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Russell family papers

Identifier: MSS 1511

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence, journals, daybooks, newspaper clippings, a scrapbook, rough drafts of a few of Samuel Russell's papers and letters, a passport, genealogical information, memorabilia pamphlets, books, and an oil painting. The second part of the collection deals mainly with Samuel Russell, Jr. and his legal career with Senator William Henry King and with the King, Burton & Nibley law firm. This section includes correspondence and papers prepared and written by Samuel, Jr. for Senator King. There are many tracts and books in addition to briefs, bills, and resolutions which were collected by Samuel that dealt with the topics in his professional work. Dated 1822 to 1954.


  • 1822-1954


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to use material from this collection must be obtained from the Reference Services at

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Russell, Sr., traveled across the plains to Utah in 1861. Served an LDS mission in the United States and Canada from October 1882-March 1883, lived in Arizona for a time to avoid arrest for unlawful cohabitation.

Samuel Russell, Sr. was born at the Charletton Settlement (now part of Toronto, Canada), 1835 June 7. Parley P. Pratt came to the settlement in 1836, brought by Isabella Russell Walton--the sister of Isaac Russell, and aunt of Samuel, Sr. Parley P. Pratt baptized the Russell family as well as others. After their baptism, the Russell family moved to Richmond, Missouri, and later to Utah in 1861. Samuel's father, Isaac, died when Samuel was nine years old. The family stayed in Missouri.

In Richmond, Samuel tried to buy 40 acres of land to start a plantation, but the people that he wanted to buy from did not decide to sell to him until after Samuel had made up his mind to move to Utah; he was 26. Samuel's family lived for a time at the Farmville Landing, opposite Lexington, on the Missouri River. While living here, Samuel raised Missouri mules and some cattle, which he later brought to Utah. Samuel brought his mother and sisters to Utah; his brother George had gone to Canada to live with their cousins.

On their way to Utah, Samuel's wagon train was met by three Canadian men, two of which would later marry two of his sisters. They later met up with the Church wagon train led by Homer Duncan. Mr. Duncan was very impressed by Samuel's ability to handle wagons and cattle and made Samuel second in command of the combined wagon train. At one point Samuel was left completely in charge of the wagon train and was given gold for bridge tolls. They reached Fort Laramie on the Platte River where the bridge keeper would not let them cross. The bridge was in disrepair and the river water was high and the keeper would not even let them walk across. So the train was diverted down river where the they were able to find a place to ford across. Samuel had become expert at fording and swimming animals across rivers while living on the Missouri. They forded, much to the bridge keeper's surprise. Samuel also diverted other wagon trains across the river there depriving the bridge keeper of his fares and saving the Church a lot of gold.

Upon reaching Utah, Samuel located his family at Lehi for a time, later moving to Salt Lake City. There he owned 10 acres where the Union Pacific Railroad Station now stands. In 1869 Samuel married Lucy Pratt. After seven years without having any children, Samuel married Lucy's sister Henrietta in 1877. They are daughters of Parley P. Pratt.

Samuel was called to serve a mission to the United States and Canada in October 1882. He was set apart by Joseph F. Smith and Wilford Woodruff. He returned in March of 1883.

Samuel was indicted for unlawful cohabitation in 1886. He avoided arrest by sleeping nights at his sister Mary's house. He also spent time in Mesa, Arizona, for this same reason, until the President's Amnesty in 1892. Samuel Russell voted for the adoption of the Utah Constitution in 1895, but died suddenly of pneumonia, at the age of 61, before the new era opened for Utah with the end of the Cleveland Administration.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Russell, Jr., the first child of Samuel and Henrietta Pratt Russell, was born 1878 April 14 in the old Pratt home at South Temple and 4th West in Salt Lake City, Utah. During his youth his father spent much time avoiding arrest for cohabitation, having married polygamously the daughters of Parley P. Pratt--Lucy and Henrietta.

Samuel was active in school, being editor of the Franklin High Journal and writing for the High School Olio. After graduating from the Salt Lake City High School, he was set apart as a short-term missionary in 1898, and again as a full-time missionary to Switzerland in 1900. After his return, he entered the University of Virginia where he completed his Law degree. While at Virginia, he established an outstanding record for scholarship and successfully represented the school on its debating team.

