1727-1927; bulk: 1812-1866

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of Charles Russell of Princeton, Mass., as well as the papers of his sons Charles Theodore Russell and Thomas Hastings Russell; his daughter-in-law Maria Louisa Wiswall Russell; and related families. It includes correspondence, personal and professional papers, account books, diaries, and printed material.

Biographical Sketch

These brief biographical sketches highlight the individuals most prominently represented in the collection. They are arranged chronologically.

Charles Russell (1793-1882) was born in Princeton, Mass. on 4 Mar. 1793, the son of John Russell (1762-1799) and Eunice Whitman Russell (1762-1811). He kept a store in Princeton with his business partner Ephraim Mirick (1753-1826) and also served as Princeton's postmaster, town clerk, and selectman. He was later a Massachusetts state representative and senator, member of the Governor's Council, and a surveyor at the Boston Customs House. Charles spent his summers working his farm in Princeton until his retirement from the Customs House in 1860, when he returned to Princeton full time. He married Persis Hastings (1793-1885) in 1815, and the couple had three children: Charles Theodore Russell (1815-1896), Thomas Hastings Russell (1820-1911), and Sarah Ann Russell (1822-1837). Charles died of pneumonia in Boston on 31 Dec. 1882 at the age of 89.

Charles Theodore Russell (1815-1896) was born in Princeton on 20 Nov. 1815, the son of Charles Russell and Persis Hastings Russell. He graduated from Harvard University in 1837, began his law practice in Boston in 1839, served for several years in the Massachusetts legislature, and was the author of The History of Princeton (Boston, 1838). Charles married Sarah Elizabeth Ballister (1817-1897) in 1840, and the couple had ten children: Elizabeth Ballister Russell (b. 1842); Josephine Emma Russell (b. 1846); Sarah Louisa Russell (b. 1848); Charles Theodore Russell (1851-1903); Joseph Ballister Russell (1852-1929); Henry Edwards Russell (1855-1931); William Eustis Russell (1857-1896); and three daughters that died in infancy. His son William served as mayor of Cambridge and governor of Massachusetts. Charles died in Cambridge on 16 Jan. 1896.

Thomas Hastings Russell (1820-1911) was born in Princeton on 12 Oct. 1820, the son of Charles Russell and Persis Hastings Russell. He graduated from Harvard University in 1843, began his law practice with his brother in Boston in 1845, and served as a member of the Massachusetts legislature. He married Maria Louisa Wiswall (1829-1892) in 1847, and the couple had five children: Charles Frederick Russell (1849-1884); Annie Louise Russell (1851-1913); Mary Louise Russell (1855-1924); Alice Wiswall Russell (1857-1925); and Arthur Hastings Russell (1859-1923). He died in Boston on 24 Feb. 1911.

Maria Louisa Wiswall Russell (1829-1892) was born in Webster, Mass. on 13 Jan. 1829, the daughter of Artemas Wiswall (1788-1837) and Dell Louisa Fairbanks Wiswall (1803-1831). She married Thomas Hastings Russell on 6 Oct. 1847 in Boston, and the couple had five children: Charles Frederick Russell (1849-1884); Annie Louise Russell (1851-1913); Mary Louise Russell (1855-1924); Alice Wiswall Russell (1857-1925); and Arthur Hastings Russell (1859-1923). Maria died in Boston on 18 Mar. 1892.

Collection Description

The Charles Russell family papers consist of three boxes spanning the years 1727 to 1927, with the bulk dating from 1812 to 1866. The collection documents the lives of storekeeper and government official Charles Russell of Princeton, Mass.; his wife Persis Hastings Russell; his children Charles Theodore Russell, Thomas Hastings Russell, and Sarah Russell; Thomas Russell's wife, Maria Louisa Wiswall Russell; and other relatives and related families.

Correspondence, diaries, and legal papers comprise the bulk of this collection. Family correspondence contains descriptions of daily life in Boston, Princeton, and Brookline, as well as the experiences of Charles Theodore Russell and Thomas Hastings Russell at Harvard University in the 1830s and 1840s. Charles's correspondence, account books, and diaries document his work as storekeeper with partner Ephraim Mirick; postmaster, town clerk, and Princeton selectman; Massachusetts state representative and senator; member of the Governor's Council; surveyor of the Boston Customs House; and Princeton farmer. Also of interest is personal correspondence from Charles Theodore Russell describing a meeting with Daniel Webster; and Maria Louisa Wiswall Russell's diaries documenting the family's daily life. Other papers in the collection include business and legal papers related to the Hastings family and the lecture notes of Samuel Hurd Walley.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Anne Orlando, October 2016.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Family correspondence, 1811-1874

Arranged chronologically.

This series contains the personal correspondence of the Russell family, with the bulk of the letters addressed to Charles Russell. Correspondents include Charles's brother Ephraim Russell; his wife Persis Hastings Russell; and his children, Charles Theodore ("Theo") Russell, Thomas Hastings Russell, and Sarah Russell. Letters document the growth of Charles's family, his sons' education at Harvard University; and the death of Sarah Russell in 1837. Although most letters pertain to family matters, some include discussions related to Charles's public offices in Boston and Princeton, as well as national politics, especially the presidential election of 1841 in which Charles Theodore Russell was an ardent supporter of William Henry Harrison. Of particular interest are letters discussing the effects of the War of 1812 and Napoleon's rule on American business; Charles Theodore Russell's account of the funeral procession for the Marquis de Lafayette in Boston in 1834; and Thomas Russell's descriptions of conflicts between students, faculty, and residents of Cambridge in the early 1840s.

