Grandma Russell Upton, NM
Mittie Lee Russell January 8, 1889 – December 1968  


For many years starting in the 1940's time frame, she wrote in the Portales News Tribune as a correspondent for Upton.  In 1963 or thereabouts, she did a column about the early days, and coming to New Mexico as a pioneer from Oklahoma.   Reprinted in the Farm and Ranch News in 1964, here is that reminiscence

Oklahoma  -- Rush Springs, Chickasha

She lived in the earliest years she could remember somewhere around Walnut Springs in Texas.  They must have moved to Rush Springs while it was still Indian Territory, because they lived there during the earliest part of her life and until she was a teen-ager, when she married Mr. John Russell.  He taught school and Sunday School there, and soon after they were married, went to Portales in a covered wagon.  They lived in a dug-out for more than a year, until they built the first adobe house and lived in that from about 1907 til 1941, when it was replaced by the newer adobe house on the same site.

Father: John B. Kite

I do not have the impression that he was a Civil War veteran, though he could have been.  He was famous for his temper, and for his remark to Mittie’s mother when she asked his to get some groceries as he was leaving in the wagon one day: “It’s get, get, get.  All the time get, get, and not a damned thing to get with!”


Robert -- Itinerant vegetable harvesting was his most known trait.  He and Aunt Leona would travel from Joplin MO, where they must have had a house, going to California to harvest the truck crops.  They would stop by New Mexico in the summer and would help with whatever we were doing at the time.  I remember Aunt Leona working with “snap-eyed peas” for canning, telling stories and complaining about the heat.  “It’s so hot I could eat fried chicken!” was one of her favorites.  In later years, they stopped coming by so much.  Robert got a job keeping up the cemetery in the town near Joplin where they lived, and he and Leona are buried there.  Robert  had a son who lived in that town.

Texas – Vernon.  I have a picture taken of her and Sudie in Vernon, when she was about three years old.  Sudie must have been about seven years old at the time.  They moved to

Indian Territory  where they lived for several years, near Rush Springs.  They spoke of “Plue Valley”, which I take to be Paul’s Valley, somewhere near Rush Springs.

Sudie was married to a man Herman Wiley, and lived in Wheeler, Texas.  They had an oil and gas business there.  They had at least one son and a daughter.  I have the impression that the daughter lived in Canyon with her family, and that the old man must have lived with her in his older years.  She was doing a write-up of his life, and asking for others in the family to send her information about the family so she could incorporate it.  She never got back to us with the final version, even though we sent her such information as she had asked for.  I suspect it was like a lot of those projects – just got lost in the coils of time.

Married John W. Russell, who died 2 years and one day after her, Dec 3, 1970. His eulogy

Portales, NM  Homesteaded about 1906, they received title in August 1913.

She taught school up to sixth grade at Upton till 1924, according to Roosevelt County School records.

Postmistress at Upton post office 1907 until 1930 – There is a family picture of her in the post office part of the old adobe house at Upton.  This is currently held by Linda Russell, Bill’s widow.  Source: Roosevelt County History and Heritage.

Children –  documented in the Family Bible in her handwriting, currently held by Patsy Gossett Rains.  It was left by Ruth when she was taken to the nursing home.

John Harold  -- Born at home in the dugout or the adobe house, not sure. About 1907.  See the file of the Family tree, The Master Genealogist.  Died of Alzheimer's 

Ezra Michael  died of Alzheimer's

Leo  Died of flu, 1929

Ruth   Died (1997?), Alzheimer's

J W  "Johnny" was born in Elida, January 7 1914.  Killed by a tractor driver's ignorance, Nov 2, 1941

            Wiley Gresham   Was born 1921, August 12 or thereabouts. died 1999, Alzheimer's


            Travis Eugene   January 27, 1926   His mother was Mr. John's sister, who had a nervous breakdown when Travis was very young.  His father was Charlie Ison of Portales.


Robert Eugene   (Bob, son of J W, called "Johnny")

            Bruce Michael   (Sonny, son of Ezra)

            Philip Lewis     (Phillip, son of Johnny and Winnie)

And numerous homeless and indigent people brought by Mr. John.

Correspondent to the Portales Tribune for many years

Wrote of the local news, and numerous columns about early life for the homesteaders.

Suffered from arthritis and diabetes in later years.  Spent much time in Hot Springs.  She and Mr. John moved to a small house in Portales, until she was no longer able to manage without help, when she moved to Pioneer’s Home in Clovis, where she died in late 1968.

Her abiding interest in her children and the good name of the family was the notable memory I have of her.  She loved the garden, and would always have a good one, with such help as those of us who lived there could and would give. She made sure that I knew how to cook, can, make lye soap, and raise chickens for eggs and meat.  Her sister Della Horn lived with us from 1946 to 1949.  She was full of tales about Oklahoma life.  They would reminisce about the Indians coming around begging when they were girls, and about how pitiful the Indians were.  I don’t recall that they understood very much about how the Indians got to be so poor just that they were scared of the Indians and would give them food and old clothing to get them to go away. 

 Both Grandma Russell and Aunt Della were Southern Baptist, quite religious, and would sing and whistle around the house.  Rock of Ages was a favorite, and they really enjoyed my singing “Peace in the Valley”.  I imitated Red Foley, the big country hit of the day.










Above is a picture taken at the Ezra Russell house in Arch, NM in the summer of 1939.

Back, from left to right:

Wiley, Mr. John, Preston holding Patsy Ruth, Ezra holding Sonny, Johnny.

Middle: Nora, Grandma, Ruth Vina holding Lee Ella, Winnie holding Philip.

Front: Bobbie Jean, Bonnie, Bob, Mary Francis, Bill with bubblegum.  I’m pretty sure Harold took the picture.