Buena Vista County, IA
IAGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 356-57.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Jay M. Russell

The business interests of Storm Lake find a worthy representative in Jay M. Russell, who is now engaged in the manufacture of brick and tile.  He was formerly identified with contracting and building interests, but for some years has conducted his present enterprise, which is today one of the leading productive industries of the county.  He is, moreover, entitled to representation in this volume as a pioneer resident of Storm Lake, for he came to the town before the city was laid out and has since been active in its upbuilding and substantial development.  He was born in Cayuga county, New York, in 1840.  His father, Alden Russell, was a native of Vermont and was of Scotch-English ancestry.  The family, however, was founded in America in early colonial (lays, representatives of the name becoming connected with the Plymouth colony of Massachusetts, while others espoused the cause of freedom and joined the Continental army in the Revolutionary war.


Alden Russell made the occupation of farming his life work and in following that pursuit provided good, substantial living for his family.  He removed from New England to the state of New York and when his son Jay M. was three years of age took up his abode in Kane county, Illinois, where he secured a tract of land and carried on farming .  His last days, however, were passed in Wisconsin.  He displayed a keen and marked discrimination in his business affairs and in his work was quite successful.  His entire life was in harmony with his principles as a member of the Baptist church, and his political faith was given to the democracy.  His wife bore the maiden name of Amanda Bennett.  She was born in the state of New York, was of English lineage and also a representative of the old Revolutionary war families.  Her father was a soldier of the Mohawk war.  A lady of many estimable qualities, Mrs. Russell held membership in the Baptist church and enjoyed the esteem of all who knew her in church or social relations.


Jay M. Russell, one of a family of four children, was reared upon the home farm and attended the country schools, while later he was afforded the opportunity of pursuing his education in an academy.  In early life he learned the carpenter's trade, being first employed in building lines at Fort Dodge, Iowa.  He had come to Fort Dodge in January, 1865, and there remained until June, 1870, when he removed to Storm Lake.  Here he has since lived, and with the growth and progress of the town has been closely identified.  He has erected many of the prominent structures here, including the courthouse, schoolhouse and other public buildings, which still stand as monuments to his thrift and enterprise.  In 1891 he turned his attention to the manufacture of brick and tile on a tract of land of forty-six acres on the eastern border of Storm Lake.  He has now carried on the business for seventeen years, being the pioneer in this industry in the county.  He employs twenty men, operates four kilns and sends his product to a large territory.  The business methods he has employed have ever been unassailable and his commercial integrity constitutes an important element in his success.  He possesses, too, unfaltering energy and determination and quickly recognizes an opportunity.


In 1868 Mr. Russell was married to Miss Harriet E. Butler, who was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1840.  They became the parents of five children:  Harry, deceased; Bertie and Bessie, twins, both of whom have passed away; Stella E., who is a graduate of Storm Lake high school and Ames College, and is now a high school teacher; and Gracie E., who was graduated from the Storm Lake high school and the Buena Vista College, and spent one year a student in the State University and is now teaching in the high school of Sac City, Iowa.


Always in community affairs Mr. Russell has done effective work for the county in many lines.  His business interests have always been of a character that has contributed to public prosperity as well as to individual interests and, at the same time in other ways, he has done good work for the city, withholding his cooperation from no movement or measure calculated to prove of public good.  He has several times served as a member of the city council and has exercised his official prerogatives to further the municipal interests of the city in the lines of material improvement.  He has also done good work for the schools as a member of the board of education.  His political allegiance is given to the republican party, while the Masonic fraternity numbers him among its exemplary members.