Tuesday, July 22, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Russell: A boulevard worthy of its name

Columnists2.fhx

By
From page A10 | September 18, 2013 |

The year was 1932. The Great Depression was in full force. In 24 months 3,746 banks had failed in the United States. The national unemployment rate stood at 23.6 percent. And among farm laborers, the shortage of work was even worse.

Just outside Winters that June, hundreds of desperate migrants from Oklahoma and Kansas camped out on John Storland’s ranch. They had come, with their children, having heard there might be work in the fruit orchards.

Alas, there was none.

The migrants had no food, little water and no supplies. A syndicate called the Agricultural Workers’ Industrial Union was encouraging the workers to go on a “hunger march” in the town of Winters, demanding jobs, food and money.

After a similar demonstration in Vacaville led to violence, Yolo County Sheriff James Monroe feared what might happen in Winters. Monroe met with the leaders of the AWIU and told them he would find someone who could help.

Sheriff Monroe turned to William Ogburn Russell, the esteemed and long-serving Yolo County supervisor who represented Davis, Winters and everything in between.

Russell was a man who knew how to get things done. He quickly helped secure food, water, clothing and supplies for the migrants and averted the crisis. There was no labor violence in Yolo County.

Yolo Briggs, whose grandfather ran a large ranch near Winters, told historian Joann Leach Larkey, “Bill Russell came in on it and arranged relief for the destitute workers.”

William O. Russell (1867-1943) was a baby in 1868 when Davisville was created and the California Pacific Railroad first rolled in.

In honor of Russell’s 36 years of service as a Yolo County supervisor, the Davis-to-Winters highway was named for him upon his death.

Russell Boulevard runs 12.2 miles from B Street in Davis to Interstate 505 in Winters. It is the longest road in Yolo County named for a person.

It’s a fitting tribute. Not only was Russell elected over and over by the voters of Yolo County’s 2nd District, he was born on his family’s ranch, in the home that still stands, near Russell Boulevard and County Road 95, halfway between Davis and Winters.

The Russell Ranch eventually grew to 815 acres. It extended east to Road 96. The land where Fairfield School is — one mile south of the house — was donated by the family for the school site. All the Russell children, including William, attended classes there.

Outside of the years he was a student at California Wesleyan College in San Jose — that institution moved in 1923 to Stockton and is now known as the University of Pacific — William O. Russell lived his entire life on the Russell Ranch.

His father, Francis E. Russell (1824-1907), was a Yolo County pioneer. Francis was born in Canada and was living in Vermont, working as a teacher, when he heard about the California Gold Rush of 1849. Immediately, Francis set sail for San Francisco with a boatload of New Englanders. They arrived in 1850 after an eight-month journey around Cape Horn.

Francis headed for the mines of Calaveras County. Like most prospectors, he failed to strike it rich in gold. But he eventually succeeded as a farmer in Solano County.

In 1858, two years after he married Lucy Ogburn (1841-1921) in Vacaville, the Russells purchased 396 acres in Yolo County, just north of Putah Creek. (A different source says the original ranch was 670 acres.)

They principally raised cattle. But, like most farmers in the Davis region then, they also grew wheat. Near the house he planted black walnut trees, which he later grafted to English walnuts.

In 1867, Francis Russell and other local farmers erected the Stevenson’s bridge over Putah Creek, exactly where a (graffiti-covered) version stands today.

When Bill Russell finished college, he returned to the family ranch and took over its management. He purchased additional acreage and added a dairy operation. Russell also farmed barley, and he cut “five or six crops” of alfalfa annually. He later planted almond orchards.

At a meeting at the Odd Fellows Hall in Davis on Jan. 23, 1897, Russell helped organize California’s first almond cooperative, the Davisville Almond Growers’ Association. The Davis growers were led by J. Eugene LaRue, George Washington Pierce Jr. and Phineas Skinner Chiles.

When DAGA merged with other almond cooperatives, they collectively became the California Almond Growers Exchange (aka Blue Diamond).

In 1898, running on the Republican ticket, in a region that had previously been Democratic, Russell was elected to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. He served one four-year term. He then tended to his ranch and home life for the next eight years.

