Russell A. Alger family papers  1842-1975 (bulk 1863-1865, 1888-1945)
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Biography

Russell Alexander Alger

John Alger (ca. 1776-1818) was a descendent of a Connecticut-based branch of the Alger family. He settled in Bethany, New York, sometime after the Revolutionary War. John married Sarah Baker in 1798; they had at least six children, including Russell (b. 1809) and David (b. 1816). The family migrated west, eventually settling in Richfield, Ohio.

After the Alger family moved to Ohio, Russell met Catherine Moulton, daughter of a prominent Massachusetts family, and the couple married in July 1832. Their children were Charles, Sybil, and Russell Alexander (1836-1907). Russell Alexander Alger was born in Lafayette Township, Ohio, on February 27, 1836. Orphaned when he was 11 years old, Russell Alexander went to work on a farm in Richfield, Ohio. He received his education at the Richfield Academy. In 1857, he obtained a position in the law firm of Wolcott & Upsord in Akron, Ohio, and received formal admittance to the bar in March 1859. Later that year, he left the legal profession for a career in the lumber industry in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Russell A. Alger married Annette H. Henry of Grand Rapids on April 2, 1861. He enlisted in the 2nd Michigan Cavalry the same year, and received a captain's commission on September 2. He became major on April 2, 1862, lieutenant colonel of the 6th Michigan Cavalry on October 16, 1862, and colonel of the 5th Michigan Cavalry on February 7, 1863. Alger's Civil War service included his capture at the Battle of Booneville, Mississippi (and subsequent escape), and participation in the Battle of Gettysburg. Although he resigned his commission on September 20, 1864, he became brevet brigadier general of the United States Volunteers on June 11, 1864, with a promotion to major general a year later.

After the war, Alger returned to Detroit and continued his steady ascent in the lumber industry, founded a succession of firms, and became particularly noteworthy in pine lumber business. Success in the private sector led to a Republican Party nomination for the governorship of Michigan, an office he held from 1885-1887 (he declined to run for a second term). Alger remained a locally and nationally prominent figure in the Republican Party throughout the late 19th century, and contended for U.S. Presidential nominations in 1888 and 1892. He became secretary of war in William McKinley's cabinet in 1897 and served throughout the Spanish-American War, resigning on August 1, 1899. Alger received public blame for the poor hygienic conditions endured by American soldiers in both Cuba and the United States during the war, which led to outbreaks of yellow fever and other diseases.

Alger returned to Detroit and succeeded United States Senator James McMillan, serving from September 27, 1902, until his death on January 24, 1907. Russell Alexander Alger had nine children, including five who survived to adulthood: Caroline (m. Henry Sheldon), Fay (m. William Elder Bailey), Frances (m. Charles Burrall Pike), Russell Alexander, Jr. (m. Marion Jarves), and Frederick Moulton.

Alger Family

Russell Alexander Alger's uncle, David Baker Alger, married Margaret Richardson in the early 19th century, and by the mid-1800s the couple had settled in Richfield, Ohio. They had four children, including: Albert W. (b. 1849) and Richard Edwin ("R. E." or "Eddy") Alger (1854-1943). Albert resided in Colony, Kansas, in the early 20th century, and Richard remained in Richfield for most or all of his life. Richard married Esther D. Reynolds, a strongly spiritual woman, on October 4, 1888. The couple's children included Emma, Mary, Esther Marion, Margaret (b. 1890), and David Bruce (b. December 8, 1891).

David Bruce Alger attended Oberlin College in the early 1910s. He graduated and had moved to Cleveland, Ohio, by 1916. He married Clare Fleeman on October 13, 1916. David Alger worked in the banking industry for much of his life and kept a series of short daily diaries from 1910 until 1973, which documented his time in Ohio, Texas, Missouri, and Florida. Clare, an aspiring poet and writer, contributed to a variety of religious and literary publications throughout her life and was a member of the St. Louis Writers' Guild in the 1940s.

David Bruce and Clare Fleeman Alger's son, Bruce Reynolds Alger, was born in Dallas, Texas, on June 12, 1918. The family moved to Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Bruce Alger shared his father's love for football, played for his high school football team, and, later, on Princeton University's squad. Following his graduation from Princeton (1940) and a brief stint as a field representative for the RCA Victor Manufacturing Company, Bruce enlisted in the Army Air Corps after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was stationed with the Fifth Squadron at the Army Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kerry Field, Texas, and he spent much of the war in training throughout the United States. Bruce did see action in the Pacific theater in 1945, and spent time in Japan soon after the Japanese surrender. Bruce received his discharge in November 1945, settled in Dallas, and pursued a career in real estate. He later represented Texas' 5th District in the United States House of Representatives (1955-1965). He returned to his real estate business in Dallas after a failed reelection bid.