John Russell, eldest son of Oliver Russell, was born in 1760 or 1761, in London Britain Township, Chester County in eastern Pennsylvania, and died on November 10, 1832, in Wellsburg, Va (now WV). Oliver Russell married Elizabeth Simmons in 1768 and John always referred to her as his mother. At a young age, in March 1777, he enlisted as a private in the 2nd Va. State Regiment in the Revolution for a term of three years. He served first under Capt. John Lewis and later under Capt. Machen Boswell. The regiment was commanded first by Col. Gregory Smith and later by Col. William Brent. This unit served for some time in the neighborhood of John Russell's home, which explains how he came to serve in a Virginia organization.
John's service record notes that he was "sick at Valley Forge" in July 1778, "sick at New Winsor" in October of the same year, "on General Muhlenberg's guard" in March of 1779, and stationed at various camps throughout 1779, including Camp Smith's Clove, Camp Ramipan, Camp Ramapo, Camp Haverstraw, and finally Philadelphia, in December 1779, which would have been shortly before his term of enlistment was up.
Sometime in the late 1780's or early 1790's he married Elizabeth Pfaff Dixon, probably in or near Philadelphia. She was the daughter of George Pfaff, a printer in Philadelphia (see separate Pfaff article), and had a young son, Leonard Dixon. Elizabeth was born in Maryland on December 12, 1769 and died in Wellsburg on April 6, 1853, aged 83 yr., 3 mo., 25 days. Both she and John are buried in Brooke Cemetery, their graves having been moved from an earlier cemetery in 1879.
In 1799 John and his wife and two small children, his brother Oliver Jr. and his wife, and his youngest brother James went "over the mountains" to Wellsburg, then known as Charlestown, in western Virginia. Why they chose this area is not known. He bought land in the downtown area from Charles Prather from 1800 through 1811. He is mentioned in a Brooke Co. history as a town trustee in 1810 and on Robert Moore's 1809 storekeeper ledger as "John Russell, Captain." He was appointed ensign in the 1st Battalion of the 103rd Regiment in the 10th Brigade and 3rd Division of the Virginia militia by Governor James Monroe on July 6, 1801. He was promoted to captain on June 24, 1804, as shown in the Brooke County court order book.
John Russell's primary occupation was as a cooper, and he is credited with a United States patent for saw teeth in 1815. One of the lawyers who advised the patent office at that time was Francis Scott Key, and there is a letter from him commenting on John's invention. John also maintained a brewhouse for porter beer, planted orchards, and invested in local real estate. In 1804 he bought 143.51 acres of land located directly across the river in Ohio for $2.26 per acre at the Steubenville land office. In addition, he owned several other parcels of land in Ohio as far west as Cincinnati.
John was Captain and Quartermaster of the 103rd Virginia Regiment of Militia in the War of 1812, serving under his friend Col. John Connell of Wellsburg. Their six-month tour of duty was at Ft. Meigs in northwest Ohio, from October 1812 through early April 1813. When their six months was up they marched home and left the fort nearly defenseless against the British and Indians.
John's brother James, an Ohio River itinerant merchant, died in Cincinnati in 1823, leaving debts which fell upon John. After a long legal struggle with the Cincinnati authorities over the disposition of James's estate, John was forced into bankruptcy, was put into the Brooke County jail as a debtor in May 1826, and the sheriff sold all of his lands. Finally after over a year in jail writing letters of appeal, he was released in July 1827 under the Virginia law for the relief of insolvent debtors.
John died on November 10, 1832, and was buried in the Brooke Cemetery in Wellsburg. The stone, which was replaced when the cemetery was moved in 1879, has only the dates 1760?1832.
FAMILY OF JOHN RUSSELL
John and Elizabeth had nine children in addition to Leonard Dixon. They had 41 identified grandchildren who lived to adulthood, including eight grandsons who served in the Civil War, all on the side of the North. No family information is known about sons George and Oliver Russell or stepson Leonard Dixon, except that he married in Cincinnati in 1828.
LEONARD DIXON (b.c1794) was traveling up and down the river on trading voyages as early as 1818, as he is mentioned in a letter to John from New Orleans. In August 1825, Leonard was in Louisville, and by November he was back in Cincinnati, where he seems to have remained through at least 1828, when he married. There is no record of him after that.
