Happy Birthday Priscilla




Priscilla (1768-1851)

Priscilla was born 29 May 1768 in New York. But, we don’t even know her last name. Many people on the internet have her last name as Smith, but it seems that they all just point to other people’s trees on Ancestry as sources, so for all we know, someone may have just said “I dunno, let’s just call her a Smith.”

While her early life is lost to us, we know that when she was 20, she married Jonathan Russell, son of Samuel Russell and Esther Wolcott, in 1789 at Dutchess, New York. They lived in a place that was called the “oblong.” The oblong was a disputed strip of land on the Connecticut / New York border. Years earlier, the land had finally been placed in New York, but the Oblong name was still used.

Frankfort, Herkimer, New York

The family eventually settled in Frankfort, Herkimer, New York which was formed in 1796, just a few years after their marriage. While they lived there, the Erie Canal was built, passing along the north border of the town. The canal, still considered an engineering marvel, was built between 1817 and 1825. It runs from Albany, New York to Buffalo, New York where it meets Lake Erie. It is credited with transforming New York City into the nation’s main seaport by allowing boats to travel from NYC, up the Hudson River and across the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes. The canal opened up the interior of North America to settlement and commerce. Prior to the existence of the canal, it would have taken a traveler two weeks by stagecoach to get from Albany to Buffalo. Once the canal opened, the trip could be made, more comfortably, by boat in only five days.


Jonathan Russell and Priscilla had the following children:

  1. Elisha Samuel Russell was born in 1789 in Dutchess, New York. He married Lucy Campbell about 1805 in Frankfort, Herkimer, New York. He married Candace about 1833. He married Ruth about 1855 in Richland, Oswego, New York. He died on 28 Oct 1865 in Richland, Oswego, New York.
  2. James Russell was born in Jul 1792 in New York. He married a woman named Mehitable. He died on 28 Oct 1831 in Frankfort, Herkimer, New York.
  3. Jonathan Russell was born on 18 Dec 1796 in Hoosick, Rensselaer, New York. He married Mary Stewart. He died on 21 Feb 1885 in Frankfort, Herkimer, New York.
  4. Eliza Russell was born about 1798 in New York. She married Rodney Brown in Frankfort, Herkimer, New York.
  5. Mary C. Russell was born about 1802 in Coxsackie, Greene, New York. She married Sanford Macomber.
  6. Joshua S. Russell was born on 19 May 1804 in Coxsackie, Greene, New York. He died on 28 Dec 1865 in Frankfort, Herkimer, New York.
  7. David S. Russell was born on 20 Jul 1806 in Frankfort, Herkimer, New York (Frankfort Hill). He married a woman named Mary Elmyra. He died on 08 Apr 1880 in New Haven, Oswego, New York.
  8. Elvin C. Russell was born on 14 May 1809 in New York. He married a woman named Almira. He died on 03 Jun 1881.
  9. Elmer C. Russell was born in 1810 in New York. He married Mary Ann Moach. He died on 27 Mar 1889 in New York.
  10. Priscilla Russell was born in 1814 in New York.


On 2 Dec 1825, Jonathan Russell died at the age of 57. Priscilla became a widow. Oddly, she was listed as head of household in the 1830 and 1840 Federal Censuses. It would have been much more normal for her to have been just a member of some other household.

In 1830, Priscilla was recorded and her age was listed as “of fifty and under sixty.” Only the name of the head of household was recorded, so we know that she had two other people living with her, but we don’t know for sure who. It is most likely that they were a son and daughter. The male was “of twenty and under thirty” and the female was “of fifteen and under twenty.” The male would have been born between about 1800 and 1810 to fit the criteria and Priscilla had four sons who matched, Joshua born in 1804, David born in 1806, Elvin born in 1809, and Elmer born in 1810.  Elvin is listed in his own household on the same page of the census, so we know it isn’t him. She only had one daughter born between 1810 and 1815, so we could guess that the female living with her was most likely Priscilla, born 1814.

1830 Federal Census, Priscilla Russell entry.
1830 Federal Census, Priscilla Russell entry.

In 1840, Priscilla was once again listed as a head of household. It seems that the check mark for her was put in the males aged 60-70 column rather than the female column. The only other person in the household was another female aged 30-40. Her sons Jonathan and David were recorded in households on either side of her in the census.

1840 Federal Census, Priscilla Russell entry.
1840 Federal Census, Priscilla Russell entry.

By the time of the 1850 Federal Census, Priscilla was living in the household of her son Jonathan. The 1850 census was the first time that the federal census included the names of others in the household.

1850 Federal Census, Priscilla Russell entry.
1850 Federal Census, Priscilla Russell entry.

Priscilla Russell died on 15 Aug 1851 in Frankfort, Herkimer, New York. She was 83-years old at the time of her death.

Where is she in the tree?

Relationship chart, Priscilla _____ to Leona Catherine Miller.
Pedigree chart, Priscilla _____.

Selected Sources:

Ancestry.com, 1830 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004), www.ancestry.com, 1830; Census Place: Frankfort, Herkimer, New York; Series: M19; Roll: 91; Page: 153; Family History Library Film: 0017151.

Ancestry.com, 1840 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.Original data – Sixth Census of the United States, 1840. (NARA microfilm publication M704, 580 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record G), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Year: 1840; Census Place: Frankfort, Herkimer, New York; Roll: 290; Page: 229; Family History Library Film: 0017190.

Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2005. Original data – United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1850.M432, 1,009 rolls. Frankfort, Herkimer, New York, roll M432_512, page 85, image 115.

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Web, 25 May 2017, https://eriecanalway.org/learn/history-culture.

George Anson Hardin, History of Herkimer county, New York (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1893); digital images, Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/historyofherkime00hard: accessed 25 May 2017).

John Benjamin Wolcott and Wald, Charles V., Wolcott Immigrants and Their Early Descendants (Society of the Descendants of Henry Wolcott, February 2002).

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