Russell #5214

John Russell (1616-1676)

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts by 1640 and

Elizabeth (1619-1644)

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts by 1640.


John Russell (1616 – 1676), 10th g-grandfather – Mary Russell (1641 – 1680) – Elizabeth Brooks[1] (1668 – 1731) – Experience Lewis (1704 – 1733) – Hannah Mason (1728 – 1798) – Reuben Baker (1759 – 1811) – Lydia Baker (1788 – 1851) – Fayette B Hamlin (1812 – 1866) – Henry Fayette Hamlin (1834 – 1901) – Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868 – 1940) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom

Woburn, Middlesex County, on the map of Massachusetts

John Russell was born in England in about 1616 and migrated to Massachusetts prior to 1640.  There is no reliable information concerning his early life in England or his parentage.  The earliest notice of him in the colonial records appears as a subscriber to the town orders for Woburn, drawn up at Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1640.  The date and circumstances of his arrival in America are not known.  In England, John married (1st)  Elizabeth [surname unknown].  She was probably born after 1619[2] in England and died on 16 Dec 1644.  John and Elizabeth had two children.  On 13 May 1645 at Woburn, John married (2nd) Elizabeth Baker, the daughter of William Baker and Jennie Bent.  John died 1 Jun 1676.  His second wife, Elizabeth Baker, died 17 Jan 1689/90.

Welcome to Woburn, Massachusetts

Welcome to Woburn, Massachusetts

John Russell was one of the earliest inhabitants of Woburn, Massachusetts, where he was occupied as a shoemaker.  He was a Selectman for several years in succession, and in 1644 was appointed to a committee of seven for making distribution among the proprietors of the town of plow lands and swamps, and a particular division of the remote timber, according to justice and equity.  He is likewise named in the Town Records of the same year as a deacon of the church, at which time he was doubtless an orthodox Congregationalist, both in practice and profession.  However, at some point John Russell embraced the doctrines and practices of the Baptists, and as a result he ran afoul of the Congregationalist (Puritan) authorities at Woburn.  The following account is narrated by Samuel Sewall in History of Woburn, Middlesex County, Mass. from the grant of its territory to Charlestown, in 1640, to the year 1860 (Wiggin and Lunt, 1868)[3]:

 “…by these extracts from the above mentioned authentic sources of information, it appears, that thirteen citizens of Woburn were prosecuted before the Middlesex County Court, in Dec. 1671, for publicly manifesting contempt for the ordinance of Infant Baptism, as administered in the church of Woburn; or for withdrawing from the worship or communion of that church, and attending the assemblies of the Anabaptists, (as they were called) which were not then allowed by law.  Of these thirteen persons, one was discharged upon his acknowledgment and promise of change of conduct, and paying costs of Court.  Three received in Court a public admonition.  One deemed more irreclaimable than the rest, (viz: John Russell, Senr.,) was bound over to the Court of Assistants, then the Supreme Court of the Colony, for a final decision upon his case… all… who had been summoned before the civil tribunals for their Baptist sentiments and practices, December 1671, except John Russell, Senr., and John Russell, Jr., his son, either renounced those sentiments and practices as erroneous; or else that they worshipped unitedly with their Congregational brethren while they lived, not accounting the differences between them as essential.. But there was one person indicted as above, whoso resolute spirit no opposition could subdue, no suffering could break down, or cause to swerve from the path which he deemed to be right… in the latter part of the year 1669, or in the former part of 1670, [John Russell was] admitted into the Baptist Church of Boston, which then met for worship at Noddle’s Island.  Of this church, he was soon after chosen an elder.  In a letter from Edward Drinker, (a leading member of that church, and one of its founders) directed to Mr. Clarke and his Baptist Church at Newport, and dated November 30, 1670, he takes the following notice of Mr. Russell:

The Lord has given us another elder, one John Russell Senr., a gracious, wise and holy man that lives at Woburn, where we have five brethren near that can meet with him; and they meet together first days, when they cannot come to us; and I hear there are some there looking that way with them.

