Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Elias Russell, Shot in the Leg!

Elias Russell of Cass, Arkansas, was shot in the leg in December of 1933 and recovered fully except for a lifelong limp, that much I know to be truth. He was fifty-nine years old that year. Because his son, Doyle J. Russell, our father and primary source of information, had left his Arkansas home by 1933 and was working in Colorado where he would soon put down roots, the story and its details was slow to filter in. Only after Elias had recovered from his wound would Doyle receive a letter about his father’s serious injury and recovery.

Many years later, after Doyle married and became father to four children he probably told his kids what he had learned from letters back home about his father’s being shot, piquing their interest in this grandfather they only met once or twice, but Doyle was not one to tell all. He chose his stories about his Arkansas family carefully, not wanting to put them in a bad light to his Colorado family. So it wasn’t until the early 1960’s when two of Doyle’s children, young adults by now, Mary, and Bob, separately visited their recently widowed Grannie Russell in Cass and heard her stories about their Grandpa Elias, including the shooting incident.

This is what then 25-year-old Mary remembers her Grannie telling her:

“The story from Granny Russell was that Elias went off with some
deputies to help the sheriff arrest some law-breakers.  They had a fearful shootout.  The only bullet that hit anyone hit Elias.  He was shot in the hip. Broke the bone.  Compound fracture.

The lawman in charge sent a deputy to tell Addie that Elias had been shot and to come pick him up.  The deputy got his wires crossed and the message that got to Addie that night was that Elias had been shot dead and to come pick up his body.

It was too late that night to harness up the team and wagon and get her
dozen kids together and mule team, as it was quite a distance to the site of the shooting.  She got the kids up early the next morning and harnessed up the mules and drove over to pick up Elias's body. 

When she got there she was quite surprised to learn that she was not a widow after all.  They had left him lying where he got shot and had done nothing for him.  No doctor--no sleeping accommodations--nothing.  So she loaded him up and brought him home.

When she got him home she decided that it would do no good to get a doctor as it had been 24 hours since the shooting and was too late to set or treat the leg.  So Granny bandaged Elias up and nursed him back to ambulatory condition.  He always walked with a limp afterwards.

Why Addie got the notion that a broken leg could not be treated after 24 hours is anyone's guess.  Of course with medicine the way it was in that area at that time--she was probably right!  I would guess that Tennessee came over and helped nurse her son. She was a midwife and considered the local medicine woman in that township. Addie did not mention Tennessee---that is just my guess.  

Addie was quite furious that no one had done the first thing to help Elias--just let him lie there in his own blood where he fell until she came after him the following day.

Elias was working as a volunteer deputy--free--so that was really quite a show of gratitude on the sheriff's part!  Strangely enough Elias continued to volunteer his services when his leg healed enough to ride again. 

My story is just a repeat of what Addie told me in 1962.”

We have three more bits of information to add to Mary’s story. First, the Spectator Newspaper in nearby Ozark mentioned Elias’s recovery in January of 1934 with two brief comments:

“Mrs. Tennessee Russell returned to her home at Cass Friday after a visit with her son, Elias Russell, who is recovering from gun-shot wounds at the home of his sister, Mrs. Alex Nichols of Ozark. Mrs. Elias Russell who has been with her husband several days returned to her home at Cass.”

And “Mr. Elias Russell, one of the victims of the shooting which occurred at this place some six weeks ago, was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Walden last Saturday."

When Bob Russell visited his Grannie Russell in early 1962 she made this comment about her husband being shot, “Elias poked his nose in where he ought not have.”

As to what the shooting was all about, who did the shooting with what sort of gun, who else was there, was anyone else shot, and did anyone have to answer for shooting Elias, we do not know. Bob remembers thinking all those years it was about moonshining, about Elias trying to crack down on the local moonshiners and shut down their stills, but Bob doesn’t know how he came to that belief. Doyle did tell Bob that he didn’t help his father in his crusade to shut down the moonshiners, didn’t tell him of the stills and moonshiners he knew about when he lived at home. One of Doyle’s reasons for keeping that sort of information close to his chest may have been because his mother’s father, his Grandpa Jess Mahaffey, was a well-known moonshiner in the area. I have to wonder if Elias was successful in shutting down his own father-in-law’s stills.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Howard McCracken, a Russell Cousin

A Russell cousin, Howard McCracken, gr-grandson of George W. Russell, third cousin to Robert Doyle Russell, has found us on the internet and shared some wonderful family photographs. We’ve not had time to exchange detailed genealogy dates and places, but the photographs are begging to be shared with all the Russell clan.