In 1907, Russell married Eleanor A. Carlson (1877-1937), a native of Kansas City, Mo. They had two children: W.O. Jr., a medical doctor, and Charlotte, a Hollywood film actress who, with her husband, Richard Ham, settled in the family ranch house, now known as the Russell-Ham House. Charlotte Russell Ham passed away in Davis at age 89 in 2002.

In 1910, William O. Russell’s old supervisorial seat opened up. He ran, won and held that office until he died in 1943. He was never defeated in any of his 10 campaigns. The people of Davis and Winters apparently loved him. Russell also was active for decades representing county government at the state level.

As long as Davis and Winters exist, the name Russell Boulevard will be sustained in Yolo County.

In 1990, his children sold Russell Ranch to UC Davis. Ever since, the ranch where W.O. Russell spent his life has been used by the university to study sustainable agriculture.

— Rich Rifkin is a Davis resident; his column is published every other week. Reach him at Lxartist@yahoo.com

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Rich RifkinSeptember 17, 2013 - 9:49 pm

    An anecdote I learned while researching this piece has to do with the Russell family and the Dresbach Hunt Boyer Mansion. I knew that in 1877 William Dresbach had left Davis for San Francisco, just a couple of years after his home (at 2nd & E in downtown Davis) was completed. I also knew that he had gone bankrupt as a trader on the grain exchange in the City in 1878. What I didn't know was that he still owned his house and that, upon his bankruptcy, the bank holding the mortgage took it back and sold it, in 1880, to William Enos and Enos's parents. Enos was a sheep rancher in western Yolo County, and he was married to William Ogburn Russell's oldest sister, Cornelia. From 1880-1887 the Enoses owned the mansion and lived there (though during that period Enos's father, Sessions M. Enos, died). William and Cornelia, after selling the mansion to a farmer/grain trader named Henry Stelling, left Davis for Inyo County. I presume that is where William Enos is buried. However, when Cornelia passed away in 1933, she was buried at the Davis Cemetery. I suspect she likely moved back to Davis after her husband died. As best as I can tell, William Enos

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Somewhere, over the rainbow

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A1

     
    More homes for sale in Davis, at higher prices

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

    Girls sleep safely at Myanmar school, thanks to generous Davisites

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Davis teen succumbs to head injuries

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1, 4 Comments

    Police seek suspect in Woodland robbery spree

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Poppenga files to run for Davis school board

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A2

    Pets of the week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Federal appeals court deals blow to health law

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Driver dies in rural crash

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Appeals panel upholds race in admissions for UT Austin

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A3

     
    Parents’ Night Out planned Friday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Saylor welcomes visitors at ‘office hours’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Summer produce, yummy treats featured at Sutter market

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    STEAC needs donations of personal care items

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

     
    Drop off school supplies at Edward Jones offices

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Explore the night sky at Tuleyome Astronomy Night

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Tickets on sale now for DHS Hall of Fame dinner

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A5

    Yolo County CASA seeks volunteer child advocates

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Forum

    Korean teenagers welcome us with open arms

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Time to support people with disabilities

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Shame on the Palestinians

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4, 6 Comments

     
    Kimble left a swimming legacy

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

    Any treasures at The Cannery?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4

     
    Questions about city revenue

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

    John Cole cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A4

     
    Son-in-law has them worried

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Not up for full-time caregiving

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    .

    Sports

    Tour leader Nibali: A ‘flag-bearer’ against doping

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Yolo Post 77 looks to avenge last year’s outcome

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Thompson shines as Republic falls

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    River Cats overpower Chihuahuas

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Area sports briefs: Heintz returns to UCD

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

    MLB roundup: Duvall, Kontos help Giants beat Phillies

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Winters Fourth Friday Feast celebrates cycling

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Lincoln Highway rolls into Central Park

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    Rock Band campers perform at E Street Plaza

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Acme Theatre to present ‘The Rememberer’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Video highlights walking The Camino

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    ‘Grease’ is the show at WOH

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: B5

     
    Comics: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7