James Russell by Bruce Whitaker

James Russell was born October 3, 1782 in the Rocky River section of Mecklenburg (now Cabarrus) County. He was the son of Robert R. Russell (1758-1791) and Mary Morrison (1762-1847 and the grandson of James Russell Sr. (1733-1799) and Jean Carson (1742-1825). James Russell Sr. was born in Northern Ireland and brought to Pennsylvania by his father around 1745. James Russell Sr.’s wife Jean Carson was the son of Robert Carson, a glove maker from Ireland who had also moved to Pennsylvania. James Russell’s mother, Mary Morrison, was the daughter of Revolutionary War soldier James Morrison (1726-1804) and his wife Jennet Morrison (1735-1810). Her parents, who were cousins, came to Pennsylvania from Campbeltown, Scotland along with her father’s brothers Robert Morrison (1728-1810) and John Morrison (1730-1777).
James Russell was the second child and first son of Robert and Mary Morrison Russell. Robert had become prosperous and well thought of in Rocky River. He is often mentioned in Mecklenburg County minutes of the Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions. Robert was a road supervisor, tax collector, juror and estate administrator. He died at the age of 32 on January 20, 1791, when James Russell was only eight years. Russell’s wife Mary was left with five children aged from two to ten and was pregnant with the couple’s sixth child at the time. James Russell’s mother Mary Russell, Captain Martin Phifer and Joseph Shin were appointed administrators of his father’s estate. The Court gave the administrators leave to “sell as many of the Negroes of said estate as will be sufficient to pay the demands against the estate.” The estate sale of Robert Russell brought a little over 857 pounds.

Robert Russel (1804–1878)

Cabarrus County was formed from Mecklenburg County in 1793. The Cabarrus County Court met at the Russell home from 1793 until at least 1797, paying Mary Morrison Russell five pounds for the use of her house. The Court usually met four times a year for however long it took to conduct its business. On January 18, 1797 the Court ordered that Thomas Black should pay Mary Russell ten pounds per year for the hire of “a Negro fellow named Jack Toney to be paid in monthly payment as long as said Negro serves said Black.”
James Russell married Barbara Milnster in Cabarrus County on April 25, 1803. Barbara Milnster was born in 1782 to Frederick and Dorothy Milnster. Frederick Milnster was a man of some prominenceand was often mentioned in both the Mecklenburg and Cabarrus County Court minutes, once as Joakim Frederick Milnster. The Court on one occasion requested he translate the Will of Paul Dupay from Dutch to English, indicating that Milnster was either Dutch or German.
James and Barbara Russell moved to the lower Cane Creek/Hooper’s Creek area of what was then Buncombe County a short time after their marriage. Russell’s sister Jane Russell Townsend and her husband Lewis Townsend moved to Buncombe County around the same time.
James Russell went to work building a house and starting a farm with large fields of wheat and corn, an apple orchard and a four-row peach orchard. He also raised hogs and cattle. His hard work was beginning to pay off when disaster struch and he died at age 29; his oldest child Robert Russell wrote in his Bible “Father was killed by a horse.” Robert did not write whether his father was thrown from a horse or kicked in the head by a horse, but both were common forms of death at that period of time. Being kicked in the head by a horse was the more common of the two. A farmer would be shoeing a horse, using his knife to scrape off something stuck to a hoof or examining an injured leg, and the horse would kick him in the head. The farmer would often be dead before he hit the ground. My own grandfather and James Russell’s great grandson, Robert T. Whitaker (1884-1942), was injured in this way. He was walking to the house from the barn as two of his horses were playing. As the horses ran and kicked at each other, one horse went to the left of grandfather and the other to his right. One horse kicked at the other and struck Grandfather in the head instead. He lived about a year after being kicked but he was never able to do anything again.

Narcissa Russell (1815–1880) and William Harper (1811–1906)

James Russell’s death was either in the last month of 1811 or early in 1812. He left four children ages 2 through 7, and his wife Barbara was pregnant with a son who was born March 13, 1812. John Ashworth Jr. (1775-1827) was the administrator of James Russell’s estate, and James McBrayer, Joseph Henry and Samuel Murray Sr. were appointed by the court to lay off one year’s provision for the support of the widow and family of James Russell. John Ashworth Jr. reported to court the names of the buyers and the amount purchased at the estate auction of James Russell: William Tyces $1.68. ½ cents, John Merrill $2.56 ¼, Robert Lewis $10.00, Barbara Russell (widow) $19.54, William Murray $1.87 ½, Zebulon Brevard $5.56 ¼, James Kincaid $58.75, James Adams $14.06 ¼, Merriman Featherstone $3.68 3/4, John Justice $2.06 ½,Hugh McCrary $4.62 ½, James Barnhardt $1.06 ¼, Daniel Darnel $1.37 ½, John Smith $10.00, Lewis Townsend $.62 ½ cents, John Ashworth $1.00, Thomas Murray 25 cents and an unknown man $4.00. The total was $142.72 ½.

Some time after both of their spouses had died, Barbara Milnster Russell and Asa Gallimore were apparently planning to get married. Barbara divided up her property amongst her children and entered into an agreement with Gallimore protecting their children’s rights. Numerous deeds recorded in 1828 include this issue. However, it seems the marriage never took place, or if it did it was short lived. Barbara Russell is listed as head of household on the 1830 Buncombe County census and was living with her son on the 1850 census. She is not listed on the 1860 census, suggesting that she either died between 1850 and 1860 or moved to Henderson, Illinois with her son James Russell.

I discovered Barbara Milnster Russell’s mother Dorothy Milnster’s will in Cabarrus County. The will was proved January 15, 1838 and listed all of her children including Barbara Russell in Buncombe County. Dorothy Milnster stated that her estate was to be divided equally among all her children except her sons David and Washington Milnster. David and Washington Milnster were each bequeathed twenty-five cents “to remind them that they once had a mother.”

James and Barbara Milnster Russell’s Children:

Robert Russell was born March 28, 1804 in Cabarrus or Buncombe County and was married on January 18, 1831 to Susanna Livingston. Robert died November 3, 1878 of typhoid fever.
Sinthia Russell was born in March or May of 1806 in Buncombe County and was married.
Bertha Elizabeth Russell was born March 20, 1808 in Buncombe County and married Joseph Garren (1805-1853). Bertha died in October 1849 in Gilmer County, Georgia.
John Russell was born February 18, 1809 in Buncombe County and married Eliza Garren.    
James Russell was born March 13, 1812 in Buncombe County. His first wife, whose name is not known, died around 1849. James married a second time to Anna Waldrop and moved to Henderson, Illinois.

Daughters of Barbara Milnster Russell:

Narcissa Ann Russell was born in Buncombe County on October 9, 1815. She married William Harper (1811-1906), son of Lot and Mariam Whitaker Harper. Narcissa died July 25, 1880 in Fannin County, Georgia.    

Sarah Russell was born in 1819 in Buncombe County and married William Byers Jr. (1816-1884). Sarah died in 1887. Both are buried at the Byers Family Cemetery.