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Humphry appears to have used the old-fashioned style "s" in 1800 (top) and switched to the modern style by the time he wrote his will and codicil (bottom)

In his early adult life, Humphry farmed his father's homestead in Dartmouth after Joseph moved to New Bedford. Joseph gave it to him in his will, with all his tools and other implements, salt meadow and upland at "Boggy Meadow," and a lot in "Meeting House [cedar] Swamp." This was likely to the northwest behind the "Wilburite" meeting house that once stood at the northwest corner of what is now Russell's Mills and Bakerville Roads. Humphry's farm, when he sold it, was a 100 acre lot at the southwest corner of the same streets. Gulf Road West forms the southern boundary.

The boundary of Humphry's farm when he sold it overlayed on a modern map

The farm boundary description says his house was near the northeast corner of the lot. An 1871 atlas map of Dartmouth shows only one house that fits that description.

Top: the house that may have been Humphry's. Bottom: the Akin house in South Dartmouth (from the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust website), said to have been built about 1768, obviously very similar to the one above, with an older chimney and larger windows. Humphrey may have built the house above when he married in 1780.

The problem with this being Humphry's house is that his farm was passed down from his father. I don't see logic in thinking this was the family home for that long, not given how prominent and successful they were. There may have been another larger house on Russell's Mills Road closer to Bakerville Road that was gone by the time an 1852 map was drawn of the area, and an atlas of Bristol County was made in 1871. The 1852 map doesn't show any houses on what was Humphrey's property on the south side of Russell's Mills Road. This was certainly an omission, given the similarity of the houses shown above. There's a house on Bakerville Road that was on this lot that shows on both maps, but it isn't close to the corner and appears to be early 19th century. I haven't found any further evidence of exactly where any of these Russells lived. Humphrey's first cousin once removed lived in a much larger two-story house on the same road, closer to Russell's Mills, built in the early 1700s. This surely was the type of house Humphrey's father would have lived in and his grandfather before him. There is yet another house on Humphry's former lot further down Russell's Mills Road that is similar to Humphry's. This Cape Cod style of home was used for centuries in New England, but simplicity usually implies greater age, while the newer varieties tended to have more elaborate front doorways and have five bays (a center entry flanked by two evenly-spaced windows.
Humphry served in some town offices in Dartmouth, some of which follow. On 4 April 1785 he was chosen one of 21 surveyors of highways for Aponegansett Village.1 588 In April 1786 he was chosen town warden, although it isn't apparent in this record what is duties were.1 594      On 21 August 1804 Humphry's father gave him a lot of land in the village of New Bedford.1 The property was on the south side of School Street between South Sixth and South Seventh Streets. About this time his seventeen-year-old daughter Rebecca was being courted by Elisha Thornton, Jr., son of a prominent Smithfield Friend. Elisha had moved to New Bedford and joined the Monthly Meeting there the previous June. They married and the Russells (Humphrey, Bethiah and their children Sarah and Gilbert) and Rebecca (Russell) Thornton transferred to New Bedford Monthly Meeting 21 May 1805.2
     Humphry may have had his house built on his New Bedford lot shortly after he bought it. He and Elisha went into partnership in New Bedford by the end of December. It was announced in The New Bedford Mercury.3

Once the house was built and the store established, they all moved to the new address on South Sixth Street by the time they were accepted by the New Bedford Friends.

Humphry kept the Dartmouth farm until 1807. After four generations of Russells there, it went out of the family.4 By July 1807 Daniel Thornton, Elisha's uncle, joined the firm to create Russell, Thornton & Company. Daniel, his parents and youngest siblings transferred from Smithfield to the New Bedford Friends in the same month. That partnership didn't last long and Daniel ended up moving back to Smithfield.5

part of a Russell, Thornton & Co. advertisement

The items listed in their advertisements over the years were widely varied, including anchors, molasses, fabric and marble - a general store, which was at "The Four Corners," the heart of commercial New Bedford. Their stock was probably partly dependant on what was being brought into port. Both Humphry and Elisha had shares in ships that sailed out of New Bedford. In 1805, the ship Dartmouth was registered with Humphry as one of the primary owners.6 In 1810 and 1811, Humphrey and Elisha were co-owners of the ships Frances Ann and Foster.7 Advertising for the company suddenly stop in 1809. They may not have needed to advertise. An advertisement in 1812 shows that they probably never parted ways, but decided to shift course.8

There are several additions still evident at Humphry's house, and the brushes may have been made in them. The Mercury announced in the following year that they had moved to Main St.9 There is no further mention of the company in papers after this, nor any further indication of Humphry's business activities. It may have been at this point that Humphry returned to the "agricultural pursuits" mentioned by Daniel Ricketson. Where he pursued this isn't clear. An 1822 article in The Mercury contains this anecdote:10

Mr. William W. Kempton of this town, has a swine, purchased of Mr. Humphrey Russell in the spring of 1822, which has since that period brought seventeen litters of pigs, amounting in all to 169. One hundred and fifteen were brought at ten litters. The animal is now in good flesh and may yet [not or net?] forth further temptations to peril the salvation of Mahometans.

