Rev. John Russell

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John Russell

Birthplace: Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Death: Died in Hadley, Hampshire County, Province of Massachusetts
Place of Burial: Hadley, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John Russell, glazier and Phoebe Russell
Husband of Rebecca Russell; Phebe Whiting and Mary Russell
Father of Jonathan Russell; Rev. Samuel Russell; Eleazar Russell; Daniel Russell and john russell
Brother of Phillip Russell

Occupation: Minister
Managed by: Susan
Last Updated:

About Rev. John Russell

John Russell (clergyman)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rev. John Russell, Jr.

Image: Reverend John Russell behind the pulpit of the Church of Christ at Hadley during the 1675 Angel of Hadley Legend as depicted in the Frederick A. Chapman painting "The Perils of Our Forefathers"

  • Born 1626
  • Ipswich, England
  • Died December 10, 1692
  • Hadley, Massachusetts
  • Occupation Minister
  • Children John Russell (1650-1670), Jonathan Russell (1655-1711), Rev. Samuel Russell (1660-1731), Eleazer Russell (1663-1691), Daniel Russell (1666-1667)
  • Parent(s) John Russell, Sr. and Phebe Collins

John Russell (1626 – December 10, 1692) was a Puritan minister in Hadley, Massachusetts during King Philip's War. As such, he is part of the Angel of Hadley legend.


John Russell was born 1626 in Ipswich, Suffolk, England[1] and immigrated to Cambridge, Massachusetts Bay Colony aboard The Defence in 1635 with his father and brother as part of the Great Migration.[2] He graduated from Harvard University in 1645.[3] In 1650 he succeeded Henry Smith as the minister at Wethersfield, Connecticut. Seven years later controversy erupted over church membership, discipline, and baptism, with the church in neighboring Hartford being inclined toward Presbyterianism as opposed to Congregationalism. The Congregationalist minority in Hartford attempted to join Russell's church in Wethersfield; when the General Corte prevented the move pending efforts at reconciliation, the controversy spilled over into Russell's congregation. Finally, on April 18, 1659, the majority of Russell's congregation signed an agreement to depart from Connecticut for Massachusetts.

In 1659 Russell led the dissenting Connecticut congregation that founded the town of Hadley on the east bank at a bend of the Connecticut River. Beginning in 1664, he sheltered the regicides Edward Whalley and William Goffe in his home. He secreted the two wanted men under the roof of his home for more than a decade at great peril to himself and his family, as King Charles II had numerous men searching the colonies for Whalley and Goffe.[4] Whalley died about 1675. Goffe was still alive during King Philip's War when, according to the Angel of Hadley legend, he allegedly came out of hiding to rally the townspeople during an attack before disappearing again. George Sheldon in his introduction to Sylvester Judd's The History of Hadley dubbed John Russell the "Guardian Angel of Hadley" because of his lengthy and perilous watch over the two regicides. Sheldon eloquently wrote of Hadley's minister:

The greatest hero of Hadley, however, was of a still nobler and finer mold. Actuated by pure motives of humanity, sympathy and duty, and the loftiest pitch of patriotism, he patiently wrought in darkness and in silence. Through the anxious days and lingering nights of more than ten years, he bravely stood within a hand's breadth of the gates of ignominious death. He never faltered for a single hour, nor ever sought to shift upon another the burden and responsibility. Month after month, summer and winter, year after year, zealously watching and guarding his trust, John Russell was virtually a prisoner within his own hamlet. Under his very rooftree he was secreting Edward Whalley and William Goffe, two of the patriot judges who condemned to the scaffold that misguided and perfidious representative of the "divine right of kings," Charles I., of England. These two men were now proscribed; a price was set upon their heads, and a swift retribution awaited any who might relieve or conceal them. Any neglect of precaution, any unforeseen mishap to the premises, any single case of misplaced confidence, and both he and his guests were surely doomed to nameless torture and death.[5]


Rev. John Russell's son, Rev. Samuel Russell of Branford, Connecticut, was one of the co-founders of Yale College.[6] The Reverend John Russell died December 10, 1692 at Hadley, MA where he is buried in The Old Hadley Cemetery with his second wife, Rebecca Newberry Russell. See Find A Grave for additional information.


