ancestral chart father mother index home





vitals sources
biography page for Bethia Eldredge




     Daniel Ricketson's History of New Bedford says that Humphry (he didn't use the traditional "e" in his name) was "...a worthy, old-fashioned man remarkably industrious and frugal in his habits. He had been engaged in commercial pursuits in the earlier part of his life, but as I remember him was principally occupied in agricultural matters. He was member of the Society of Friends and most uniform and upright in his habits of life."(1)In his early adult life, Humphry farmed in Dartmouth on his father's land and with his father's tools, at least in part. Joseph Russell willed him the farm and the tools, as well as salt meadow and upland at "Boggy Meadow" and a lot in "Meeting House (cedar) Swamp." This may be the "Apponagansett Great Cedar Swamp" mentioned in his grandfather's will. He changed his life significantly in 1804. He left the country behind to become a merchant in the town of New Bedford.

     Humphry's daughter Rebecca married Elisha Thornton in October of 1804.(2) He would have had close contact with Elisha, given that Elisha was accepted to attend Friends Meeting in Dartmouth in August, undoubtedly to court Rebecca.(3) On the same day, Humphry's father gave him a lot of land in the village of New Bedford, and Humphry undoubtedly had a house built on it right away.(4)



It was probaby finished by the time he put his Dartmouth farm up for sale on 14 December.(5) On the 21st of that month, Humphry and Elisha announced in The New Bedford Mercury that they were business partners.(5.5)



How early this scheme was conceived isn't known. Humphry and Elisha may developed the idea together or Humphry, already thinking about joining his father and brothers as tradesmen in New Bedford, brought Elisha into his fold. Elisha was a young man of 24 who married his 17 year-old daughter, so there was some common sense in involving Elisha's financial future with his own.

     By July 1807 Daniel Thornton, Elisha's uncle, joined the firm to create Russell, Thornton & Co., but they parted ways in 1808.(6) The items listed in their advertisements over the years were widely varied, including anchors, molasses, fabric and marble - a general store, which was at "The Four Corners," the heart of commercial New Bedford.


part of a Russell, Thornton & Co. advertisement

Their stock was probably partly dependant on what was being brought into port. Both Humphry and Elisha had shares in ships that sailed out of New Bedford. In 1805, the ship Dartmouth was registered with Humphry as one of the primary owners.(7) In 1810 and 1811, Humphrey and Elisha were co-owners of the ships Frances Ann and Foster.(8) Advertising for the company suddenly stop in 1809. They may not have needed to advertise. An advertisement in 1812 shows that they probably never parted ways, but decided to shift course.(9)



There are several additions still evident at Humphry's house, and the brushes may have been made in them. For whatever reason, the works moved from one partner's house to what was likely the other's. They were "one door south of the Friends Meeting house" later the same year,(10) which put it probably in the home of Elisha Thornton, Sr., where Elisha, Jr., and Rebecca may have been living since their marriage. The Mercury announced in the following year that they had moved to Main St.(11) There is no further mention in papers of a business involving Humphry and Elisha, nor any further indication of Humphry's business activities. It may have been at this point that Humphry returned to the "agricultural pursuits" mentioned by Daniel Ricketson. He continued to live in the village of New Bedford, but surely still had farm land in Dartmouth. An 1822 article in The Mercury contains this anecdote:(11.5)

Mr. William W. Kempton of this town, has a swine, purchased of Mr. Humphrey Russell in the spring of 1822, which has since that period brought seventeen litters of pigs, amounting in all to 169. One hundred and fifteen were brought at ten litters. The animal is now in good flesh and may yet [not or net?] forth further temptations to peril the salvation of Mahometans.

     Humphry was elected a fence viewer and field driver for New Bedford in the Spring of 1815.(11.75) Humphry didn't serve in the Revolutionary army, surely following the pacifist ways of the Friends, but he was stationed at Clark's Cove in New Bedford during the War of 1812. He and other privates were paid $8.00 a month for their service. This was very likely in anticipation of or in reaction to the appearance in 1814 of British vessels along the south coast of Massachusetts, some of which sailed up the Acushnet River.(12)



     Humphry left the Dartmouth Friends on 21 May 1805, when he was accepted into the New Bedford Monthly Meeting with his wife and two youngest children.(13) He remained a Friend to his death, which was likely at his home on So. Sixth St. The Mercury eulogized him in the issue of 16 December:

In this town, on the evening of the 9th inst., Humphry Russell, in the 79th year of his age, a member of the Society of Friends. Rarely is the death of a more worthy man recorded than that of our lamented relative and friend. He possessed in an eminent degree those qualities which endear one to their friends. His life has, it is true, been unmarked by any great event, but it has been one which the most virtuous might look upon with veneration and love. He was a kind husband and parent and a good and much respected citizen. He lived to see the spot of his nativity advance from a wild woodland to that of one of the most impressive towns in the union and to rejoice in a numerous and highly respectable prosperity. But the good old man is gone; cut off in the vigor of a green old age, amid the enjoyments which a life of industry and temperence award their possessor; the memory of his worth will long remain embalmed in the hearts of his family and friends. Yet his term of life was a much longer period than is alloted to most of the human family and although we lament the loss of his friendship and society we can but consider our loss is his gain"


     Humphry is buried in a family lot in the Friends section of Rural Cemetery, New Bedford. His gravestone has sunk considerably in the soft ground.



The following documents were transcribed from the originals in Humphry's probate packet. The first is his will:(14)

Be it remembered that I Humphrey Russell of New Bedford in the County of Bristol Commonwealth of Massachusetts, yeoman, in good health of body and of sound and disposing mind, do make declare and publish this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time heretofore made.

First and principally it is my will that all my just debts and all changes and expences incurred by my last sickness and funeral and the settlement of my estate shall be fully settled, discharged and paid and after that all the worldly estate wherewith it has pleased God to endow me I give and dispose as follows to wit.

It is my will that my loving wife Bethiah Russell shall have the use, improvement and benefit of all my estate during her natural life. And I give all my household furniture to my said wife Bethiah to her and her heirs, to be to her and their own use and disposal absolutely forever.

And it is my will that after the decease of my wife the mansion house wherein I now live and the land whereon the same stands containing about twenty two rods more or less shall be to such uses as my wife shall by her last will in writing appoint. And in case she shall not make such appointment then I give and devise the said house and land to my two grandchildren Phebe Ann Russell and William T. Russell children of my son John W. Russell in equal portions and in common to them and their heirs and assigns forever.

And I give and devise to my daughter Sarah Ricketson one third part of my estate to her and her heirs and assigns forever, the legacy herein after given to my grandson Daniel Thornton being first therefrom deducted.

And I give and devise to my daughter Rebecca Thornton one third part of all my estate to her and her heirs and assigns forever.

And I give to my grandson Daniel Thornton eight hundred dollars to him and his heirs and assigns forever. And it is my will and my executors herein named are directed to pay said legacy to the said Daniel Thornton out of the portion herein before given to my daughter Sarah Ricketson.

My English family clock I give and bequeath to my grandson William T. Russell.

And all the rest and residue of my estate and property whatsoever, if any there be remaining after payment of the debts and legacies herein before mentioned and devised, I hereby give and devise to my son John W. Russell and his heirs and assigns forever.

And I hereby nominate constitute and appoint my wife Bethiah Russell and Elisha Thornton of New Bedford, apothecary, to be my executors jointly and severally of this my last will and testament: and so as that in case of the death of one of them the survivor shall be sole executor with all the power which is herein given to my executors jointly.

In witness whereof I Humphrey Russell have to this my last will and testament contained in this sheet of paper subscribed my name and set my seal this twenty fourth day of August in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty one.

Humphry Russell

signed sealed published and declared by the said Humphrey Russell as his last will and testament in the presence of us who in his presence and at his request have hereto set our names as witnesses

Alden Bradford Comfort Whiting William J. A. Bradford

Feb. 7 1837 approved heirs consent

Whereas I Humphrey Russell of New Bedford County of Bristol Commonwealth of Massachusetts have made and duly executed and published my last will and testament in writing under my hand bearing date the twenty fourth day of August in the present year.. Now I do hereby declare this present writing to be a codicil to my said last will and direct the same to be annexed thereto and taken as a part thereof. And I do hereby give and bequeath to my wife Bethia Russell in addition to the several devises in said will mentioned the sum of one thousand dollars. And I hereby direct my executors in said will named to pay over the same to my said wife out of any assets that may first come to their hands as soon thereafter as shall be convenient. In witness whereof I have hereto to this sheet of paper subscribed my name and affixed my seal and declare the same to be a codicil to my last will and testament this twenty first day of December in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty one.

Humphry Russell

Signed, sealed, published and declared...in the presence of us...

