Russell, Levi James (1831–1908)

By: Clinton P. Hartmann

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 5, 2019

Levi James Russell, doctor and botanist, son of James and Elizabeth Russell, was born on February 17, 1831, in Hall County, Georgia. From 1850 to 1853 he mined gold in California and in 1854 went to Pennsylvania College, where he graduated from medical school in March 1856. He returned to Georgia and in 1858 left for Colorado and Montana, where he and two brothers engaged in gold mining. They were among the founders of Denver, Colorado. While making his way back to Georgia in 1862 Russell and his brothers were captured by Union soldiers and interned in New Mexico for four months; Russell caught smallpox in prison. After his release he returned to Georgia and in 1868 moved to Harrisville, Texas, where he bought a farm and practiced medicine. He married Mary Roe; they had nine children. Russell was for several years the chairman of the committee on medical botany of the Texas State Medical Association (now the Texas Medical Association), which published his report in the Transactions for 1886. He was an incorporator of the Little River Academy, devoted to the study of science; in 1875 he became a charter member and president of the Association of Freethinkers of Bell County. Because of his radical views he was expelled from the Masons and Knights of Pythias. On the night of October 6, 1877, Russell was severely whipped for being an infidel. He continued his medical practice and his natural-science collection in Bell County until his death on March 23, 1908, at Temple.

A Memorial and Biographical History of McLennan, Falls, Bell, and Coryell Counties (Chicago: Lewis, 1893; rpt., St. Louis: Ingmire, 1984). Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Texas Collection, April 1945.


  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Practitioners

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Clinton P. Hartmann, “Russell, Levi James,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 5, 2019

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: