Massachusetts born and bred, Richard C. Russell moved west in the mid 1850s due to ill health. Settling in Oshkosh, he began his financial career as the owner of a grain warehouse and was successful in shipping grain to New York via the Great Lakes and the canal system. In the late 1860's he entered banking and organized the Union National Bank in Oshkosh where he was general manager and cashier for 18 years. In 1887, he entered business with Charles R. Smith, George Whiting and Andrew Webster to form the First National Bank of Menasha. Russell was elected its president and served from 1887 to 1890.
While not a Menashan by birth or residency, Richard C. Russell nevertheless made his imprint upon the community and was recognized as a "far-seeing financier of the state of Wisconsin."