     Humphry was elected a fence viewer and field driver for New Bedford in the Spring of 1815.11 Humphry didn't serve in the Revolutionary army, surely following the pacifist ways of the Friends, but he was stationed at Clark's Cove in New Bedford during the War of 1812. He and other privates were paid $8.00 a month for their service. This was very likely in anticipation of or in reaction to the appearance in 1814 of British vessels along the south coast of Massachusetts, some of which sailed up the Acushnet River.

He remained a Friend to his death, which was likely at his home on So. Sixth St. The Mercury eulogized him in the issue of 16 December:

In this town, on the evening of the 9th inst., Humphry Russell, in the 79th year of his age, a member of the Society of Friends. Rarely is the death of a more worthy man recorded than that of our lamented relative and friend. He possessed in an eminent degree those qualities which endear one to their friends. His life has, it is true, been unmarked by any great event, but it has been one which the most virtuous might look upon with veneration and love. He was a kind husband and parent and a good and much respected citizen. He lived to see the spot of his nativity advance from a wild woodland to that of one of the most impressive towns in the union and to rejoice in a numerous and highly respectable prosperity. But the good old man is gone; cut off in the vigor of a green old age, amid the enjoyments which a life of industry and temperence award their possessor; the memory of his worth will long remain embalmed in the hearts of his family and friends. Yet his term of life was a much longer period than is alloted to most of the human family and although we lament the loss of his friendship and society we can but consider our loss is his gain"

     New Bedford of the Past says that Humphry was "...a worthy, old-fashioned man remarkably industrious and frugal in his habits. He had been engaged in commercial pursuits in the earlier part of his life, but as I remember him was principally occupied in agricultural matters. He was member of the Society of Friends and most uniform and upright in his habits of life."12
     Humphry is buried in a family lot in the Friends section of Rural Cemetery, New Bedford. His gravestone has sunk considerably in the soft ground.

The following documents were transcribed from the originals in Humphry's probate packet. The first is his will:13

Be it remembered that I Humphrey Russell of New Bedford in the County of Bristol Commonwealth of Massachusetts, yeoman, in good health of body and of sound and disposing mind, do make declare and publish this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time heretofore made.

First and principally it is my will that all my just debts and all changes and expences incurred by my last sickness and funeral and the settlement of my estate shall be fully settled, discharged and paid and after that all the worldly estate wherewith it has pleased God to endow me I give and dispose as follows to wit.

It is my will that my loving wife Bethiah Russell shall have the use, improvement and benefit of all my estate during her natural life. And I give all my household furniture to my said wife Bethiah to her and her heirs, to be to her and their own use and disposal absolutely forever.

And it is my will that after the decease of my wife the mansion house wherein I now live and the land whereon the same stands containing about twenty two rods more or less shall be to such uses as my wife shall by her last will in writing appoint. And in case she shall not make such appointment then I give and devise the said house and land to my two grandchildren Phebe Ann Russell and William T. Russell children of my son John W. Russell in equal portions and in common to them and their heirs and assigns forever.

And I give and devise to my daughter Sarah Ricketson one third part of my estate to her and her heirs and assigns forever, the legacy herein after given to my grandson Daniel Thornton being first therefrom deducted.

And I give and devise to my daughter Rebecca Thornton one third part of all my estate to her and her heirs and assigns forever.

And I give to my grandson Daniel Thornton eight hundred dollars to him and his heirs and assigns forever. And it is my will and my executors herein named are directed to pay said legacy to the said Daniel Thornton out of the portion herein before given to my daughter Sarah Ricketson.

My English family clock I give and bequeath to my grandson William T. Russell.

And all the rest and residue of my estate and property whatsoever, if any there be remaining after payment of the debts and legacies herein before mentioned and devised, I hereby give and devise to my son John W. Russell and his heirs and assigns forever.

And I hereby nominate constitute and appoint my wife Bethiah Russell and Elisha Thornton of New Bedford, apothecary, to be my executors jointly and severally of this my last will and testament: and so as that in case of the death of one of them the survivor shall be sole executor with all the power which is herein given to my executors jointly.

