The article mentions that Peter Russell, son of John Russell lived about seven miles from the town of Hesperia. I thought I’d see what I can find out about this family and this tragedy. Hesperia is located right on the border of Oceana and Newaygo counties in Michigan. What makes this search interesting to me is that I also have family located in both of these counties. I wonder if they knew the Russell family?
It was easy enough to locate the death record for Peter Russell. He died on 25 May 1884 at the age of 17 in Oceana County, Michigan. The death record lists his parents as John and Mariah Russell. More importantly to our story, his cause of death is listed as “heart disease”.
I found the family in the 1880 Federal census living in Leavitt, Oceana County, Michigan. The image below is clipped from Ancestry.com showing the family group.
Peter is enumerated as 12 years old in 1880. Doesn't it seem a little spooky knowing he will be dead within four years? Reading the article, it appears to me that he died from an aneurysm. You read about these things all the time. Apparently healthy teenagers participating in sporting events keel over in mid practice. I’m sure fright had nothing to do with Peter’s death even though the “entire family are terrified in the extreme at the sight of a bear”.
The article mentions two boys went into the woods, Peter was 17, so I wonder who the other brother was? Fred would have been seven, so I wouldn’t think it would be him. It must have been Zane. John and Maria live on into the 20th century. I have both of their death certificates from Seeking Michigan. Combining the things I have found
creates the mini family sketch below.
We have Mariah Sands b. 25 Dec 1836 d. 11 Apr 1919 married in 1855 (according to the 1900 census) to John Russell b. 29 Apr 1825 d. 15 Dec 1904. Mariah also lists she is the mother of five children, four of whom are still living. So we can put together the household from this information.
Mariah Sands ----- John Russell
1. Charles Russell b. 1864
2. Zane Russell b. 1866
3. Peter Russell b. 1868
4. Sarah Russell b. 1874
I also came across a photo of Peter’s headstone at the Goodrich cemetery in Oceana County, Michigan. It must have been placed with great sorrow and love. There are headstones for Fred, Peter, and Sarah called Sadie but evidently none for Mariah and John. If you click on the photo it takes you to the GenWeb archive site for Goodrich cemetery.
I was looking at the birth years for Mariah and John Russell’s children and if Mariah hadn’t stated she was the mother of five children, I would have been looking for more children. They were married circa 1855 and the first child was born in 1864. There is also a six year gap between Peter and Sarah. These gaps are classic indicators that perhaps there may be “missing” children born to this couple. It just goes to show you that sometimes gaps do exist.
From what I can find online, Mariah and John Russell still have descendants living in the area…