Remembering Rill Founders and Freedom Riders Russ and Mary Jorgensen 

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we are remembering the legacy of two of Monan’s Rill’s founders, Russ and Mary Jorgensen. 

Mary and Russ are pictured here standing in front of Madrone Home, the house at the Rill they built together by hand, using repurposed materials and rocks and lumber they gathered on the land. They were instrumental in founding and building the community from 1972 until they moved to Nevada City in 2001. 

Throughout their lives and their time at the Rill, both Russ and Mary were heavily involved in activism for civil rights, peace, and justice, starting in the 1930’s when they were in college. 

They joined the Freedom Riders in 1961, traveling to Mississippi to connect with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders, and getting arrested for attempting to enter a restaurant with a mixed Black and white group.

Russ and Mary were honored for their activism in the 2008 book, “Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders,” by Eric Ethridge, and featured in both Oprah Magazine and Smithsonian Magazine. Mug shots from their Mississippi arrests are pulled from the Oprah feature.

A 2009 article in The Union shares more of their history and personal quotes. Mary and Russ were 92 and 91 years old at that time. Russ passed away later that year, and Mary lived until 2014. 

The home that Russ and Mary built was the only house at the Rill to survive the 2020 Glass Fire. We honor their legacy here on the land and everywhere that they helped forge a path for equity and justice.