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Colonel William Russell III (March 6, 1758 – July 3, 1825) was a soldier, pioneer, and politician from Virginia and Kentucky.

He was born in Culpeper County, Virginia to William Russell and Tabitha (Adams) Russell. William Sr. was a prominent citizen of southwestern Virginia and served as a colonel in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. In 1773, the elder Russell took his family, including William Jr., westward in the first attempt to establish a permanent white settlement in Kentucky. The attempt, guided by Daniel Boone, was abandoned after a fatal attack by American Indians. Boone's son, James Boone, and Henry Russell, a son of William Russell, were captured and tortured to death by the Native Americans.

During the American Revolution, William Russell, Jr., was a captain in the Virginia militia, taking part in the Battle of Kings Mountain as an aide to Colonel William Campbell. At the war's end, he moved to Kentucky, settling in 1783 in Fayette County on land granted to his father for military service.

Russell served again as a colonel of Kentucky militia in the Northwest Indian War. During the War of 1812, he was colonel of the 7th Infantry Regiment, taking part in the Siege of Fort Harrison and the Peoria War. Colonel Russell led an expedition in July 1813 with 700 mounted soldiers and traveled 500 miles through the Indiana territory destroying hostile Indian villages. He had located an Indian stockade fort in Miami County Indiana and he burned it to the ground. This expedition lasted for about one month. Not one soldier was lost in the campaign.[1] Russell was a delegate in the Virginia state House of Representatives in 1790 and 1791, and after Kentucky's statehood, he served in the lower house in 1792, from 1796 to1800, in 1802, and finally 1823.

Russell County, Kentucky is named for him, but Russellville, Kentucky and Russell County, Virginia were named for his father.[2][3]


  1. William Henry Harrison Papers: Series 1, General Correspondence, 1734-1939; 1734-1813, Aug.
  2. Robert M. Rennick, Kentucky Place Names (University Press of Kentucky, 1988), p. 259.
  3. The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 1. Kentucky State Historical Society. 1903. pp. 36. 

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