In witness whereof I Humphrey Russell have to this my last will and testament contained in this sheet of paper subscribed my name and set my seal this twenty fourth day of August in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty one.

Humphry Russell

signed sealed published and declared by the said Humphrey Russell as his last will and testament in the presence of us who in his presence and at his request have hereto set our names as witnesses

Alden Bradford
Comfort Whiting
William J. A. Bradford

Feb. 7 1837 approved
heirs consent

Whereas I Humphrey Russell of New Bedford County of Bristol Commonwealth of Massachusetts have made and duly executed and published my last will and testament in writing under my hand bearing date the twenty fourth day of August in the present year.. Now I do hereby declare this present writing to be a codicil to my said last will and direct the same to be annexed thereto and taken as a part thereof. And I do hereby give and bequeath to my wife Bethia Russell in addition to the several devises in said will mentioned the sum of one thousand dollars. And I hereby direct my executors in said will named to pay over the same to my said wife out of any assets that may first come to their hands as soon thereafter as shall be convenient. In witness whereof I have hereto to this sheet of paper subscribed my name and affixed my seal and declare the same to be a codicil to my last will and testament this twenty first day of December in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty one.

Humphry Russell

Signed, sealed, published and the presence of us...

Joseph Palmer
William Richmond14
Samuel J. S. Vose

Feb. 7 1837 approved
heirs consent

Elisha Thornton prepared an account of Humphry's estate on 4 January? 1851:

The executor charges himself with all the personal property of sd. deceased as pr. inventory
sundry collections $41.17

The said executor asks allowance for the following disbursements

amount paid funeral expences and sundry bills as pr schedule annexed
[see below] 189.10
amot. paid Bethiah Russell's legacy 1,000.--
" " ditto furniture as pr. will 517.25
" " Daniel Thornton's legacy 800.--
" " Sarah E. Ricketson her share as pr. will 2,400.16
" " Rebecca Thornton " " " 3,200.15
my services as executor 453.29

New Bedford 2 mo. 4, 1851
Elisha Thornton Exr.

Feb 4 1851
affixed to & alld.

Schedule of debts paid by Elisha Thornton executor to the estate of Humphry Russell

1837 1 mo. 24

To amount paid funeral expences $48.55
" C. Whiting 1.-15
" Abrm. Davis bill butter 9.97
" B. F. Pearce masonry 2.4017

3 mo 5 " Z. & Geo Eddy bill sundries 9.4217
" C. A. Case 6.0818
" Maxfield & Tripp carpenters 22.2219br>
4 mo 25 " Geo. Tappan's bill 1.0720
" Geo. Baker & others appraisers 7.50
" B. Lindsey printer 1.-21

5 mo 11 " Henry V. Davis tin ware 8.78
" H. & C. Packards bill 7.-
" E. Horton's bill sundries 6.2822
" R. Howland .33

[5 mo] 21 " L. Maccomber & Son sundries 18.3523
" Abby Durell 2.6724
" O. Swain .5225

11 mo 1 " E. Tallman cow pasture 12.-26
" Dr. A. Read's bill 14.-27


2 mo 5 " Jas. Palmer 1.-
" Britt & Greene 2.25

3 mo 7 " Dr. P. Spooner 4.-28
" Bristol Mutual Insurance Co. 1.60
" Geo. Sisons bill 1.3129

New Bedford 2 mo. 4 1851 Elisha Thornton Exectr.

Portions of Humphry's inventory is in the probate packet (the original appears to have been in pieces, with some missing)

House & about 23 rods land (homestead) 5,250
barn & about 30 rods adjoing. do 3,000
about 111 acres of land Clark's Cove 1,250
2 cows 35
1 store? hog 15
1 1/4 tons of hay & oats 25 75
lot of barrels & boxes in the barn 1
1 scythe & stick 3 pitchforks & 1 rake 2
1 horse plough & horse geer 1
2 old shovels & 2 old hoes 1
1 axe beetle & wedges 1
1 wheelbarrow 4 10
1 high post bedstead, bed bolster & pilloes & bedding 20
1 do do do do & curtains 20
1 do do do do 15
3 plated candlesticks &
2 socket lamps 150
1 pair brass candlesticks 50
4 brass lamps 1 9
12 large table spoons (silver) 18
16 do do do do 6
1 porringer 1 creamer & 1 sugar tongs do 5
1 britania swivel castor & bottles 3
1 do tea pot 1
1 gilt edged porcelain tea sett 6
1 doz do do plates 2
1 doz glass do 1
glass pitchers decanters wines & tumblers 2
16 blue print dinning plates 1
1 do platter 50
[c] 45.50
5 flat irons 1
1 cookstove & apparatis 20
iron ware kitchen shovel & tongs 6
coal hod bellows &c 6
1 washg. machine tubbs & buckets 5
2 brass kettles 3
1 warming pan 1
clothes horses & other sundries not enumerated 5
contents of the kitchen closet including crockery glass & tin ware 20 61
38 shares Marine Bank stock 3,800
25 do Mechanics do do 2,500
2 do Mechanics Ins. stock 200 6,500

