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Papers of James Rusell (1715-1798)


The papers of James Russell are primarily financial and span the last half of the eighteenth century. Shipping was a major concern. Account books make up the bulk of this collection indicating that Russell had ships doing business in Lisbon, Portugal, and as far as St. Kitts and Suriname. Supplies and services are enumerated for many of the voyages, ranging from food stuffs to payments for sawing wood. Russell's ties to the Lincoln Estate are documented by account books dating 1778 to 1785. During this period, he paid both county and state property taxes. The entries provide an insight into the operation of a country estate in colonial New England and cover such varied subjects as the purchase of nails, work at the mill house, and the procurement of rum and molasses. One letter on payments concerns his business ventures. The other is to his son Charles during the anguished time when the latter had fled to Antigua to avoid arrest. The Boston Public Library has some legal documents concerning actions in which James Russell was involved. Note: see box 197 for additional Russell family materials.

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Collection Name
Codman family papers
Collection Code
1671-1797, undated
Collection Type
Description Level
Reference Code

Historical/Biographical Note

James Russell's life was centered in Charlestown from his birth on 5 August 1715 until his death 24 April 1798. His parents were Daniel and Rebecca Russell. Russell was a man of widespread business interests and Charlestown probably served as his base of operation. In 1738, he married Katherine Graves, a descendant of an original settler of Charlestown. They had eleven children. Russell's involvement with the Lincoln estate was both direct and indirect. He served as executor of the estate for his son, Dr. Charles Russell, from 1767 to 1784. During the Battle of Bunker Hill, his Charlestown house burned. Consequently from 1778 to 1783, he took up residence at the estate in Lincoln. As executor of his son's estate, he made payments on the mortgage until 1774, a year of upheaval when Boston was under martial law. The tangled web of family ownership of the Lincoln estate continued when James Russell's daughter, Margaret, married John Codman III in 1781. Complications regarding ownership were only one facet of James Russell's life. An enterprising merchant, he served as Treasurer of Middlesex County and as a Proprietor of the Charles River Bridge. He represented Charlestown in His Majesty's Council for thirteen years beginning in 1746. In 1771, he was appointed Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Russell was the benefactor chiefly responsible for the creation of the Lincoln Poor House in 1786, and in Charlestown he gave the land upon which the Bunker Hill Monument was later erected.


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