Monday, August 23, 2010

Russell Family

The following is from Linda Welch, the CHS genealogist.

Rev. John Russell (5) { Noadiah (4), Noadiah (3), Noadiah (2), William (1)}, was born in Chatham, Connecticut, 14 Dec., 1751. He m. in Cavendish, 10 May, 1778 Lucretia Preston of Ashford, Conn. (b. Ashford, Connecticut, 19 Feb., 1762, dau. of Abial & Mehitable (Smith) Preston)

The marriage of Lucretia and John was the second recorded marriage in Cavendish, the first being that of Michael Coffeen on 14 April, 1778

When John was around 24 years old, he came to Cavendish with his brother, Noadiah. This was in 1771. That same year, John was elected the first town clerk and justice of the peace. With self study, he became an "old fashioned Baptist preacher" and was nicknamed, "John the Baptist." This name stuck with him, even in later years. We have no record that he was formally ordained, but he was well respected.

On 28 Oct., 1781, John Russell purchased Proprietor Mesheck Ware's original Right of Cavendish land, lying in the southeasterly corner of the "Mill Lot," so-called, south to the town line, etc. The seller was Daniel Cheney of Union (Windham Co) Connecticut, who was acting as agent for Mr. Ware. This parcel contained 312 acres of land altogether. (Vol. 1, page 107, Cavendish land records)

Lucretia's parents, the Prestons, had come from Ashford, Connecticut to Cavendish very early, but did most of them did not remain long. A deed dated Charlestown, NH, 29 Jan., 1773, shows Abiel Preston, 'then of Rockingham, Cumberland Co. NY, (which was Windsor Co., Vt.), paying John Church of Charlestown, NH, #11 for securing his hold on a 262 acre parcel of Cavendish land when Church went to NY state to receive a New York charter for Cavendish.

From the HENRY B. ATHERTON PAPERS; MEMORIES OF THE RUSSELL FAMILY, by E. E. Orcutt, Taftsville, Vt., 1879: "John Russell was born in Chatham, now Middletown Connecticut. And through all his long and useful life his advent must have been a reminder of "Merry Christmas," since it has been said of him by his children that he never was known to use a more rude or stern expression than: "It beats all that ever I saw, since the day that I was born." But his gentle manners and genial spirit did not make him shrink when duty called from encountering nature in her primitive wildness, or from successfully grappling with all the trials and difficulties attending the settlement of a new country. Accordingly while yet a young man, he left his native state and joined an older brother, Noadiah Russell, who had already as early as 1771, made Cavendish, Vermont his home. Here John Russell was of great service in forming the society of the new town, holding the offices of Town Clerk and Justice of the Peace for many years. Being as I was told by his son, Deacon Bliss Russell, late of Cavendish, the first town clerk and first justice of the peace. Thompson's Gazetteer to the contrary. And I have now a letter from Thompson saying that if he ever revised his Gazetteer, he would correct the mistake. But Thompson has since died and I take this opportunity to make the corrections that the history of the town of Cavendish may stand corrected. John Russell's higher office of Baptist preacher in those early times, was equally faithfully discharged. And it shows the characteristic activity and energy of those times that while he with his hands cleared the wilderness, planted an orchard and built him a home, his intellectual powers were called into requisition for the benefit of his townsmen; and his spiritual nature lacked not food, which he drew from the world of God for himself and distributed to his neighbors. In 1778 he was married to Lucretia. Her family were connected by marriage with John Coffeen "by whom," says Thompson, "the settlement of Cavendish was commenced in June, 1769, and at whose hospitable dwelling, thousands of our Revolutionary soldiers received refreshments." Mrs. Russell, though ten years younger than her husband, proved herself every way worthy the choice of so excellent a man. John Russell often preached at what was then called "Twenty-Mile Stream" as well as in his own neighborhood, and not long since I had the pleasure of hearing his sermons praised by one of his longtime ago hearers, a nephew of his wife. Esquire Russell was, for a short time, engaged in mercantile business in Cavendish and the "Prices Current" in New York in 1795 show that the wants of the times were then as well as now; "nails and tobacco."

But the cards for carding wool and flax are discarded and the generation is fast passing away that even remembers the day when they were the requisites of every household. It was said of Robert Burns that he was "too good a poet to be a good farmer," and it might equally be said of Esquire Russell that he was too much occupied with the welfare of his town to attend to amassing a fortune for himself, though he always, like Melancthon, kept open doors. And later in life he inherited quite a little patrimony from his father's estate in Connecticut. He was often away from home officiating at weddings and funerals or some difficulty between neighbors for which his quiet manners and good judgment eminently fitted him. He was no partisan. Where duty went, there he went and right was right in his eyes wherever found. He had no sympathy with crowned heads. He remarked when Napoleon Bonaparte was bearing sway, "His name is Bone - a - part, but he needed to bone the whole." History shows how such characters terminate their career, and no talents however brilliant, not enlisted in the cause of human rights, will win for their possessors the love of succeeding generations. John Russell was a man eminently beloved in his community as well as in his family. His children were made his equals in companionship, free and familiar in their happy intercourse with each other; they never feared to ask his advice or tell him their troubles, sure of wise counsel and affectionate sympathy.

Family Letters:
Cavendish, 14 Dec., 1831
To: Dr. and Mrs. Gray
From: Lucretia Russell
My children: I seat myself to write to you but feel myself incapable both in body and mind for my health is poor. I have no reason to expect to stay in this world long. This world is not my home. When I awake in the morning I say "bless the Lord O My Soul" for all His benefits that I am yet in the land of the living. I was glad to see a line from you but it is more agreeable to see ones' dear children face to face. Your sister Polly's health is very poor but we are in hopes her health will be better in the spring. Give my love to all your children. I remain your loving and tender mother -Lucretia Russell.

More from MEMORIES OF THE RUSSELL FAMILY, by E. E. Orcutt, 1879: "John and Lucretia were the parents of seven children. The first son that bore his father's name, John Jr. died when an infant of 17 months and though the father lived to be an octogenarian, he did not forget this little son ever. I have heard my mother, his youngest daughter [Eunice Gray] says the very last time she ever saw her father he spoke of "the little boy that died." The other six children, three sons and three daughters, lived to maturity; and all early gave their hearts of Jesus and led consistent Christian lives. Though John Russell has been called a "strict Calvinist" by some, he doubtless was. But nevertheless he was not a bigoted sectarian. When his youngest daughter thought proper to unite with the Congregational Church and first consulted her honored father with regard to the propriety of the step, he made no objects. When his second daughter, the present only survivor of the family, was under religious conviction she arose at midnight and expressed her fears to her parents that she had sinned away the day of grace. His reply is worthy of record for the benefit of others in similar doubts. He said, "no my daughter. If you had you would have no concern for yourself." He and his wife arose at that midnight hour and prayed with their daughter and in about one week she found "peace and joy in believing." The next day was Thanksgiving day and the happiest Thanksgiving day of her life. She lately assured me, and though now in her 83rd year, still looks back with thankfulness to the time when Christ spoke pardon to her soul. This faithful discharge of Christian duty on the part of the parents may have been the means God used to bring their children early to find a saving knowledge of Christ. And it is hoped its record may inspire other Christian parents with like faithfulness.

Their eldest daughter born in 1782, became the wife of Levi Jackman, Esq., who was many times the town's representative from Cavendish. After a life of usefulness, she died in Cavendish at the age of 70 years. The death of the eldest son in 1785, age 17 months was a blow to both John and his beloved wife Lucretia. They carried him to the cemetery and bid goodbye to him in body but vowed never to forget him in spirit. Sally Russell married David G. Perkins and at this date (1879) is the only survivor of her father's family. Bliss Russell, named for his grandmother Russell who was a "Bliss" was born in 1788 and many years was deacon of the Baptist Church in Cavendish. He died at the age of 72 years having perfect consciousness of the near close of life and sending loving farewell messages to his friends and family. Eunice Russell married a physician Dr. Gray. Always cheerful, affectionate and discreet, leaving the record of a well spent life, she died in Hartford at the age of 68 years in 1859. John Russell Jr. graduated at Middlebury College in 1817 and was married in 1818. He went West where his literary labors, identified with the development of his adopted state won for him a worthy renown. He died in Bluffdale, Illinois at the age of 69 in 1863. Elias Russell was born 15 May, 1796 in Cavendish. He was twice married and died in his native town, 12 Feb., 1868, age 62 years, the youngest of the band.

I have a few letters that have come down to me from Grandfather and Grandmother Russell, also some of Grandmother Gray's who was sister to the Rev. Aaron Bancroft, father of the historian and diplomat George Bancroft. Also letters from my Mother containing poetic thought and religious counsel and reflection worthy of publication. Also have quite a long correspondence of Uncle Dr. J. Russell's which are literary gems of rare value. Also many letters from his excellent and accomplished wife, and a few precious letters from Aunt Perkins whose husband was related to the distinguished singers of that name, exhibiting literary merit and religious experience. With some sweet mementos of the other members of that rare hospitable and loving Russell family, but the character of your Magazine forbids that I should lengthen this sketch by even brief quotations from the above mentioned sources. I know that a Genealogical record of the Russell family has been compiled in Middletown, Connecticut, and is now ready for the press."

Lucretia died 19 Jan., 1834 (age 72 years). Rev. John died at Cavendish, 1 Aug., 1836 (age 84).

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