The Russell Family

Charles M. Russell, pioneer settler and rancher in Sioux County, Nebraska for more than 50 years.

Mr. Russell was born near Bangor, Iowa June 11, 1863 and settled in the White River Valley, four miles east of Kinder's Camp (now Andrews) in June 1886.

At the age of 19 he was siezed by the lure of the west.  To conquer some parts of the fame or wealth, which was there for the taking, was the height of his ambition.

In the spring of 1882, he came through the southern part of Nebraska enroute to Cheyenne, Wyoming, the metropolis of the west and the base of supply, sending out daily stages to the mining camps of the Black Hills and other points of the west, and freighters in all directions.

Charlie Russell had no trouble joining as a freighter's helper to Fort Fetterman, Wyoming, and in the same way to Fort Caspar (Casper).  At Casper, he was employed as a cowboy, at the CV outfit owned by Carey, and stayed with this outfit for the remaining part of 1882 and 1883.

In the spring of 1884 hiring out as a peeler (rough rider) to the OC outfit owned by Boyd Brothers, located 75 miles north west of Fort Fetterman, and with the beef shipment in the late fall made from Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, he went as a shipper on the stock train to Chicago, then to Bangor, Iowa, his home town remaining the winter of 1884-85.

Early in the spring of 1885 he was longing for the cow camps of the west.

He then hit the trail for Cheyenne and stepping from the "iron horse of many wagons" loaded his bedroll and saddle into a freight wagon and started up the trail for the F outfit located at the crossing of Laramie River owned by Teschmacher and DeBillie, where a saddle horse had been left by the OC outfit for his return, the rest of the journey was made by horseback.

Enroute to the OC ranch, he stopped at Brown Spring, the 800 (88) horse ranch owned by Mike Henry.

Charlie Russell purchased a private horse which he packed the remainder of the journey.  He arrived in time to go with the spring roundup wagon No. 13.

In the fall of 1885 the OC beef shipment was made from Chadron, Nebraska with Charlie as a cowboy.

At Dawes City (now Whitney) he met freighter, Merrel J. Saunders; they decided to combine their interests in a venture of hunting wild game such as antelope and deer, selling the meat at Chadron and the railroad camps of the F. E. & M. V. railroad that was being built at that time.

Charlie was a good hunter and Mr. Saunders equipped to haul and sell the meat which was killed in eastern Wyoming, they made good money at the venture during the winter of 1885-86. Charlie Russell says, "at the time nearly all of Chadron was under canvas and the money belt was a man's bank.  It was more dangerous to rob a belt-bank in some cases than the modern bank of today."

He received word from his father, Mr. H. H. Russell that he would arrive in Chadron in May 1886.

He went to meet his father at the date set for his arrival with the Saunder's freighter of which he was part owner, with the intention of hauling his father's equipment to a new location which he had picked near Lusk,Wyoming.

Incidentally his father did not arrive at the appointed time.  The partners, Russell and Saunders contracted to freight a load for Weller, Foley and McDonald to Kinder's camp (now Andrews, Nebr.) This load consisted of equipment to set up the Blind Pig Saloon and gambling joint.

In the meantime his father had arrived in Chadron with his household and other equipment.  Charlie retuned to Chadron, loaded up and departed for Silver Cliff (now Lusk, Wyoming) by way of Hat Creek Valley, via Fort Robinson, arriving in early June.

H. H. Russell was not pleased with the country. They decided to look at the White River Valley before establishing a permanent location.  They came by way of Summit, (now Harrison).

They settled, at the present location in the valley, June 1886 and made their permanent home.  C. M. Russell spent the winter of 1886-87 at home and working for the railroad company as a snow shoveler.

This was the hard winter talked so much by the old settlers as nearly cleaning out the cattle industry from the western ranges.  It is claimed to be the most severe winter of any before or since, leaving a small remnant of the large cattle syndicate and wiping most of the so called "little fellers" off the map.

Again in the spring of 1887, Russell returned to "punching" cows, hiring out to the 4 W as a peeler.  They were located on the Cheyenne River, 75 miles north of Lusk.

He helped in the fall roundup to load a beef herd at Smithwick, S. D.  Upon returning to his home in Nebraska he hired out to the A outfit owned by A. McGinley, located two miles west of Agate on Running water (Niobrara River).  He worked during the season of 1888.

McKinley having sold a herd of cattle to Jim Lane, owner of the Ship Wheel located on the Belle Fouche River, pooling with the Lakota Cattle company located at the Mouth of Whistle Creek, they trailed to Montana turning over the cattle to Jim Lane enroute.  Russell returned with a cava of saddle horses for the 33 Ranch.

Russell stayed at home during this winter to protect them from the Indian uprisings which led up to the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890.

Since then he has made his home on his present ranch in Nebraska, contenting himself with ranching.

He was united in marriage to Stella DeLong in 1924.  She passed away a year later.

He then married Sena Nelson, daughter of Peter Nelson also an old timer and resident of Sioux County for over 50 years.

Russell is a very active for a man of 73 years and still attends to his ranch duties besides trailing his cattle to market as in the good old days.

A drive through the Russell ranch on the White River Road west of Glen will convince anyone that this is a place of remarkable natural beauty.  Where a cold spring gushes from the gravel close to the house (this spring was known as Soldier Spring in the early days) forming a beautiful lake where the trout play.


by Charles M. Russell, 1941



copyright © Dick Taylor, 1996 - 2007   Oldtime Nebraska -- Charles M. Russell, submitted by Thelma Nation - February, 1999