William H. Russell

William Russell Born: January 31, 1812, in Burlington, Vermont

Died: September 10,1872, of a stroke in Palmyra, Missouri

William Russell was the company's front man, or salesmen, hustling contracts. He had learned frontier merchandising from the ground up during his teenage years when he was employed as a clerk. At the age of 26, he opened a store, Allen, Russell, and Company. Later, he opened another store, Bullard and Russell that was successful enough to allow him to purchase property. In 1847, he seized the opportunity to join with another company and send a wagon train to Santa Fe. This venture blossomed into the freighting business.

Russell was high-spirited, adventurous, and somewhat reckless. Yet he was one of the most respected businessmen in Missouri. His career had earned him the title of "Napoleon of the West" and afforded him the ability to live in high style. He built a 20-room mansion, complete with a formal garden, stable and coach house. Dinner at the Russell home was a formal affair. Russell himself always appeared splendidly attired in an elegant black suit.

The after years of Russell, Majors, and Waddell were clouded by disappointment, hardship, and obscurity.

Russell's efforts to recoup his shattered fortunes in Colorado resulted in total failure. On April 1, 1865, he assigned his assets to James P. Rogers and Charles Benjamin Russell, his son, for the benefit of creditors. Having done this he went back to New York where for a time he engaged in the brokerage business in partnership with Thomas P. Akers. Unfortunately this was not a success either.

Eventually he was reduced to doing anything he could find. His old haunts knew him no more. Bankers and financiers who once fawned upon him, were now too busy to even grant him an interview, and his name, once a symbol for financial wizardry, was forgotten. When in due time his health failed he was taken to the home of his daughter, Mrs. Webster M. Samuel in St. Louis. His last home was with his son, John W. in Palmyra, Missouri, where he died September 10, 1872, in his sixtieth year. He is buried in Palmyra in the Greenwood Cemetary. His gravesite notes his involvement with the Pony Express.

Source: Settle and Settle, Saddles and Spurs.

Russell's Grave Centennial Marker
William Russell's Grave
Centennial Marker

Latest Marker 1968
Latest Marker, 1968