  1. Russell, Gurdon Wadsworth, Samuel Hart, and J. R. Hutchinson (1910). An Account of Some of the Descendants of John Russell, the Emigrant from Ipswich, England, who Came to Boston, New England, October 3, 1635, Together with Some Sketches of the Allied Families of Wadsworth, Tuttle, and Beresford. Madison: Case, Lockwood & Brainard. p. 31.
  2. Paige, Lucius R. (1877). History of Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1630-1877: With a Genealogical Register. Boston: H. O. Houghton and Company. p. 35.
  3. Sibley, John Langdon (1873). Sibley's Harvard graduates, Volume 1. Massachusetts Historical Society. pp. 110–118. ISBN 9781150208607.
  4. Judd, Sylvester, Lucius Manlius Boltwood, and George Sheldon (1905). History of Hadley, Including the Early History of Flatfield, South Hadley, Amherst and Granby, Massachusetts. Northampton: H. R. Huntting & Company. pp. v – xxxiv.
  5. Sheldon. History of Hadley. pp. vi.
  6. Sibley, John Langdon (1885). Sibley's Harvard graduates, Volume 3. Massachusetts Historical Society. pp. 236–238.


John Russell Graduated from Harvard in 1645 as the seventeenth Graduate if that College. -------------------- Bio from - Sibley's Harvard Graduates: Biographical Sketches of Those who Attended Harvard College in the Classes ... with Bibliographical and Other Notes By John Langdon Sibley, Clifford Kenyon Shipton, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1873 pages 110 - 118.


Born about 1627, died 1692, aged 65.

Rev. John Russell, M. A., of Hadley, born in England, was son of John Russell, glazier, who came to Cambridge, Massachusetts, was admitted freeman 3 March, 1635-6, a month after the Cambridge church gathering, removed to Wethersfield, Connecticut, and afterward to Hadley, Massachusetts, where he died 3 May, 1680.

Russell began to preach at Wethersfield in 1649 or 1650, as successor of the Reverend Henry Smith, whose widow, in 1649, was married to his father. February 26, 1656—7, the General Court of Connecticut desired him, with Warham, Stone, and Blinman, "to meet the elders, who should be delegated from the other colonies, at Boston, the next June; and to assist in debating the questions proposed by the general court of Connecticut, or any of the other courts, and report the determination of the council." Contentions about membership, discipline, and baptism had arisen in the church at Hartford, and were increasing in violence and extending to the neighboring churches, Russell becoming involved in them. The Reverend Samuel Stone and the church at Hartford undertook to discipline John Webster, the Governor, William Goodwin, a ruling elder, and John Cullick and Andrew Bacon, principal men in the church and town: Stone and most of the church being inclined to Presbyterianism, while the other party favored Congregationalism. The aggrieved members, "hauing long liued in the fire of Contention," and finding themselves "scorched more and more therewith," finally withdrew, and were about to unite with Russell's church at Wethersfield, when the General Court interfered, forbade the church from proceeding with its discipline, and the aggrieved from joining the Wethersfield or any other church until further efforts should be made to effect a reconciliation. As Palfrey remarks, "Stone stood upon his right, and the right of his church, to regulate their own affairs by their own discretion, and to execute ecclesiastical judgments upon members of their ecclesiastical body without regard to the offenders being the highest Magistrates of Connecticut." Several unsuccessful attempts were made by the General Court and by ecclesiastical councils to heal the dissension. For the purpose of settling the difficulties, ministers and delegates from the churches at Boston, Cambridge, Charlestown, Ipswich, Dorchester, Dedham, and Sudbury, in Massachusetts, made journeys to Hartford, some of them more than once, and this when travelling in the wilderness was difficult.