Howard’s mother, Marie, is now 95 years old and having some memory problems but exhibiting those Russell longevity genetics. Her father was William H. Russell, born about 1895 in Ozark, and William H’s father was George W. Russell, born February 1861 in Franklin County, Arkansas, the youngest of five children born to Civil War veteran (for the Confederacy) James Marion Russell (1829-1862) and his wife Nancy Simms Russell (1832-1863). That's a mouthful! Orphaned at the age of two George lived with several different relatives in and around Franklin County until he reached adulthood. He became a successful man in Ozark, married and reared a family, owned his own mercantile, and built a fine home. He passed away in 1917 at the age of 56, still a young man. I do not know the cause of death.

George’s wife, Nannie Cary Russell, was born in June 1869 and lived to the age of ninety-three. She gave birth to five children, three of whom reached adulthood, William H., Harold Wallace, and Frederick. She and George adopted a girl named Jewell to round out their family.

The first photograph was taken in November 2015, showing Howard McCracken in front of the site of his gr-grandfather’s store located at 2nd and Commercial in Ozark. Only the wrought iron column remains from the original building. 
The next photograph shows the interior of the store with George on the left in the foreground.

These photographs include a wedding photo for George and Nannie in 1890 along with the wedding announcement card, or program.

In 1908 Nannie won first place in the Ozark 4th of July parade for her decorated carriage.

The next photograph is a wonderful family treasure, Nannie with Marie, and then the  George and Nannie Russell home in Ozark.

The last two photographs are of  Nannie and George’s tombstones, Highland Cemetery in Ozark.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


The year was 1918. A dreadful outbreak of influenza was sweeping our nation, indeed the entire world. World War I was coming to an end and by November when the peace treaty was signed with Germany our troops overseas would be looking homeward, only to arrive to the deadly threat of the “Spanish Flu”. 

Eliza Jane Holcroft of Choctaw, Oklahoma, was fifty-one years old and worn out. 
The mother of thirteen children, she buried her husband of thirty-one years, James Archibald Jones, in 1917. She buried her oldest daughter, Nellie Grace, mother of two small boys, when Nellie was only twenty-three years old. Eliza knew hard times. Now her second-oldest daughter, Nora Olive, was pregnant with her fourth child and living in far off Moffat County, Colorado, with her husband Tom Smith and their three other children.

Tom, Nora, and family were homesteading in Bear Valley, north and west of Craig, out in the boonies, but Tom brought Nora into Craig for the impending birth of the child. I’m sure she would have benefited from her mother’s presence and from the letter that Eliza wrote to Nora, I know that her mother wanted to be there. I’ll let the letter speak for itself.

“Choctaw, Oklahoma August 4, 1918

My Dear Daughter and family;

I will try to answer your always gladly received letter that come to hand some time ago. We are all well at present. I have a very sore finger so I can hardly write. We have had a houseful of company today so I didn’t get to go to S.S. (Sunday School?) They come after peaches, we let go three bushels today. Have sold 30 dollars worth so far. We are getting 2 dollars a bushel here at the place. We could get 2.50 in the city but we have such a few I guess we will sell them all here at the place.

Well, Nora, I have made my settlement with the court and I am so short of money that I do not feel like it would be right for me to take all the money we have to come out there and I would not have enough to make the round trip so I guess I will have to wait awhile. I know it looks like if I come at all I ought to come now but we are needing rain awful bad and don’t know if we will make a crop to speak of and I have the children to think of besides myself, but in spite of all of this I would sure like to come first on your account, as I do not think I am interested in the land proposition out there as much as I was. It would take at least three hundred dollars to take us out there and it would take me a long time to earn that much money and I think if we do not farm next year that the money I would spend out there would start me in a little business of my own. Surely you will come home sometime this fall or winter. Well Nora if I knew we would make a good crop I would run the risk and come out there but I don’t know and we haven’t hardly any fruit like we had last year. I sure do wish you could have come out here. I would have been able to get by. Bertha (Nora’s younger sister) would stay while you were down. I have not been as stout this summer as usual and it seemed like the work just piled up and I couldn’t get it done. No, we don’t have any vegetables except spuds and corn and cowpeas. Our tomatoes are late so they are not ripening very fast. We had a few for dinner sliced. Well Nora I am glad you have company. Maybe you won’t be so lonesome. Try to get all of the enjoyment out of your company that you can.

