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Russell, Kansas
Main Street in downtown Russell (2009)
Main Street in downtown Russell (2009)
Location within Russell County and Kansas
Location within Russell County and Kansas
KDOT map of Russell County (legend)
Country United States
State Kansas
County Russell
Founded 1871
Incorporated 1872
Named for Russell County
 • Total 4.82 sq mi (12.47 km2)
 • Land 4.82 sq mi (12.47 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
1,828 ft (557 m)
 • Total 4,401
 • Density 913.1/sq mi (352.93/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code 785
FIPS code 20-61825
GNIS ID 475222

Russell is the most populous city in and the county seat of Russell County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2020 census, the population of the city was 4,401.


Stouffer's Railroad Map of Kansas 1915-1918 Russell County
1915 Railroad Map of Russell County

In 1865, the Butterfield Overland Despatch established a short-lived station named Fossil Creek Station along its route from Atchison, Kansas to Denver near the site of modern Russell. In 1867, the Kansas Pacific Railway reached the area and built its own station, also named Fossil Creek, later just Fossil, north of the Butterfield station. That same year, the Kansas Legislature established the surrounding area as Russell County. In 1871, colonists from Ripon, Wisconsin established a permanent settlement at Fossil Station, renaming it Russell after the county. Russell was incorporated and named the provisional county seat in 1872, and, after a two-year dispute with neighboring Bunker Hill, it became the permanent county seat in 1874. In 1876, Volga Germans, mostly from the area around Saratov and Samara in Russia, began settling in and around Russell.

The first discovery oil well in Russell County was drilled west of Russell in 1923. An oil boom ensued and lasted through the 1930s, attracting settlers from Oklahoma and Texas. Petroleum production became a staple of the local economy.

Russell came to national attention in the mid-1990s as the hometown of U.S. Senators Bob Dole and Arlen Specter when both men campaigned for the U.S. presidency. Dole was born and raised in Russell, and it remained his official place of residence throughout his political career.


Russell is located at 38°53′23″N 98°51′26″W / 38.88972°N 98.85722°W / 38.88972; -98.85722 (38.889807, -98.857113) at an elevation of 1,827 feet (557 m). Located in north-central Kansas at the intersection of Interstate 70 and U.S. Route 281, Russell is approximately 113 miles (182 km) northwest of Wichita, 231 miles (372 km) west of Kansas City, and 336 miles (541 km) east-southeast of Denver.

The city lies in the Smoky Hills region of the Great Plains approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) south of the Saline River and 8 miles (13 km) north of the Smoky Hill River. Fossil Creek, a tributary of the Smoky Hill River, passes immediately south of the city where it has been dammed to form a small reservoir, Fossil Lake.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.87 square miles (12.61 km2), all of it land.


Lying in the transition zone between North America's humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) and humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa), Russell experiences hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. On average, January is the coldest month, and July is both the hottest month and the wettest month.

The average temperature in Russell is 55 °F (12.5 °C). Over the course of a year, temperatures range from an average low of 18 °F (−8 °C) in January to an average high of 92 °F (33 °C) in July. The high temperature reaches or exceeds 90 °F (32 °C) an average of 59 days a year and reaches or exceeds 100 °F (38 °C) an average of 11 days a year. The minimum temperature falls below the freezing point 32 °F (0 °C) an average of 126 days a year. The hottest temperature recorded in Russell was 114 °F (46 °C) in 1980; the coldest temperature recorded was -24 °F (-31 °C) in 1989.

The city is located near the eastern edge of western Kansas's semi-arid steppe climate (Köppen BSk), and precipitation is sometimes scarce. The city receives 26 inches (660 mm) of precipitation during an average year with the largest share being received from May through August. The average relative humidity is 64%. There are, on average, 86 days of measurable precipitation each year. Annual snowfall averages 20 inches (51 cm). Measurable snowfall occurs an average of 12 days a year with at least an inch of snow being received on seven of those days. Snow depth of at least an inch occurs an average of 26 days a year. Typically, the first fall freeze occurs by the second week of October, and the last spring freeze occurs by the last week of April.

Climate data for Russell, Kansas
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 84
Average high °F (°C) 42
Daily mean °F (°C) 30
Average low °F (°C) 18
Record low °F (°C) −20
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.54
Average snowfall inches (cm) 5.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 4.4 5.3 7.1 8.7 11.1 9.5 8.7 8.3 6.9 7.1 4.8 4.5 86.4
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 3.3 2.3 1.8 0.5 0 0 0 0 0.1 0.1 1.2 2.3 11.6
Source: The Weather Channel; National Weather Service


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 861
1890 961 11.6%
1900 1,143 18.9%
1910 1,692 48.0%
1920 1,700 0.5%
1930 2,352 38.4%
1940 4,819 104.9%
1950 6,483 34.5%
1960 6,113 −5.7%
1970 5,371 −12.1%
1980 5,427 1.0%
1990 4,781 −11.9%
2000 4,696 −1.8%
2010 4,506 −4.0%
2020 4,401 −2.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 4,506 people, 2,041 households, and 1,216 families residing in the city. The population density was 919.6 people per square mile (355.1/km2). There were 2,393 housing units at an average density of 488.4 per square mile (188.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.6% White, 1.0% African American, 0.6% American Indian, 0.5% Asian, 0.6% from some other race, and 1.6% from two or more races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race were 2.1% of the population.

There were 2,041 households, of which 26.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.6% were married couples living together, 4.7% had a male householder with no wife present, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.4% were non-families. 36.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16, and the average family size was 2.79.

