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John Russell
Born 1821

The Des Moines correspondent of the Davenport Gazette gives the following interesting sketch of honest John Russell, Speaker of the House at the last session, and present member from Jones County:
Mr. Russell was born in Kettlebridge, county of Fife, Scotland in 1821. He attended the common schools till he was 12 years old, after which time the only educational advantages were derived from casual attendance at the evening schools. He was an ardent lover of freedom and free institutions, and accordingly was an active participant in the Liberalist movement though yet a youth. When this movement failed he emigrated to America, arriving at New York at about the time he was nineteen years old. He went directly to Pittsburg, where he landed with $14. He secured employment at once at his trade as a stone cutter, and worked upon the water works for the ensuing year, at the end of which time he had save $100. He next went to Columbiana County, Ohio, where he engaged in merchandising in a small way, and remained there ten years. In 1852 he came to Iowa and purchased the farm in Jones county where he still resides. Always an advocate of civil and religious liberty from his earliest youth, he was one of the founders and organizers of the Republican party, heading the movement in Jones county which resulted in the election of the Hon. W.W. Holmes to the House by only eleven majority. He had several local offices in the county, and was elected member of the house in 1862, and has been returned every subsequent session. In 1868 he was chosen Speaker, and served in that responsible and difficult position, giving the highest satisfaction to the members.

Source: Iowa Homestead and Western Farm Journal, 4 February 1870, page 5
Submitted by: Steve Hanken

HON. JOHN RUSSELL; P.O. Onslow; Senator-elect of the Twenty-third Senatorial District, comprising the counties of Jones and Cedar, Iowa; is a resident of Clay Township, Jones Co., and was born October 8, 1821, in Fifeshire, Scotland; he is the son of Robert Russell and Mary Williams, both natives of Fifeshire, Scotland; his father was a contractor and stone-mason; he was a stanch Presbyterian, a man of original thought and scientific research—a valued citizen. His mother was possessed of sterling qualities and great force of character; both have long since gone to the Promised Land. The generations of Russells for five centuries have found their last resting-places in "God's Acre," at Fifeshire.
The subject of this sketch, who is one of the four sons of Robert, came to America and landed at New York May 29, 1842, and immediately proceeded to Pittsburgh, Penn.. where he had an uncle; he remained at Pittsburgh about a year, working at his trade of stonemason on the new water-works, then being built. In 1843, he removed to Columbiana Co., Ohio, where, with his own capital and some friendly aid, he went into mercantile business and there continued till 1852. On the 29th of November, 1849, he was married to Miss Margaret Feehan, a native of Columbiana Co., Ohio.
In 1852, in pursuance of a long-cherished plan, he and his family came West and located on his present farm, in Clay Township, Jones Co., Iowa. They have four children, three sons and a daughter—Robert W., born December 16, 1850; John F., born August 12, 1852; David W., born May 14, 1855, and Lizzie, born on the 12th of February, 1857. Robert W. was married to Julia Shunk in December, 1876, and resides at Des Moines, Iowa. where he is in charge of the Insurance Department in the office of the State Auditor. John F. is in business in Des Moines; the other two children are at home.
Mr. Russell has a farm of 200 acres in one of the most fertile sections of the State. In early life, he was a Democrat, but has always been Anti-Slavery in sentiment; in 1854, he was efficient in organizing public sentiment in opposition to the encroachments of slavery, as embodied in the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. He has held most of the offices within the gift of his fellow-townsmen. In 1861, he was elected a member of the General Assembly, and was re-elected four successive times, being the one man in this State who ever served five consecutive terms in the General Assembly. He was Speaker of the House in 1868, and, by the impartial discharge of his duties, won respect of both parties and became favorably known throughout the State. In 1870, he was elected State Auditor of Iowa, and was re-elected in 1872. At the expiration of his second term as Auditor, in January, 1875, he returned to his farm, and for nearly five years has followed the quiet walks of private citizenship. In October, 1879, he was elected to the State Senate from the district comprising his own and Cedar Counties, and will enter upon his official duties in January, 1880.
Early environment and the laws of heredity proclaim him a thoroughbred Scotch Presbyterian nevertheless, he is not a member of any church organization nor of any secret society "—belongs to nobody but the Republican party." He is a "Stalwart of the Stalwarts"— Zach Chandler and Ben Wade being his models of patriotic statesmanship. As a public man, his strength does not lie in oratory, nor in literary display nor in caucus manipulation, but he is popular with the people because of his strict integrity, practical judgment and sound common sense; personally plain but affable, unassuming but reliable, he has been crowned by the people with official honors and the proud title of "HONEST JOHN."

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1879, page 704.


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