Editor’s Note: A power outage Monday night resulted in a previous version of Russell-Akeley Life running in Tuesday’s edition of the Warren Times-Observer. The correct story is being run today.
Perhaps, the two best known homes in Russell are the brick house on South Main St. near the center of town and the brick house on U.S. Route 62 at its junction with South Main Street.
The downtown house was built by Robert Russell, who was considered the founder of the town that bears his name. Robert was born in 1783 in Killyieagh Northern Ireland and came to Pine Grove in 1795 as a 12-year-old boy with his father John Sr. and mother, Mary Russell. Robert subsequently purchased land in Pine Grove and started a sawmill in Kiantone, N.Y., but later moved to Pine Grove Township. During his adult life in Pine Grove, Robert operated many sawmills and was a realtor. Between 1822 and 1827, he built the brick house which still stands near the center of town. Many local residents know this house as the “Weatherby house” because the Weatherby family lived in it for many years, in more recent times. As we’ll see shortly, Robert had a great affect on the layout and structure of the town we now know as Russell.
The home on U.S. Route 62 at the end of South Main Street is known as “The Locusts.” The home was built by Guy Irvine and Rufus Weatherby. The structure is interesting because it was built as a two-family dwelling and is unusual in that the left and right sides of the house are mirror images of each other. You see, Guy and Rufus married two sisters, Mary (Polly) and Rachel Cotton. Each family was to have half of the house. Guy and Rufus began work on the house in 1831. Unfortunately, Rufus died in 1833, before the house was completed. Guy finished the house in 1835 and the two families moved into the house. Guy Irvine passed away in 1868, leaving his half of the house along with the garden and some land to grow potatoes to his wife, Polly. Their daughter, Rachel Irvine Bachop, and her five children inherited the furniture and lived in the other half of the house.
Returning to Robert Russell — Robert is responsible for the street layout of Russell as we know it today. In 1843, he commissioned Andrew Ludlow to lay out the streets of “downtown” Russell (Map). While a few streets have been added, Ludlow’s layout still exists. Robert Russell also seems to have been the architect for a number of houses that still exist today (often with additions) (Table). Most of the houses were built between 1824 and 1877 and were small square buildings. Photo 1 is an example of one of these houses extant today.
Though Robert Russell had a large affect on early architecture, he was not the only architect in town. Early maps of Russell show a house at the southeast corner of Conewango and East Sts. owned by Charles Chase (Photo 2). Charles was born in February 1833, the son of Reuben and Betsy Wilson Chase. Reuben operated a sawmill for William and Danforth Hale. At the age of 16 Charles made a trip down the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers on a raft to Cincinnati, Ohio. Charles followed this vocation until 1872 when he contracted to deliver lumber for L.F. Watson of Warren. After Mr. Watson’s death, Charles returned to piloting rafts, making an average of two trips per year. His last trip was made to Louisville, Ky., in 1891. Charles Chase was one of the original stockholders in the Warren National Bank and served on the bank’s board of directors. He married Emeline Briggs in 1858, the daughter of Ira and Margaret Ann (Jones) Briggs. They had three children: Medora, Belle and Elizabeth. Elizabeth died at age 24; Medora did not marry; Belle married Homer Putnam. Belle and Homer had two sons, Harold and Homer Manley Putnam.
Early members of the Akeley family lived in Russell. Joseph Akeley came to Pine Grove from Vermont in 1817. Joseph was a farmer and mill operator. In 1826, he built a house for his brother on the corner of Cider Mill Hill Road and Akeley Hollow Road on the east side of the Conewango Creek. It was the first house on the east side of the Conewango Creek in Russell. James Akeley arrived in Pine Grove from Franklin Plantation, Maine, in 1827. James was a farmer and first lived at the corner of Big Four and Akeley Hollow Roads. Later he built a home on Cider Mill Hill. Levi Akeley, a cousin of James Akeley, came to Pine Grove from Vermont with James in 1827 to farm. Levi built a house that still stands on Big Four Rd. It is the first house on the right after crossing the bridge over Akeley Run.
Most of the homes mentioned here still stand, though obvious additions have been made to most of them. Our town has a lot of interesting history. Take a walk around town and view the way we were in historical time.
