The town of Ruthven was started the year the Milwaukee Railroad was built through the county, 1878. Ruthven Brothers, Robert and Alex, owned the land where the present town site is located and they gave one-half to the railroad company in return for locating the town plat there. The town was accordingly laid out and called Ruthven.

Thos. Miller was the first resident of the town, as he moved his camp shack to the town site while the road was being graded, and lived there and boarded some of the men. John McDonald built a small store there shortly after the railroad was completed through and put in a few groceries, overalls, jackets, etc. C.W. Hastings later bought McDonald out. Potter & Scovington were the next to put in a store.

The building of the Des Moines & Fort Dodge Railroad through to northern terminus of the road gave an added impetus to the growth of the town. Town lots then began to sell rapidly and for the next year or two the town boomed considerably. Stores were built, better houses were erected, and the population grew rapidly.

History of Palo Alto County - Dwight G. McCarty ©1910. Provided Courtesy of The Reporter.

Today, Ruthven and the Lost Island Lake area truly lives up to its slogan "Come for a Visit, or Stay for a Lifetime!" Ruthven is conveniently located on US Highway 18 at the Palo Alto and Clay County border just minutes from two county seats. Ruthven is home to an exceptional school system, Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School, with grades PK through 12 at one location in the community! We also feature one of Iowa's premier Senior living centers, The Ruthven Community Care Center, featuring a fully staffed 48 room skilled care facility, 18 room assisted living, and 14 independent living apartments all connected by sheltered walkways! The RCC Medical Center is located on the same campus! Stop by for a visit or tour of the facility and see how residents decorate and enjoy their senior years they so much look forward too! Ruthven is home to an exceptional Park and Pool! Open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the pool also has a separate kiddy pool! Mad Butcher Salsa is known worldwide! It has its home in Ruthven on Gowrie Street so stop by and pick up a jar! The Ruthven Meat Locker is one of the few left in the state that features and sells over the counter local beef and pork! Stop in for a treat at 1701 RailRoad Street. The Picket Fence located downtown is open Tuesday through Saturday and features gifts and crafts with a local flair! Don't forget a blast from the past at Ruthven Antiques located downtown and also just off highway 18 on the west edge of town. They are open daily, seven days a week! Lost Island Lake located just 2 miles north of Ruthven is one of the nicest lakes in the upper Midwest with an all sand public beach for swimming located at Huston Park which also has hiking trails, shelter houses, and a very nice campground as well as being the home to the Lost Island Nature Center. The Nature Center is open daily to the public and has many displays that show not only the history of the area, but how the area will survive for many years to come! They also have several special presentations throughout the year! There are also many resorts around the lake for those who desire that option, and public boat ramps as well so you can try your luck at some walleye, northern, or pan fish! Ruthven has many celebrations throughout the year, including Cabin Fever Weekend in February; Bully Bullhead Weekend which is a 3 day celebration the weekend following July 4th and features over 50 events to attend! There is also the July 4th Lost Island Fireworks Display, Boat Parade on the Lake on July 4th, and don't forget Santa Weekend in early December! For more information go to or call (712)-837-5355.