One journalist's life
businessman and his wife, Alonzo and L. A. Russell, of Lowell, Mass. The baby boy was adopted by a young couple -their name was never known by our family. Charles grew to love his foster parents and his new siblings, especially brother, Eugene Russell. In his youth he did visit his grandmother and aunt, but was also turned away. Charles had a longing to see the world and became a newspaper journalist, going from city to city wherever there was work for him. He was visiting friends in Virginia and met a lovely young lady named Elizabeth Roberts from Georgia. They married in 1891. A year later Elizabeth gave birth to twins - Evelyn (Evie)and Charles, Jr. Again love was parted by death as Elizabeth also died after the births. Charles knew he couldn't take care of the twins on his own so he asked his friends, the Harris family in Norfolk, VA to take them as their own. Charles left, traveling again for the newspapers. He was in Virginia again several years later and met a lovely redheaded nursing student, Mary Howard Spiers of Carson, VA. They eloped to North Carolina and wed in August 1895. Life was good again and they settled in Virginia. Little Marie was born in March 1896, then Charlie in 1897, but died as a toddler. More children were born but passed away young. My grandmother Florence was born in August 1900 and the youngest, Howard, was born in 1902. Charles was restless and out of work. He was promised a job in Washington, DC and left the family to pursue it. Mary did not hear from him for several months; money was scarce. Bills were mounting. When they were to be evicted, Mary sent a telegram to her parents requesting they send help - they thought Charles had died, prepared a burial place for him, and sent Mary's uncle to get her, the children, and the body. When the parents learned that Charles had left on his own, they believed he deserted his family. Mary was to be under their rule for years later as they helped her find work and raise her three surviving children. Charles had actually fallen into ill health. When he recovered months later, he found that Mary and the children were gone - at least the landlady knew they were back with her parents. He contacted the parents by letter and was told not to contact Mary anymore. Future letters to Mary were apprehended and never delivered to her. He was shut out of their lives. Mary Russell was persuaded to divorce her husband after three years. In 1913 his oldest daughter, Evelyn and her husband, Philip Seymour, put an ad in a detective magazine and found him living in Iowa. They lived with him for awhile and then all moved back to Virginia where Charles started working at a newspaper in Norfolk, VA and Philip on the railroad. Three grandchildren were there too - Garnett, Phyllis, and little Charles. Later the Charles, Jr. (also called Will) came to live with them. In 1925, his health failing, older Charles requested that Evelyn try to locate his second wife Mary and his other children. She succeeded; Mary Russell and her son Howard made a trip from Richmond, VA to Norfolk, VA to see the man who left them so many years before. My grandmother Florence was married and pregnant at the time and couldn't make the trip. Charles had a wonderful reunion with them. They vowed not to stay strangers. Florence would later visit her father there and become fast friends with Evelyn and Philip. Charles William Robins Russell died in Nov. 1936. His obit in the Portsmouth, VA Times reads as follows:
"The passing of C. W. R. Russell, Sr. removes the real dean of the newspaper profession in Portsmouth. It was back in the eighties of the last century that Mr. Russell first came to Portsmouth, a fluent writer, with modern ideas of journalism. His first news connection was with the Portsmouth Enterprise then operated and controlled by the late John W. H. Porter and Junius Wilcox. Mr. Russell became a reporter on the Portsmouth Times just about the time that journal was edited by the late Mrs. Fanny Murdaugh Downing, and probably brought about the city's biggest sensation ever in journalism when he dressed himself up as a tramp and visiting all the churches in the city, wrote up the various receptions he received when he attempted to enter for worship.
The result brought both commendation and censure from the citizenship of the city but it all established Mr. Russell as an interesting and enterprising news writer. He remained in the city under the displeasure of some who disapproved his writings but this he overcame by his friendships made and interest in public matters taken. Later he left Portsmouth and lived for many years in the West. Some twenty years ago he returned here and for some time served as a news writer and then as proofreader on the Portsmouth Star.
Mr. Russell's infirmities had kept him confined to his home for almost a decade but he nevertheless continued his interest in local affairs and up to his final illness always sought the news of the city by having others read to him when his eyesight failed him.
Mr. Russell was a man of most kindly disposition, and though unable to get out to do any visiting around, there were those of his friends who never failed to visit him regularly, receiving from him in good cheer oft' times more than they carried to him."