The median age in the city was 44.6 years. 22.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 21.2% were from 25 to 44; 27.3% were from 45 to 64; and 22.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.0% male and 51.0% female.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,347, and the median income for a family was $43,834. Males had a median income of $31,727 versus $19,583 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,330. About 17.2% of families and 21.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 38.7% of those under age 18 and 14.1% of those age 65 or over.

Parks and recreation

The city government's Park Department maintains seven parks in the city. The largest is Memorial Park, located on the north side of the U.S. 40 business route in the far eastern part of the city. It includes baseball fields, tennis courts, a skateboard park, a play park, a frisbee golf course, and Russell Municipal Golf Course. The municipal course is a 9-hole, regulation length course that opened in 1952. In addition, the city government operates a municipal swimming pool next to Memorial Park.


Fossil Station Museum
The Fossil Station Museum (2011)

Arts and music

Located downtown, the Deines Cultural Center is a non-profit art gallery that hosts exhibits featuring the work of local and regional artists. Its permanent collections consist of paintings by Birger Sandzén and the wood engravings of local artist E. Hubert Deines. In addition, the Center also hosts concerts, recitals, lectures, readings, and workshops. The Center opened in 1990 with the Deines family's donation of its building, the Deines engravings, and a cash endowment to the city of Russell.


The city hosts the annual Russell County Free Fair during the last week of July. Sponsored by local businesses and organizations, the Fair includes a 4-H livestock sale, carnival, live music, and other entertainment. Other annual events include a Saint Patrick's Day parade, the Independence Day Freedom Fireworks Celebration, Chilifest in September, a Veterans Day parade, and Weihnachtfest, a Christmas festival held the first Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Every ten years since 1941, Russell has held Prairiesta, a festival commemorating the city's foundation and celebrating its heritage. Held in June, the festival includes a parade, carnival rides, live music, arts and crafts exhibits, and a historical pageant.

Points of interest

The Fossil Station Museum, also located in downtown Russell, displays artifacts from Russell County history dating back to the mid-1800s. Home to the Russell County Historical Society, the museum is housed in the former sheriff’s office and county jail, a fortress-like structure constructed of native “post rock” limestone in 1907.

The Russell County Historical Society has restored and maintains two examples of early limestone homes built in Russell, the Gernon House and the Heym-Oliver House. The Gernon House was built in 1872 by blacksmith Nicholas Gernon, one of the town’s original settlers, and doubled as a smithery. The Heym-Oliver House was built by settler Nicholas Heym in 1878.

The Oil Patch Museum, located just north of I-70 Exit 184, houses exhibits on area geology and the history of local petroleum drilling, production, and transportation.


Russell oil derrick
Petroleum drilling is a major component of the local economy.

The economy of Russell is based primarily on agriculture with wheat gluten and ethanol manufacturing facilities located in the local industrial park. Russell County is also one of the leading petroleum producing counties in Kansas.

As of 2012, 65.2% of the population over the age of 16 was in the labor force. 0.4% was in the armed forces, and 64.8% was in the civilian labor force with 61.6% being employed and 3.3% unemployed. The composition, by occupation, of the employed civilian labor force was: 33.9% in sales and office occupations; 24.4% in management, business, science, and arts; 17.5% in service occupations; 12.3% in natural resources, construction, and maintenance; and 11.9% in production, transportation, and material moving. The three industries employing the largest percentages of the working civilian labor force were: educational services, health care, and social assistance (28.3%); retail trade (20.0%); and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining (12.8%).

The cost of living in Russell is relatively low; compared to a U.S. average of 100, the cost of living index for the city is 77.2. As of 2012, the median home value in the city was $63,200, the median selected monthly owner cost was $935 for housing units with a mortgage and $412 for those without, and the median gross rent was $657.


Russell High School
Russell High School (2011)

The community is served by Russell County USD 407 public school district, and operates four public schools in the city:

  • Russell High School (9-12)
  • Ruppenthal Middle School (6-8)
  • Bickerdyke Elementary School (2-5)
  • Simpson Elementary School (K-1)


The Russell Public Library, located downtown on West Wisconsin (6th) Street, is the city's main library. A member of the Central Kansas Library System, it has a collection of more than 32,000 volumes. The library opened in 1901 and expanded into a Carnegie library in 1907, finally moving to its current facility in 1962.



Interstate 70 and U.S. Route 40 run concurrently east–west immediately south of Russell, intersecting U.S. Route 281, which runs north–south through the town, at Exit 184. U.S. Route 40 Business follows U.S. 281 north 1.5 miles to its intersection with the old alignment of U.S. 40, which runs east–west through Russell. The business route then follows the old alignment east, ending at its intersection with I-70 at exit 189.

Russell Municipal Airport is located southeast of the city on the U.S. 40 business route. Publicly owned, it has two runways, one concrete and one turf, and is used for general aviation.

Union Pacific Railroad operates one freight rail line, the Kansas Pacific (KP) Line, through Russell. It runs east–west through the city.


Electricity production and distribution, recycling and trash removal, waste water management, and water production and distribution are all provided by separate departments of the city government. Eagle Communication and Rural Telephone provide landline telephone service; Eagle Communication and Nex-Tech offer cable television and internet access. Most residents use natural gas for heating fuel; service is provided by Kansas Gas Service.

Notable people

Notable individuals who were born in and/or have lived in Russell include:

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Russell (Kansas) para niños

Black History Month on Kiddle
Renowned African-American Artists:
Selma Burke
Pauline Powell Burns
Frederick J. Brown
Robert Blackburn
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