Upon returning to Utah, Samuel began the practice of law in the firm headed by William Henry King. Some years later, Mr. King was elected to the United States Senate and Samuel became his private secretary and administrative assistant. In Washington he was active in political circles and became recognized as an authority on taxation, public utilities, and standards of measurement, publishing several papers in these fields. He remained King's private secretary until 1928 when he left Washington after a period of growing tension between the two men.

After his retirement, Samuel Russell, Jr. maintained his intellectual interests which came more and more to bear upon the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served on numerous historical committees and was active in the community as well. He died in Salt Lake City on 1954 August 4.

Samuel Russell was an articulate, expressive person. He wrote many tracts and papers on political as well as religious subjects, topics in which he had a special interest.

A Chronology of Important Dates in Life of Samuel Russell, Jr.:

14 April 1878: Born in Salt Lake City, Utah

18 November 1898: Short-term mission

1900: Full-time mission in Switzerland

8 October 1900: Received his Patriarchal blessing from Patriarch John Smith; set apart as a missionary; ordained a Seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Apostle Rudger Clawson, and assisted by Heber J. Grant and John Taylor.

1904: Graduated from the University of Virginia Law School

1908: Nominee of the Democratic Party of State Senator in Utah

1912: Delegate to the National Democratic Convention at Baltimore which nominated Woodrow Wilson for the Presidency

4 March 1917-1 September 1928: Private secretary and administrative assistant to William Henry King, Senator from Utah

1945-1949: Served on the Days of '47 committee and involved with the building of the This is the Place Monument.

4 August 1954: Died in Salt Lake City, Utah


27 boxes (13.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Russell family papers is arranged into 19 series: 1. Samuel Russell, Sr. and Samuel Russell, Jr. family histories, diaries, and other materials, 1869-1954. 2. Samuel Russell, Sr. and Samuel Russell, Jr. family and personal letters, 1822-1837. 3. Samuel Russell, Sr. family personal letters, 1852-1917. 4. Samuel Russell, Jr. family personal letters, 1886-1953. 5. Samuel Russell, Jr. correspondence, 1844-1918. 6. Samuel Russell, Jr. mission and other correspondence, between 1878 and 1954. 7. Russell family business papers, 1859-1945. 8. Russell and Snively families genealogical information, undated. 9. Samuel Russell, Sr. and Samuel Russell, Jr. assorted family items, between 1840 and 1962. 10. Samuel Russell, Sr. and Samuel Russell, Jr. memorabilia, between 1835 and 1954. 11. Samuel Russell, Jr. government work materials, 1903-1930. 12. Samuel Russell, Jr. Senate, government, and business materials, 1898-1952. 13. Samuel Russell, Jr. business and political correspondence, 1893-1946. 14. Samuel Russell, Jr. rough drafts and papers by various authors, between 1822 and 1954. 15. Samuel Russell, Jr. newspaper clippings, between 1878 and 1954. 16. Samuel Russell, Jr. pamphlets, between 1822 and 1954. 17. Samuel Russell, Jr. books, between 1904 and 1954. 18. Samuel Russell, Jr. political files, between 1902 and 1954. 19. Samuel Russell, Jr. oil painting, before 1954.

The first part of the collection deals mainly with Samuel Russell [Sr.] and his wives and children [box 1 fd. 1 to box 7 fd. 9]. This section consists mainly of biographies, letters, genealogy and family transactions. It is organized in as much of a chronological order as possible. This section also includes correspondence with Samuel [Sr.]'s sisters. Samuel [Jr.]'s family correspondence and Pratt/Snively family materials are also included in this section.

Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory available online.

Custodial History

The collection was purchased by the BYU Library over a period of several years. The first installment of the collection arrived in 1976 with additions in 1982 and after.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased; Mary Jean Freebairn; 1976.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Mary Jean Freebairn; 1976 and 1982.


Utah and Western American cultural, family, social, intellectual, and religious history (19th-20th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts Collection Development policy, IV.a.i.4).

Related Materials

The BYU archives also owns the Isaac Russell family collection [Vault MSS 497]. There is a strong possibility that the contents of both MSS 1511 and Vault MSS 497 came from the same source.

Separated Materials

Photographs have been transferred to the BYU Photo Archives [MSS P 344].

Maps transferred to Map Department:

1. German Alliance, dated 1916 December 19 (Nationality's map in color).

2. Map of St. Louis, dated 1904 April (topographical).

Processing Information

Processed; David J. Whittaker; January 1990 (Revised July 1998).

Register of the Russell family papers
In Progress
David J. Whittaker, Paul C. Russell, and Steven K. Sheffield
January 1990
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States