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As It Was: J.B. Russell Becomes Celebrated Stone Worker

On Sept. 7, 1951, the Siskiyou County Historical Society celebrated the 95th birthday of Yreka stone worker James B. “Dad” Russell.

Russell was born in 1856 at the Mountain House at the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains.  He lived with his parents in Yreka, until he was five years old and the family moved to Oregon where his father was completing stonework on the Judge B.F. Dowell house in Jacksonville.

In Ashland, Russell began to tend the saws in his father’s stone mill, while his mother carved marble, a craft she continued for 70 years.

In 1883, the family once more returned to Yreka where Russell and his father opened a monument shop, the J. B. Russell Marble and Granite Works.  Russell married Clara Millie Hovey in 1885 and together they raised six children.

In 1915, Russell traveled to San Francisco to build the arch for the Panama Pacific Exposition, which won a gold medal for being the largest and best stone exhibit from any state or country.  He also constructed the arch entry into the Yreka Park.

Russell died the year after the Yreka birthday celebration.

Source: Meamber, Bernice R. “Our Oldest Member Celebrates His 95th Birthday.” Siskiyou Pioneer Yearbook, 2(1), 1951, 46-47.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.