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The Russell Family


Thomas Jefferson Russell was said to be born about 1818 in Ohio. He married Ruth Ann Kelley on 7 November 1837 in Columbiana County, Ohio and they had four children, Isaac K., Ralph Wilson, Courtland B. and Lilley.

Ernest Russell, son of Ralph Wilson Russell, was listed on the 1900 Federal Census table for the 23rd Ward of the City of Pittsburgh. He was born in April, 1881, and was living as a lodger at 2162 2nd Avenue highlighted in blue on the 23rd Ward Map. The head of the household was Simon Hartman. Ernest reported that he and his parents were all born in Ohio, and listed his occupation as clerk.

Source: 1900 Federal Census Tables for Allegheny County
Enumerator District 272,
Sheet 10

In 1900, George W. Cain was living at 40 Renova Street in the 23rd Ward with his family. George reported his date of birth to be December 1853 and his place of birth to be Pennsylvania. He reported his occupation as "Coal Dealer," and reported having been married for 25 years to his wife, Emma. Emma reported her birth date to be December 1857 and her place of birth to be Virginia. She reported having five living children, four of who were in the household. Emma reported her occupation to be teacher. George and Emma's children were:

  1. Gertrude, age 24, born in Ohio, who reported her occupation as "Teacher"

  2. Charles, born in Ohio in August 1880 who reported his occupation as "Bridge Builder"

  3. May, born in Pennsylvania in September 1886 who was "At School"

  4. Helen A., born in Pennsylvania in February, 1892, also "At School"

Source: 1900 Federal Census Tables for Allegheny County
Enumerator District 274,
Sheet 11

In 1904, Ernest R. Russell married Gertrude Cain, daughter of George and Emma Cain. Ernest reported his birthplace as Ohio and his birth date as April 22, 1881. His residence was Homestead, Pa. He listed his occupation as metal worker. Gertrude reported her date of birth as March 14, 1876. Her residence as Mansion Street, Pittsburgh. Neither party reported a previous marriage. The couple were issued Marriage License Series E number 23371 on November 23, 1904. They were married the same day by Rev. Charles Lloyd Thurgood.

Source: Allegheny County Marriage License Docket
Volume 68, Page 562

In the 1904 Pittsburgh City Directory, Gertrude Cain's residence was listed as 226 Mansion. Her occupation was listed "asst principal J M Logan School." The J M Logan Elementary School was located on Lydia Street in Homestead.

Source: 1904 Pittsburgh City Directory, page 348

In September, 1905 Ernest Raymond Russell and Gertrude Cain Russell had a son, Donald Keith Russell, shown here in a photograph taken in Homestead in 1909 and supplied by his son, George Russell.

George included the following explanation with the picture:

In looking through a box of old photos, I found the enclosed picture of my father. It was taken in Homestead in 1909 and shows a seemingly happy child. I have enlarged the image from a post-card. Notice the backdrop for the picture. It shows a very large tree (upper right) and a form of statuary (upper left). I strongly suspect that the picture was taken at a photographic studio, and that we are looking at a painted mural behind my father. The handwriting at the bottom is undoubtedly my grandfather's. The back side of the post-card cites "Photo Studio, Eils Bros., Fifth Avenue Arcade, Pittsburgh, PA."
Pittsburgh was a steel town at the turn of the century. This picture from Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920 from Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection shows Homestead Steel Works, Homestead, Pa. as it appeared between 1900 and 1910, a sight that would have been familiar to the Russell family. As an American and a foreman in the steel mill, Ernest would have enjoyed a more comfortable life style than than that of the laborers, largely Slovak and Hungarian immigrants. The Russell home on Eighteenth Street was at the top of the hill, looking down on the company houses and steel mills below.

On November 30, 1906 Gertrude Russell gave birth to a second child, a daughter named Virginia I. Russell. George observes, "I can even guess that I. stands for Isabelle, because Ernest Russell's mother was named Sarah Isabelle Foster Russell." Both mother and daughter died within a month. Gertrude Cain Russell died of kidney failure on December 15, 1906, and her daughter, Gertrude Russell, died of "convulsions" on December 30, 1906. The mother and daughter were buried in Lot 25, Sec I of Homestead Cemetery.

By 1910, Ernest was living with his father in Homestead Borough. The Federal Census Table records the family's residence as 247 18th Avenue, up the hill and further away from the noise and smoke of the steel mill below. Ralph, the head of household, was 57 and listed his birthplace as Ohio, as was the birthplace of his parents. He reported that he had been married for 34 years. His occupation was solicitor and the general nature of business in which he was employed was insurance. He reported that he was renting the home.

Sarah [Foster Russell], Ralph's wife, listed her age as 55, and her birthplace as well as the birthplace of her parents was Ohio. She reported being the mother of 6(?) children, 5 of whom were living at that time. Four of those children were living in the household.

The first child listed was Ernest, 30. His occupation was listed as foreman in a steel mill. There were plenty of jobs in the steel mills in Pittsburgh at that time.

The next child is a 32-year-old daughter - Clara M., a teacher in public school

The next child is 24- year-old daughter - Ruth E., also a teacher in public school

The last daughter is 21-year-old Elizabeth, with no occupation

Finally is Ralph's grandson, Donald, 4 years old.

Source: 1910 Federal Census for Allegheny County
Enumerator District 96
Sheet 10 A

The 1910 issue of Polk's Homestead Directory further clarifies that Ruth E. Russell was a teacher at the Ravine Street School.

Ralph Russell died August, 1910, a few months after the census. The Daily Messenger described Ralph as "one of the best known citizens of this place." He was "a collector for the Modern Woodmen and a number of other insurance companies." "He was a man of excellent habits and came here from Ohio eight years ago, where he formerly taught school. He was well educated and when the census was made this spring he was appointed census enumerator of the Third ward and was commended on his work." He was described as "a man of means and had no trouble in securing a position. His knowledge of insurance made him a valuable man." Source: The Daily Messenger, Homestead, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, August 16, 1910.

George Russell added these thoughts:

The 1910 census form was particularly enlightening. First, a point you might not have noticed. In the upper right corner of the page it cites the ENUMERATOR as Ralph W. Russell. The entire page is written in his hand. Obviously, he either volunteered, or was paid by the census bureau, to perform this function. The form is dated April 23, 1910. It is a sad note that Ralph W. Russell lived only four more months. He died at age 58 on 13 August 1910. I have no idea what caused his death and I will request a death certificate from Pennsylvania. I believe that his death was the final straw for my grandfather, Ernest Russell. The loss of his wife, the infant daughter, and then his father, all within the span of four years, led to a kind of emotional breakdown. He left Pennsylvania with my father, young Donald age 5, and went to North Dakota. My sister and I have no understanding of just what happened then, but we are aware that the next period of years was exceedingly difficult both for my father and for Ernest.

Aunt Ruth and Aunt Clara taught my father to read at a very early age. Dad was exceedingly precocious and went through 8 years of grade school (in a one room schoolhouse in North Dakota) in four years. He graduate from Yale University at a young age, and married my mother the year of the depression. His entire working life was in Wall Street.

Thanks to George Russell for sharing this information about his family.








Copyright 2000 Nancy McAdams
September 9, 2000
Updated September 19, 2000

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