Biography of Thomas Russell
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Thomas Russell, a pioneer settler in the township of Caledon, county of Peel, dates his birth in Edinburgh, Scotland, May 16, 1802. His father George Russell, was a mining engineer. His mother, before her marriage, was Euphemia Tweedie, both parents being Scotch. Thomas had a high school education, including Latin; learned the baker’s trade; was two years in business for himself in Edinburgh, and subsequently a merchant in the same city, leaving Scotland in 1834, and emigrating to Canada. He took up land in Caledon, adjoining the village of Alton, where he opened a farm, which he still owns and on which he resides.
At that time there were no clearings in sight, although there was a farm slightly improved a little west of him. What is now Alton contained a single unoccupied log house, into which he moved, after becoming its proprietor, and lived in it with his family for three years, being engaged, meanwhile, in clearing and improving his land. Bears, deer and other wild animals were abundant and neighborly.
Mr. Russell has been a farmer for forty-five years, and has lived to see the county of Peel well filled with thrifty agriculturists, manufacturers, &c. During these years he has been called upon to fill various offices. Some of which he still holds. He has been a justice of the peace since 1853, first for York and Peel, and on their separation, for Peel alone; he is also a commissioner for the Queen’s Bench and an issuer of marriage licenses; was a school trustee many years ago; and was in the township council six years, and reeve three of them.
On coming to this country, Mr. Russell joined what is known as the Liberal or Reform party, and has never seen any reason why he should change his politics.
He became connected with the Presbyterian church when sixteen years old. On coming to Caledon he transferred his connection to the Congregational church, there being none of his faith here, and was clerk and deacon of that church for thirty years. A few years ago he aided in forming a Presbyterian church, of which he is an elder. The christian character of no man in Alton stands higher. His light, shining in this part of the Credit Valley for more than four decades, has never become dim. He is a noble hearted old gentleman, full of good deeds, and greatly esteemed by all who know him.
In June, 1835, he opened, in a barn, the first Sunday school in the place, and young and old came in from a distance of four miles to attend it. He is now teaching the grand-children of his first pupils.
In 1826 Mr. Russell married Miss Jessie Thomson, of Leith, Scotland, and she became the mother of six children, five of them still living, and all married but Euphemia, who lives with her father. Her mother died in June, 1879. Hugh C., the elder son, is a farmer at Alton; George resides in London, Ont.; Catherine is the wife of Archibald McKinnon, farmer of Caledon, and Janet is the wife of James Burns, of Bolton.