments by his sense of touch, called “cutaneous electricity.” Ruggles first patients included wealthy members of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, which further enhanced his reputation as a healer.
On January 1, 1846 Ruggles purchased land and a building to conduct his hydropathic treatments. Ruggles became famous in the field and modestly wealthy, offering a cure for ailments that were claimed by conventional medicine to be incurable. Ruggles worked as a hydropathist until a recurrence of an inflamed optic nerve in his left eye in September 1849, placed him in the care of his mother and sister. Three months later on December 26, 1849, David Ruggles Jr. died in Northampton, Massachusetts of a severe case of inflammation of the bowels. He was only 39 years old.