Cotton Mather says: "From the Fire of the Altar, there issued Thundrings and Lightnings, and Earthquakes, through the Colony." In consequence of the part taken by Russell in this quarrel, the church in Wethersfield became divided. Some of the members brought a complaint against him before the General Court for joining with the church in excommunicating John Hollister, one of their number, without furnishing him with a copy of the charges, or even informing him what they were; and Russell was reproved by the Court for violating the usage of the churches. There was also a controversy in the Wethersfield church as to their church standing, some maintaining that they were not a church, because they had never been organized according to gospel order, or, if they had been, that by the removal of members they had ceased to be such. In this state of affairs the General Court ordered a council, which failing to effect a reconciliation, the Court itself decided the question by declaring, that, though many had removed, those who remained constituted "ye true and vndoubted Ch: of Wethersfield."

Early in 1659 all the members of the church except six, five of whom were not present, voted for a removal. Russell thereupon drew up an instrument in the nature of a covenant, which was signed by himself and thirty of his church and congregation. Joining the Webster party, they, with a few others from Windsor, April i8th met "at Goodman Ward's house, in Hartford," where they signed an agreement to "remove out of the jurisdiction of Connecticut into the jurisdiction of Massachusetts." They accordingly planted the town of Hadley, whither most of them removed in 1660.

Their first place of assembling for worship was in a hired house. December 10, 1663, "Mr. Goodwin and John Barnard were chosen to seat persons in it 'in a more comely order,' and it was voted to hire the house another year." Their meeting-house, voted 12 December, 1661, and said to be framed, but not raised, 7 November, 1665, seems not to have been completed till 12 January, 1670, "when the town chose the two deacons, the two elders and Mr. Henry Clarke, to order the seating of persons in the meeting-house. Every person seated was to pay a part of the expense for making his seat. 128 seats for 128 persons, male and female, were paid for, at 3s. 3d. each. These 128 persons were heads of families or at least adults."

To check young sinners, the town voted, 11 January, 1672, "that there shall be some sticks set up in the meeting-house in several places, with some fit persons placed by them, and to use them as occasion shall require, to keep the youth from disorder."

For defence against the Indians, it was voted, 19 February, 1676, "that the meeting house shall be fortified — and that every male inhabitant above 16 years of age shall bring their arms and ammunition on Lord's days & Lectures to meeting, and in default of the same to forfeit twelve pence a man for every neglect."

Although there is no recorded agreement with Russell as to salary, at first, "it was apparently 80 pounds, and he received allotments of land in Hadley, according to a 150£ estate, or a homelot of 8 acres, and about 38 acres of interval land. After some years, the town gave him, in addition, the use of the town allotment, so called, which was estimated at 10 pounds, and he thus received annually 90 pounds." His salary "was paid in winter wheat at 3s. 3d., peas at 2s. 6d., Indian corn at as., and other things proportionally. The cash price of wheat did not exceed 2s. 6d., peas 2s., and corn is. 6d. per bushel at Hadley."

