Samuel Thomas Russell
of Ilion

SOURCE: "LEGACY - Annals of Herkimer County" is published quarterly by the Herkimer County Historical Society, 400 North Main Street, Herkimer, N.Y. 13350.

Individual copies of LEGACY may be purchased by contacting the Society at the above address, or by visiting their website: On the site you can review a list of which copies of LEGACY are still available and their content under "gift shop" then "books".

We are grateful to the Herkimer County Historical Society, which holds the copyrights, for granting us permission to reproduce the following articles for our reader's enjoyment.

Portrait of S. T. Russell in the Society Collection. Recently cleaned by Conservator Ann Wagu as part of the New York State Council on the Arts Conservation grant.

Samuel Thomas Russell was born May 28, 1853 in Fairfax County. Va., the son of Albert Newton (1826-1913) and Mary Hatch (1830-1905) Russell. Albert Russell, born in Kirkland. Oneida County, had moved to Virginia at age 21 to establish a business there. He met Mary Hatch, born in Sherburne, N.Y., who had moved south with her family in 1840 and they were married in 1850. Their four children were Harriet (1851-1935), Samuel (1853-1929), Ella M. (1855-1944) and George R (1861-1932).

At the beginning of the Civil War, Albert moved his family north to work for E. Remington & Sons in Ilion. Samuel, now seven, attended public schools in Ilion and then Whitestown Seminary in Oneida County. At age 20, he went to work in his fatherís lumber yard known as Brill and Russell, which began in 1871. When the firm became A.N.. Russell and Son in 1881, Samuel took over as general manager. The business was both a lumber yard and a factory built to manufacture store furniture and equipment and both grew under his administration. The business expanded to Frankfort and brother George became the manager there.

While working with his father, Samuel began branching out. At the time of the failure of E. Remington & Sons, a company called the Remington Arms Company with Trustees Samuel T. Russell, J.L. McMillan & John Giblin representing 26 incorporators, was formed to bid on the armory and manufacturing business. In February 1888 the firm of Hartley and Graham offered to buy E. Remington and Son, worth a million and a half, for $152,000. This sale was not granted by the courts. An Ilion syndicate of 10 men including Samuel bid up the price, so in March, the business was sold to Hartley and Graham for $200,000. Samuel was one of the five men who approached the new Remington Typewriter owners in 1886 to encourage them to stay in Ilion. This last endeavor was a success.

When the Ilion Savings and Loan was organized October 3, 1888 to help residents build new homes, Samuel was named the first President and he would serve in this job until his death. He would later be one of the nine men who organized the Manufacturerís Bank, opening May 4, 1908, and he was president of this bank.

In 1903, A.N. Russell sold the lumber business and only the furniture manufacturing continued under the A.N. Russell & Sons name. Brother George R. became the general manager because Samuel was busy with other companies.

The Tucker File and Cabinet Company of Newark. N.J. opened an Ilion factory in 1901 naming Samuel treasurer of the Company and general manager. Tucker File moved into the part of the four-story Coleman Carriage & Wagon Company building to make office furniture. Coleman, which began in 1875 as a family business making wagons and carriages had sold stock in 1889 to Samuel Russell, Charles Harter, Frederick Coleman and Albert N. Ross. Both the Coleman Carriage & Wagon Company and Tucker File had the same Board of Directors.

The Clarke and Baker Company of New York City were sales agents for Tucker. Sales grew rapidly and in 1907 a merger of Tucker with Clarke and Baker was made with Samuel still general manager. Library Bureau, the company started in Boston (1876) by Melvil Dewey, took control of Clarke and Baker in 1906 but didnít change the name until 1909. The next year Samuel T. Russell became president of Library Bureau, a company with headquarters in Boston and New York with 10 factories in Cambridge (Mass.), New York (N.Y.), Chicago (Ill.), Cold-Spring on Hudson (N.Y.), Ottawa (Canada), London (England), and Ilion, and 32 selling branches in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, and Belgium. Samuel retired as president of Library Bureau in 1920, at age 67, but would continue as a director of the company until his death. He was president of the Ilion Lumber Co., incorporated in 1911 and held that title until his death.

Photograph from Souvenir of Ilion (1904) of S. T. Russell home. Originally built by H. H. Benedict (1884-1935) the man who developed the Remington Typewriter. It later became the home of Leo Powers (1888-1962) and since 1956 the home of Pat and Grover Radley.

In 1875, Samuel married Sophia Eleanor Jones (1853-1924) who was born in Penn Yan and came to Ilion in 1872 to make her home with her brother Joseph Jones, editor of the Ilion Citizen, a weekly newspaper. Sophia and Samuel had four children, Rae Mary (1876- ), Albert Brill (1878-1940). Helen Augusta (1892- ), and Joseph Jones (1893- ). These children all had excellent educations, becoming a teacher, businessman, librarian and a minister, respectively.

Samuel Russell also took his civic responsibility seriously. He was a trustee of the Village of Ilion. He served as Supervisor of the town of German Flatts, which meant he was on the County Board of Supervisors in 1885. He was a trustee and president of the First Methodist Church. He was the President of the State Lumber Dealerís Association as well as Secretary-Treasurer of this state-wide group in the 1890s. He was active in the Masonic organization, and a member of the Ilion B.P.O.E. In 1891, when Clarence Seamans challenged the Ilion Academy Alumni Association to raise $5,000 toward books for the new library that Seamans agreed to build, Samuel was one of the five men who put the fundraising job over the top by $1,000.

He was a director of the Ilion Board of Trade and later the Ilion Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Exchange Club of Ilion.

Samuel's work and interest in the Boy Scout program is recorded in the accompanying article. His gift in 1917 of property on White Lake to the Boy Scouts was supplemented in 1923 with a gift of 160 acres of woodland to the Village of Ilion for the Albert N. Russell Park, which is an important part of Ilion in 1993. Samuel served on the first Ilion Park Board.

Samuel Thomas Russell died at 4:17 am. May 25, 1929, of blood poisoning which it was suspected he picked up on a recent California trip. The Methodist Church he served so long could not accommodate all the people who wanted to pay him honor. The fourteen honorary bearers and six active bearers were the leaders of the community that Samuel Russell helped to create and shape for the future.

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