“Before this, probably in consequence of the change in his religious views, [John Russell] had become remiss in his attendance upon public worship at Woburn, was wont to turn his back at the ministration of Infant Baptism, and refused to partake with the church there, of which he then was, or recently had been, both a member and an officer, in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  Upon these charges, and likewise for joining the Baptist Church in Boston, which had not been regularly gathered according to the laws of the Colony, and for accepting the eldership among them, and exercising the authority of that office in excommunicating John Johnson, Senr., of Woburn, who had been admitted a member before him, he was summoned and tried before the Court of Quarter Sessions at Charlestown, December 19, 1671: and, by that Court, he was bound over, as we have seen, to appear before the Court of Assistants at their next session.  By the decision of this tribunal, which was then the Supreme Judicial Court, as well as principal Legislative body of the Colony, he was committed to prison, but was shortly after released.  In a letter from William Hamlit, a Baptist brother, dated at Boston 14: 4 mo: [14 June] 1672, he is spoken of thus:

I perceive you have heard, as if our brother Russel had died in prison. Through grace he is yet in the land of the living, and out of prison bonds; but is in a doubtful way as to the recovery of his outward health: but we ought to be quiet in the good will and pleasure of our God, who is only wise…”

Sewall then notes that John’s son, John (Jr.) succeeded Elder Gould in the pastoral office of the Baptist Church at Boston after Gould died in 1675.  He also goes on to observe:

“The descendants of John Russell, Senr, who continued in Woburn, seem not to have retained his peculiar sentiments as a Baptist, but to have been of the Congregational persuasion; and when the town was divided into two parishes in 1730, John Russell, his great-grandson, was the first clerk of the First Congregational Parish in Woburn, and also Parish Treasurer, and a Parish Assessor for several years in succession. But a granddaughter of Elder Russell, Sen’r, by his daughter, Mary Brooks, wife of Timothy Brooks, of Woburn [see below], was married at Swansea to a gentleman by the name of Mason, by whom she had three sons, Job, Russell, and John Mason, all of whom were esteemed preachers of the Baptist denomination in their day.”

The children of John Russell and his first wife, Elizabeth, are listed as follows:

  1. John (Jr.), probably born at Charlestown or Woburn, Massachusetts about 1640[4] and died 21 Dec 1680.  On 31 Oct 1661 he married Sarah Champney, daughter of John Champney of Cambridge, Massachusetts.  They had seven children.  John (Jr.) was ordained a Baptist minister at Boston on 28 Jul 1679 and died 22 Dec 1680.  Sarah Champney died at Woburn on 25 Apr 1696.
  2. Mary Russell, probably born before 1642, but it is not known with certainty if she was born in England before 1640 or in Massachusetts[5].  On 21 Dec 1659 she married Timothy Brooks.

I am descended from two of the daughters of Mary Russell and Timothy Brooks: Elizabeth and Hepsibeth, and their lineage in continued under the heading of Henry Brooks (1592-1683).

[1] I am also descended from Timothy’s daughter, Hepsibeth (1674-1727), who is also my 8th g-grandmother.

[2] This assumes that she was at least 18 years old at the time of the earliest likely date of birth of her first child.

[3] p. 155-9.

[4] John’s date of birth is inferred from the following is the inscription on his gravestone, in King’s Chapel Burial Ground, Boston: Memito te esse mortalium. Here lyeth buried ye body of John Russell, aged 40 years, departed this life December 22, 1680.

[5] She was probably at least 17 years old at the time of her marriage in 1659.  Also, she was likely born after her father’s 21st birthday in 1637 (if his date of birth in 1616 is correct).  This places her likely date of birth between 1637-42.  Since we do not know how many years her parents may have passed in Massachusetts prior to their removal to Woburn in 1640, we can only speculate on where she was born.  The record of her birth has not been located in either Massachusetts or England.


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