Russell Lands History


A Greatly Expanded Version

4, 2020

Early Timeline

14th Century

Benjamin Russell Sr.’s genealogy traces back to Richard Russell of Westchester County, England.


Beginning in 1603 lineage traces through church records of London and around 1750 James Russell crossed Atlantic Ocean to Charleston, South Carolina.  His son John Russell fought in War of Independence.  The family slowly migrated through Georgia and into Alabama.  (James Russell: born June 28, 1719, married Mary Commander July 7, 1749) (John Russell, son of James and Mary, born June 10, 1760, married Clara Ann Stansell)

April 1775-
Sept. 1783

American Revolution

March 27, 1814

Battle Horseshoe Bend – Creeks defeated by Andrew Jackson.


Gold discovered in Alabama and Georgia


Treaty of 1832 or Treaty of Succession or Removal Treaty.


Tallapoosa County founded


Youngsville settled


Hog Mountain was by far and away the most productive mine (area) in Alabama.  Gold was discovered just North of Goldville at about the same time as many of the dozen or so other surrounding sites.  Crude methods of mining were typical there but by 1917 the Hog Mountain Mine was a modern industrial complex.  As was the case in virtually all operations except panning, the cost always exceeded the profits.

Circa 1841

John Russell’s son, Jesse Russell, moved from Chambers County to Tallapoosa County, Alabama.  (Jesse Russell, son of John and Clara, born January 31, 1796, married Sarah Catchings June 29, 1826)

October 6, 1841

Benjamin Francis Commander Russell born.


Goldville chartered. 3,500 population, 14 stores, 7 saloons, 2 hotels, several brothels – one of largest towns in Alabama


App. Dutch Bend – Ulrich Pits – (Romanoff Mine).  Dr. Ulrich, a German migrated from Savannah searching for a location for a winery.  Following a stream he dug a tunnel for a wine cellar and found gold. 

April, 1846

Jesse Russell purchased 318 acres, built a house and started farming.  This area is covered by Lake Martin in an area known today as Pitchford Hollow.  Some of the Russell family are buried in the nearby cemetery at the old Liberty Church.


California gold rush


John Jackson Benson was born a slave on a plantation in the Dixie area.  After the Civil War the Plantation moved North, but John stayed to become the most accomplished and successful black in the entire area.


Civil War



  July 16, 1864

Rousseau’s Raid through Youngsville.


Jesse Russell’s son, Benjamin Francis Commander (B.F.C.) Russell, returned home to the family farm a decorated Civil War veteran.  Served in Company C, 47th Alabama Regiment under General Longstreet.  (B.F.C. Russell, son of Jesse and Sarah, born October 6, 1841)

December 17, 1867

Benjamin Francis Commander (B.F.C.) Russell married Sarah Elizabeth “Bettie” Henderson and began farming with his father.  B.F.C. and Bettie had three children:  Sarah “Sallie” Matilda, Thomas Commander and Benjamin.

June 24, 1874

“Grand-opening” Celebration of train service to Alexander City.


Benjamin Francis Commander Russell moved his family to Alexander City, Alabama, formally Youngsville – employed by US Post office.

February 1, 1894

Southern Philatelic Association organized (Benjamin Russell was a member of this organization).


Benjamin Russell left for Charlottsville, Virginia to enter freshman class -University of Virginia, where he put himself through school.


William (Will) E. Benson, a black graduate of Howard University in Washington, DC, founded Kowaliga School to improve lives of local black population.


Kowaliga School became known as the Kowaliga Academic and Industrial Institute.


Benjamin Russell graduated University of Virginia with a law degree.  He returned to Alexander City to manage his father’s estate.

November, 1899

Benjamin Russell married Roberta Bacon McDonald.  Four children: Benjamin (Bennie) Commander, Thomas Dameron, Robert Alston and Elisabeth McDonald.


Will Benson began The Dixie Industrial Company at Dixie, Alabama.  This is now Crossroads where examples of his various industries are preserved and on display.  Originally there was a cotton gin, a lumber mill and various entities to support the local farming industry.  The turpentine plant is most visible.  These facilities took advantage of a small railroad into Alexander City – The Dixie Line


Benjamin Russell founded Citizen’s Bank in Alexander City.

April 29, 1901

Alexander City Development and Industrial Club organized.  Mr. Ben was a charter member and officer of the club.

March 3, 1902

Russell Manufacturing Company was incorporated – founder Benjamin Russell (Mr. Ben).