Box 1
Box 2Folders 1-5

II. Russell family papers, 1812-1892

This series contains the personal, business, legal, and governmental papers of Charles Russell; his sons Charles Theodore Russell and Thomas Hastings Russell; and Thomas's wife, Maria Louisa Wiswall Russell. It includes papers related to Charles Russell's state and local government positions, the education of Charles Theodore and Thomas Hastings, and the daily life of Maria Louisa, among other topics.

A. Charles Russell papers, 1812-1868

The papers of Charles Russell include personal, business, legal, and governmental correspondence, one account book, and five volumes of Russell's diary. Of note are letters between Russell, Aaron Whittaker, and John Lane Boylston describing the social life of Princeton, and letters of recommendation for Russell for the position of state marshal, including one written by Daniel Webster. Several letters are related to Charles's work as a storekeeper with his business partner Ephraim Mirick.

Charles's account books record cash paid and received for both personal and professional items. His account book/diary contains accounts from 1854 and brief diary entries from May 1866 to November 1867. Other diaries contain line-a-day entries which document the weather, Russell's daily activities on his farm in Princeton, and the months he spent in Boston while serving on the Massachusetts General Court. The diaries also describe the gathering and shipping out of Union troops from Boston in 1861 and the funeral of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

i. Loose papers, 1812-1868

Arranged chronologically.

Box 2Folders 6-14

ii. Volumes, 1849-1867

Arranged chronologically.

Box 2Folder 15
Account book, 1849-1854
Box 2Folder 16
Account book and diary, 1854-1867
Box 2Folder 17
Diary, Aug. 1858-Dec. 1859
Box 2Folder 18
Diary, Jan. 1860-July 1861
Box 2Folder 19
Diary, July 1861-Sep. 1864
Box 2Folder 20
Diary, Sep. 1864-May 1866

B. Charles Theodore Russell papers, 1834-1840

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains the personal correspondence and papers of Charles Theodore Russell, including Latin exercises from his time at Harvard, a copy of an 1840 petition to the Harvard faculty related to student incidents at the University, and a letter to John Lane Boylston on the presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison.

Box 3Folders 1-3

C. Thomas Hastings Russell papers, 1839-1852

Arranged chronologically.

Thomas Hastings Russell's papers include his Harvard exercise book of written dissertations and a business letter from George Folger.

Box 3Folder 4
College exercise book, 1839-1843
Box 3Folder 5
Letter, 1852

D. Maria Louisa Wiswall Russell volumes, 1849-1892

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains the personal papers of Maria Louisa Wiswall Russell, who married Thomas Hastings Russell in 1847. It includes three daily diaries, one line-a-day and two long-form, in which Maria Louisa described her daily activities. Subjects include her family and home life in Brookline, visits with friends and her in-laws in Princeton, and social events. Of interest are descriptions of concerts and lectures she attended in Boston, a debate she attended at the Massachusetts State House, and a page of recipes at the back of the first diary volume. The subseries also includes a printed and bound memorial book from Maria Louisa's funeral containing a family history, excerpts of her letters, and poetry.

Box 3Folder 6
Diary, Jan.-Oct. 1849
Box 3Folder 7
Diary, Jan. 1853-Apr. 1855
Box 3Folder 8
Diary, May 1856-Oct. 1857
Box 3Folder 9
Memorial book, 1892

III. Related family papers, 1727-1866

This series contains papers of families related to the Russell family, including the Hastings, Walley, Parry, and Stevenson families. It includes wills, deeds, receipts, accounts, personal papers, and correspondence.

A. Hastings family papers, 1756-1818

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains papers of the family of Persis Hastings, the wife of Charles Russell. It primarily consists of business and legal correspondence of Persis's father, Samuel Hastings (1735-1823); Samuel's father, Nathaniel Hastings (1709-ca. 1790); and Samuel's mother, Esther Perry Hastings (1713-1797), including inventories of Nathaniel's estate. It also includes letters of recommendation for Persis to teach at a school in Hubbardston, Mass. before her marriage.

Box 3Folders 10-12

B. Samuel Hurd Walley lecture notes, 1826

The college lecture notes of Samuel Hurd Walley cover topics in philosophy, architecture, the arts, and technology. Walley graduated from Harvard University in 1826 and later served Massachusetts as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1853 to 1855.

Box 3Folder 13

C. Miscellaneous family papers, 1727-1866

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains deeds, wills, survey maps, accounts, and other records. It also includes a few personal papers, such as a copy of a love letter from J. Boyer to Elizabeth Wharton and the religious meditations of Bethiah Walley on her death bed.

Box 3Folders 14-16

IV. Printed material, 1826-1927

Arranged chronologically.

Included in this series is ephemera collected by or about the Russells. It contains programs for Harvard exhibitions in which Charles Theodore Russell and Thomas Russell participated, acts of the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives, newspaper clippings, advertisements, and other items.

Box 3Folders 17-18

Preferred Citation

Charles Russell family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Hastings family.
Russell, Charles, 1793-1882.
Russell, Charles Theodore, 1815-1896.
Russell, Maria Louisa Wiswall, 1829-1892.
Russell, Persis Hastings, 1793-1885.
Russell, Thomas Hastings, 1820-1911.
Russell family.
Walley, Samuel Hurd, 1805-1877.


Harvard University--Students.
Mirick and Russell (Princeton, Mass.).
United States Customhouse (Boston, Mass..)


Account books, 1849-1854.
Brookline (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Customs administration--Massachusetts--Boston--Officials and employees.
Diaries, 1849-1867.
Family history, 1800-1849.
Family history, 1850-1899.
Massachusetts--Officials and employees.
Massachusetts--Politics and government.
Princeton (Mass.)--Officials and employees.
Princeton (Mass.)--Social life and customs.