Joseph Palmer
William Richmond(15)
Samuel J. S. Vose

Feb. 7 1837 approved
heirs consent


Elisha Thornton prepared an account of Humphry's estate on 4 January? 1851:

The executor charges himself with all the personal property of sd. deceased as pr. inventory
$8,518.78
sundry collections $41.17
---------------
$8,559.95

The said executor asks allowance for the following disbursements

amount paid funeral expences and sundry bills as pr schedule annexed
[see below] 189.10
amot. paid Bethiah Russell's legacy 1,000.--
" " ditto furniture as pr. will 517.25
" " Daniel Thornton's legacy 800.--
" " Sarah E. Ricketson her share as pr. will 2,400.16
" " Rebecca Thornton " " " 3,200.15
my services as executor 453.29
---------
$8,559.95

New Bedford 2 mo. 4, 1851
Elisha Thornton Exr.

Feb 4 1851
affixed to & alld.

Schedule of debts paid by Elisha Thornton executor to the estate of Humphry Russell

1837 1 mo. 24

To amount paid funeral expences $48.55
" C. Whiting 1.- (16)
" Abrm. Davis bill butter 9.97
" B. F. Pearce masonry 2.40 (17)

3 mo 5 " Z. & Geo Eddy bill sundries 9.42 (18)
" C. A. Case 6.08 (19)
" Maxfield & Tripp carpenters 22.22 (20)

4 mo 25 " Geo. Tappan's bill 1.07 (21)
" Geo. Baker & others appraisers 7.50
" B. Lindsey printer 1.- (22)

5 mo 11 " Henry V. Davis tin ware 8.78
" H. & C. Packards bill 7.-
" E. Horton's bill sundries 6.28 (23)
" R. Howland .33

[5 mo] 21 " L. Maccomber & Son sundries 18.35 (24)
" Abby Durell 2.67 (25)
" O. Swain .52 (26)

11 mo 1 " E. Tallman cow pasture 12.- (27)
" Dr. A. Read's bill 14.- (28)

1838

2 mo 5 " Jas. Palmer 1.-
" Britt & Greene 2.25

3 mo 7 " Dr. P. Spooner 4.- (29)
" Bristol Mutual Insurance Co. 1.60
" Geo. Sisons bill 1.31 (30)
--------
$189.10

New Bedford 2 mo. 4 1851 Elisha Thornton Exectr.

Portions of Humphry's inventory is in the probate packet (the original appears to have been in pieces, with some missing)

House & about 23 rods land (homestead) 5,250
barn & about 30 rods adjoing. do 3,000
about 111 acres of land Clark's Cove 1,250
[break]
2 cows 35
1 store? hog 15
1 tons of hay & oats 25 75
lot of barrels & boxes in the barn 1
1 scythe & stick 3 pitchforks & 1 rake 2
1 horse plough & horse geer 1
2 old shovels & 2 old hoes 1
1 axe beetle & wedges 1
1 wheelbarrow 4 10
1 high post bedstead, bed bolster & pilloes & bedding 20
1 do do do do & curtains 20
1 do do do do 15
[break]
3 plated candlesticks &
2 socket lamps 150
1 pair brass candlesticks 50
[c]
4 brass lamps 1 9
12 large table spoons (silver) 18
16 do do do do 6
1 porringer 1 creamer & 1 sugar tongs do 5
1 britania swivel castor & bottles 3
1 do tea pot 1
1 gilt edged porcelain tea sett 6
1 doz do do plates 2
1 doz glass do 1
glass pitchers decanters wines & tumblers 2
16 blue print dinning plates 1
1 do platter 50
[c] 45.50
5 flat irons 1
1 cookstove & apparatis 20
iron ware kitchen shovel & tongs 6
coal hod bellows &c 6
1 washg. machine tubbs & buckets 5
2 brass kettles 3
1 warming pan 1
clothes horses & other sundries not enumerated 5
contents of the kitchen closet including crockery glass & tin ware 20 61
38 shares Marine Bank stock 3,800
25 do Mechanics do do 2,500
2 do Mechanics Ins. stock 200 6,500

1 note signed by B. & T. Sanford dated 2 mo 10 1835 for $300
endorsed on above 1 mo 18 1836*18 282
1 do signed by B. & T. Sanford dated 10 mo 20th 1835 for 811.60
endorsed on which 1 mo 18 1836 60.26 751.34
1 note signed by Phineas Terry dated 5 mo. 30 1833 for 22
balance due on note 9 mo. 3 1834 at the time of the last endorsement sign by Haydon Coggeshall Jr. as principal & Haydon Coggeshall as surety 361.19 1416.53
--------
$18,018.78

recapitulation

real estate 9,500 -
stock fodder & farming utensils 85 -
household furntiure 517.25
notes 6,500 -
-------------------
1416.33 $18, 018.78

New Bedford 2 mo. 6 1837

Killey Eldredge
S[tephen] Merrihew
Geo. W. Baker


Feb 7 1837
rec. & sworn to by
Bethia Russell
Elisha Thornton execs.

