William Greeneberry "Green" Russell (1818–1877) was an American
prospector and miner.
1 Early life
2 Mining in California
4 Later years
5 Places named for Russell
6 See also
Green Russell was born in
South Carolina but moved with his family to
Georgia as a small child. His father James Russell engaged in gold
mining during the
Georgia Gold Rush
Georgia Gold Rush that started in 1828 and Green
came of age in a local economy dominated by mining. In 1845 he married
Susan Willis who was 1/8th Cherokee.
Mining in California
When gold was found at
Sutter's Mill in 1848, a cook for Sutter's crew
who was a Georgia native sent word back home enabling Russell to learn
of the discovery. Russell led a couple of successful mining ventures
to California which included his brothers and other Georgians
including Cherokees, some of whom made the trek west overland through
Russell had spent his boyhood in the
Cherokee country around
Dahlonega, Georgia, site of the only significant gold rush east of the
Mississippi. The bonanza in California sent him across the continent
in 1849, and along the way he panned a little gold in the Sweetwater
River, in southwest Wyoming just east of the Rockies. During the next
few years Russell moved restlessly - home to Georgia, back to the
Pacific, then home again in 1852. Then, through his Cherokee
connections Russell heard about an 1849 discovery of gold along the
South Platte River
South Platte River at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. He organized a
party to prospect along the South Platte River, setting off with his
two brothers and six companions in February 1858. They rendezvoused
Cherokee tribe members along the
Arkansas River in present-day
Oklahoma and continued westward along the Santa Fe Trail. Others
joined the party along the way until their number reached 107. The few
accounts of Russell suggest a confident man who inspired trust. In a
later portrait he has a direct, drowsy-eyed look of assurance.
Whatever his appeal, Russell convinced the others to stand against
adversities the expedition may have presented
Upon reaching Bent's Fort, they turned to the northwest, reaching the
confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte on May 23. The site of
their initial explorations is in present-day Confluence Park in
Denver. They began prospecting in the river beds, exploring Cherry
Creek and nearby Ralston Creek but without success. After twenty days,
several decided to return home, leaving the Russell brothers and ten
other men behind. In the first week of July 1858, Green Russell and
Sam Bates found a small placer deposit near the mouth of Little Dry
Creek that yielded about 20 troy ounces (600 grams) of gold, the
first significant gold discovery in the Rocky Mountain region.
In early 1859, Russell was drawn to the mountains by the discovery of
gold in nearby Gregory Gulch. He discovered placer gold deposits in
June 1859 in the valley that was soon named Russell Gulch in his
honor. By the end of September, 891 men were mining gold in the gulch,
and the eponymous town was built near the head of the gulch to serve
Word of gold first reached the rest of the nation when an old trader
named John Cantrell who had visited the Russell diggings arrived in
Kansas City in 1858 with samples to back up his story. Newspapers
began to print stories of the findings, starting the Pike's Peak Gold
While his mining activities were successful, the political environment
turned against Green as Union men began to outnumber southerners.
Green attempted to get back to Georgia but his party was first struck
by smallpox and then intercepted by the Union army.
After the Civil War Russell returned to
Colorado but was not as
successful as he had been previously. After the death of his son John
in a mining accident in 1874 he sought to gain land in the Indian
Territory through his
Cherokee wife. He settled there but was
contemplating a return to Georgia when he became ill and died in 1877.
He is buried at Briartown, Oklahoma.
Places named for Russell
Two towns in
Colorado are named after Russell, both in locations where
he found gold: Russellville, now an unincorporated suburban community
in Douglas County, and Russell Gulch, a former mining town in
Pike's Peak Gold Rush
Russell's Gulch, Colorado
Spencer, Elma Dill Russell. Green Russell and Gold. Austin: University
of Texas, 1966.
^ Gehling, Richard (2006). "The Pike's Peak Gold Rush". The Pike's
Peak Gold Rush. Richard Gehling. Archived from the original on
2006-02-15. Retrieved December 19, 2006.
^ Ovando J. Hollister, The Mines of Colorado, originally published
1867, reprinted New York: Promontory Press, 1974, p.71-72.
^ Dawson, John Frank. Place names in Colorado: why 700 communities
were so named, 150 of Spanish or Indian origin. Denver, CO: The J.
Frank Dawson Publishing Co. p. 44.
State of Colorado
Seal of Colorado
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area
Roaring Fork Valley
San Luis Valley
Sangre de Cristo Mountains