When railroads first built across Kansas in the 1860s, Plains Indians inhabited much of the central and western part of the state. They did not welcome the incursion, sensing a danger to the buffalo herds that provided them with food, shelter, and clothing. In an attempt to defend their lands, Cheyennes, Arapahos, and other tribes frequently attacked railroad workers and tore up tracks.
Two miles west of this marker in May 1869, a mounted party of Indians dashed out of a deep ravine and attacked a railroad crew of seven. The railroad workers raced to their handcar and pumped desperately for home, firing their rifles as they went. Although no Indians are known to have died, two of the railroad workers were killed and four were wounded. A monument to the two who died stands in the Russell cemetery just east of here.
When the railroad reached here in 1867, a construction camp and watering station named Fossil Station was established. The name was changed to Russell in 1871 when a Wisconsin colony established the town.