Schedule of debts paid by Elisha Thornton executor to the estate of Humphry Russell

1837 1 mo. 24

To amount paid funeral expences $48.55
" C. Whiting 1.- (16)
" Abrm. Davis bill butter 9.97
" B. F. Pearce masonry 2.40 (17)

3 mo 5 " Z. & Geo Eddy bill sundries 9.42 (18)
" C. A. Case 6.08 (19)
" Maxfield & Tripp carpenters 22.22 (20)

4 mo 25 " Geo. Tappan's bill 1.07 (21)
" Geo. Baker & others appraisers 7.50
" B. Lindsey printer 1.- (22)

5 mo 11 " Henry V. Davis tin ware 8.78
" H. & C. Packards bill 7.-
" E. Horton's bill sundries 6.28 (23)
" R. Howland .33

[5 mo] 21 " L. Maccomber & Son sundries 18.35 (24)
" Abby Durell 2.67 (25)
" O. Swain .52 (26)

11 mo 1 " E. Tallman cow pasture 12.- (27)
" Dr. A. Read's bill 14.- (28)

1838

2 mo 5 " Jas. Palmer 1.-
" Britt & Greene 2.25

3 mo 7 " Dr. P. Spooner 4.- (29)
" Bristol Mutual Insurance Co. 1.60
" Geo. Sisons bill 1.31 (30)
--------
$189.10

New Bedford 2 mo. 4 1851 Elisha Thornton Exectr.



children of Humphry and Bethia (Eldredge) Russell:

i. John Wady b. 22 July 1781
ii. Sarah E., b. 28 February 1785
iii. Rebecca b. 22 May 1787
iv. Gilbert E. b. 14 February 1789




vital records sources: Humphry's birth and marriage dates come from the Dartmouth, MA, vital records. His death date comes from the New Bedford, MA, vital records. The latter was not a town record, but was taken from a family Bible (age 70 years, 12 months, 6 days) and a New Bedford Monthly Meeting record.

5. The New Bedford Mercury (NBM hereafter), 14 December 1804, p. 3, and subsequent issues.
5.5. Ibid, 21 December 1804, p. 3, and subsequent issues.
6. New Bedford Mercury, 14 August 1807 and 29 Apr 1808, both p. 3.
7. (NB ship registers) p. 70.
8. Ibid, p. 108, 110.
9. NBM, 24 April 1812, p. 3, and subsequent issues.
10. Ibid, 28 August 1812, p. 3, and subsequent issues.
11. Ibid, 12 December 1813, p. 4, and subsequent issues.
11.5 Ibid, 7 October 1831, p. 2.
11.75 Ibid, 7 April 1815, p. 3.
14. microfilm of original probate packets from the Southern Probate District of Bristol County. This is also where his signature, picured above, was found.
15. Richmond and Vose (the next witness name) were partners in a dry goods firm in New Bedford. Vose was a boarder in Humphry and Bethia's house, according to the first New Bedford directory, issued the same year Humphry died (1836).
16. Comfort Whiting, butcher (Henry H. Crapo, The New Bedford Directory, etc. (New Bedford:1836).
17. Bradford S. Peirce, mason, ibid.
18. Zepheniah and George M. Eddy, domestic dry goods, ibid.
19. perhaps Caleb Case, stove store, ibid.
20. Charles P. Maxfield and Benjamin Tripp, Jr., carpenters, ibid.
21. George Tappan, crockery ware, ibid.
22. Benjamin Lindsay, editor, The New Bedford Mercury, ibid. 23. Enoch Horton, dry goods, ibid.
24. Leonard Macomber & Son (George), grocers, ibid.
25. Abby Durell, milliner, wife of Daniel, accountant, ibid.
26. Oliver Swain, shoes, ibid.
27. perhaps Elkanah Tallman, yoeman, ibid.
28. Alexander Read, physician, ibid. Read was Elisha Thornton, Jr.'s, partner when he first opened an apothecary shop.
29. Paul Spooner, physician, ibid. He lived at 77 Spring St., New Bedford, at the co. of Seventh St. This was very likely the house later occupied by his daughter Sophia and husband John Russell Thornton, Humphry's grandson, and next door to Elisha Thornton, John's father, and next door to Humphry.
30. George Sisson, crockery ware, ibid.


all text and photographs © 1998-2005 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted