History of Russell Township, Putnam County, Indiana
From: Weik's History of Putnam County, Indiana
BY: Jesse W. Weik, A.M.
B. F. Bowen & Company, Publishers
Indianapolis, Indiana 1910


This township was originally a part of Clinton, but in 1828 Clinton was divided, and Russell was formed as it now stands. It occupies the northwest corner of the county, and is bounded on the north by Montgomery county. on the east by Franklin township, on the south by Clinton township. on the west by Parke county. This township is composed of congressional township 16. range 5. The streams that drain Russell are Raccoon creek and Ramp creek, with their several tributaries, all taking a southwestward course. The timber is of an excellent quality, and of a variety similar to that of the neighboring townships. The soil is excellent, especially in the northern and northwestern portions, the county around Russellville being charming in its natural character, and finely improved. The southwestern portion is considerable broken, though the soil is good, and there are many fine farms. The township, upon the whole, is considered one of the finest in the county.

Russell township was one of the first settled. David Swank, who came in 1820 and built his cabin on what is still known in the neighborhood as the "Swank farm," in the northeastern part of the township, was the first settler. In the same year came Allen Elliott, who settled on Big Raccoon, near the center of the township; Austin Puett, who settled near the site of Portland Mills; and Clark Butcher, who also settled on Big Raccoon.

In 1821 came John Anderson, John Westfall, Christian Landis, Andrew Robertson, B. Rosencranze, William Sutherlin, John Gleason, Samuel Steele, Thomas Thompson. Jacob Beck and a brother, John Doherty and Andrew Boyd. John Fosher built his cabin on Ramp creek and removed his family thither in 1822. The year 1822 marks the arrival, also, of John Guilliams, Jacob Bickle and A. B. Denton. From 1822 to 1825, Mark Homan. R. V. Garrott, Thomas Page, I. Aldridge, Jacob Stid and Thomas Norman became residents of the township.

Within the next five years, the ancestors of the Wilsons, the Evanses, the Clodfelters, the McGaugheys. Spencers, Burketts, Forgers. Blakes and many others were added to the pioneer population.

The first birth which occurred in the township is a matter of dispute. The priority belongs either to a child of Christian and Matilda Dearduff. or to Miss Guilliams, the wife of John McGaughey, who was born about the year 1823. The first marriage was that of John Guilliams and Miss Lydia Fosher, which took place in July, 1822. They were married by the Rev. Mr. Quinlet. The manner in which this wedding was conducted serves to illustrate the character of the times, and the simple habits of the pioneers. Mr. Guilliams, who was busily engaged in plowing corn, made arrangements with his intended wife that, on the day of the marriage, when the preacher should arrive, and she should be ready, she should inform him of the facts. In due time the preacher came, and a child was dispatched to notify the groom that all things were ready. Hitching his horse in the field, he repaired to the house where the ceremony was performed, when he returned to his labor, as though nothing unusual had taken place.

Daniel Anderson, who ministered unto the people of the township during the years of 1824 and 1825, was their first preacher. He was followed by William H. Smith, Lorenzo Dow, and others of the noble band which they represent. The first school house was built on the farm of John Fosher, in 1823, in which the first school was taught the same year. The first mill in the township was built by Jacob Beck and was long known as Beck's Mill. This was erected in 1820 and 1821. The buhrs of this mill were made by John Guy, from a boulder which lay near the mill site. The next was Swank's Mill, built in 1823. James Secrest opened at Blakesburgh the first store from which goods were sold in Russell township. In 1823 John Fosher established a tan yard on Ramp creek, which was the first in this portion of the county. Col. James Blake erected a "Sang Factory" at the same place, and operated it from 1826 to 1830. This factory gave employment to all who were not otherwise employed, in digging "sang," which found a ready market. Jesse Blake, also, had an interest in this factory. The first church was built at Russellville in 1830. When the town was laid out in 1828, arrangements were made for the erection of a church, which was completed two years later. The first Fourth of July celebration was held on the farm of John Dougherty, near Portland Mills, in 1828, Gen. George K. Steele acting as marshal of the day. Drs. James B. Clark, Copeland, Winslow, Rogers and John Slavens were the first practicing physicians in this community.

The only town in Russell township is Russellville. It was laid out in 1828, but was not incorporated until early in the eighties. About that time it was reached by the Indianapolis, Decatur & Western railroad, which so added to its population that it was deemed proper to make an incorporated town of it. In early days its leading citizen was Jacob Durham, who emigrated from Kentucky and set up the first blacksmith shop. Later he became the village merchant, was postmaster, justice of the peace and filled various places of trust and responsibility. As a business man Mr. Durham was very successful. Although his early educational advantages were somewhat meagre, yet he was a man of unusually sound judgment and intelligence. He was alike shrewd. industrious and enterprising. He bought groceries in New Orleans, iron in Pittsburg, and dry goods in Philadelphia. These all reached Montezuma by water, and were carted overland to Russellville. His son recalls seeing his father set out for the market in Philadelphia, making the entire trip on horseback. He accumulated a snug fortune, much of which was represented by some of the finest farming lands in the county. About 1860 he retired from active business and removed to Greencastle, where he resided in a beautiful suburban home till his death, August 11, 1864.

The present town officers are: Robert Brumfield, Romulus Boyd, Roy Carter, trustees: John Oliver, marshal: Samuel Brown, treasurer; George Scott, clerk.

There are three churches, Methodist, Presbyterian and Christian, and a handsome new school building with provisions for the lower grades and four grades of high school work. Russellville is also plentifully supplied with secret, fraternal and benevolent orders.

The Masonic Lodge, No. 141, of which Ernest Simpson is worshipful master and J. N. Fordyce, secretary.

Odd Fellows, Lodge No. 841; W. P. Byrd, noble grand; Jonathan Tage, secretary.

Knights of Pythias, Lodge No. 310: Samuel Cox, chancellor commander; Burton Long, keeper of records and seal.

Modern Woodmen, Camp No. 5616: R. S. Redlen, venerable consul; Thomas Walden, clerk.

Ben Hui; Court No. 60: James Fordyce, chief: Frank Kennedy, secretary.

The newspaper of Russellville is published weekly and called The Searchlight. Erasmus Parrett is the editor. There is one bank called the Russellville Bank, of which James Durham is president and Ernest Durham, cashier.

The commercial and industrial facilities of the place are represented by one flouring mill, two sawmills, an elevator, lumber yard. two hardware stores, three general stores, one grocery store, two restaurants, three barber shops, a furniture and undertaking store, meat market, drug store, millinery store, shoe shop and blacksmith shop. Three physicians guard the health of the inhabitants, who number approximately five hundred.

The list of Russellville's postmasters and the dates of their appointment, follows: Jacob Durham, March 29, 1832; James B. Brumfield, August 5, 1850; William H. Durham, May 5, 1853; James L. Wilson, February 24, 1865; Uriah Brown, April 24, 1866; Joseph H. Orear, May 8, 1867; Joseph T. Hopkins. November 12, 1867; William M. Darter, April 27, 1882; William M. Darter, December 5, 1882; William H. Long. June 26, 1885: William H. Long, September 3, 1885; Uriah Brown, January 3, 1889; J. W. Harvey, June 10, 1889; Charles W. Winn, July 27, 1893; J. R. Whitson, June 14, 1897; Nelson F. Scribner, June 22, 1901.

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