Monday morn the 5th . I will finish my letter. I am heartily ashamed of not writing sooner but it seems like there never was quite as much to do but the peaches will soon be out of the way. Labe (Nora’s younger brother) came back yesterday. He had been gone ever since before the 4th of July. Tell Ola (Nora’s oldest child) Goldie (Nora’s youngest sister) has taken her first music lesson. She will take half a lesson at a time and twice a week. My finger is no better. I am a little afraid of a felon. I must close. Be sure to write soon and I will do better next time. I am as ever your loving mother. E J Jones”

Nora gave birth to her last child whom she named Jennie Frances Smith on September 12, 1918. In a weakened state from childbirth Nora succumed to the flu and died on October 23, 1918; she was buried in Craig. I’ve been told that it was Bertha, Nora’s sister four years younger, who came out to Colorado when Nora died, not E. J. Bertha may have expected to take little Frances back to “civilized” Oklahoma with her but Tom entrusted Frances’ care to his parents, Frank and Fannie Smith. They lived within shouting distance of Tom and his older children out in Bear Valley.

Eliza Jane Jones never forgave Tom Smith for the death of her daughter, Nora. Perhaps she believed that if Nora had traveled to Oklahoma for the birth of her child she would not have died. Perhaps grief and loss overwhelmed her. Her anger and unforgiving attitude resulted in a break with all of Nora’s children that lasted until she died in 1950. After that, one of E. J.'s children, Nova, I believe, reached out to Frances and a friendship developed between several of Nora’s children and their aunts and uncles. It didn’t make up for all the years lost, thirty-two years of no contact, but it brought comfort and closure to some.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Sarah Frances Buckhanan, my husband’s great-grandmother on his mother’s side, was born on January 1, 1864 in Bentonville, Benton County, Arkansas. What a frightening world surrounded her. The Civil War was waning but in northwestern Arkansas the Confederates, bushwackers, and Native Americans fought off Union troops who regularly ventured into Benton and Washington counties, engaging in bloody skirmishes, leaving behind bodies of locals and burnt remains of their homes. Arkansas, much like Missouri, was divided in its allegiance to either the Union or Confederate armies and fought the war internally for four long years, sacrificing thousands of men, more than a few women and children, and many buildings that housed county records, stores of food, and homes.

Sarah’s parents were John Littleton Trout Buckhanan and Elender Jane Keeling Buckhanan. Sarah was the fourth of five children born to Elender before her death at a young age, approximately thirty. Those records that were lost in the Civil War have made tracing Elender’s life a bit difficult but we believe she was born in Roane County, Tennessee between 1837 and 1838 and died between 1866 and 1870. Her burial place is unknown. She left behind five children, Mary Jane born in 1857, Margaret in 1859, John Montgomery (named after his paternal grandfather) in 1860, Sarah Frances in 1864, and George Thomas in 1866. It may well have been the birth of her last son, George, in Missouri that took the life of Elender, and perhaps her body rests there, but that is only a guess.

John Littleton Trout Buckhanan’s beginnings are not easily traced with at least one record showing him as having been born in Missouri, another Sadler, Texas, and most likely Madison County, Arkansas. His parents were John Montgomery Buckhanan and Catherine Airhart Buckhanan, both of Tennessee. Not long after his wife Elender died John L. T. married Margaret A. Copinger McGowan in St. Paul, Madison County, Arkansas. She became mother to his five children, brought to the family five children of her own from a previous marriage, and birthed three more, Harvey Henry in 1870, Hannah Tennessee in 1873, and Sherman in 1880.

In 1894, having lived in Texas for years, John was back in Madison County, Arkansas where he married his third wife, all Tennessee born. Her name was Mary Elizabeth Ferrell. On August 22, 1907, John died in Whitesboro, Grayson County, Texas at the age of seventy-three. Mary lived until May 9, 1934, and died in Gibtown, Jack County, Texas.

Back to little Sarah, known to her family as both Frances and Fannie, only a toddler when her mother died, life continued to be full of turmoil and upheaval.  At the time of the 1870 Federal Census her father’s occupation is farmer in Madison Co., Arkansas, with ten children in the household. Ten years later he is listed as a farmer in Grayson Co., Texas, with five children in the household. The Federal Census for 1890 was destroyed in a fire so we don’t know where the family was then. In 1900, John and his wife of six years, Mary Elizabeth, are living in Grayson Co, Texas with only their eighteen-year-old grandson Selmer, son of Margaret Buckhanan.

