In 1837 at the age of seventeen, William Ruggles taught in a district school in the Town of Hartwick, teaching in the winter and attending the Otsego Academy in Cooperstown in the summer. After his marriage in 1841 to Sophia Niles, he taught in the Pioneer Street school, then Pine Street school, in Cooperstown for 12 years.
In 1854 he entered the firm of Ivison and Phinney, publishers in New York, as agent and traveled in their interest visiting schools and academies in the state. He formed a partnership with Elihu Phinney which continued until Phinney’s death, at which time he continued the business alone.
His dedicated interest in public schools brought him much credit for the progress and improvement in schools throughout Otsego County. He also served as a trustee and Board member of the Cooperstown Union School.
In 1877 the first recorded Ruggles Memorial Essay Contest in the Cooperstown Union School was recorded. Since the beginning of the contest, each member of the junior English classes is expected to write a 600-800 word essay which is judged for originality, grammar and vivid language use. Class finalists compete in two rounds of oral competition, then first- and second-place winners are chosen. The 146th annual contest was held in April 2023.
William H. and Sophia Ruggles are buried in Lakewood Cemetery along with son Willie who died in infancy, son William N. and his wife Martha, and daughter Mary.