Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Biographical Record of Henry County, Illinois - 1901 (Clarke)


Samuel Russell, who is practically living a retired life in the city of Kewanee, Illinois, was born in Wilmington, Clinton county, Ohio, on the 6th of October, 1834, but was only seven years old when he removed to Delaware county, Indiana, with his parents, John and Susanna (Wickersham) Russell, the former also a native of the Buckeye state, and the latter of Virginia, although she was only three years old when she became a resident of Ohio. Our subject’s paternal grandfather, James Russell, was born in Ireland, and was a lad of thirteen years when he came with his parents to the United States, the family being among the early settlers of Ohio, where he grew to manhood and spent the greater part of his life. His death occurred in Delaware county, Indiana. In his family were eleven children, of whom nine reached years of maturity.

John Russell, the eldest of this family and the father of our subject, received but a limited education, learning to read, write and cipher after he attained his majority. He was only able to attend school a short time during the winter and then had to wade three miles to the school house. His early life was devoted to agricultural pursuits, and at the age of nineteen years he learned the plasterer’s and brick mason’s trades, at which he worked for about twenty years. In 1841 he removed to Delaware county, Indiana, where he purchased eighty acres of land, and was engaged in farming throughout the remainder of his life. Politically he was first a Whig and an abolitionist and later a Republican, and religiously was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which he served as class leader and steward for a number of years. He died in 1857 at about the age of fifty two years, and his wife, who long survived him, passed away in 1881. She had made her home in Henry county, Illinois, from 1859. They were the parents of four children namely: James who died at the age of four years: Samuel, our subject: Miriam, wife of Jeremiah Bickford, a retired citizen of Kewanee: and Caroline, wife of James Stafford, a retired citizen of Albany, Delaware county, Indiana.

When the family located in Delaware county, Indiana, that region was very wild, and on starting his children to school the father blazed the trees through the heavy forest that they might find their way home. There was scarcely a frame house in the county, outside of Muncie, the county seat, where there were a few. The dwellings were nearly all built of logs, with one door and one window, with large fireplace built of rough stone and mud, the chimnies being of split sticks and mud. Nails were not known, with the exception of a few made by the blacksmith. Wooden pins were used instead of nails, an auger or a gimlet being used to make the hole, in which the wooden pin was inserted and driven in solidly. The school houses were also built of logs, with seats made of small logs split in two parts, wooden pins being inserted on the round side for legs, thus giving a flat surface on which to sit. There was neither back or cushion to the seats. The roofs of the houses were made of split boards about two and a half or three feet long called clapboards, which were laid on timbers called ribs, and held there by poles laid on them, one pole being used to a tier of clapboards. The floors were made of puncheons, that is slabs split out of large timber from three to four inches thick, while a board placed on pins formed a desk on which the scholars practiced writing about ten or fifteen minutes a day, that being all the teacher though necessary to devote to that accomplishment. Amid such primitive surroundings, young Russell acquired his education, walking a mile and a quarter to school each morning and returning home at night. He was only permitted to attend in the winter, and never longer than thirty-five days in one year. At the age of eighteen his education was completed, so far as his school life was concerned, and he then devoted his entire time to work. He remained at home until his removal to Illinois in 1859, with the exception of a few months spent in Minnesota and Illinois.

On the 31st of March, 1859, Mr. Russell married Matilda Zehner, who was born in Wayne county, Indiana and is the third in order of birth in a family of nine children, whose parents were Benjamin and Hester Zehner, natives of Pennsylvania, and early settlers of Wayne county, Indiana, from which they later removed to Delaware county, the same state. Of the six children born to Mr. and Mrs. Russell, Francis died at the age of two years, Cora at the age of three, and Mary at the age of fourteen. John B., a graduate of Wheaton College and now superintendent of the public schools of Wheaton, Illinois, married Isabel Gunn, and they have two children, Edna L., and Everett C. Frank H. is a physician, now connected with the Presbyterian hospital of Chicago. He is also a graduate of Wheaton College, Rush Medical College and the Theological Seminary of the Congregational Church of Chicago. Eva M. is a graduate of the Kewanee high school, and is now taking the literary course at the Chicago University.

In 1859 Mr. Russell and his family came to Henry County, Illinois, and located on a farm of one hundred and sixty acres which he had purchased in 1856 in Clover township, at that time all wild and unimproved. He erected thereon a house, fourteen by twenty feet, in which he lived while breaking his land and placing it under cultivation. On disposing of that property in 1865 he a partially improved farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Wethersfield township, where he made his home until his removal to Kewanee on the first of January, 1891. During his youth he learned the brick mason’s and plasterer’s trade with his father, but has not followed that occupation for forty years. While engaged in farming he gave considerable attention to the raising and feeding of stock, generally keeping about one hundred hogs and twenty head of cattle. He still oversees the management of his farm, though he has retired from active labor. He is an active member and steward of the Free Methodist Church. Politically he is a prohibitionist.

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