John Hooe Russel was a successful 19th Century business man and banker who married into the Phelps family not once but twice. The John Hooe Russel Papers consist of the surviving financial materials from Russel's mercantile venture with I. Erkskine Miller of Stauton, VA, and his involvement with the Huntington National Bank. The papers also include a large volume of correspondence from his personal life and other business ventures. After a three year stint in business with Miller waned, Russel moved back to Huntsville where he continued to run a grocery. In 1873 he migrated to Huntington, WV to continue his trade by opening the first Huntington grocery store. In 1875 Russel, Col. Peter Buffington and a few other investors opened the Huntington National Bank, which acted as the town's sole bank for some time. Russel also became heavily involved in real estate in the Huntington region. He eventually became the acting President of the Huntington National Bank, a position that he held until his death on 6 Jan 1903.
The John Hooe Russel Papers contain a variety of materials from his professional and home life. They also contain private correspondence from his first marriage to Nettie Phelps of Madison County Kentucky, and his second marriage to Minerva Phelps of the same. Nettie and Minerva were cousins by birth; their respective fathers being brothers. After the premature death of Nettie in November 1896 and their only son a few months later, Russel continued to maintain a close relationship with his in-laws. The connection to his widow's family (Samuel Phelps) culminated in a second marriage to a Phelps descendant, Minerva (daughter of Thomas Phelps), on 8 May 1901. They remained in Huntington until Russel's death, which left behind a distraught widow and son, Albert Lacy Russel. The Correspondence Series also contains extensive materials from Russel family members and other friends and acquaintances. Even though the collection seems incomplete, it does provide excellent context for the professional lifestyle and interests of a prominent late 19th Century Southern capitalist, banker and business man.