James Russell – Aunt Bolles Connection

As a follow up to the post about Aunt Bolles and her Spoons, I wanted to determine the exact connection between James Russell and Dorcas (Russell) Bolles.  In his letter to Edward Henry9 Dickerman, James closed with the signature line

“Your affect. Cousin, James Russell”

The original letter can be seen here and the transcription here: Letter_of_James_Russell-June_19_1886-Transcription

So how were Dorcas and James actually related?  For many years I hoped that James was the brother of Dorcas, which may have lead me to her and my Great-Great-Great Grandmother, Mary Russell’s parents.   Russ Dickerman and I have made the case that Dorcas, Mary, Diantha, and Albert G. Russell were all children of William Russell, son of Jason and Elizabeth (Locke) Russell.  (See “Russell’n Through the Leaves”)


1900 Census entry for James Russell

However, after reviewing the census records of the late nineteenth century for Mason, New Hampshire, I do not believe James Russell was the son of William, or even the nephew of William (making him a first cousin of Dorcas).  Instead, I now think it is more likely that this James Russell was born in 1838, the son of Jonathan and Sophia (Farwell) Russell.   In the 1880 Census for Mason, James Russell is listed as a Lumber Dealer, aged 42, living with his parents, two younger brothers, and a sister-in-law.   By the 1900 census, he was married to Lydia Farnsworth with son James Howard Russell listed at age seven.  The court documents provide no clues as to whether this is the “right” James Russell.

The original petition for custody of Dorcas Bolles was dated November 1882, when James H. Bolles died.  James Russell’s father Jonathan had died in January of the same year, but his mother Sophia Farwell lived until 1891. Were Sophia and Dorcas perhaps very close friends?   Sadly, Aunt Bolles passed away the next spring on April 29, 1883.  So we’re still wondering, where was the connection between James Russell and Dorcas (Russell) Bolles?

Well, tracing back the lineage of James Russell, we find that he and Dorcas are first cousins, once removed.  His father, Jonathan Russell, was the son of Josiah Russell.  Josiah was the third son of Jason Russell and Elizabeth Locke.  His youngest brother was William Russell, father of Dorcas.


Death Record of James Russell of Mason, N.H.

James Russell died in 1918, the result of being burned in a fire.  Lydia preceded him in death by fifteen years.  Their son, Lt. Col. James Howard Russell, is buried with his parents and wife in Milford near Mason.  Perhaps someday we will meet some of his descendants.

James and Lydia A. (Farnsworth) Russell

Headstone for James and Lydia A. Russell

As mentioned in the previous post, Aunt Dorcas was always highly regarded and well-loved by all the nieces and nephews.  Her three natural children died in childhood, but she adopted many children including Frank Bolles Dickerman, son of Samuel R. and Fannie (Bolles) Dickerman.  In fact, Fannie herself was adopted by the Bolles family and Frank thought so much of James and Dorcas that he changed his name to Frank Dickerman Bolles.  I can think of no better tribute to the extraordinary Aunt Bolles and her very generous husband, James Harrison Bolles.