Edward C. Russell, for whom the football practice field was named in 1976, was a principal architect of the success of the early 20th century squads. Russell was a native of Blossburg and the son of Edward L. and Eugenia Miller Russell.
Russell, at 180 pounds, was “the principal player” during his years on campus according to Karl Van Norman, long time coach and manager for the team. Led by the fullback, Russell, the 1911 team amassed a record of 6-2, including a 73-0 rout of Sayre Tech and a 51-0 shutout of Haverling. That team outscored the opposition 171-22. Russell graduated from Mansfield State Normal School in 1912 and went on to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
At Penn, Russell was a standout lineman for the 1912, 1913, and 1914 teams. During those years, Russell played against the legendary Jim Thorpe of the Carlisle Indians. Russell was named an All-American in 1915, becoming the only person at the time from the Mansfield Area to receive that honor for football.
Russell went on to play professional football as a teammate of Thorpe’s with the Canton (Ohio) Bulldogs. The Bulldogs captured the professional championship in 1916.
There is also evidence that Russell served during World War I, though there are few records of his service.
Russell later returned to Tioga County and coached football at Mansfield in the 1920s and 1930s. His seasons in 1928 and 1929 are considered to be among the best in the history of the program and Russell’s personal glory years. In 1928, the team posted a record of 5-1-1, including shutouts of Susquehanna (40-0) and Ithaca (53-0). The 1929 edition was heralded as his “best team” and posted a record of 5-2. His overall record was 24-22-5.
Aside from sports, Russell made his living selling tombstones and was president of the Mansfield Cemetary Association for a time. Excerpts from the diary of Eugene Crippen of Rutland Township posted on Tri-Counties Genealogy and History by Joyce M. Tice describe how Russell offered Crippen a job as caretaker of the cemetery Feb. 23, 1935. Crippen points out that the offer was particularly enticing considering that his family was suffering through the Great Depression and the extra money was welcome. The dairy entries are posted at http://www.joycetice.com/diaries/1935ec.htm
Russell’s biggest contribution to the community was his service on the Mansfield Borough Council. He was first elected to council while still coaching football in 1926. In 1942, he gave up the position of council president and was elected burgess, a position now called “mayor.”
A Wellsboro Gazette article from January, 1954 announced his retirement and decision not to seek reelection the previous year. He was succeeded by Joseph Garside. That article noted that, during Russell’s tenure, the borough’s streets were paved, modern equipment was purchased for the fire company, the police department was improved, and a tax levy to support the local library was approved. Except for a steep section of Fourth Street and some private drives, all of the roads in Mansfield are currently paved. During Russell’s final year on council, the total budget of the borough amounted to about $34,000.
One interesting connection is that Russell’s efforts to pass the library levy directly benefited Karl Van Norman (Van Norman Field), who served as librarian until his death in 1956. Van Norman also served as graduate manager of the Mansfield football team for many years, including the time when Russell played.
Another interesting connection posted on Tri-Counties Genealogy and History by Joyce M. Tice is a photo of Dana Decker’s wagon, which was responsible for putting water on the streets in an effort to alleviate the dust from the dirt streets. Decker and Russell served on council together for many years.
Russell was also a member of the St. James Episcopal Church in Mansfield and was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons’ Friendship Lodge 247 in Mansfield.
He passed away Nov. 11, 1956 and was survived by his wife, Eleanor. Their three children, Edward Jr., Margaret, and Barbara are all graduates of Mansfield State College.
The Edward C. Russell football field was officially dedicated during Alumni Weekend in June, 1976.
Click here to listen to a recording of Glenn Miller announcing the 1942 Homecoming Queen
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