The Russell House
The Russell House is a National Historic Mansion located in the heart of Springfield, Tn.
Julia Simmons Russell (1898-1971) was the daughter of Col. William Henry Simmons (1860-1941), a prominent and successful merchant. During the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century the area around Robertson County was one of the leading producers of whiskey and dark-fired tobacco in the country, and the Simmons were one of the leading tobacco merchants in the area. He primarily purchased local tobacco and exported it internationally. Simmons also was one of the largest land owners in the region. During his career Col. Simmons operated several tobacco houses in the area including plants in Springfield, Clarksville, Adams, Gallatin, and Greenbrier Tennessee, and Hopkinsville, Ky
In 1917 Julia married Jefferson McCrea French (1885-1981) and gave birth to a son, Jefferson McCrea French, Jr. (1917-2001), that same year. The marriage proved to be short-lived as French left her in 1923 and Julia returned to her parents home with her son. A year later, while traveling to England with her sister, Mary, Julia met Canadian businessman Charles Wilfred (Wilf) Russell (1891-1964). The two were married on September 10, 1925.
During World War II Wilf served as an instructor for the Royal Air Force. Following the war Wilf along with his good friend, William Stephenson, ran a hardware business in Winnipeg, Canada. Ultimately the business was not successful. After his marriage, Wilf came to Springfield where he became involved in his father-in-laws tobacco business. He went on to operate the Farmer's Loose Leaf Floor, which later became Russell-French Tobacco Company.
In April 1933, Julia Simmons Russsell purchased 71.2 acres from E. S. Moore. Tax records for the property from 1934-1935 include a hand-written citation that reads "new house." These same records also show that the value of the property increased from $3,400 to $25,000 between 1935 and 1936. Based on these records it is believed the house was built in the period between 1934 and 1936.
At the time of the construction the Russell House was located outside the city boundry of Springfield. It was built along the road that connected Springfield to Greenbrier where the Russell's farther-in-law operated a tobacco house. This area was not densly populated and was characterized by agricultural land. It is thought the Russell's had fields for growing tobacco near the house.
That trip to England proved fortuitous for Mary (Julia's sister) as well. She met Wilf Russell's best friend, William Samual Stephenson (1897-1989) and they married in England. Stephenson had a very distinguished career which included developing one of the first patents for a television set, in fact a picture of Mary Simmons is believed to be one of the first broadcast using this technology. He also formed the BBC, British Pressed Steel Company, Shepperton Studios, and many other companies. He is perhaps best known for his activities in military intelligence. During WW II he was involved in British and American covert activities. He is credited with organizing the Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA. According to some sources he served as inspiration for the character of James Bond. Stephenson was a close advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Churchill. Stephenson also received the Medal of Merit from President Harry S. Truman in 1946, at the time the highest US civilian award. In 1945 Stephenson was knighted by King George VF.
The Russell House was purchased in December of 2011 by Greg and Stephanie Lee who fell in love with the house and it's history and are working hard to bring it back to its former glory.
Special thanks to all of the local residents for your stories, words of encouragement, and all of your well wishes during our restoration of this Historic Mansion.
The Russell House was added to the National Historic Registry in December of 2011.