My search for the story of my ggg-grandfather Russell Lamphere’s 20-year stay in Alabama before, during, and after the Civil War has had two recent developments.
1. Russell Lamphere files a claim for Civil War losses
Congressman John Turner Wait (Norwich, Connecticut) filed H.R.5889 on April 19, 1880 for War Claims relief for Russell Lamphere. This past winter I was able to view the bill on microfilm at the Boston Public Library.
Have you ever sat at a microfilm machine in a quiet library and shouted “WHAT!!” Well that’s the embarrassing thing that happened (and luckily no worse) when I saw the amount of the claim – $50,000, in 1880. I’m quite sure that no funds were ever received. But it made me curious about three things:
- What was the business Russell owned? I later learned, through microfilm, that around 1859-1860, he owned a tin and metalworking shop. Was that it?
- On what was this huge claim based? Thanks to the efforts of a “research buddy”, I learned that the National Archives does not have any details of this bill, other than the bill itself. Whatever documentation had existed is not there. I have not completely given up finding information somewhere else. I’ve really only begin to look.
- What was Russell’s relationship to Congressman Wait? I suspect Congressman Wait was related to Russell or possibly Hannah. At the time the bill was filed (and refiled two more times) Russell lived in Providence, Rhode Island, not in Wait’s district at all.
Russell’s exact ancestry in the Lamphere line is something I have not settled yet, and Hannah’s ancestry is uncertain, so all clues are welcome. There is one here — Congressman John Turner Wait shares a name with one of the five associates mentioned in Russell’s grandfather – (Daniel Lamphere’s) will – Wait Clarke. Clues like that may mean nothing. But they’re kind of fun.
And one last issue confuses me – I think that those who filed claims for war reparations needed to be loyal northerners whose property was confiscated or destroyed by the northern army during the war. I’m really not so sure that applies to Russell, since I’ve seen his name on a local militia sign-up. Was he just lying? Until and unless I find the backup of that bill, I’ll never know.
2. I find a link to a cotton mill
Tin shop aside, I’ve always wondered how Russell’s skills as a cotton mill overseer (noted in 1843 birth record for daughter and 1880 census) were used during his stay in Alabama. I suspect he may have used his metal-crafting skills to maintain machinery in mills. I’ve never been able to connect him to a cotton mill in Alabama. At last, I found something, but it’s pretty strange. Is there any part of this story that’s not unexpected?
Last night I saw that there were some new Alabama vital records added to familysearch.org. Although I have almost no official Alabama records, I always check, so I looked up Lamphere (and many other spellings). I was surprised when something came up:
“Alabama, County Marriages, 1809-1950,” William Lanphere, 1859
William Lamphere is Russell and Hannah Lamphere’s oldest son, born in Connecticut. Apparently he married Bridget A. Hearn or Bridget O’Hearn – I’m not sure – on January 7, 1859. I don’t think the $200 “bond” was anything but a formality; it’s on every record. Note that the record is from Mobile County – far to the south of Tuscaloosa.
What I found on the back of the record was the surprising part:
The location of the wedding was the “Dog River Factory”. Now I’ve had a lot of non-church weddings in my ancestor’s files, in fact, mostly non-church weddings. But in a factory? with the inelegant name of Dog River?
I thought about this for a while and realized that in the mid 1800’s many factories were surrounded by factory housing, thereby becoming villages, so I tried to find out about this Dog River Factory area.
I found two sources:
- a master’s thesis on antebellum cotton manufacturing (Miller, Randall M. The Cotton Mill Movement in Antebellum Alabama. New York: Arno Pr, 1978. Print. Preview available on Google Books)
- a report of an 1853 outbreak of yellow fever in the village (1853 YELLOW FEVER DEATHS NEAR THE DOG RIVER COTTON FACTORY & ST. STEPHEN’S ROAD. From: Report on the epidemic yellow fever of 1853. New Orleans. Sanitary Commission 1854) Available on the Alabama Pioneers website.
What I learned was the factory began as a cotton mill around 1849. To quote from the second (1853, “Yellow Fever”) source:
The Dog River Cotton Factory is situated Southwest of Mobile, about five miles, and has within its inclosure of some twenty or thirty acres, about 300 operatives, including their families. The houses are built in a hollow square, and form a complete village.
From the first (“Cotton Mill” source):
[p. 73] Two cotton factors, Garland Goode and William Ledyard, joined [Phillip] Phillips as directors and purchased the summer property of James Battle, on 35 acres on Dog River.
[p. 74] During the summer of 1849, the owners laid the cornerstone of Dog River Factory, and by April, 1850 the mill was ready to receive cotton machinery. … The original factory contained 176 looms on the first floor, 40 cards on the second, and 5040 spindles on the third with additional machinery where necessary. A motor-driven conveyor system transferred the work from one room to another.
[p. 75] The owners purchased the cotton machinery “of the most improved kind” and in “the very best style” from the Mattewan Works of New York … By the end of the year 1850, Dog River Factory was in complete operation. The factory manufactured Osnaburg, sheetings and yarns, which it marketed in Mobile. The owners usually hired female white labor to run the spindles, although in 1850, most employees were men … The 1850 census reveals that with but two exceptions skilled positions at the Dog River Factory were occupied by natives of the British Isles or the Northern states.”
By 1853 a change in management and a fire (and resulting long wait for replacement machinery from the North) caused a delay in profitability until at least 1857. More famously, the factory was the scene of a Civil War encampment, and may or may not have been a weapons factory during the war. But that’s not a part of my story.
All of this gives me some idea that the factory might have taken young William (born in 1840) on as a factory hand, although the factory seems so remote from his home in Tuscaloosa. Did they have a connection to it? A more remote possibility is that the wife was from Dog River Factory and they went down there for the wedding. The thing I am quite sure about is that Russell’s family did not live in Mobile during 1859-1860 since I have newspapers that show his residence in Tuscaloosa.
All of this evidence is contradicted by William’s appearance in the 1860 federal census with Russell’s family in Tuscaloosa (with no Bridget). But there were very few Lampheres (of any spelling) in Alabama at that time, so I have little or no doubt that this William/Russell father and son combo are the right ones. I wonder if by any chance, Bridget died.
Any actual evidence is extremely valuable to me. Dog River Factory ties the family, once again, to cotton mill work … I wonder what it means?
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