Imagine my surprise last night when I opened the recent issue of American Ancestors and found an article about a pre-Civil War move from New England to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
My ggg-grandfather, Russell Lamphere, was a cotton mill machinery expert in Norwich, Connecticut. Around 1854 he moved his family to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I’ve written before (detailing Russell’s wife Hannah and youngest daughter Emma) about how he built a business in Tuscaloosa which he lost during Reconstruction. We’re not sure what the business was. During the transition he appeared in the Meridian, Mississippi census in 1870, and eventually ended up removing to R.I.
The NEHGS American Ancestors Fall, 2011 issue features stories related to the Civil War. One story, “A Tale of Two Brothers: Charles Richmond Shedd and Cornelius W. Shedd” by Susan Kilbride included a picture of The Alabama Insane Hospital at Tuscaloosa. This immediately caught my attention. But it was the story itself which stopped me in my tracks.
The similarities with my family’s story are amazing:
- In the article, Cornelius Shedd, a machinist, moved from Massachusetts to Tuscaloosa in 1856. My ancestor Russell Lamphere was a machinist who moved from Connecticut to Tuscaloosa around 1854.
- When the Civil War started, Cornelius had sympathy for the South and eventually the kind of bitterness that the ravages of war would bring. Russell Lamphere and his family also stayed in the south and became fairly bitter, according to family legend, particularly about Reconstruction and race relations. Russell would not fit into our family very well today, but I think it’s important to learn where we come from. Eventually Russell moved back to Rhode Island and took a job as a machinist in a cotton mill. But they didn’t seem particularly happy to return, and several of the sons stayed down south.
- By 1866 Cornelius was living in Meridian, Mississippi. By 1870 Russell was living in Meridian, Mississippi.
- Cornelius had a sister who married an Alden (Maria Elizabeth (Shedd) Alden). Russell’s wife was Hannah Andrews, whose only relative that I am sure of is a brother named Alden Andrews. I’ve always assumed there was an Alden connection.
- Cornelius had a brother that died as a union soldier and this was the point of the magazine article; a family that was divided. Several interesting letters were included in the article. I believe Russell may have had a son (William H. Lamphere) who was a confederate soldier, and survived, and nephews or brothers who fought for the union. There are 2 Civil War letters from this side of the family, that no one can find, but I suspect they are from William to his parents.
I don’t really believe any of these people are related, or even knew each other, but it certainly is interesting to think that our story is far from unique. I’d like to know more about pre-war Tuscaloosa and what was attracting young New Englanders looking to make their fortunes. From what I’ve learned, Meridian was a burned out shell after the war – what made both of these men leave Tuscaloosa for Meridian?
However I do have some faint hope about these Aldens, since a quick internet search leads me to see some familiar names like Emma, Hannah and William in Massachusetts, which is where Hannah and Alden Andrews were born. Although any connection is bound to be a coincidence. But I’ll be pursuing this coincidence.
Russell is related to me in the following way:
Russell Lamphere (1817-1898)
Emma (Lamphere) Darling (1857-1927)
Russell Darling Sr. (1883 – 1959)
Edna May (Darling) Baldwin, my grandmother
note: Meridian picture – Credit: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History