Meanwhile, Fannie married William Franklin Smith on December 24, 1887 in Grayson County, Texas when she was twenty-three. The fact Fannie didn’t marry at fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen like so many girls of the times was probably because she was needed at home to help with the younger children. Fannie’s granddaughter Rosa Ellen Fairchild Farrell wrote in her memoir this about her grandmother, “Frances Buchanan’s mother was taken from her small family while Frances was quite young. But, like the trooper she was, Frances took her mother’s place the best she could. She was a tall, slender girl with black hair, brown eyes, and high cheek bones like those of an Indian. Her mouth was set in a firm line. Because she was a cousin of Frank Smith, her ancestors were also Irish, English, and Indian. Her father was a soldier in the Civil War, later he was a cattle owner and rancher in Texas. As children, Frank and Frances were playmates; as older children, they were pals; as adults they were sweethearts. When the Buchanan children were old enough to get along without Frances, she and Frank were married.”

As Rosa Ellen mentioned, Fannie and Frank were cousins, but not quite first cousins. Frank Smith’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Buckhanan, was a sister to Fannie’s father, John Littleton Trout Buckhanan. I think that makes Fannie and Frank first cousins once removed. We’ve all heard the admonition “don’t marry your cousin.” In this case that advice should have been heeded for it seems the Buckhanans carry a gene for hearing loss, an unusual nerve deafness known as DFNA/DFNA1 hereditary hearing loss, which has continued to manifest itself in at least six subsequent generations of descendants.

Married in Grayson County Texas on Christmas Eve, 1887, Fannie and Frank moved on to Oklahoma where in 1893 they staked a homestead claim near Noble. By 1908 they sold out and followed the urging of a relative, R. E. Morris, to try their luck in the rugged mountains and valleys of Moffat County, Colorado. They packed up their meager belongings and with their family of five children moved to Bear Valley, north and west of Craig, Colorado where the railroad ended and some of their lives ended too.

I wish I could say Fannie’s life got better after her marriage and maybe for a little while it did. But when I look at the photos of the family with beautiful children who died soon after the photo was taken I see pain and hardship there. 

Their first born child, Thomas Alvin Smith, born in 1889, did live a good, long life, to age seventy-one, and he is my husband’s grandfather, my husband being Robert Doyle Russell.

The second born, William Lee, born in 1890 died within a year.(He in not in the photo to the left as he had already passed away.)

James Wesley Smith, born in 1894, was murdered at the young age of twenty-eight, the same day his father was also murdered, both over a dispute with a neighbor about a potato crop. More about that tragedy later in this story.

Their fourth son, Bennie H. was born in 1895 and died when he was eight.

Their fifth child was a daughter, Lillian Vernatta, born in 1897, lived to be seventy-four.

Ernest Franklin was born in 1902 and lived to be seventy-eight.

Rosa Jeanetta was born in 1905 and lived to be seventy-seven.

Ola Mae was born in 1906 and died three years later.

Julia Ellen was born in 1908 and lived to be seventy-five.

Of the nine babies she birthed, Fannie lost four of them, and she had a stroke at age forty-four, upon the birth of her last child, Julia. No wonder that final horrific blow to her well-being that came on October 5, 1921 when both her husband, William Franklin “Frank” Smith, and her son James Wesley “Jim” Smith were shot and killed not far from their home, sent Fannie into a tailspin, brought on another stroke and took the zest for living right out of her. She stayed in Bear Valley two more years after their deaths before she had enough money saved to retreat to the more civilized city of Oklahoma City where she lived with her daughter Lillie until the end of her life in April of 1937.

There was another tragedy in Bear Valley that affected Fannie and that was the death of her daughter-in-law, Nora Olive Jones Smith, the wife of Fannie and Frank’s oldest son, Tom.
Nora died in Craig, Colorado where she had gone to await the birth of her fourth child. Their daughter Jennie Frances Smith was born September 12, 1918 and six weeks later Nora succumbed to the virulent Flu Epidemic of 1918 that was sweeping the nation, indeed the world. Fannie and Frank took
newborn Jennie Frances, always called Frances by her family, into their home where she lived until at the age of three when her Grandpa Smith and Uncle Jim were killed. By that time Tom had remarried and Frances joined their household, not far from the home of her grandparents. Her grandmother, Fannie Smith, not only suffered the loss of her husband and son, but had to give up parenting her granddaughter and namesake, Frances Smith.