JUNE 8, 2020
Karen Martin, Russell Beautification Committee chair, reported that ROAR has taken over the duties of the former Russell Beautification Committee. Flowers have been planted by the Pine Grove Township sign at the corner of U.S. Route 62 and South Main Street. The bed across from the Post Office on Liberty Street is well mulched with no weeds. A few tree branches were cut.
Three new “Welcome to Pine Grove” banners have been purchased. Dates were set for installing banners in downtown Russell. Summer banners will go up by April 1 and be taken down by November 1, when Christmas banners will be displayed.
Art Segar, Conewango Creek Boat Launch chair, reported that work to stabilize the bank will begin shortly. Brush will be cut. The committee will seek funds to supplement those of ROAR to maintain the Russell boat launch area. Citizens are reminded that the launch is for canoes and kayaks only and that cars should be parked in the parking area and should not be driven across the grass to the boat launch site.
A new date of September 5, 2020, at dusk has been set for the Russell Fireworks Display at Larimer Park in downtown Russell. From 6 p.m. onward the band “Acoustically Challenged” will play for listening and dancing pleasure. Hot dogs, lemonade, kettle corn and 50-50 tickets will be available. If September is inclement, the rain date will be May 29, 2021, during the Pine Grove Days Celebration. Donation boxes are being set out at local businesses to cover fireworks expenses. Donation checks may be mailed to ROAR at PO Box 303, Russell PA 16345. ROAR is a 501c3 organization.
Six Master Garden boxes will be set up and ready for spring 2021 enjoyment in downtown Russell. Each box is 3-feet by 3-feet.
ROAR would like to make Russell walkable. A new sidewalk already has been installed on Liberty St. Additional sidewalks are planned on both sides of Main St. as funds become available.
JUNE 10, 2020
The road crew has been working on bringing Reynolds Run Road up to an acceptable level of maintenance. This includes ditching, improving drainage, graveling some of the bad spots and compacting. This work was completed a few days ago and they have moved on to Egypt Hollow Road, where they will do ditching work, grading and smoothing of the roadway.
The township recently was notified that Lindy Paving will likely be here at the end of the month to mill and surface Pine Street and two blocks of East Street. Following this work, IA Construction will place a one-inch wearing/sealing course on these streets. Woodland Drive will receive an asphalt overlay for its entire length. North and South Terrace Street will be milled and resurfaced. A request for bids is being sent out to place a limestone surface on the entire length of Cider Mill Hill Road. There also will be spot resealing on some of the worst sections of other township roads. To assist the road crew in moving its heavy equipment from job to job, the township recently purchased a new 25-ton trailer.
The work to replace most of the antiquated sections of the village of Russell’s water system finally is complete. However, there still are numerous household connections to the new mains that will have to be done. Replacing the old, cast iron mains already has resulted in a 15% to 20% improvement in water loss. More improvement is expected when new household connections are finished. The project also included installation of modern tank controls that continually monitor well production, treatment effectiveness and storage tank levels. If there is a problem in anyone of these systems, the system operator is notified via cell phone. In addition, the operator can check performance and adjust performance parameters from a laptop.
Due to the city of Warren no longer being able to conduct Russell’s building code inspections, the township has entered into a contract for these services with Construction Code Inspectors Inc. The company will be responsible for building code inspections in Pine Grove township, including new construction and renovations, decks, additions, etc.
The supervisors are seriously considering a recommendation that the Big Four Road be closed to through traffic and turned into a bike-hike trail. The section in question is the dirt portion of the road where no residences are located. There have been ongoing concerns over the road being sufficient to handle the volume and speed of the traffic using it. In addition, there have been several close calls on it, including cars ending up in the Conewango Creek. The closure proposal would entail placing gates at both township lines that can be opened to allow emergency use of the road. Property owners on the road also would be able to open the gates to access their property. Parking would be provided at the Russell end for persons using the road for recreation. Also, the township would continue to maintain the road. The township also will enter into discussion with the county to possibly include the road in their efforts to join the current bike-hike trial with the Chautauqua County, N.Y., Rails to Trails program. Part of its trail system stops at the state line just north of Akeley. Before a final decision on closure is made, the supervisors will ask for broad input from township residents. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.