Russell A. Alger, noted as a soldier, governor and secretary of war, was born in Medina county, Ohio, February 27, 1836, and was the son of Russell and Caroline (Moulton) Alger. At the age of twelve years he was left an orphan and penniless. For about a year he worked for his board and clothing, and attended school part of the time. In 1850 he found a place which paid small wages, and out of his scanty earnings helped his brother and sister. While there working on a farm he found time to attend the Richfield Academy, and by hard work between times managed to get a fair education for that time. The last two years of his attendance at this institution of learning he taught school during the winter months. In 1857 he commenced the study of law, and was admitted to the bar in 1859. For a while he found employment in Cleveland, Ohio, but impaired health induced him to remove to Grand Rapids, where he engaged in the lumber business. He was thus engaged when the Civil war broke out, and, his business suffering and his savings swept away, he enlisted as a private in the Second Michigan Cavalry. He was promoted to be captain the following month, and major for gallant conduct at Boonesville, Mississippi, July 1, 1862. October 16, 1862, he was made lieutenant-colonel of the Sixth Michigan Cavalry, and in February, 1863, colonel of the Fifth Michigan Cavalry. He rendered excellent service in the Gettysburg campaign. He was wounded at Boonesboro, Maryland, and on returning to his command took part with Sherman in the campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. For services rendered, that famous soldier recommended him for promotion, and he was brevetted major-general of volunteers. In 1866 General Alger took up his residence at Detroit, and prospered exceedingly in his business, which was that of lumbering, and grew quite wealthy. In 1884 he was a delegate to the Republican national convention, and the same year was elected governor of Michigan. He declined a nomination for re-election to the latter office, in 1887, and was the following year a candidate for the nomination for president. In 1889 he was elected commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, and at different times occupied many offices in other organizations.
In March, 1897, President McKinley appointed General Alger secretary of war.
From A Biographical History of Darke County Ohio, Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago, 1900