By Ronald Ahrens
A recent telephone conversation with Dennis Russell, who lives in Plano, Tex., revealed more details about the Russell family and his brother Jim, who died in an accident during construction of the Murphy, Neb., elevator. Dennis was the youngest of eight brothers: Bob, Roger, Jim, Jack, Byron, Bill, and Mark.
Their father William, born in 1900, had done construction on ammunition depots during World War Two, Dennis recalled. William, known as Bill, went to work for Tillotson Construction Company at an unknown date after the War.
“He worked for them a long time,” Dennis said. “He left Tillotson’s and started Mid States Construction Company with Gordon Erickson and another individual. I think he was a partner for a brief period and then ran jobs for them as a superintendent until his retirement.”
The name was changed to Mid States Equipment Company. Grain elevators and feed mills were the main specialties. Bill Russell retired in 1972, but he “always had fond memories working for Tillotson, I know that,” Dennis said. “I remember he was awful fond of Mary.”
Jim Russell’s promising future cut short
Dennis was born in 1949. “My whole life was elevators. We moved every year from ’59 till I graduated high school.”
All the Russell brothers worked on elevators, Dennis recalled. “I worked on those quite a bit myself every summer.”
“Jim, he was third-oldest, he died in, like, ’58 in Murphy, Neb., right outside of Aurora. There was an article about that in the Aurora paper at the time. We lived in Vermillion, South Dakota, but that summer I was in Aurora, we were staying with Dad. I remember Mom taking that phone call.”
At the time of his death in a freak accident (the links below tell the story), Jim was married to Shirley, a nurse, and had one year of law school remaining at the University of South Dakota.
- More details on the Nebraska elevator site where Jim Russell died (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)
- A freak accident led to the fatal fall of Bill Russell’s son (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)