Russell — Noteworthy Incidents

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      The early town records do not disclose many evidences of the peculiar customs prevalent among the early settlers in Western Massachusetts, for the reason that they appear to be meagre transcripts of the details of town business.
      In 1805 the town charges were fixed at the inconsiderable sum of $50 for that year, and in the following year a public pound was directed to be built in David Holmes' yard, although it is likely that the town had a pound before that date. In 1806, a school-house having been completed "nigh Robert Hazzard," town-meetings were ordered to be held therein after that time. The first pauper mentioned in the records was Mary Stebbins, and she seemed to give the town much concern, and was, moreover, a burden upon it from 1805 to 1821. In the first-named year it was decided to sell Mary Stebbins "at the best bider for fore months," and Stephen Hughes got the contract for keeping her, at three shillings per week.
      A record was made in 1814 of Mary Stebbins being bid off to John A. Mallory at eighty-five cents each week, and in 1816 the town voted that the selectmen should not give more than ninety cents per week for keeping Mary Stebbins. The prices of the necessaries of life must have been low in 1821, for in that year Squire Palmer kept Mary Stebbins for forty-seven cents per-week, and, as the records make no later mention of Mary Stebbins, it is to be inferred that she passed out of existence about that time. She appears to have been the only pauper the town had for many years, although under date of 1821 mention is made that Andrew Mallory was allowed $61.80 for keeping his father and mother one year. Under date of March, 1817, it was voted "not to allow the cost of diging up Miss Harris."
      An amusing incident, showing how cheaply physicians esteemed their services in the early days, is related of one Dr. King, who lived in Blandford about the year 1800. One stormy night a stranger tarrying at the tavern of Landlord Grey, near the centre of Russell, was taken suddenly ill, and a messenger being dispatched for Dr. King, who lived fully six miles away, that worthy came promptly through the rain and mud, physicked his patient until he cured him, and when asked for his bill, replied, hesitatingly, as if fearful of asking too much, "Well, I think I ought to have fifty cents." The patient paid the bill without a murmur, and the doctor was subsequently heard to express his satisfaction by remarking that it was "a pretty good night's work."
      The Landlord Grey referred to in the story must have been one of the first innkeepers in Russell. Titus Doolittle kept tavern about 1800, in a house now occupied by Mr. Quance as a residence, on the river-bank, about midway between Russell village and Salmon Falls. It is a substantial-looking house at this day, although it is probably nearly a hundred years old. A Mr. Day kept a tavern shortly after 1800, where Mr. Lawrence Marony now lives, a half-mile northeast of Russell village. Mr. Day kept the tavern for nearly forty years, to the close of the year 1848, and from the fact that it was known as the Hawley tavern, it would appear that Hawley must have kept it before Day's advent. The first postmaster in Russell was Reuben Palmer, who was appointed in 1825, and who also kept a store then and for some years previous about a half-mile north of Russell village.
      John Gould kept a store in 1806, near where the Chapin & Gould paper-mills stand at present, and where at that time, too, a Dr. Frye had a cotton-mill. In connection with his store Mr. Gould also operated a grist-mill.
      What Russell did in support of the war of 1812 cannot be learned from the records, but according to the recollection of Mrs. Hannah Dickinson (now living in Russell at the age of ninety-two, and a resident there since 1807), the town sent but two men into the service,—John Carrington and Lyman Holmes. Mrs. Dickinson above noticed is remarkably active in her mental faculties, and talks in a spirited and interesting manner of the events of seventy-five years ago. She has a sister, Mrs. Northrop, now residing in Marcellus, N. Y., at the age of one hundred and one.
      The two oldest houses in Russell are supposed to be the residence of Thomas Williston, on the river-bank, opposite the paper-mill at Salmon Falls, and the house now occupied by the Widow Clark, a mile southwest of Russell village. Both these dwellings are said to have been built as early as 1780.
      A record made in 1823 of a vote "not to petition the General Court to dissolve the town of Russell" would seem to indicate that the town had a narrow escape from oblivion.
      The Eighth Turnpike Association of Massachusetts laid their road from a line between Westfield and Russell, through Russell and Blandford to Falley's Store, and thence west.
      There was also a turnpike association early in the present century, charged with the maintenance of a road between the towns of Russell and Blandford.
      During the Revolution the road from Springfield to Albany entered Russell at the southeast corner, over Glasgow Mountain, now called Little Tekoa.
      Russell suffered considerably by the flood of December, 1878, and by washed-out roads, destroyed bridges, etc., was damaged to the extent of about $5000, exclusive of the loss of the dam at the Chapin & Gould paper-mill. The floods of 1819 and 1839 are also well remembered in this section as having caused, similar havoc.
      There are no secret orders in the town at present. A Good Templars' lodge flourished some years previous to 1874, but at that date passed out of existence.

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29 Jul 2005