History – Town of Russell, New York

[ Russell Town History ] [ Degrasse (Monterey) ] [ Arsenal in Russell, N.Y. ]

Russell, New York was the tenth town to be established in St. Lawrence County. The sections that eventually became the Town of Russell, were named Dewitt, Ballybean and Sarahsburg, which consisted of 56,000 acres.

In 1798 Russell Attwater of Massachusetts, and for whom the town was named, purchased 13,600 acres. Mr. Attwater along with 2 more families came to Russell in 1805, spending their first winter there. Soon after many more families followed.

The first town meeting was held in mid 1800’s with Russell Attwater being elected Supervisor.

At one time in the 1800’s there was a sawmill, gristmill, a hotel, which was a brick tavern and the start of many Cheese factories.

There have been several stores through the years. In 1814 a mercantile store opened and then more stores followed.

Other industries in Russell such as in the late 1800 it was noted there were a planing mill, 2 sawmills, a cheese box factory and a rake factory. There was also at one time a tannery and shoe making business. A forge capable of making 400 pounds of bar iron a day.

The War of 1812 brought much attention to Russell with the building of an arsenal. The arsenal was a massive stone structure 3 stories high. Inside there was storage for artillery, small arms and ammunition. It eventually was used as a school until it burned in 1945.

In 1849 there was some prospecting done with some copper ore, also quantities of talc along with iron and pyrite being found.

There was a spruce gum business at one time with gum being produced and shipped to Seattle, Washington, California, and other places in the United States as well as Australia and Canada.

Logging and dairy farms were numerous and the main occupations in the 1880’s

A Mr. George Bartholomew lived in Russell where he had a watch and clock shop. He also was an inventor and built the first horseless carriage in 1900.

Gradually the mills closed and the dairy farms have diminished and logging is done on a smaller scale.

The Hamlet of Russell at the present time has 3 churches, one store, with many small businesses outside the area. The Post Office, Town Clerks office, Supervisor’s Office and Town Justice office are housed in the Town Hall.

U.S. Post Office of Russell, New York
Town Clerk's Office of Russell, New York
Russell, New York Town Hall

There is a very active Fire Department with 40 members, a fire engine, tanker and a rescue vehicle.

Russell, New York Fire Hall

There is also a very busy small library and a growing museum.

Submitted by:
Marie Rocca, Town Historian
March 2001

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