In October, 1664, Edward Whalley and William Goffe, two of the judges of Charles the First, and military officers of high rank under Cromwell, who had come to America after the Restoration, and had been living for some time in seclusion at and near New Haven, took up their residence at Hadley, in the house of Russell, who concealed and protected them as long as they lived. On or about the first of September, 1675, while the people of Hadley were engaged in public worship, either on Sunday, or on a fast day which they were observing on account of Philip's War, these men, from a window in their private chamber, saw a party of Indians approaching from the north, evidently with the intention of surprising the people while in the meeting-house. Whalley was superannuated. Goffe, at the risk of discovery, hastened to the meeting-house and alarmed the congregation. In the general terror and confusion there seemed to be no one to take the lead. "I will lead, follow me," said the stranger, and they immediately put themselves under his command. Some were armed, but their chief reliance was an old cannon which had been sent there some time before by the government. No one, however, was competent to manage it with much effect. The mysterious stranger directed the loading of it, and they advanced to the attack. The Indians retreated a short distance to a deserted house. The cannon was so directed that the contents knocked down the top of the stone chimney about their heads, and they immediately fled. The commander ordered his men to pursue them. While they were thus engaged, he withdrew, unobserved, and rejoined Whalley in their private chamber. When the pursuers returned, their leader was gone. His venerable form, silvery locks, mysterious appearance, and sudden disappearance, with the disposition of the pious of those days to recognize in any strange event a special providence, led the inhabitants to regard their deliverer as an angel, who, after fulfilling the purpose of his mission, had reascended to heaven. They very likely never knew who he was.

Whalley probably died soon after th'n jvent, Goffe surviving him. At the demolition of Russell's house, near the end of the eighteenth century, "the removal of a slab in the cellar discovered human remains of a large size. They were believed to have belonged to the stout frame which swept through Prince Rupert's line at Naseby." This agrees with the tradition at Hadley, that two persons, unknown, were buried in the minister's cellar. According to Savage, "both corpses were buried in his ground close to the foundation of his house, where, to contradict an absurd tradition of the removal of the bones to New Haven, the authentic remains were, a few years since, ascertained by removal of the cellar wall for the railroad."1

Russell lived harmoniously with his people till the latter part of his life, when some of his friends became alienated from him on account of the active part he took in relation to the Hopkins donation, of which a portion was appropriated to Hadley. The majority of the inhabitants differed from him. After the final decision in 1687, which was in accordance with his views, the town voted him only seventy pounds annually during his life, though, if he retained the use of the town's land, which is not improbable, he received eighty pounds. But no complaint from him, or notice of troubles between him and the town, appears in the records. After his decease, his widow and sons claimed forty pounds "for what was abated in the rate bills, several years, without Mr. Russell's consent"; the town voted thirty- five pounds, and the matter was adjusted to the satisfaction of both parties.

Russell died 10 December, 1692. His successor was Isaac Chauncy, H. U. 1693.

A summary of the inventory of his estate, taken at Hadley 10 January, 1693, is on record in the Probate Office in Suffolk County, at Boston, where his son, the Reverend Jonathan Russell, of Barnstable, was admitted as administrator 17 January. Among the items are a colored man, woman, and child, valued at ,£60. After paying the debts, funeral charges, expense of tombstones for Russell and a former wife, and delivering to his widow £106, most of which she had when she was married, there remained for his two sons the nominal sum of .£830, of which .£305 in real estate was subject to the widow's dower. The appraisement, however, was considerably above money prices.

As Whalley and Goffe received remittances from their wives, and presents from friends in New England, Russell was probably benefited by them, and enabled to give a college education to his two sons, Jonathan and Samuel, who graduated respectively in 1675 and 1681.

June 28, 1649, Russell married, at Hartford, Connecticut, Mary, daughter of John Talcott, and after her death, Rebecca, daughter of Thomas Newberry, of Dorchester, Massachusetts, or of Windsor, Connecticut.

April 18, 1677, he wrote: "I had a very sickly winter my selfe, being weakly and full of sore paine.... My wife also grown very crazy, & fallen into a languishing state so that I fear her recovery. . . . My son hath been at home this winter; and beene a comfort to us." The wife having died 21 November, 1688, he married Phebe, born 15 October, 1643, widow and second wife of the Reverend John Whiting, of Hartford, H. U. 1653, and daughter of Thomas Gregson, of New Haven, who was lost at sea in 1646, in the Phantom ship. After her second husband's decease, she went to live with her son Joseph Whiting at New Haven, where she died 19 September, 1730.

