William Huntington Russell (1809 - 1885)

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Birthplace: Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut, United States
Death: Died in New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, United States
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About William Huntington Russell

American businessman, educator, and politician William Huntington Russell was the founder of the Yale University secret society Skull and Bones. He was a descendant of several old New England families, including those of Pierpont, Hooker, Willett, Bingham, and Russell. His ancestor Rev. Noadiah Russell was a founder and original trustee of Yale College.

Born on August 12, 1809 in Middletown, Connecticut, Russell was a cadet at the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy (later Norwich University) from 1826 until graduation in 1828, where he was taught under strict military discipline. In 1828, William's father died, piling family responsibility on to him. Under severe financial restraints, he entered Yale College. He supported himself throughout his college years.

Russell had planned on entering the ministry, but his financial problems forced him to obtain an immediate income through teaching. In September 1836, he opened a private prep school for boys in a small dwelling house. The school would become known as the New Haven Collegiate and Commercial Institute. To begin with, the school was only attended by a small number of boys, but by the time of Russell's death the school had become well known and had graduated around 4,000 boys. In about 1840, Russell introduced a very thorough military drill and discipline into his school. He foresaw a Civil War in the future, and wanted to make sure his boys were prepared to fight for the Union. His students were so well schooled in military affairs that on the outbreak of Civil War some were enlisted as drill instructors.

He not only gave his students to the Union army, but also his own services. Governor Buckingham realized that Russell was one of the most knowledgeable men in military affairs. For this reason, Russell was hired to organize the Connecticut militia. He was later made a major-general by act of the legislature.

From 1846 to 1847, Russell served as a Whig in the Connecticut state legislature. Upon the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in 1854, he became active as one of the leaders of the movement which resulted in the organization of the Republican Party. He was a strong abolitionist and a friend of John Brown. Russell was named as a trustee in the will of John Brown. He was also the Connecticut representative on the National Kansas Committee.

In 1856, with several other Bonesmen, he incorporated Skull and Bones as the Russell Trust, later the Russell Trust Association. The Russell Trust Association is a tax-exempt association; it holds possession of the Skull and Bones Hall at Yale University and the society's holiday island, Deer Island.

In May 1885, Russell saw some boys throwing stones at birds in the park in New Haven, Connecticut. Russell sought to protect the birds from the boys. The activity was too much for him and he fell unconscious from a fatal rupture of a blood vessel and died several days later on May 19, 1885.

Source: Wikipedia

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Gen. William Russell's Timeline

1809
August 12, 1809
Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut, United States
1847
March 14, 1847
Age 37
New Haven, CT, USA
1855
December 27, 1855
Age 46
New Haven, CT, USA
1860
September 17, 1860
Age 51
New Haven, CT, USA
1885
May 19, 1885
Age 75
New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, United States
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Grove Street Cemetery