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Russell family papers

Identifier: Collection 008

Scope and Contents

The collection consists mainly of the papers of Huntley and Clara Russell (c.1880-c1930) but also include papers of their ancestors and heirs. Included are papers of Lydia Huntley Sigourney a well-known Connecticut poet from the first half of the nineteenth century. The collection also includes some papers of Charles Carter Comstock and other family correspondence.

Additions of Comstock related materials were made in Jan. 2004 from the general unprocessed collections, and reference materials. The extensive genealogical records compiled by Frances Pangburn Russell make the collection a rich source of family history. Clara Russell's correspondence from St. Margaret's School for Girls and records related to her involvement in the Republican Party and the Women's Suffrage Movements provide documentation of women's history.


  • 1818-1981

Biographical / Historical

Huntley Russell (1 September 1858 - 9 December 1928) was born in New Briton, Connecticut. He came to Grand Rapids in 1884 where he became involved in business and politics. He was elected to the Michigan State Senate as a Republican in 1905 and again in 1907 and was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Congress in 1912. He was elected to the State Land Commission and was a member of the Michigan Great Lakes Tidewater Commission that studied the feasibility of constructing the St. Lawrence Seaway. His business ventures included a dairy farm and Riverside Gardens Real Estate Company.

Clara Russell, wife of Huntley, (5 April 1866 - 18 June 1935) was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was the daughter of Cornelia Guild Davis Comstock (daughter of pioneer Daniel Guild) and Charles Carter Comstock, a prominent local businessman and politician. Clara attended St. Margaret's School for Girls in Waterbury, Connecticut where Huntley's father, the Reverend Francis Russell, was rector. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Chairman of the Kent County Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense during World War I, Chairman of the Republican Women's Executive Committee, and Vice-President of the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association.

Clara and Huntley Russell were married in 1884 and had two sons, Charles and Francis. Charles attended Howe Military Academy in Lima, Indiana and the University of Michigan. In 1907 he married Frances Pangburn. They had one son, Sigourney Comstock Russell. Francis T. Russell married Lucille Hopson. Their children were Janet Huntley and William Hopson Russell.

Lydia Huntley Sigourney, the grandmother of Huntley Russell, was born in Norwich, Connecticut in 1791. She was a popular poet of her era and authored books and contributed articles to numerous literary periodicals. She was an advocate of higher education for women and established schools for girls at Norwich and Hartford. She died in 1865.

Charles C. Comstock (1818-1900) was the father of Clara Russell. He was also a prominent Grand Rapids citizen & businessman, having been the mayor of Grand Rapids in 1863-1864, served in Congress, 1885-1887, and ran for governor in 1870. He had a reputation as both outspoken and tough. He was born in Sullivan, New Hampshire, and already had success in business when he immigrated to Grand Rapids in 1853. He was initially in the lumbering business, and invested in a diverse number of businesses over the years. He was a cofounder of Grand Rapids Chair Co. furniture manufacturing and wholesaling, as well as a successful pail factory with his business card painted on the side of the pails. He was an early employer of African Americans in this factory, providing housing in what is known as Comstock Row. He was married twice, first in 1840 to Mary M. Winchester (d. 1863)in New Hampshire, with whom he had four children, and in Jan. 1865 to Cornelia Guild Davis, daughter of pioneer Daniel Guild, and mother of Clara Comstock Russell & Etta Comstock Boltwood.


7.2 Linear Feet (Eighteen boxes, plus flat files)

Language of Materials



The Russell Family Papers contains documents primarily of Mr. and Mrs. Huntley Russell, who were active in numerous business, political, social and religious organizations in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Huntley Russell (1858-1928) was a Republican State Senator, State Land Commissioner and real estate developer. Clara Russell (1866-1935), daughter of Charles Carter Comstock & Cornelia Guild Davis Comstock, was chairman of the Republican Women's State Executive Committee, Vice-president of the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association and helped manage the family's business interests.

The collection includes a few photocopied papers of Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791-1865), the grandmother of Huntley and a prominent Connecticut poet in the early nineteenth century. Also included are a few items of Charles Carter Comstock, notable Grand Rapids citizen, businessman & state politician. The papers include biographical data, genealogical records, family and general correspondence, Lydia Huntley Sigourney's papers, financial records, business records, scrapbooks, memorabilia, miscellaneous papers, architectural plans, photographs and photograph albums.


Accession Numbers: 1979.002, 1981.001, 1984.014, 1986.153, 1986.252, 00.[2710].1, 1986.376; Donors: Signourney Russell and Sarah Gauthier, 1979, 1981, 1984, 1986

Related Materials

Coll. 174. Women's Committee of the Council on National Defense. Grand Rapids Unit, RE the participation of Russell family women.

Processing Information

The papers were reviewed by the donors before transfer to the Grand Rapids Public Library. The original correspondence and drawings of Lydia Huntley Sigourney were retained by the donor, but facsimiles were kept in this collection. The original correspondence of Lydia Sigourney Russell was also retained by the donor.

Finding aid for the Russell family papers
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Grand Rapids History Center Repository

Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids Michigan 49503 USA