Prior to 1868, the land that was to become Russell County was an undisputed possession of Indians, buffalo and the like. The county was named for Captain Avra P. Russell, Second Kansas Regiment, killed at Prairie Grove, Arkansas, in December, 1862. Originally the City of Russell was named Fossil Station by the railroad.
Kansas became a state in 1861 and Russell was founded in April 1871 by the "Northwestern Colony" from Ripon, Wisconsin. At this time Fossil Station was renamed Russell. The colony of seventy men women and children were looking for warmer winters, a new life and better future. A number of structures are on the National Registry of Historical Places were built by these colonists. They did not arrive by wagon train, but by the Kansas Pacific Railroad. They lived in boxcars while homes were being built.
The American character of the Pioneer is illuminated in a letter written by Benjamin Pratt, the colony's president creating a colony: "If you have energy and some means and desire to live in an industrious, moral and temperate community and can contribute something in character and influence toward boiling up such a community, we shall greatly welcome you to our colony. If your purpose to hang around and grumble at real and imaginary difficulties, to favor the introduction of whiskey saloons and gambling dens and other sources of idleness, vice and misery, we do not want you"
Russell is the location of the only site in the nation that two International Highways intersect. Highway 281 stretches from Mexico to Canada and Highway 40 from coast to coast. The highways are becoming fragmented due to updating the highway system. In some areas across the nation, Highway 40 has merged with I-70.
A walking tour on Kansas Street "Historic Avenue" depicts early day homes and churches. For more information visit Fossil Station Museum.
The Russell County
Historical Society & Genealogy Society
Russell County Historical Society and Genealogy Society
P. O. Box 245 or 331 Kansas Street Russell, Ks 67665
Phone (785) 483-3637
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