Through a Facebook lead from J. Paul Hawthorne, I discovered that I could order old Tuscaloosa, Alabama newspapers on microfilm from the Alabama State Archives. I ordered the Tuscaloosa Observer, 1855-1865 (quite a few issues, although not a complete run of course) and the Independent Monitor, 1861-1871 (only a few issues).
I guess when I ordered it I had some idea that a person might be able to read this at home, somehow. But eBay and some used equipment dealers had no equipment that was priced for home use; the cheapest gadget was $375. So, no problem, off I went to the library.
The Warwick (Rhode Island) Public Library has a brand new microfilm reader:
I was impressed (note, this picture was taken before I discovered the button to reverse the black/white). The computer-run system has lots of options, but it’s really quite easy to use. I had no problem figuring out how to plug in my flash drive and save images to it:
I saved each page as one small image, but once back on my own computer, they were easy to read when enlarged on the screen. Thanks to my sister for that suggestion. I took about 100 images.
Then I Found It
The problem I am researching is the 20 years that my Lampheres – an old Rhode Island/Connecticut family – spent in Tuscaloosa, approximately 1855-1875. My ggg-grandfather Russell Lamphere owned a business (see my post A Story Just Like Russell Lamphere’s) and my gg-grandmother Emma was born there (see my post The Girl From Alabama). Family lore says that Russell lost the business during the war and they returned to R.I. bitter and broke. We don’t know what the business was, or what really happened. Almost accidentally, while saving images, I found what I was looking for.
On February 1, 1861 in the Independent Monitor, Russell announced the close of his business.
Dissolution. The firm of Murrell & Lamphere is dissolved by the death of Wm. B. Murrell. All accounts due said firm are in the hands of the undersigned (surviving partner) for collection. Persons indebted to said firm are hereby notified to come forward at once and settle, as I am complelled to close up the business of said firm. Feb 1st '61:6w. RUSSELL LAMPHERE.
In the next column, Russell’s ad for a new business:
TIN SHOP. RUSSELL LAMPHERE
Would respectfully inform his patrons and the public that he has removed his TIN SHOP to the house lately known as Wood's Book Store, on Broad Street, next door to O. Berry's clothing establishment, where he would be pleased to wait on his old customers and the public.
Sheet iron, Copper, and Tin-ware
Of every variety and best quality constantly on hand.
Roofing, guttering, and spouting, and all work done in his line warranted, and done promptly at short notice, and on the most reasonable terms.
He hopes by prompt attention to business to merit a liberal share of patronage.
Feb 1, 1861
So this makes it clear what the business was. I now believe that his work, at other phases of his life, with cotton mill machinery probably had to do with the manufacture of replacement gears, parts, etc. I do not know if there was any family connection to William B. Murrell, although he was born in North Carolina so he is not likely to be a direct relation. An in-law, perhaps, or just a business partner? Of course, going more carefully through the papers will probably produce additional information.
I have some other irons in the fire concerning Russell Lamphere, including tracing a War Claims bill. Meanwhile, there is plenty of evidence here to investigate.