Pictures Courtesy of Keith Brown
The buildings of Rush stand empty now, silent and weathered. As you walk, a lizard rustles away in the leaves and a squirrel noisily discusses what he thinks of intruders, but this place, once so full of noise, is mostly silent now. To hear the sounds of its past, you have to step back a century, scrunch your eyes a little, and let your imagination take over.
In the late 1800s there were mines, a smithy, stores, processing mills, a livery barn, and a smelter as well as houses all along the Buffalo River valley the town site commands.
The earliest settlers came here before the War Between the States and built farms, but in the late 1880s these farmers on Rush Creek discovered zinc ore and the rush to Rush began. Claims were staked out along Rush Creek and Clabber Creek and by the 1890s a mining boom was well underway. Miners and investors converged from all over the country to get their share of the wealth.
The boom continued a surprisingly long time. In fact, the heyday of mining at Rush was during World War I. All of the mines were in full operation, producing zinc for the war effort. However as the war wound down, so did the mining. Soon most of the valley's several thousand inhabitants had moved on to greener pastures. In the 1920s there was a short-lived revival, then free-oreing supported local miners until World War II, but during the 1940s several of the processing mills were dismantled for salvage.
Rush stubbornly held on and survived until the 1960s. After its post office closed in the 1950s, the remaining families began to drift off and Rush became known as a ghost town. There remains a lot of evidence of their lives and you can see it along a driving tour with brief stops or, better yet, by stopping at the site of the famous Morning Star mine and walking a three-tenths of a mile trail. Allow at least a half hour, and that's going through it like a hound dog through a meat house. Better yet, allow at least half a day and really get to know this era in the Buffalo River's history.
You're starting at the Morning Star Mine, the most famous of the Rush mines. Here is where the first processing mill was built in 1898. The foundation piers you can still find are from the remodeled mill of 1911.
Listen closely and you may hear the echoes of a gravity tram system that moved ore from the mining level to the mill for crushing.
Your walk will take you along Rush Creek to Rush Landing along the mine level and you'll pass several mine entrances. But before you go, savor more of the Morning Star area. Here was the old Livery Barn built in the 1890s, a structure destroyed by arson in 1998. Next to it is the stone structure that is the oldest in Rush, a smelter constructed in 1886. Part of the forge remains from the Blacksmith Shop just north of there. Across the creek and slightly west are the Taylor-Medley Store, which operated until the 1950s. Bill Taylor and Lee Medley aimed to please and took care of everything from selling goods and distributing mail to performing marriages. Just past the store is the old ghost town. The houses in this row date to about 1899 and are board and batten construction. Clapboard siding was added to some.
Going down the creek, there's Hicks Store, once a two story rock-walled store that was built in 1916. In the 1960s it was remodeled into a residence and in 1982 record flooding of the Buffalo reached as far as this building and did some damage. Below the store is the Boiling Springs. Before the mining era, the community grist mill stood here. Your next stop is the McIntosh Mine. In this area once stood the big hotel with a splendid front porch, an Ozarks necessity. There were other buildings as well, all property of the McIntosh Mining Company, but now about all that remains is part of the processing mill nearly hidden in the undergrowth.
As you walk, you’ll find the remaining foundation piers of the Morning Star Processing Mill and “tailings”, the final residue from the concentration process at the mill. The trail goes on to the “new town” an area across from the present campground where a booming village grew during World War I. Here stood the Edith and Yellow Rose processing mills. Just south of them was the White Eagle Mine, one of the first, built at the mouth of Rush Creek in the 1880s. The mill ruins are still visible.
Take some steps along the Ore Wagon Road and picture, if you can, the difficulty of moving the ore through this rugged country when teams and wagons were the only transportation. Until the railroad reached Buffalo City in 1903, ore was transported to the White River where it was loaded on barges.
If you want to fully explore the area, take the Rush Mountain trail. Its steep and narrow and ranked moderate to strenuous. Allow two to three hours for the 2.2 mile hike to see historic mining structures and mines. Please remember that the mines are in disrepair and extremely unsafe. Entering them is prohibited. Fencing and gates have been installed, but the specially designed gates allow ease of entrance for the resident bat population.
There is primitive camping for visitors at Rush Landing and water and restrooms. Sites are walk-in and equipped only with a cooking grill. During float season, Rush Landing is a major river access point, so watch for heavy seasonal traffic. In fact, winter is an ideal time for hiking at Rush. The cooler temperatures, fewer pests, and more solitude give you greater opportunity to relax and steep yourself in the significance of this part of the history of the Buffalo River.