April 8, 1902

Russell Manufacturing began operations – knitting cloth and cutting and sewing ladies and children’s underwear.

June 13, 1902

Entire town of Alexander City burned. (??)

July 14, 1902

Certificate of Incorporation for the Alabama Telephone Company issued to Mr. Ben, who had built the phone lines from Sylacauga to Dadeville in Spring 1902.

February 24, 1904

Mr. Ben sold phone company to Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph for $15,250

September 30, 1904

Citizen’s Bank became the First National Bank.

June 1, 1907

Robert Alston Russell, son of Benjamin and Roberta Russell.  Married Adelia Willis McConnell in 1936, one son Benjamin Russell.


Municipal election of 1907 – Mr. Ben’s brother, Thomas C. Russell was elected Mayor of Alexander City and served until 1947.


Alexander City High School named Benjamin Russell High School in honor of Mr. Ben.


Russell Manufacturing began yarn manufacturing business.


Mr. Ben instrumental in organizing the Commercial Club of Alexander City.

November, 1911

Mr. Ben began construction of a dam at Buzzards Roost Shoals on the Tallapoosa River – Industries Light and Power Company.


Mr. Ben sold his power project to the Alabama Power Company and began taking electrical service for his textile mills, November 28, 1913.  This was a major achievement for Mr. Ben as he received a power franchise and began a lifelong association with Thomas Martin.

July 1914 –
Nov. 1918

World War I

January 20, 1916

Pine Lumber Company – a logging railroad owned by Mr. Ben and J.M. Steverson – 14 miles of mainline track.  This was apparently a major factor in Mr. Ben’s financial success in the early years.  See BR + picture of #11 locomotive.


Mr. Ben opened the Alex City Wholesale Grocery.


Streets of downtown Alexander City paved.


Russell Mills School formally established by Professor R.Y. Scott – classes convening in the Russell Mills Church.


Mr. Ben purchased Alexander City Manufacturing Company – by 1941 the woodworking operation had two plants and over one hundred employees.


Avondale Mill

Early 1920s

Mr. Ben purchased a hotel in Coral Gables, Florida.  Closed during the Depression.

April, 1920

The Tau Chapter of the Chi Phi Fraternity was founded when Benjamin Russell, on leave from his business in Alexander City, entered the University of Alabama.  On April 20, 1920 the official chartering ceremony was conducted and the original fraternity house built by Mr. Ben was occupied during the first year.


Mr. Ben was one of the pioneers of good roads in Alabama.  He organized and was elected President of the Florida Short Route.  This group was devoted entirely to the promotion of tourist travel.


Commercial Club of Alexander City reorganized as the Chamber of Commerce.


Mr. Ben built the Alexander City Creamery on Bibb Street.  During this same time he built a laundry and a bakery also on Bibb Street to support his efforts to keep the family farm alive.


Mr. Ben bought the Nolen Hotel, formerly the Alabama Hotel, and changed name to Russco Hotel, later Russell Hotel. 


These and many other projects show the extent of Mr. Ben’s intent to allow people to make a living from the land (cotton gin, cotton processing plant, cattle farms etc).


Mr. Ben purchased Alexander City Outlook – a semi-weekly paper.

July 24, 1923

Construction began on Martin Dam.


Mr. Russell completed a dam across Elkahatchee Creek.  He built a pumping station, pipeline filter plant and waterworks system that would supply the entire town until 1947, and the Russell Mills and Russell mill village until the early 1980s.


Mr. Ben built Russell Hospital for the community – located on Lee Street.


Russell Mills School building constructed.

November 7, 1925

Cornerstone for Martin Dam laid in a public ceremony.

November, 1925

Work on piers and trestle began for Kowaliga Bridge (or Kowaliga Creek Bridge).


Thomas (Tom) D. Russell – Mr. Ben’s middle son – started work at Russell Manufacturing.

June 16, 1926

Board of Directors officially named Cherokee Development Project: Martin Dam and Lake Martin.

December 31, 1926

Official in-service date for Martin Dam and Lake Martin at the time world’s largest man-made lake.


Mr. Ben formed Dixie Farms.  Arthur Worth became first farm superintendent (Dixie Farms 1926-1950).


Mr. Ben brought a cast iron and pipe company from Anniston to Alexander City to attract families and the females of the family for jobs at Russell Mills.

January 1, 1927

Official completion date of Martin Dam.

May, 1927

Lake Martin high enough to float girders to Kowaliga Bridge site.

August, 1927

Kowaliga Bridge opened.


Russell Manufacturing began yarn processing – woven cloth.


Russell School became a part of Alexander City School system.

March 27, 1928

Mr. Ben opened the first subdivision on Lake Martin, Lake Hills Subdivision.


Mr. Ben set aside 3,000 acres to provide for the experimental production of long staple cotton in east Alabama and continued efforts to preserve the family farm.

1929 - 1938

The Great Depression


Russell Manufacturing built a modern bleachery and finishing plant.


Dr. McElroy Dean became farm superintendent of Dixie Farms.

Summer 1935

Mr. Ben hired Dr. James E. Cameron as a local physician.

October 16, 1936

Martin Dam at Cherokee Bluffs on Tallapoosa River dedicated.  Dam completed January 1, 1927.

June 12, 1937

Mr. Ben was the driving force in establishing the Alabama State Chamber of Commerce.  He became its first president.  This entailed his personally visiting all 67 county Chamber’s in the state.

December 15, 1937

Alexander City Lions Club organized in the Russell Hotel.


Russell Ballard became farm superintendent of Dixie Farms and served in that capacity until his retirement from Russell Lands in December 1974.  Mr. Ballard’s assistant, Rudolph Evans, served as head forester for Russell Lands until 1982.

January 18, 1938

Benjamin “Ben” Russell, son of Robert and Adelia Russell.  Married Luanne Radney April 8, 1961.  One daughter Adelia “Dedie” McConnell Russell born March 15, 1965.

Sept. 1939 –
Sept. 1945

World War II

October, 1941

Mr. Ben and Thomas Martin were the driving forces that organized the Alabama Research Institute for purpose of promoting scientific research in use of local raw materials in the manufacture f finished products.  Name later changed to Southern Research Institute.  This was his last effort to promote the State and South.

December 16, 1941

Benjamin Russell “Mr. Ben” died.

May 1, 1942

Robert A. Russell enlisted in U.S. Army.  Served 1942-1945.  Wounded in Battle of Bulge, December 1944.


Russell family allowed state to build a park on Lake Martin next to the Highway 63 Bridge at Kowaliga.

Late 1940-1950s

Significant portion of Mr. Ben’s lake front property was disposed of – east and west extremities of his holdings on the south side of Lake Martin after his death.

September 4, 1950

Mr. Ben honored by the dedication and naming of Benjamin Russell High School.


Dixie Farms was renamed Russell Farms (Russell Farms 1950-1960).


Russell Farms Church


R.A. Russell cabin + several Russell Mills executives

Late 1950s

100 old tenant farmhouses and many of the 300 Russell Mill Village houses torn down.


Kowaliga Restaurant built for lease and opened in April 1953.

April, 1953

Toppy and Charlotte Hodnett opened Kowaliga Restaurant / Kowaliga Cottages.


Church in Pines began under a pine straw covered arbor on Lake Martin – organized by Julie Russell.

Nov. 1955 –
April 1975

Vietnam War


Russell Corporation constructed an open A-frame building to replace pine straw arbor at Church in Pines.  BR did History of Church in Pines.

July 1956

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park opened.  Robert A. Russell was one of prime movers.


Russell Lands built Toppy Hodnett a Sports Shop (Kowaliga Marina) on site of the old Lee Park’s store.

Late 1950s

Russell Lands built Lake Hill Restaurant overlooking Lake Martin on Highway 280.


Russell Farm officially became Russell Lands, Inc.


Mr. Ben’s grandson, Benjamin or Ben Russell, began full time employment with Russell Manufacturing Company.


Robert Russell began construction on Wind Creek Park as a replacement for outdated facility at Kowaliga.


Wind Creek Park opened and Russell family donated use of facility to the public.


Changed name from Russell Manufacturing Company to Russell Mills, Inc.


Construction began on Willow Point Golf & Country Club


Friends of the Dunn family contributed the altar at Church in Pines as a memorial to William Ransom Johnson Dunn III and to “all who love the lake.”


Russell Mills, Inc. became a public corporation; the old Russell Farms property was spun off to remain as Russell Lands, Inc., a private company.


The new Russell Hospital was built on the Highway 280 location – today known as Russell Medical Center.


Last of Russell Farms cattle farms, locally known as the Wedges Farm (having once been a farm where workers were hired for “wages”), was chosen as the location of the Willow Point Golf and Country Club.  The beautiful championship 18-hole golf course meanders about on a peninsula totally surrounded by Lake Martin.  On September 17, 1964 property and improvements were incorporated as a private club – Willow Point Golf and Country Club.

Mid 1970s

Russell Lands took over responsibility for Church in Pines.


Ben Russell elected President of Russell Lands, Inc. and officially left employ of Russell Mills.


Wind Creek Park sold to the State of Alabama (with great expectations of a convention center, etc.)


Ben Russell spent most of the year creating and promoting the Lake Martin Recreation Association – the Lake Martin Resource Association (LMRA), then had lake level regulations written into Alabama Power Relicensing agreement. 

June 22, 1972

Russell Lands’ first residential development, Willow Point Estates – Phase I.

August 29, 1972

Lake Hill Estates.


Willow Point Estates  


Russell Lands assumed debt of property as well as operation of Willow Point Golf and Country Club.


The new Kowaliga Marina built.

March 22, 1973

Riverbend Estates – Phase I.

April 23, 1973

Windermere – Phase I. 


Name changed from Russell Mills, Inc. to Russell Corporation.


Russell Lands became involved in the energy field. (Energy Research) ECON


Ben Russell designed boiler plant for Russell Corp. to burn wood residue in place of oil and contracted to deliver 120,000 ton/year of wood waste fuel.

Fall 1975

New Kowaliga Bridge opened.


Constructed first non-forest products industry wood-fired boiler plant to replace oil consumption in US, in modern times by ECON or Energy Research

January, 1976

Russell Corporation wood boilers began operation to replace oil fuel.


Russell Lands, Inc. moved into a new office at Willow Point Subdivision.

February 14, 1979

Raintree Subdivision.


ECON road trip coast-to-coast on wood fuel only.  Featured on REAL PEOPLE  reaching the Pacific.


Russell Lands entered the building supply business with the purchase of the then Alexander City Building Supply, from Russell Mills.


Ben Russell acquired stock of 31 of the 35 individual Russell Lands stockholders.


Ben Russell became Chairman and CEO of Russell Lands and Gene Davenport became Vice President.

October 8, 1987

Trillium – Phase I. 


Julie Russell asked Luanne Russell to begin coordinating Church in Pines services.


CARE Alabama was founded in 1987 by Ben and Luanne Russell.  It is the only statewide campaign that raises funds for CARE.  For almost a quarter century the Russell’s matched “dollar for dollar” all donations, with all funds going directly to CARE!   

July 18, 1988

Windover – Phase I.

August 19, 1988

River Oaks – Phase I Columbine.  September 22, 1988 Phase I Mountain Laurel.  September 20, 1996 Phase I River Oaks.


Russell Lands initially donated 50 acres of shoreline property to Children’s Harbor and began construction on the facility.


A 50-year time capsule interred at Time Capsule Park, Children’s Harbor – scheduled to be opened in the year 2039.


Children’s Harbor was officially dedicated to memory of Adelia McConnell Russell.


Children’s Harbor began providing year-round services, either in Church in Pines or Children’s Chapel.

July 26, 1991

Windermere subdivision.


Russell Building Supply affiliated with Do-it-Best Corp.


Windermere West subdivision.


Russell Lands purchased Real Island Marina.

December, 1998

Children’s Harbor Family Center and Children’s Hospital of Alabama broke ground for construction of a four story building. The Family Center was made possible by a 1998 contribution by Ben Russell.


Ben Russell built the Lake Martin Amphitheater.  His vision, inspired by a love for the arts and the beautiful scenery of the Kowaliga Basin, guided the efforts of Russell Lands, Inc. to make over 100 acres of shoreline property available for construction of the Lake Martin Amphitheater (LMAT).

Spring, 1999

Development of The Ridge subdivision.

June 18, 1999

Kowaliga Restaurant burned.

February, 2000

The 2100 Time Capsule was interred at Time Capsule Park, Children’s Harbor – as name implies it will be opened in the year 2100.

August, 2000

Kowaliga Restaurant re-opened as Sinclair’s Kowaliga Restaurant.

October 31, 2000

Russell Lands sold Area Concrete, Inc. to Sherman International.

February, 2001

The Ridge – Phase 1

Spring 2001

Russell Lands completed the Ridge Marina and River North Marina.

May, 2001

Open House for new Children’s Harbor Family Center building in Birmingham.

Oct – Nov, 2001

The Ridge Island Bridge completed.


Russell Lands began construction of a bark processing plant to produce and market a supply of landscaping materials – Pineywoods Mulch Company – Jerry Scott, Manager.

October 14, 2002

Closed Willow Point Golf Course for renovation.  Also, began clubhouse expansion (cart barn and Stone Grille).

January 1, 2003

Tom Lamberth became President and COO of Russell Lands and David Sturdivant became Chief Financial Officer.

March, 2003

The Ridge – Phase II

May, 2003

Dave Commander joined Russell Lands as Vice President Marketing.

May, 2003

Steve Forehand joined Russell Lands as Vice President and General Counsel.

October 13, 2003

First tournament on new golf course – Russell Lands Boy Scout Pro Am – Lee Williams opened tournament

October 14, 2003

Willow Point Golf Course re-opened exactly one year after the course closed for renovation.

October 21, 2003

Stone Grille opened at Willow Point Golf and Country Club


Began Elkahatchee “grist mill” project.  Ben Russell rebuilt old water powered mill as a turn of century iron works.

August, 2004

Glynmere at Willow Point – First offering November, 2004

September, 2004

Children’s Harbor Tree house project – wheelchair accessible.


New LMAT stage – Entire stage facility electrically moveable to maximize a panoramic view of Lake Martin.  Completed June, 2004 – First event with new stage Jazz Fest


Ben Russell self-published the novel “The Author: Nuclear Proliferation and The Terrorist

July, 2005

Purchased new Russell Do-it Center – Roanoke – Grand opening March 2, 2006

August 5, 2005

Purchased sand, clay and gravel pit at Kent – Russell Materials-Sand, Clay, Gravel Pit


Baywood at River Oaks – offering 2006


Began moving dirt Hwy. 280 commercial development project


Began Nicholson Road cabin project – building cabins of Bobby McAlpine design

January, 2006

The Ridge Phase III – began development

September, 2006

The Ridge Clubhouse and The Ridge Marina expansion


Water tank on Windermere Road


Willow Point Phase 14 – Willow Glynn


Children’s Harbor Harbor Lodge project – Russell Lands donated 17 acres


Russell Lands trail system


Ben Russell installed a fiber optic line from Auburn to Alexander City

January, 2007

Willow Point – new pool and fitness center

January, 2007

Purchased Spencer Lumber – Dadeville and Auburn

September 15, 2007

Ridge Club grand opening/ribbon cutting

October, 2007

Completed new golf maintenance shop for Cole McInnis. Project started in 2006.


Russell Lands employs a total staff of 342 people.


Began construction Russell Crossroads

February, 2008

Expand LMRA

March 8, 2008

Discovery Center dedication at Russell Crossroads

December 9, 2008

Soft opening Catherine’s Market at Russell Crossroads

December 16, 2008

Catherine’s Market opened today at Russell Crossroads

March 25, 2009

SpringHouse Restaurant opened at Russell Crossroads

April 1, 2009

Introduced new logo:  Russell Lands “RL” on Lake Martin

July 25, 2009

Aquapalooza Signature Event with Alan Jackson held at Kowaliga Bay on Lake Martin – more the 4,000 boats and 35,000 people attended performance

September 25, 2009

Bids open for Highway 63 project

December, 2009

First contractors on site for Highway 63 project – Russell Crossroads

February 27, 2010

First Russell Lands 10K Forest Run at Crossroads

May 1, 2010

Grand opening of the Stables at Crossroads – hosting a Kentucky Derby party

May, 2010

Russell Forest Preservation Organization – trail system


Russell Lands employs a total staff of 450 people

January, 2011

The Lodge at Cocktail Slough opened (formerly Liberty Lodge)

April 27, 2011

Tornado hits Lake Martin (Several Russell Lands cabins were lost, two lives were lost, several homes in Windermere were lost, Children’s Harbor damaged.)


Nichols Cove subdivision

May, 2012

ECAR road trip (wood powered truck) – Key West, Florida to Alexander City, Alabama to Canada.  Wood gasification gases – no gasoline.

May, 2012

The Cabins at The Ridge subdivision

Summer, 2012


December, 2012

24” water main to Windermere Road completed


Construction on Highway 63 tunnel completed – carriage trail


Ridge Cabin Colony


Rose Point Development

February 26, 2013

Tom Lamberth named President and Chief Executive Officer of Russell Lands.  Ben Russell remains Chairman.  David Sturdivant is Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer.

April, 2013

Reopened Kowaliga Restaurant  (formerly Sinclair’s)

November, 2013

Windmill erected at Russell Crossroads


Rose Point







Russell Lands History


A Greatly Expanded Version

4, 2020

Russell Lands History


A Greatly Expanded Version

4, 2020

Russell Lands History


A Greatly Expanded Version

4, 2020