As for Fannie’s health at the time of her husband’s and son’s deaths, her granddaughter Rosa Ellen had this to say, “(Rosa Ellen has been describing the events of the day when her grandfather Frank and his son, Jim, were shot to death, from the perspective of her mother, Rosa Smith)……From her bed, Frank’s wife jumped! For days she had lain there recovering from a stroke. Her daughters tried to hold her back, but it was useless. The instinct of a wife and mother told her that Death had struck. Half way to the pasture she collapsed, from fatigue and another stroke. The girls ran to their mother and carried her to the house and put her to bed once more. Neighbor women came to help in every possible way, as soon as they heard of the tragedy. Hearts that are broken never completely heal. Mrs. Smith lay in bed for weeks, unable to move. Her thoughts were of the days she had known as Frank’s wife and Jim’s mother.”

Fannie and Frank’s older daughter Lillian Vernetta “Lillie” Smith Williams traveled from Oklahoma to Colorado to attend the funeral of her father and brother, and stayed awhile longer to care for her mother before returning to Oklahoma and her husband Floyd Williams. Nearly two years later Fannie told her family she could not spend another winter in Colorado so her newly married daughter Rosa and husband, Art Fairchild, drove Fannie and daughter Julie out of Bear Valley and down to Oklahoma City to live with Lillie. (One account says she took a train to Oklahoma.) The following year Tom Smith left the valley for good, ending the era of the Smith family in Moffat County (see http://www.viewoftherockies.com/CraigtoPurcell1.html for photos of that infamous trip across the Continental Divide)

Apparently Fannie’s health improved in Oklahoma for she traveled north in the summertime on several occasions to visit her family in Colorado. Frances Smith Russell wrote in her autobiography “From There to Here” about her grandmother “Grandma Smith would visit us during the summer.  She said she just couldn't take the summer heat in Oklahoma.  She divided her time between our house, and Daddy's sister Rosie, and brother Earnest.

Her visits were truly the happiest times of my life.  She still had a soft spot for me and could find a lot of little things to delight me.  She insisted on helping me with the dishes.  That was a real treat.  Since the older kids were kept busy in the fields, the washing and drying dishes was my job.  One summer while she was visiting, she and Ma pieced me a quilt top out of Mother's clothing.”

And later in her book Frances wrote this about her Grandmother Smith, “We went to Oklahoma to visit Grandma in August of 1936 (paraphrased). Grandma lived with Aunt Lillie and Uncle Floyd (Lillie’s second husband).  She had made her home with them ever since Grandpa and Uncle Jim were killed, and she moved back to Oklahoma.  She had two strokes and was partially paralyzed.  She was quite feeble and spent most of her time in her easy chair.”

And this, “In April 1937 Grandma Smith died.  I was so glad I had gone to see her the summer before.  She still lived with Aunt Lillie.”

Rosa Ellen wrote this of her Grandma Smith’s passing, “Mother went to Oklahoma at Thanksgiving (1936) to visit her sisters and brother, and her mother, who was ill. A few days after arriving at my aunt’s home in Oklahoma City, Jackie (Rosa Ellen’s half brother) became ill with diphtheria. Only because of the fine surgical care was he saved. When Mother returned to Pierce (Colorado) during the Christmas holidays, she was nearly sick because of the continuous care she had giving Jackie. In the spring a telegram came during dinnertime. Grandma had gone to join Grandpa and her three children in Heaven. This news was extremely hard for Mother to bear.”

One more firsthand source of information about Fannie’s later years comes from a letter written by Betty Jo Barton Gaston, the daughter of Fannie’s youngest child, Julia. The letter was addressed to Rosa Ellen Fairchild Farrell, Betty’s cousin…date of letter unknown. These are excerpts from that letter: “But let's back up a bit. Frank and Fannie had got land in Oklahoma, (the land run), up by Noble, OK. (April 2, 1889) While there they lost 3 children---they are buried there and that's where both Granny and Aunty are buried. (Granny is Fannie. Aunty is Frank and Sarah's daughter, Lillian). Those 3 children were Bennie, Lee, and an Ola. One of the boys was crippled somehow and in Granny's trunk of keepsakes was little shoe with a brace on it that he had worn.

“We loved for Granny to look through her trunk and tell us the stories of each thing in the trunk. She usually cried---and I could never figure out if seeing the things made her cry or if she had just got the blues real bad and then got out the stuff.

“One thing was a rock---not too big---and she said one of those boys who had died had been sitting in the yard crying, and when Pa came close he told Pa that he was mad at Ma. Then Frank told him: "Well, if I was you, then, I'd just kill her." So the little guy picked up this rock and went in and threw it at Granny. When she would tell that she would laugh and blow snuff all over us---if we didn't watch out!

I guess Mother (Julia) was born at Noble, and at that time, Aunty (Lillian) would have been 10 or 11. That's when Mother told me that Granny had the stroke (at the time of Julia’s birth). Aunty said after Granny had the stroke she had to start doing all the cooking, washing, and etc.

“Then they told me the family moved on to the Weatherford area, and that is where Aunty (Lillian) met and married Floyd Williams. Then from there they went to a ranch on White River. We visited the ranch site and the schoolhouse that was up then. From there they moved on to Moffat County where the guys were shot.

“Mother (Julia) told me that Granny explained to her that they couldn't stay another winter out there with no men---so they each packed a trunk and they rode the train back to Butler, Oklahoma, where Aunty and Uncle (Lillian & Floyd) lived. She never mentioned who paid for the rail tickets. She didn't mention Rosa coming with them. She did say that Granny told her that maybe they could go back when it was spring.

“When I was about 9 or 10 I had the mumps and Granny was at our house. She said "I'll sleep with Betty and take care of her. I've nursed mumps all my life and never had them, so guess I'm immune." But she sure WASN'T! In due time she did have the mumps and from then on her health went down and down. The strokes started coming back on her---
and she died the same spring that Tilford was born in 1937.

“Granny always lived with Aunty (Lillian) from the time they came from Colorado. She'd visit us once in a while, and I think she traveled to Colorado to see her other children a few times---but not very many times.

Sarah Frances Buckhanan Smith died in April 11, 1937 at the age of 73, and was buried in the Maguire-Fairview Cemetery near Noble, Oklahoma. She left many descendants, a proud family of Smiths who have thrived and multiplied - Fannie would be proud.

1) The name Buckhanan has been spelled various ways and today is usually spelled Buchanan.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Robert Sidney Russell - Uncle Sid

I asked my sister-in-law, Mary Simms, to tell me what she remembers about her Uncle Sid, thinking I would incorporate her memories into a story of my own, but when I read what she wrote I realized I could not improve on it. Therefore, this is Mary's story.


[This memoir will be divided up into segments showing the origin of the information.]


I first met Uncle Sid when he came to Colorado to spend time with Frances and Doyle at the end of World War II.  He had recently been discharged from the US Army after seeing combat duty in the Pacific Theatre.  Sid had been wounded quite seriously and was still in a state of post traumatic shock from war injuries.  Later I felt it was rather unusual that upon being discharged that Sid came straight to Doyle in Colorado rather than returning to Arkansas to be with his parents first.

Uncle Sid was a very quiet and polite person and showed great respect to everyone he met.  Sid had a personality that people just automatically gravitated toward.  A truly magnetic personality.  Especially attracted to Sid’s charisma were the ladies—both married and single.

Sid had very little money and most of the time did not have wheels of his own, so he mostly dated women who had access to a car and could provide their transportation.  He did eventually purchase an old c1928 beet truck that ran at times and did not at other times.  One night while en route to see one of his harem of lady friends his truck lights gave out all of a sudden.  Since all roads around Nunn, CO were built on the straight surveyed section lines, Sid assumed he could simply continue in a straight course until he came to a stop.  Not so.  Seems now and then the intersections of the county roads had a jog in them, and when passing through the intersection one came out about 50 feet to the left or right when entering the next mile of road.  [The reason for this jog was said to be because the earth is round.]  Unfortunately, it was at this point when Sid’s lights gave out—just before the jog.  He and his old truck ended up in the ditch just to the left of the continuing county road—with the front of the truck nosed down into the road ditch and the radiator slammed up against the ditch bank on the far side.

One lady that he courted for quite a while was a local school teacher named Miss Marita Plunkett.  She was especially nice but did not have access to a car of her own.  Hence Uncle Sid did not spend too much quality time with her.  When he would return from a date with Miss Plunkett he would drop his used condoms at the yard gate.  Frances would go out the next morning and dig a hole and bury the offending items so her kids would not find them.

One time Miss Plunkett and Sid came by the house and came in to visit for  a while before going off on their date.  Our family had spent the day shopping in Greeley.  Unfortunately when Kenneth was sent back to close the kitchen door that he had left wide open an old hen had already wandered into the kitchen.  Kenneth did not notice the chicken and slammed the door shut.  Several hours later when Doyle and family returned from Greeley, the hen had spent her time roosting on the cot in the living room and doing as all good hens do—pooping on the bed.  Frances chased the hen out but failed to check for damages. 

Bobby and I were already in bed on the cot when Sid and Miss Plunkett arrived so Miss Plunkett, being a very mannerly person, came into the living room to say hello to Bobby and me.  She sat down on the foot of the bed and leaned over with her hand resting on the covers.  It was rather dark in the room and Miss Plunkett kept sniffing at the air and trying to hold a straight face.  The next morning was when Frances found that the bed covers were covered with chicken poop!   We never did find out if Miss Plunkett got any on her skirt or hand—but judging from her continuous sniffing the air she had to have smelled the chicken poop.  Frances was mortified!

When a lady would tell Sid that she was married and hands off, Sid would inform the lady that she was much too pretty to be married, and the lady would usually have an affair with Sid.  Flattery will get you everywhere. 

One morning Sid was still asleep in the “north” bedroom when Frances told Kenneth and me to come see something.  Sid was facing toward the wall and the covers had come down to his waist and his entire bare back was exposed.  I could not believe what Sid’s back looked like.  His entire back was one huge scar from burning.  Seems he had been scalded by a boiling teakettle when he was a kid and then again by a mortar shell during the war.  He must have suffered terribly from those injuries.

Uncle Sid related this incident about the war injury to our family himself.   For a long time after he was wounded in battle, Sid was totally helpless.  They kept him strapped down to the bed to keep him still while he healed.  For some reason Sid was kept totally naked during this time.  Perhaps to expedite healing.  Anyway, he said that one day a new nurse came in and whisked back the covers in preparing to change the sheets.  When the covers came off there lay a totally naked man bound hand and foot to the hospital bed.  For some reason this amused the nurse and she burst out laughing and ran out and brought in several other nurses who stood around and laughed and giggled about Sid’s condition.  This really upset Sid. 

Our house was very small and there were six in the family.  We had only two bedrooms so it rather crowded us to have Sid taking up one entire bedroom.  Doyle kept finding Sid a place to live with neighbors to free up our living space a little.  One place Doyle found was with a rather dishonest bachelor fellow named Mr. Quaif.  He and Sid seemed to get along OK and Sid stayed there for quite a while.  Mr. Quaif had a car and I would imagine he let Sid use it to court the ladies.

Uncle Sid was always very nice to Doyle’s kids.  He would bring us candy and other treats from town.  He once gave me a small cedar box that he had won on the local punch board.  It had originally been filled with Hershey Bars which he very generously shared with the entire family.  I was so thrilled when he gave me that beautiful carved cedar box.  It was about the 6” by 10” and 3” deep. 

Another local family that Sid lived with was Hattie and Everett Wilson.  Everett worked for Murray Giffin and when Sid went to work for Murray, it just seemed logical for Sid to get board and room from Hattie and Everett.  They thought the world of Sid as did about everyone he encountered.  One time Sid’s shoe string broke and he bent over and tied the two broken ends back together.  This act shocked the Wilsons no end.  They always threw broken things away and replaced them with new things.

Uncle Sid eventually returned to Arkansas to live with his parents for several years before he finally go married and moved in with his new wife.  Sid was given a partial disability pension from the war injuries.  Not enough to live on as a normal person but enough to live like a bum.  I saw Sidney in 1950 and again in 1958 when I visited Addie and Elias’s home.  He was very quiet, and stood on the front porch most of the time smoking a cigarette.  He was a kind and gentle person.  


Bobby always looked more like his Uncle Sid than he did his Papa Doyle.  This eventually gave rise to a questioning of Bobby’s paternity.  One person came right out and told Frances that it was quite obvious that Frances had had an affair with Sid and Bobby was Sid’s son.  Fortunately, for Frances’s reputation, Frances and Sid had never met until after Gladys was born so that squashed the rumor quite quickly.  The accuser was Uncle Harold’s wife, Shirley.  This really ticked Frances off.


Sid was in active combat in New Guinea during World War II and got wounded very seriously.  Seems the natives would steal the dead soldier’s dog tags and sell them to the Army to account for mortalities.  Sid got a bit too close to a mortar shell and was assumed dead by the Natives who removed his dog tag and turned it in.  The Army forthwith informed Addie and Elias that their son had been killed during a battle in New Guinea.  They also sent all of Sid’s personal effects back to his parents.  When the medics checked the battlefield for survivors they found Sid nearly dead.  He was transported back to the Army hospital and was unconscious for a long period of time.  It was touch and go during this time.  When Sid finally came out of his coma he had no idea who he was or where he was.  His memory was blanked out from the trauma. 

When the day came that Uncle Sidney finally remembered who he was and told his doctor, they wrote to his parents and told them that their reported dead son was actually alive but in serious condition at an Army hospital in the South Pacific. This must have been quite a shock to his parents.

It took a long time after this before Sid could leave the hospital and be discharged and return to the US.  

When Sid was just a little kid, he and his siblings were running through the house like a bunch of wild Indians when Sid got too close to the fireplace and caught his toe in the teakettle filled with boiling water.  He flung it all over himself and  scarred quite a bit of his body.  The burns were quite serious but Addie doctored him through this.

One day Hazel came running up the path between Seldon’s house and Addie’s house all excited.  She yelled to Addie that Sid and Minnie had just got married!  Hazel was quite thrilled.  Addie was furious.  She did not like Hazel and disliked Minnie even more.  It was at this point that Sid finally moved out of his parent’s house and moved into Ozark to live with his new wife.

Robert Sidney Russell (1916-1977).

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Theron Seldon Russell was born October 27, 1921, in Cass, Franklin County, Arkansas, the eleventh child of Elias L. and Addie Jane Russell. I don’t imagine that Seldon, as he was called, got a lot of individual attention from either of his parents with that many children in the house but he had plenty of older brothers and sisters to look after him. He was born at home, birthed with the help of his father’s mother, Mariah Tennessee Turner Russell, who was midwife for all of Addie Jane’s children, and named them too! His older brother Doyle J. Russell, my husband’s father, told me that his baby brother was named after a local school teacher named Theron. I don’t know where the Seldon came from. There would be one more child born to Elias and Addie Jane, another boy they named Harold who came along three years later in July of 1924.
I know very little about Seldon’s childhood but assume it was much like that of that of his seven brothers with hard work, few toys, and lots of wooded areas to explore along the Mulberry River and the tree covered, rocky hills surrounding Cass.

From one of Seldon’s cousins, Herbert Reid, we learned that Seldon loved theater and performed in several plays when he was a school boy in Cass. All his life he liked to make things with his hands using simple tools like the pocket knives his older brothers whittled with. Late in life he was still making wooden chairs and re-caning the seats. On one of his visits out to Colorado to visit Doyle, Seldon brought his nephew Bobby a door knocker made from a horseshoe. It still hangs on our front door and is used often, reminding us always of Uncle Seldon....it is cherished.

But I’m getting ahead of myself….On October 20, 1942, Seldon enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Little Rock, Arkansas. He was a single, twenty-one year old with two years of high school education and some experience driving a bus or truck. He was 5’7” and weighed 134 pounds, and enlisted for “the duration of the war plus six months at the discretion of the President.” Seldon served his country honorably and came home to Ozark after the war along with six of his brothers who also served in the military in WWII, a proud family tradition of service to our country.

On April 6, 1948, Seldon married Mary Hazel Wisdom in Paris, Arkansas. Ten months later they welcomed their first child, and only boy, into the world, Theron Jimmy Russell. Seldon and Hazel lived in a little white house within shouting distance of his parents and proceeded to raise a family, Seldon working for the Forest Service, a very good job for that time and place. Six lovely daughters were born to them from 1951 to 1965,  Mary Sue, Patricia Joyce, Nancy June, Brenda Kay, Judy Ann, and Teresa Diane. Hazel’s health was not good and she passed away in April of 1982, just a couple of weeks before their youngest daughter was married.

Two years later Seldon remarried, a local woman named Mary Emily Wright Primm, formerly of Claremore, Oklahoma. They had twenty-three years of life together, happy years, from all outward appearances, before Mary passed in 2007 with Seldon following a year later. Several times during those twenty-three years Mary and Seldon drove out to Colorado to visit Doyle and his family, including the celebration of Doyle and Frances' golden wedding anniversary in 1985. 

Bob and I remember Seldon as a friendly, kind, thoughtful Uncle and only wish we had known him better, had visited him on his own turf, learned what made him most happy in life. He’s left a legacy in his children and grandchildren and in the handcrafted items he made with his own hands.