CATHERINE RUSSELL STRAIN (1797-1872) was born "born the sixth day of the moon's age under the sign of Libra between nine and ten o'clock in the morning, on Friday the 30th of June in the year of our lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety seven." At the age of 18, she married Ebenezer Strain in Wellsburg on March 21, 1816. He was the son of William Strain, who had come to Wellsburg from Ireland with his brothers, Samuel and John, in 1774 and settled on Cross Creek in what is now Brooke County. William served in the Revolutionary War under General Washington. His brother Samuel unfortunately fought on the other side, having returned to Ireland for his family and being pressed into the British service. He later returned to America with his family.
Catherine's husband, Ebenezer, was born in 1794, and died on the family farm 81 years later. He was a farmer and a fine cabinet and furniture maker. He served in the War of 1812 under Capt. John Elson in the 103rd Virginia Militia in which his father-in-law John Russell also served. Catherine and Ebenezer were married 56 years until her death in 1872. Both are buried in the Strain Cemetery on St John's Road, in Brooke County. Despite the large number of their descendants, there are no Strains in Brooke County today.
GEORGE (c1800), named for Elizabeth's father, and OLIVER (c1803), named for John's father, both left home as young men and settled elsewhere.
JAMES (1806-1859) was a cooper who lived his whole life in Wellsburg, and died in 1859. He was the leader of the family after his father's death. He purchased some of his father's land in the sheriff's sale and acquired much more on his own. Three of his sons were in the Civil War: James, who later lived in Pittsburgh, William, who later lived in Iowa and Utah, and Trovillo, who remained in Wellsburg. His fourth son George was a distinguished educator in Wellsburg, who taught in the first free school in West Virginia, later serving as Brooke County Superintendent of Schools for many years. He later was a Justice of the Peace, a founder of the Wellsburg Telephone Company in 1895, active in the Board of Trade, and a real estate developer who laid out the Russell subdivision in Wellsburg.
THOMAS RUSSELL was born on April 15, 1807 in Charlestown, Va.(now Wellsburg, WV). The entry is recorded in the family Bible passed down from Samuel Russell, a younger brother of Thomas. He was born during the administration of President Jefferson, and it is believed that his middle name was Jefferson, since his son was referred to as Thomas Jefferson Russell II. He died in Jackson County, Minnesota in 1881 and left many descendants.
WILLIAM (1809-1850), like his father and his brothers George, James and Samuel, was a cooper. He was in business with his brother Samuel in Wellsburg, and they lived in the family home with their mother. He never married, and died at age 41 in East Liverpool, Ohio in 1850. He is buried in Brooke Cemetery in Wellsburg.
JOHN PFAFF RUSSELL (1811-1881) married, in 1834, Ruth Baxter Elson, who was from an old Wellsburg family. Her uncle was Capt. John Elson of the War of 1812. All of their children were born in Wellsburg, but in March 1853 they went west, down the river and up the Mississippi, settling in Dixon, Iowa, near Davenport. The journey took two weeks and cost him $120. All seven of the children were sick on the boat, and the two-month-old baby died shortly after they arrived. At the time of his death, he was a farmer in Mahaska Co., Iowa, living with his daughter Eliza Grace.
SAMUEL (1812-1880) was also a cooper in Wellsburg, in partnership with his brother William. He remained single for many years, but after his brother William died in 1850 and his mother died in 1853, he married Clara Gover in 1857. She had come from England in 1848 with her family. At the time of their marriage, he was 44 and she was 20. After 1860 they moved to Martins Ferry, Ohio. Sometime before 1880 they moved to Wheeling WV, where Clara's aged parents were living. Samuel died April 28, 1880 in Wheeling and is buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery.
ELIZA (1815-1866) married Harrison Connell in 1838 and lived her life in Wellsburg. Harrison was the son of John Connell, an early clerk of courts in Wellsburg, and a friend of John Russell. John Connell served under General William Henry Harrison in the War of 1812. His son, Harrison, was sheriff of Brooke County for several years.
Donated by Robert Russell