1 note signed by B. & T. Sanford dated 2 mo 10 1835 for $300
endorsed on above 1 mo 18 1836 18 282
1 do signed by B. & T. Sanford dated 10 mo 20th 1835 for 811.60
endorsed on which 1 mo 18 1836 60.26 751.34
1 note signed by Phineas Terry dated 5 mo. 30 1833 for 22
balance due on note 9 mo. 3 1834 at the time of the last endorsement sign by Haydon Coggeshall Jr. as principal & Haydon Coggeshall as surety 361.19 1416.53


real estate 9,500 -
stock fodder & farming utensils 85 -
household furntiure 517.25
notes 6,500 -
1416.33 $18, 018.78

New Bedford 2 mo. 6 1837

Killey Eldredge
S[tephen] Merrihew
Geo. W. Baker

Feb 7 1837
rec. & sworn to by
Bethia Russell
Elisha Thornton execs.

children of Humphry Russell and Bethiah Eldredge:

i. John Wady b. 22 July 1781
ii. Sarah E. b. 28 February 1785
iii. Rebecca b. 22 May 1787
iv. Gilbert E. b. 14 February 1789

vital records sources: Humphry's birth and marriage dates come from Vital Records of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to the year 1850 vol. 1 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1929), 208; his marriage is in ibid, vol. 2 (New England Historic Genealogical Society:Boston, 1930), 402, both taken from Dartmouth Friends records. His death date comes from Vital Records of New Bedford, Massachusetts, to the year 1850 vol. 3 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1941), 143, taken from the NB Friends records and a family Bible.

1. Bristol Co. deed, 86:66 (21 Aug 1804).
2. Dartmouth Monthly Meeting record, 21st of 5th month 1805, vol.?, p. 224.
3. The New Bedford Mercury (NBM hereafter), 14 December 1804, 3.
4. Bristol Co. deed, 87:307-8 (16 Mar 1807).
5. NBM, 14 August 1807, first ad; 29 Apr 1808, dissolution, both p. 3.
6. Ship Registers of New Bedford, Massachusetts, vol. I (Boston:1940), 70.
7. Ibid, 108 & 110.
8. NBM, 24 April 1812, 3.
9. Ibid, 12 December 1813, 4.
10. Ibid, 7 October 1831, 2.
11. Ibid, 7 April 1815, p. 3.
12. Daniel Ricketson, New Bedford of the Past, etc., ed. Anna Ricketson, Walton Ricketson (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston:1903), 163-4.
13. microfilm of original probate packets from the Southern Probate District of Bristol County. This is also where his signature, picured above, was found.
14. Richmond and Vose (the next witness name) were partners in a dry goods firm in New Bedford. Vose was a boarder in Humphry and Bethia's house, according to the first New Bedford directory, issued the same year Humphry died (1836).
15. Comfort Whiting, butcher (Henry H. Crapo, The New Bedford Directory, etc. (New Bedford:1836).
16. Bradford S. Peirce, mason, ibid.
17. Zepheniah and George M. Eddy, domestic dry goods, ibid.
18. perhaps Caleb Case, stove store, ibid.
19. Charles P. Maxfield and Benjamin Tripp, Jr., carpenters, ibid.
20. George Tappan, crockery ware, ibid.
21. Benjamin Lindsay, editor, The New Bedford Mercury, ibid.
22. Enoch Horton, dry goods, ibid.
23. Leonard Macomber & Son (George), grocers, ibid.
24. Abby Durell, milliner, wife of Daniel, accountant, ibid.
25. Oliver Swain, shoes, ibid.
26. perhaps Elkanah Tallman, yoeman, ibid.
27. Alexander Read, physician, ibid. Read was Elisha Thornton, Jr.'s, partner when he first opened an apothecary shop.
28. Paul Spooner, physician, ibid. He lived at 77 Spring St., New Bedford, at the co. of Seventh St. This was very likely the house later occupied by his daughter Sophia and husband John Russell Thornton, Humphry's grandson, and next door to Elisha Thornton, John's father, and next door to Humphry.
29. George Sisson, crockery ware, ibid.

all text and photographs © 1998-2023 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted