In 1874, Russell was visited by its first fire, but the only damage done was the destruction of the depot.
In 1880, a fire originated in Mr. Tustin’s store, being the one formerly occupied by Ackerman & Copeland, on the southwest corner of Main and Eighth streets, and before it could be extinguished, that, with the adjoining building, owned and occupied by H. Wentworth as a hardware store, were completely destroyed, with nearly all their contents. That fire occurred on March 210, 1890, and by the fall of that year, the buildings were re-placed by others, larger in size and superior in structure to those that had been destroyed. Ante-dating that fire by a few months, Knight & Bradshaw’s elevator had met a similar fate.
On the evening of Sunday, October 1, 1882, as the people were assembled at church, they were suddenly startled by a cry of – Fire! The services were brought to a sudden close by the people rushing from the churches en masse, to ascertain where the fire was and its extent. Its locality was soon discovered, as the flames could be distinctly seen from every street in town. The fire originated in one of a row of frame buildings that stood on the east side of Main street, between Eighth and Ninth, and to save either of them was utterly impossible, as the flames spread with almost lightning rapidity. Six buildings were destroyed by the fire, including a harness shop and store, the Hawkeye printing office, a meat market, a gun shop, a barber shop, and a grocery store.
In 1878, the Congregationalists, who had an organization since August, 1872, erected a very neat frame edifice on the corner of Sixth Street and Kansas Avenue, at a cost of $4,000. This church was first organized by Rev. W. B. Christopher, but the first resident pastor was Rev. William Payne. The first sermon ever preached in town was by Rev. A. H. Annas, who came with the colony from Wisconsin. His hearers were the colonists, and his church was a boxcar.
The Methodists, although having an organization in town since December, 1872, when the church was organized by Rev. John O’Connor; ten being the member ship at that time; had no edifice of their own in which to worship until 1880, when they built a very neat frame church on Main Street, at a cost of $5,000. The church has now a membership of 100, and at present is under the pastoral charge of Rev. W. E. Cannon
The Russell House This hotel is very neatly built of dressed stone, and is the only three-story building in town. It is located on Main Street, immediately south of the frame hotel erected by the same person in 1871. The house contains thirty sleeping rooms, the original frame building serving for a kitchen, dining room, and office.
Societies Russell Lodge, No. 119, I. O. O. F.
Was instituted August 14, 1874, with nine charter members. The first officers of the Lodge were: A. L. Voorhis, N. G; H. Wentworth, V. G.; W. M. Pennell, R. S.; C. Harshberger (sic), P. S.; G. L. Hart, Treas.; G. A. Hart, W.; J. G. Weekly, I. G., and P. Carrier, O. G. The present membership of the lodge is forty-two, and the present officers are: A. L. Voorhis, N. G.; P. J. Warner, V. G.; G. G. Nichols, R. S.; W. G. Eastland, P. S.; D. E. Winfield, Treas.; H. C. Hibbard, Con.; J. H. Hill, I. G.
Russell Lodge, No. 177, A., F.& A. M.
Was instituted January 1, 1878, with eleven charter members. The first officers of the lodge were: William Michner, W. M.; H. D. Palmer, S. W.; A. G. Weed, J. W.; John Wilson, Treas.; H. C. Waterman, Sec. The present membership of the lodge is forty-nine, and the present officers are: P. L. Hulet, W. M.; J. S. Chadbourne, S. W.; J. M. Brundage, J. W.; A. L. Voorhis, Sec., and A. G. Weed, Treas.
Pioneer Lodge, No. 43, A. O. U. W.
Was instituted April 28, 1880, with sixteen charter members. The first officers of the lodge were: G. T. Bradshaw, M. W.; G. W. Smyser, P. M. W.; F. L. Parker, G. F.; C. A. Ames, O.; R. J. Wallace, Recorder; S. J. Kahler, R.; J. S. Chase, F.; L. Banker, G.; R. S. Giddings, I. W.; C. H. Purinton, O. W. The lodge has now a membership of sixty-five, and the present officers are: E. Sutter, M. W.; D. W. McKeen, P. M. W.; L. E. Ellithrope, G. F.; J. Jacoby, O.; N. W. Woolcott, Rec.; G. T. Bradshaw, R.; M. K. Ames, F.; W. H. Teed, G.; W. H. Keyes, I. W., and J. J. Corneilson, O. W.
The Russell County Driving Park Association
Is not an agricultural society, but is a stock company, composed of private individuals. The company owns eighty acres of land adjoining the town site of Russell to the south, the south forty of which is enclosed by a high picket fence. There is a good half-mile track on the grounds, and several buildings for the accommodation of exhibitors. Trees have been set out on the grounds, but the prospect of their growing to any size is not very promising. The association was organized in 1879, and three fairs have been held since, in 1879-80-81, but owing to the dry season of 1882, which injured all farm crops, excepting wheat, the managers of the association deemed it advisable to dispense with holding a fair that year and, consequently, none was held.
For the last three years the town has been rather retrogressive than progressive, and the population is not within by about four hundred as many now as it was in 1880, the assessor’s return for 1882, as furnished to the County Clerk, giving the population at 587, whereas, in 1880, it was about 1,000.
The town of Russell
Russell is situated on the ridge between the Saline and Smoky Hill rivers, distant from the former four miles, and from the latter seven. While, within a short distance of Russell, good well-water for domestic uses is almost impossible to find, yet, within the limits of the town site, excellent water can be found almost anywhere at a depth of from fifteen to thirty feet. The class of store buildings in town, though few in number, are greatly superior to the average business houses of Western towns. The stores are all well stocked with goods, and those engaged in mercantile pursuits carry on a prosperous trade. The business of the place is represented by four general merchandising stores, five groceries exclusively, two drug stores, two hardware, four millinery establishments, one furniture store, one book and stationery, two lumber yards, three elevators, one flouring-mill, one broom factory, two carriage and wagon shops, and two hotels. The legal and medical professions are also fairly represented. The town has a fine schoolhouse, two churches, and its chief sidewalks are made of beautiful flagging. The town was incorporated in 1872, and its first Mayor was H. C. Waterman, and the present Mayor is W. E. Banks.
Source: Russell County, History of the State of Kansas, 1883.