David Ruggles (1810-1849) was of one of the most heroic, and one of the most overlooked figures of the abolitionist movement in America. David Ruggles became well versed in the water cure system. He was subsequently at the head of a water cure establishment at Florence. David Ruggles became very successful in treating his patients. By just feeling the patient, Ruggles could easily locate the disease due to his sensitiveness of touch. Dr. Benjamin Barrett’s “oilmill house” became the first building of David Ruggles´ Northampton Water Cure. It was near the current Northampton Elks Lodge at 17 Spring Street, Florence. David Lee Child became Ruggles` sponsor to the NAEI. He had been one of the first in the abolitionist circles to write about the efficacy of the water cure of Priessnitz. David Mack made a practical demonstration, in May of 1843, of his shared interest by having money approved to construct a bathing house, possibly with Ruggles´ self-treatment in mind. Ruggles started correspondence with a student of Priessnitz, Dr. Robert Wesselhoeft in Boston. Wesselhoeft agreed some months later, after a visit by Ruggles, to supervise his treatment. However, both patient and doctor had faint hope of success.
On January 1, 1846, David Ruggles entered into an agreement, amounting to a lease with an option to buy Benjamin Barrett´s “oil mill house”. This all happened eleven months before the formal dissolution of the NAEI. Ruggles had Barrett agree to a penal sum of $1000 if Barrett was to break the contract. This proves how intent Ruggles was on securing the house. Ruggles was to pay fifty dollars down at once and the other $440 over five years. If he succeeded to do so, the property was his. Dr. Barrett was highly possibly supportive of the venture due to his prior contact with the Community. He had previously treated NAEI member Louisa Rosbrook a year-and-a-half earlier for lung complaints. As the water cure expanded the hoped for 30 or 40 patients appear to have materialized during 1848. William Lloyd Garrison, an abolitionist, stayed at the water cure between July 18 and October 20, 1848. In this time period the clientele varied between 18 and 23.
Ruggles discovered the water cure in the quest to restore his own health. Ruggles listened and learned enough to become a successful practitioner of the technique. Through the assistance of his friend Ruggles were able to purchase land, buildings and open his own hydrotherapy practice. Doctors, clergymen, lawyers, mechanics, slaveholders, farmers and abolitionists all sought relief in Ruggles establishment. Ruggles was driven by his dedication to find a cure for his many ailments. Ruggles ended up becoming first and adherent and later on a doctor of hydropath. The first water cure hospital established in the United States was by Ruggles in 1845. As he still kept publishing articles on abolitionism he also published water-cure journals. As Ruggles´ career soared to new heights, he succumbed to a severe bowel infection in 1849.