Friday, March 1, 2013

 Chasing the Elusive Uncle Bob Russell

James Marion Russell, my husband's gr-gr-grandfather, died as a result of his wounds or illness on October 3, 1862 at Corinth, Mississippi, during the Civil War. He was a confederate soldier who enlisted in Williamson’s Battalion, Company A, out of Franklin County, Arkansas at the age of thirty-one. He left behind a wife, Nancy, and five small children, John Willard, age twelve, Nancy Elizabeth, eight, William, seven, Robert, four, and George W., two. Unfortunately for all, the mother, Nancy, died within a year of her husband leaving the children orphans.

Although it is possible the children stayed together and were cared for by one family, at least at first, by 1870 when the Federal Census was counted in June, John W. Russell was living as a farm laborer in the household of Richard Hill in Limestone Twp, Franklin County, Arkansas. John’s sister Nancy Elizabeth was living next door with the John McElroy family, relatives of James Marion Russell. The two youngest boys, Robert and George were living in Boston Twp., Franklin Co., with the William H. and Elizabeth Russell family, their uncle and aunt. As for the middle child, William Russell, who would have been fifteen years old in 1870, I find no record.

John Willard Russell married Mariah Tennessee Turner in 1871 and fathered twelve children before they divorced. Their second son, Elias Russell, is our direct ancestor, my husband’s grandfather. About this branch of the family we know much, but John Willard’s younger brother Robert is the uncle I’ve been researching, the relative who shares my husband’s name.

The 1880 Federal Census finds twenty-one year old Robert Russell and his brother George living next door to their Uncle William and Aunt Elizabeth in the household of Craven and Mary Hamm, also relatives of the boys’ father. This is in White Oak Twp, Franklin Co., Arkansas. Robert served as a sheriff in Franklin County for some time as well as proprietor of a clothing store which he operated with his brother George.

On December 2, 1896 Robert Russell married Martha Ellington, a school teacher, at Magazine, Logan County, Arkansas. Martha was twenty-six years old and had lived in Magazine all her life. Their daughter, Roberta Leona Russell, “Bertie Lee”, was born August 28, 1897, in Ozark, Franklin Co., AR. Robert died June 30, 1900, in Kerrville, Kerr County, Texas, at the age of forty-five, just days after the census taker recorded him as being a merchant in Kerrville, the owner of a clothing store according to city directories.

On the fifteenth of April, 1910, the census taker in Revilee Twp, Logan County, AR, found thirty-eight year old, widowed Mattie Russell living with her twelve-year old daughter, Roberta, on the Main Street of Magazine, AR, her occupation listed as “none.” On November 30, 1911 Mattie Russell married William J. George in Magazine, Logan County, Arkansas but the marriage ended in divorce. Mattie died January 7, 1934 and is buried in Magazine, Arkansas.

Roberta is rooming with the Charlie and Maude Farthing family on a ranch in Laramie County, Wyoming at the time of 1920 Census. The Farthings are from New York and I have no idea how Roberta came to be a boarder there, but she went on to receive a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Wyoming in Cheyenne.

On April 15, 1925 in Boulder, Colorado, Roberta Leona Russell married Thomas Walter Picard. By 1930 they have relocated to Valparaiso, Indiana where they will live out the rest of their lives, Thomas passing away on December 8, 1976, and Roberta on July 27, 1996, at the age of ninety-eight. Roberta was a school teacher for twenty-one years in Valparaiso and Thomas worked in an office and may have been an electrician. They did not have children. Thus ends the line of Robert Russell, my husband’s gr-gr-uncle and namesake. Interestingly, Roberta Leona “Bertie Lee” Russell had the same birthday, August 28, as does my husband, Robert Doyle Russell, albeit forty-five years apart, and Bertie Lee is the name given to the first born child of Elias Russell, Roberta’s cousin, not a very common name.