Was born in Franklin County, Kentucky, on Benson Creek, about three miles from Frankfort, the capital of the State. His father, James Russell, was one of the most respectable farmers of that section of country; and was also the father of Captain John Russell (recently deceased), well known as one of the first and most efficient steamboat captains on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
Alexander W. Russell, as stated in another sketch, came to Indianapolis in May, 1821, being the first white man that had ascended White River thus far in a keel-boat. It was not Mr. Russell's intention, for some time after he came here, to make it his permanent place of residence; but he immediately found employment in assisting to lay off the town. After that was completed he returned to Kentucky, and during the next winter concluded to make this place his residence. At that time he was quite young, and with but little experience, but had a very popular manner and way of making every person like him. In addition to this, he was a very fine performer on the "fiddle," which added greatly to his usefulness in a new country, as no log rolling, house raising or quilting, could well afford to dispense with the services of Aleck Russell (for he was not yet known as Major or Colonel, as he afterwards was). He was always on hand at Helvey's, on the school section, or old Jim McCoy's, near Broad Ripple; and no "gathering" of any kind would be complete until he had "entered an appearance." The first office, I believe, he was a candidate for and elected to, ws that of "Major," which title he was called by for several years; then after the retirement of Mr. Harvey Bates, he was elected second sheriff of the county, which office he held the constitutional limit (two terms), and held the same office of Militia Colonel, and continued as such until the office died out for want of military spirit in the people to keep it up.
Colonel Russell was commissioned by Governor Noah Noble, the latter part of May, 1832, to rasie three hundrd volunteer militia, and proceed without delay to the seat of the Black Hawk or Indian War of that year, which he did; and the very fact that Russell was to be the commander-in-chief induced many to join that bloody expedition who otherwise would have remained at home. This expedition, it wil be remembered, was composed of the best citizens of this and adjoining counties, who were to arm and equip themselves -- horses, rifles and camp equipage -- all at their own expense, and report in companies to Colonel Russell as soon as full. This was accomplished in a few days, and all ready for marching orders. Their camp or rendezvous was on the high ground just beyond West, and on the right side of Washington street.
Well do I remember the Sunday morning their long train of three hundred mounted men, reaching from their encampment to the corner of Pennsylvania street (where they turned north), wound ther way along Washington; the many tears that were shed by loving wives and disconsolate mothers, as they tok (as they supposed) a lst long look at their friends, who were rushing to meet the "bloody Injuns," and offer their lives as a sacrifice upon the altar of their country. Well do I remember the tin-horn, about six feet in length, out of which was blown the most doleful noise that ever reached the ears of man; the only wonder to me was that the man, instead of blowing such noise out of the horn, had not blown his own brains out.
Most conspicuous among this self-sacrificing band of patriots, if not martyrs, was General James P. Drake, Arthur St. Clair, Stoughton A. Fletcher, Judge Elisha M. Huntington, S. V. B. Noel, General Robert Hanna, John Tracy, Capt. John Wishard, Matthias T. Nowland, Capt. Alexander Wiley, Robert McPherson; and last, though by no means last, was Colonel Russell himself, and his worthy superior officer ,Gov. Noble.
This expedition lasted just three weeks, and terminated on the third of July; on the fourth they were tendered and accepted a public dinner given by the citizens at Washington Hall. Out of the thirteen named above there are but five living, and I have no doubt they often recur to the many pleasing and amusing incidents of that campaign of the "bloody three hundred."
Colonel Russell was for many years a successful business man and merchant -- was a stockholder in and director of the Branch Bank, also in Washington Hall. He was appointed Postmaster under General Taylor's administration, and died while in that office, in 1852.
There are many anecdotes of the Colonel extant. His clerks used to say of him that he would sell a man a pound of tobacco, and before the man would leave the counter ask him for a chew; such was his habit, he would ask for it when he really did not want it. No man ever lived in Marion County that enjoyed the confidence of the people more than he did, and none every died more regretted. He was of a cheerful and hopeful disposition, and his every act showed his kindness of heart and devotion to his friends.
Mr. Russell was n ardent and enthusiastic Whig of the old school -- a warm personal friend of the late John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky; indeed, as he was of every erson to whome he was attached. Like man others, he had one fault -- he never learned how to use the word "No," and consequently injured himself by security, although he owned at the time of his death considerable property.
He left several children, all of whom seem to inherit his many good qualifites of both head and heart.
As Colonel Russell's name is identified with the history of Indianapolis for the first thirty-two years, I shall have occasion to refer to it often.
Nowland, John H. B., “Early Reminiscences of Indianapolis, with Short Biographical Sketches of Its Early Citizens, and of a Few of the Prominent Business Men of the Present Day,” 1870, pp. 28-31