During the Era of Reconstruction, following the Civil War, word soon reached the young parish near what is now Ruston, that the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Railroad would begin to run across north Louisiana, linking the Deep South with the Wild Wild West. Robert E. Russ donated 640 acres to the town and this area was eventually known as Ruston (shorthand for Russ town). In 1883, commercial and residential lots were created and sold for $375 a piece and soon the sawing of lumber and clacking of hammers could be heard throughout the area.
As the town began to take shape, new churches, businesses, civic organizations and schools were being established. Cotton farming fueled the economy and in 1900 a second railroad, running north and south, was built through Ruston. This brought even more business and industry to the area and the population continued to provide a foundation for the local economy. By the outbreak of World War I in 1917, Ruston was well established as a center for learning, a place of civic pride, and an area of economic prosperity throughout the region.
Ruston continued to grow steadily during the post-war prosperity of the late 1940's. The GI Bill, which sent war veterans to college, helped fuel the local economy, causing tremendous growth at the local universities and brought many new families to Ruston. By the late 1950's, it was decided that a new interstate highway was to be built that would run through the northern fringe of the city. Completed by the early 1970's this coast-to-coast highway made Ruston more easily accessible, much as the railroad had done a century before.
In the 1980's, the state of Louisiana economy slowed down as the oil industry went into a recession. Ruston, however, continued growing steadily due to the rapid expansion of local colleges, Louisiana Tech and Grambling State. The city also had its centennial celebration during this decade, and emphasis was put on revitalizing the historic downtown district. A joint effort between the city, the Louisiana Main Street Program and the Louisiana Department of Historic Preservation, beautification projects restored Ruston 's historic downtown to the hustling and bustling center of the community. More than 23 historic buildings have been placed on the Louisiana National Register of Historic Places and has helped draw the community closer to its roots.
The city now has a new airport to serve existing business and industry, and the timber, poultry and cattle industries continue to expand. The universities have achieved unparalleled success in many fields and Downtown also continues to offer people a variety of retail shops and fine eateries. The city now stands poised for further growth and prosperity. As Robert E. Russ envisioned, it is a place for friends and neighbors. True to his dream, the city continues to open its doors to those looking for a healthy business environment, an opportunity to receive a quality education and a great place to raise a family.