Some more notes on Sir James Russell, Knt.

In my recent post on the Russell Family, I explain 3 of 4 siblings identified so far were early settlers of St. Kitts and Nevis. I can’t find anything about their ancestry including where they hailed from, but am pretty clear that ancestor Lt. Col. Randal (or Randolph) Russell, arrived in about 1637 based on a deposition he made that is cited in The history of the island of Antigua, one of the Leeward Caribbees in the West Indies, from the first settlement in 1635 to the present time (1894) by Oliver, Vere Langford. And some idea of the later legacies relating to the plantations and slaves he and his brother James owned, as well as how that wealth was consolidated through marriages with related and other famlies in subsequent generations (see posts on Madan and Nisbet families). What has been less clear is how and when his broher James and sister Anne came to be there. In her case, the how is linked to her appearing to be the 3rd wife of Sir Thomas Warner who is noted for settling on Saint Kitts and establishing it in 1624 as the first English colony in the Caribbean (see wiki entry). What I don’t know is when she married Sir Thomas and if that was before or after her 2 brothers had settled there. I’ve found a few more clues about her brother James though in Colonising Expeditions to the West Indies and Guiana, 1623-1667 (2017) by V.T. Harlow

It contains journals and narratives from early settlers in St. Kitts and Nevis. I contains a few refetences to James Russell who was possibly knighted in 1672:

P. 14

These accounts are framed in the introduction in terms of the adventurous glamour of Drake and Raleigh, which is probably why they gloss over the genocide and enslavement of the islanders by the early settlers and how they went on to be responsible for the untold misery and suffering of those they subsequently transported as slaves from Africa as part of their colonisation. But the above the narratator esimates this to be around 630-1631 and his account is linked to the Spanish attack on St. Kitts that occured in 1629. It seems to be suggesting that James Russell (Mr) was part of a considerable company on Nevis and had been appointed Governor when Capt. Anthony Hilton arrived.

What follows is my attempt at joining dots from my previous post on the Russell Family. Firstly, I wondering whether th narrator helps account for why (Sir) James Russell is shown as being Governor of Nevis 1632—71 in the pedigree of the Russell Family in The history of the island of Antigua… And why the inscription on his memorial at St James Church mentions him being the ‘first mayor and colonel’ of Nevis. It may also account for the intriquing references to ‘Damer Powell, JW ‘Sir James Russell: Defender of Nevis’ in United Empire XXII.’ And also `the reference in Slavery Obscured: The Social History of the Slave Trade in an English Provincial Port Front (2016) by Madge Dresser about how he “first secured Nevis for the British and became its Governor.’ But to confuse matters the following is also inscribed on the memorial mentioned above:

…by whose wisdom and valo’ (uneer God) it was preserved, when that and ye rest of those islands were endangered by the French and Dutch, in 1666

I also found the following reference to James Russell and my ancestor Lt. Col. Randal Russell:

P. 17

This again seems to suggest again that (Sir) James Russell (Knt) was at least interim Governor of Nevis around the time of the Spanish attack, and was again later ater having become a Colonel before his brother Randall (also a Colonel) became Governor.

Anyway, these are just 2 more pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and hopefuly show how I try and connect the various pieces. It does seem to show that he was in Nevis around 1630 and would, therefore, have been one of the earliest settlers. That would be 7 years before his brother Randall arrived, but this narration could explain why Randall was “received into the house of Sir Thomas Warner, and there lived in his employ several years.” But I have still not established if this James Russell was actually knighted; the exact dates of when he was Governor; when he became mayor and colonel and the circumstances surrounding this; when he married Margaret Hunt, and who her family are and what estate did they have on St Kitts; when exactly he arrived in St. Kitts/Nevis, e.g. with Sir Thomas Warner, later with Antony Hilton or as part of another group; if, when and how exactly did he secure Nevis for the British/become its defender; and how and when did he get land that became the Russells Rest plantation.

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