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Henry Stuart Russell (1818–1889)

by C. G. Austin and Clem Lack

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Henry Stuart Russell (1818-1889), pastoralist, explorer and historian, was born on 16 March 1818 at Halliford, Middlesex, England, the son of an East India Co. officer, whose twelve years of service brought him wealth and social position. After education at Harrow and Oxford, Russell travelled extensively in France and Italy. At 22 he migrated to Australia. On arrival in Sydney he was welcomed by Arthur and Pemberton Hodgson, his second cousins and associates at Harrow, and stayed for some time with Arthur Hodgson on his New England station. In September 1840 Hodgson and Gilbert Elliott established Eton Vale on the Darling Downs where Russell became their guest. Next year with his brother Sydenham he took up Cecil Plains on the Darling Downs and occupied it until 1849.

In May 1842 Russell joined a party which sailed in a whale-boat up the coast from Brisbane on an exploring expedition to Wide Bay in search of sheep country. The party, which included Andrew Petrie and Captain Joliffe, were the first Europeans to reach a stream later named the Mary River, on which the city of Maryborough now stands. They also found and brought back to Brisbane with them two runaway convicts from the penal settlement, David Bracewell and James Davis, 'wild white men' who had been living with the Aboriginal people of Wide Bay for a number of years. In November Russell with his brother Sydenham and William Glover, son of a Norfolk archdeacon, made another expedition to the Wide Bay country. Travelling overland he named the Boyne River, which was later proved to be the head of the Burnett. This expedition resulted in Russell taking up Burrandowan station, Davis having told him of fine pastures in the locality. On this journey Russell met John Carne Bidwill, the botanist, and assisted him in finding several specimens of the Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii), three of which Bidwill sent to the London Botanical Society. In 1844 the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt visited Cecil Plains.

Russell sold Burrandowan in 1847 to Philip Friell. Although Cecil Plains continued to be occupied by James Taylor as his partner, Russell's pastoral career ended in 1849. He visited England in 1850 and returned next year to settle in Brisbane. In 1853 he was elected to the Legislative Council of New South Wales. He resigned in 1855 and again travelled to England, where he actively supported the agitation to separate the Moreton Bay District from New South Wales. He never saw Queensland again. In 1859, when his interest in Cecil Plains was sold to Taylor, he returned to Sydney and lived elegantly for seven years at Mosman Bay. He then suffered financial reverses and in 1888 sailed again for England. He died at Ottery St Mary, Devon, on 5 March 1889.

Russell was married in 1851 to Charlotte, sister of Philip Pinnock, senior police magistrate and sheriff of Queensland. His second wife Selina, née Oakes, whom he married in 1874, survived him with five sons of the first marriage, and a daughter of the second. Two of his sons, John R. Stuart Russell and W. G. Stuart Russell, travelled to the Gulf country in 1878 and took up country which they later abandoned. W. G. Stuart Russell owned Yelvertoft station for many years. Russell is best remembered for his The Genesis of Queensland published in 1888; although inaccurate in some details it is a valuable record in lively and picturesque language of the early settlement and the growth of the pastoral industry.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Murphy and E. W. Easton, Wilderness to Wealth (Nanango, 1950)
  • F. W. S. Cumbrae-Stewart, ‘Some Queensland Memoir Writers’, Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, 2 (1920-35)
  • Henry Russell papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

C. G. Austin and Clem Lack, 'Russell, Henry Stuart (1818–1889)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 March, 1818
London, Middlesex, England


5 March, 1889 (aged 70)
Ottery St Mary, Devon, England

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