1 An anonymous writer in the Columbian Centinel of 16 September, 1829, in remarking upon an article in the same paper of 22 August, respecting the burial-places of the regicides, says : " I beg leave to state what is known to me upon this subject.... The main house of Mr. Russell was taken down about the year 1794 or 5. The cellar, which was under the back part of the house, was not disturbed until about 1800. I was familiar with all parts of the house, from my earliest youth, and distinctly recollect a large swell on the west side of the cellar wall. The inhabitants of the town had always been much interested in the house as the reputed burial place of Whalley; and of course were particular in their observations when the building over the cellar was taken down, hoping to ascertain the truth of the report which had prevailed, that Gen. Whalley had been buried in the cellar, and afterwards disinterred. — Upon removing the wall of the cellar, there was discovered, directly against the above-mentioned swell, and about three feet above the bottom of the cellar, a quantity of broken stone, and lime mortar. Directly over this rubbish were found, lying undisturbed, and horizontally, a row of flat stones, which were of suitable length and width to cover a man's coffin. Among this rubbish were found, not a complete skeleton but only a very few small bones, which were declared by the physicians of the place, who were requested to examine them, to be human bones.— One, 1 recollect was said to be from the knee, and one was a tooth which I now have in my possession. "These facts corroborate the opinion that one of the Judges (undoubtedly Whalley) was buried in the cellar of Russell's house, and afterwards removed, whether to New Haven or elsewhere, other evidence must determine."


1. Manuscript Notes of a Sermon preached in Cambridge in the Afternoon of 28 July, 1651, on Galatians ii. 20. H.2. In 1665 he preached the Massachusetts Election Sermon from Psalm cxii. 6: probably not published.3. Documents, &c., in S. Judd's History of Hadley.4. Letters in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, xxxvii.

Authorities. — J. W. Barber, History and Antiquities of New Haven, 50. A. B. Chapin, Glastenbury for Two Hundred Years, 35, 37, 46. Connecticut Historical Society, Collections, ii. 51. Connecticut Public Records, ed. J. H. Trumbull, i. 288, 319, 363. B. B. Edwards, in the American Quarterly Register, x. 262, 270. J. Farmer, Genealogical Register, 250; and Memorials of the Graduates of Harvard University, 37 ; Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, iv. 73; American Quarterly Register, viii. 139. J. B. Felt, Ecclesiastical History of New England, ii. 191, 259, 261 -267, 673. N. Goodwin, Foote Family, Introduction, xvi, xvii, xxxix ; and Genealogical Notes, 190, 330. J. G. Holland, History of Western Massachusetts, i. 54, 58, 101, 128; ii. 216, 221. G. H. Hollister, History of Connecticut, i. 245. A. Holmes, Annals of America, i. 372. T. Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay, i. 216. S. Judd, History of Hadley, ii, 19, 50-58, 145, 214 -220, 336, 559. Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, xxxviii. 78, 80, 123, 135, 260. C. Mather, Magnalia, iii. 117. J. G. Palfrey, History of New England, ii. 489, 507. C. Robbins, Regicides Sheltered in New England, 24. J. Savage, Genealogical Dictionary, ii. 268 : iii. 591 ; iv. 518. E. Stiles, History of Three of the Judges of King Charles I., 96, 109, etc. B. Trumbull, History of Connecticut, i. 294-309.

-------------------- Highly theorized to be the father of John "Rappahnnock" Russell

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Rev. John Russell's Timeline

January 24, 1626
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
June 28, 1649
Age 23
September 23, 1650
Age 24
Age 24
Wethersfield, Hartford, CT
September 18, 1655
Age 29
Wethersfield, Hartford, Connecticut, United States
November 4, 1660
Age 34
Hadley, Hampshire County, Massachusetts
November 8, 1663
Age 37
February 8, 1665
Age 39
December 10, 1692
Age 66
New Haven,Connecticut
December 10, 1692
Age 66
Hadley, Hampshire County, Province of Massachusetts