Thomas Russell is one of the respected and prominent citizens of Santa Clara county actively identified with important agricultural interests. To a student of biography there is nothing more interesting than to examine the life history of a self-made man, and to detect the elements of character which have enabled him to pass on the highway of life many of the companions of his youth who at the outset of their careers were more advantageously equipped or endowed. The subject of this review has through his own exertions attained an honorable position and marked prestige among the representative men of the west, and one whose success amply justifies the application of the somewhat hackneyed but most expressive title, "a self-made man." He devoted a number of years in his early life to sailing on the seas, and since coming to Santa Clara county he has wroght along lines of important business enterprises, which have resulted in winning him success and gained him prominence as a representative business man of his chosen community.

Mr. Russell was born in August, 1837, and is a native of county Kerry, Ireland, his parents being Thomas and Anne (Stack) Russell, whose family numbered sixteen children, but three of whom now survive, the brother of Thomas being james b. Russell, who is a glass manufacturer residing in Glassport, Pennsylvania, while the sister is Mrs. Margaret Rolfe, whose husband is a pioneer settler of Stockton, California, coming from Maine to the Pacific coast at a very early epoch in the settlement and improvement of the west.

Thomas Russell acquired his early education in the public schools of the Emerald Isle, and at the age of fourteen years accompanied his parents on their emigration to America, the family home being established in Canada. Not long after this the father died, and the widow and her children moved to East Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Thomas Russell and his brothers learned the glass-making trade. He followed that pursuit for two years and then went to sea, leading the life of a sailor for eight years and visiting all the leading ports of the world. In this way he gained a broad and comprehensive knowledge of different lands, their peoples and the customs. On the 1st of January, 1860, he arrived in California, having made the voyage around Cape Horn from Boston on a sailing vessel. He sailed in the coast trade during the year 1861 and a part of 1862, making trips between Puget Sound and San Francisco, and during that time was engaged in transporting most of the ties used in the construction of the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad, now the Southern Pacific line. In the latter part of 1862, however, he left the water and made his way to Santa Clara county, where he enterdd the employ of the Menton Brothers, butchers. He was connected with that trade until the fall of 1865, when, desiring to engage in business on his own account, he rented a tract of land at Mountain View for one year. On the expiration of that period he removed to Mayfield, where he continued until the fall of 1869, and at that time he took up his abode near Milpitas, where is now his place of residence. He at first rented three hundred acres ofland which was a part of the Warm Spring ranch, and during the ten years he paid 417,500 in cash rent. This tract he afterward purchased for $15,000, and has made it his home continuously to the present time. It is pleasantly located about a mile and a half north of Milpitas, on the Oakland road, and is a splendidly improved property. He has erected there a beautiful residence, has also built good barns and other necessary outbuildings, and has all modern equipments. Horses and carriages prove an easy means of access to the city, and his proximity to Milpitas enables him to enjoy all of the advantages of town life and at the same time have the privileges and conveniences of a country home. He is engaged in general farming and also devotes considerable attention to the raising of Durham cattle and fine horses. When he first rented the property there were no improvements upon it, not even a house, a barn, a pump or a fence. It was in that first decade in which the real struggle of his life came, but he possessed youth, indomitable courage, unflagging industry and strong determination, and thus he succeeded in conquering difficulties and obstacles which would have utterly discourage many a man. Like most men who came to California, Mr. Russell spent a few months in the mines, searching for the precious metal in Tuolumne county, but he did not find this entirely congenial and turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, in which his labors have been rewarded with spendid results.

In 1866 occurred the marriage of Mr. Russell and Miss Marguerite Mullen, a native of Ireland, who crossed the Atlantic to New York in early girlhood days. It was after her removal to California that she met Mr. Russell, to whom she gave her hand in marriage. Seven children have been born of this union: Annie, who is now the wife of Michael Moran, a farmer residing on Half Moon Bay; Mamie, who is engaged in teaching in the public schools; Marguerite, who is also a public school teacher; Frank, graduate of Santa Clara College and is now engaged in the commission business at San Francisco; Katie, a teacher of music; Alice, a teacher in the public schools; and Emmett, who is on the home farm. The children have been provided with excellent educational privileges and all are graduates of the normal school at San Jose and have been very successful in their chosen vocations.

Mr. Russell is broad-minded in his political views, generally voting as his judgment dictates without regard to party affiliation. Regarded as a citizen, he belongs to that public-spirited, useful and helpful type of man whose ambitions and desires are directed in those channels through which flow the greatest and most permanent good to the greatest number, and it is therefore consistent with the purpose and plan of this work that his record be given among those of the representative men of his adopted country.

Source: History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume II

The Lewis Publishing Company - 1905
Edited by Leigh H. Irvine

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