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Thomas Bartholomew Russell and his journey to Gila County, Arizona

Article Written by: Former Payson Town Historian - Jinx Pyle

Morgan Stallion Foaled in 1909 and bred by the U.S. Morgan Horse Farm Credit: Wiki Commons

John Russell came from England to Georgia and then to North Carolina. He served as a captain from Quilford County, North Carolina in the Revolutionary War. His records are in the War Department Archives. In Virginia, John met and married Rachel Hobbs, born on Virginia in 1867. Rachel’s parents, Vincent and Mary, had migrated to Virginia from Scotland.

          John and Rachel Russell had twelve children, among them, Alexander Russell who married Sarah Hardy. Sarah’s parents were married in Ireland and came to Virginia in the late 1700s.

          Alexander and Sarah Russell had ten children, the second being Alexander Stewart Russell. Shortly after the birth of their tenth child, Alexander and Sarah moved from Lee County, Virginia to Tennessee. Alexander Stewart Russell married Edna Jane Neel, daughter of Daniel and Sarah Neel. They were married January 16, 1845 in Tennessee. They moved to St. Joseph, Missouri where they had their five children and then moved across the Missouri River to Salem, Richardson County, Nebraska.

          Thomas Bartholomew Russell was born to Alexander Stewart Russell and Edna Jane Neel Russell in Andrew County, Missouri, on January 7, 1851. There he cut a dashing figure. He was a well-built, good looking man, tall at 6 foot 5 inches, and a sharp dresser. He was well-educated, well-spoken, and for a time a major who worked in the United States Quartermaster Department. Later, he was a professor who sometimes made his living in that profession. If there was a flaw in his character, it was that he was also a professional gambler, and a very good one.

          Whatever line of work he pursued, he supplemented with the cards. In the 1870s, when almost everyone in Texas wore a gun, Thomas B. Russell was a man among men; though soft-spoken and a gentlemen, he was what was then known as a “bad man” (no one to mess with).

          Then, he met Henrietta King. Henrietta was the daughter of Richard King, founder and owner of the famous King Ranch in Texas. Richard was born in Mississippi in 1835. Richard King was a former riverboat captain, believed by many to be a slave trader and a pirate. A bad man in any sense of the word and in any event, he was a powerful and dangerous man to cross. But his daughter was a beauty and T.B. Russell would have her or know the reason why. He was good enough for any man’s daughter.

          Now we must tell of Henrietta King before we can continue. She was born in Texas on April 17, 1856. Her mother was Bethenia M. Spears. Henrietta King Russell (Henrietta) told the following story to her family as she lay on her deathbed. It is a sterling example of fact reading stranger than fiction.

          When Henrietta was five years old, she was playing in her favorite place along a shallow stream. She was pickup and stolen by a band of Gypsies. For two years, she lived and traveled with a Gypsy band. She told that they took care of her and treated her well, but one evening – when they thought she was sleeping – she overheard them talking. The little girl gleaned from the conversation that the Gypsies were planning to sell her into the slave trade in Mexico.

          That same night, Henrietta slipped away from the camp and ran upstream from where the Gypsies were camped. She traveled all that night, slept for a while in the morning sun, and continued on until she came to a Comanche camp. In that camp was an Indian woman who had lost a daughter to sickness. She and her husband took Henrietta in and were very good to her.

          Al during this time, Richard had spared no means at his disposal, left no clue unfollowed and no stone unturned in his search for his young daughter. His resources were considerable, his tenacity undaunted and eventually Henrietta was found and restored to her home on the King Ranch. How this came about, we don’t know. Those who heard her tell the story think that she was getting weaker and wanted to get her story told before she past on.

          Henrietta’s family loved her very much. They had spared no expense searching for her. I think that we can assume that she had life had to offer at that time and place during the remainder of her growing up years. Her father hand-picked the man she was to wed – then she met Thomas B. Russell.

          Richard King was a hard man. He would not tolerate a daughter going against his wishes. Hard words were spoken between King and Russell and many thought there would be bloodshed, but in the end, Henrietta King became Henrietta Russell. Richard promptly disinherited his daughter, coming her one silver dollar and eight black Morgan mares. The silver dollar wasn’t much, but the Morgan mares . . .   It should be mentioned that many of those King Ranch Morgan horses were foundation stock for the American Quarter Horse.

          Thomas and Henrietta moved six times during the next sixteen years. Thomas made their living sometimes teaching, sometimes farming, always gambling, and they always kept their Morgan horses. When the couple arrived at Globe, Arizona, they had eight children. Their youngest daughter, Carrie L’Dreta Russell, was born in Globe in 1897. The other children, Thomas F. “Tuff” (deputy sheriff a Roosevelt during the building of the dam), Dolly, Bethenia, Richard, Rosa, Arthur “Dick,” and Jessie, were all born in Texas. It is interesting to note the Gypsy names of some of the female children.

          Soon the family settled in Wheatfields, just west of Globe, on the way to Roosevelt. There they became well-known for the Morgan horses which they raised and trained. Thomas always had more buyers then he could supply. They also farmed and had wonderful crops in the well-watered valley. Thomas continued his gambling. He never won a great deal of money at any given time, but won steadily, always adding to his income from week to week.

          Thomas and Henrietta saw each of their nine children grow up and leave Wheatfields. Their granddaughter, Belle Russell Lovelady (daughter of Thomas F. “Tuff” Russell), told of the wonderful ranch with its many horses, grape vineyards, apple and other fruit trees. She remembered the house with the lace curtains, everything “neat as a pin,” and her grandmother, Henrietta, teaching her to sew.

          In 1911, a tragic event occurred in Globe which left Fred Hanson and his wife, Bethenia (daughter of Thomas and Henrietta Russell), dead. The couple’s untimely death left three young boys, Alec, Slim, and Jim, orphaned. Thomas and Henrietta took their grandchildren in and began raising them as their own. Thomas taught them to hunt, farm, and help with the horses.

          Before her handsome grandchildren were raised, Henrietta became ill. Thomas could not care for her, run the horse ranch, and bring up the grandchildren. The decision was made that Henrietta should move in with their youngest daughter, Carrie L’Dreta, who had married and moved into Globe. This was a hard choice for the couple to make, but Globe was only a short buggy ride from the ranch, so the couple would be able to see each other often and Carrie was better able to care for her mother than Thomas.

          Henrietta Russell died in Miami, Arizona on December 21, 1920. There on her deathbed, with Thomas and her children present, she told her life story for the first time. She made her children to know that she had disowned the King Family as surely and strongly as her father had disinherited her those many years ago. She asked that they never contact or have anything to do with the King family.

          Thomas Bartolomew Russell raised his grandsons in Wheatfields and lived until May 30, 1931 when he died in Phoenix. Many of his descendants still live and work in Gila County and throughout Arizona.

          Thomas F. “Tuff” Russell married Josie Packard, daughter of Florence Packard and Josie Harer Packard. They had a large family, including Belle Russell Lovelady, Payson’s first telephone operator.

          We all proudly claim the blood of Henrietta Russell, my second great-grandmother, but make no claim to that of her father. Oh yes, and my grandmother, Belle Russell Lovelady, handed down to me the aforementioned silver dollar many years ago. And the blood of those Morgan horses runs in some of the best horses in Gila County.

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