Among the industrial interests which claim the attention of the residents of northern Idaho fruit-raising now demands special attention, and the gentleman whose name heads this review has attained considerable prominence as a horticulturist and has made a life study of the subject, is familiar with the needs of the different kinds of fruits, and his success has demonstrated his practicability and enterprise. It is worthy of note that he was but twelve years of age when he planted his first orchard, which comprised two hundred pear, peach and apple trees, which he purchased of the Rochester, New York, nurseries, with funds of his own earning.
A native of Mercer County, Pennsylvania, Mr. Russell was born December 23, 1855, and is of German and Irish ancestors, who settled there at an early period in its history. His father, John Russell, was born in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, and married Miss Julia A. Bryan. By occupation he is a farmer and livestock dealer and has followed these pursuits throughout his entire life. He is now seventy-two years of age. His wife died in 1887, at the age of sixty-four years. In their family were seven sons and three daughters, all of whom are yet living. Leonard Russell, the grandfather of our subject, was a native of Manassas Gap, Virginia, and died at the age of eighty-nine years.
Henry Agnew Russell, who was the third child in his father’s family, was reared under the parental roof and acquired his education in the Jamestown Academy and the Pennsylvania State Normal School, after which he spent several years in Illinois, in teaching and studying. He then made his way across the Mississippi, and at different times has been in southwestern Missouri, Kansas, Dakota and eastern Washington, teaching in most of those states. He came to his present home in 1892 and here has two hundred and forty acres of land. He has planted his trees twenty feet apart, alternating the apple trees with peaches, pears, cherries and prunes. Upon his arrival he erected a nice commodious residence, in which he and his family reside, and all the other accessories of the model farm are there found, in addition to the fruits mentioned. Being a practical nurseryman he propagates ornamental trees and plants as well as fruit trees, and raises wheat, oats, corn, beans, barley, timothy and clover hay, flax, livestock, poultry and Italian bees. While the orchard was young he planted it with beans, placing five rows between the trees, believing the growing of a leguminous crop to be much better than to leave the ground uncultivated and uncovered. He raised one thousand pounds of beans to the acre, last season’s crop amounting to eighteen tons, without taking any of the tree food from the ground, and the land seemed benefited by the methods which he followed. He has taken a very active interest in fruit culture and fruit shipping, his present orchard consisting of more than ten thousand trees, mostly coming in bearing, the output amounting to five carloads last season, and it would be almost impossible to find any one better informed on the subject than he, having propagated most of the orchard trees now bearing in the Potlatch fruit belt.
Mr. Russell was assistant collector of fruits, etc. for the World’s Columbian Exposition, which display from Idaho was so greatly admired and highly spoken of. He was also the first appointed fruit inspector of Idaho and has served continuously under the different laws enacted.
The work of this officer is to inspect the orchards, to direct and compel the ridding them of fruit pests and noxious weeds and to aid in promoting and protecting the horticultural interests of the commonwealth and preventing the sale or distribution of infected fruits, etc. He was the representative of the Potlatch fruit-growers at the Spokane Fruit Fair for three years, and received the gold medal for their display of fruits. He is one of the vice-presidents of the Northwestern Fruit Growers’ Association, and it was from their exhibition at the Columbian Exposition that the fruit was taken which won the first prize in competition with the apples of the world. Very successful fruit fairs are now held in Spokane annually, and the horticultural interests of the northwest are thereby greatly advanced. Mr. Russell has built a fruit evaporator on his property with a capacity of three tons of green fruit daily, and is thereby prepared to care for the products of his orchard when the market will not pay fair prices for the fresh fruit. He has served for some years as inspector and secretary of the Potlatch Horticultural Association, and is regarded as one of the leading representatives of the fruit-raising interests of Idaho.
Mr. Russell was married September 15, 1886, to Miss Minnie O. Burns, a native of Ray county, Missouri, and a daughter of Agnew Burns. They now have three children, Emile H., Frederick A. and Floyd E. In politics Mr. Russell is a Republican, locally casting his vote without regard to party ties. He belongs to the Modern Woodmen of the World and the Knights of Pythias fraternity, and is held in high esteem by all who know him.