January 8, 2010

Robert Benedict Russell

   Robert Benedict Russell was born on April 17, 1817, either in New York or Connecticut. In 1835 he joined his mother, sister and brother-in-law when they moved to Milam, Sabine County, Texas. They later moved to San Augustine, where, on March 1836, he joined Capt. Benjamin Bryant’s company in Sidney Sherman's regiment to fight for independence. They marched overland to Groce’s Plantation on the Brazos River, where on about April 1, 1836, they joined Sam Houston’s Texians. On April 21, 1836, Russell fought at the Battle of San Jacinto. He served a second 90-day enlistment when he and Canfield enlisted in Capt. E.W. Collins’ Sabine County company on July 8, 1836.

   Russell married Lavinia Brownrigg, daughter of a San Augustine physician, on June 1, 1841, and by 1860 they were the parents of six children. In 1840, when Canfield bought the San Augustine Redlander, Russell became Canfield’s assistant, being both reporter and type setter. In 1846, when Canfield volunteered for service in the Mexican War, Russell and H.M. Kinsey brought and operated the Redlander until Oct. 1850, when Russell sold out his interest and moved to Sabine Pass. In 1854 he moved to Orange, where he operated a hotel for the next twelve years. By 1860, Russell owned $7,000 worth of real estate and personal property valued at $400. He was appointed United States postmaster at Orange on March 4, 1860, became Confederate postmaster there on Aug. 5, 1861, and remained in office until 1866, when a Reconstruction government evicted him from the postmastership.

   In 1866, Russell bought out the Robert Jackson sawmill and quickly converted it into a cypress shingle mill. By 1877, Russell had already manufactured and shipped on his two company-owned lumber schooners, 50 million shingles to Galveston Island. Russell was killed at his mill on November 29, 1880 when he was trapped between the bumpers of two rail cars and crushed to death. His sons Henry and Robert continued to operate the mill, increasing its output to 125,000 shingles daily, until it burned down in 1890.

30° 05’065, -093° 44’167

Evergreen Cemetery

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