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.