Sarah was born May 17, 1845 in Lowell, Massachusetts to James and Ellen (Nolan) Gallagher. Her father, James, was a native of northern Ireland and had immigrated to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada to work as a school teacher. When the canals were being built in Lowell James went there to work as a paymaster. He married Ellen Nolan, of Boston, about 1841.
Sarah had two sisters: Catherine, born 1842 and died Oct. 22, 1847; Ellen born Aug. 27, 1847 who married Joseph Chalifoux.
When Sarah's sister Ellen was born their father's occupation was listed as "Innkeeper". When gold was discovered in California, family lore says, that James went to Marysville where he helped plot the town and eventually opened a hotel. The census records of Lowell show that Sara's mother worked as a dressmaker for all of her 56 years there.
Sarah's obituary says that she was educated at the Boston Conservatory of Music and instructed by Dr. Wilcox, organist of the Immaculate Conception Church of Boston.
On the day that Mercer's group of ladies were welcomed to Washington Territory by the citizens of Seattle (May 17, 1864) Sarah was celebrating her 19th birthday.
In April of 1865 Sarah married a widower, Thomas S. Russell, a carpenter and cabinet maker, who had a young daughter, Lulu, age 1 year.
Sarah & Thomas had 6 additional children; Thomas Samuel born Aug. 1867 William born January 1869 John born 1870 George born 1873 Mary born 1876
Durning the first years that Sarah was in Seattle she taught music at the Washington Terrirotial University.
In January of 1865 when Seattle was incorporated, Sarah's husband was appointed as town marshall until the first city election was held. Thomas was also a partner in the first undertaking business in Seattle.
After Thomas Russell died in 1882 Sarah continued to support her family by teaching music. In 1887 she had the "Russell House" built. It was the only hotel to survive to ravages of the great Seattle fire of 1889. The land that the hotel was built on had been given to Sarah as payment for piano lessons given to the children of Charles Terry, her brother-in-law and one of Seattle's earlist prominent citizens. After the fire in 1889 grim-faced men rested at Sarah's hotel as they planned to restore their own buildings. It is said that Sarah comforted them and softly sang hymns as she tended to their injuries. She leased the hotel shortly before her death.
Photo from the University of Washington, Special Collections, UW10591
Later photo of Hotel, also from University of Washington, Curtis292
Sarah's mother, Ellen Gallagher, died in Lowell, Massachusetts in September of 1897. She left Sarah an inheirtance of $5,000. Unfortunatly Sarah died December 29, 1897, before her mothers probate could be settled. The inheirtance then went Sarah's estate and her children received it.
Sarah is buried next to her husband at the Lake View cemetery in Seattle.