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Washington Navy Yard Employees in April 1829
Furnished by John Sharp


Washington Navy Yard Employees in April 1829

 

"A list of persons employed in the Navy Yard Washington in the Month of April 1829"
& a list of African Americans Employed dated April 8, 1830

 

Introduction: These listings of over two hundred Washington Navy Yard civilian employees' names and occupations were compiled at the request of the Board of Navy Commissioners (1815-1842) and submitted to the Board on 8 May 1829 by Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard, Commodore Isaac Hull. Commodore Hull was asked by the Board to provide a list of all Washington Navy Yard employees, their names, status (occupations) and their wages per day. On 8 April 1830 Commandant Hull sent a follow-up letter to the Board providing them a listing Washington Navy Yard slaves and free Black employees.

The Board of Navy Commissioners had responsibility for the procurement of naval stores and materials; construction, armament, equipment, repair, and preservation of naval vessels; establishment of regulations to secure uniformity in the classes of naval vessels; preparation of estimates of expenditures for different parts of the naval service; and supervision of navy yards, naval stations, and Navy agents. As a consequence of these assigned responsibilities large amounts of time was spent on civilian employment and related personnel matters. Today the Board's little known records are treasure trove of information for genealogists and historians researching early Washington D.C., labor and family history. Some of the Board's records are unique in that they document slave and free Black employment at federal government installations and provide valuable information for those studying American History and the lives of Afro-American's.

Historical Background: These records are more then a simple register of names they are in fact a report submitted by Commandant Isaac Hull (1773 -1843) to provide information on the state of readiness of the Washington Navy Yard. Isaac Hull's predecessor at Washington Navy Yard, Commandant Thomas Tingey, (1750-1829) had died 23 February 1829 and Hull had just assumed command on 11 April 1829. Commandant, Isaac Hull, made many changes upon assuming command in 1829. Hull, a former Captain of the USS Constitution and hero of the War of 1812, was known for running a "tight ship." In contrast to Commandant Tingey (who was popular with the men), Hull was of a taciturn disposition. In 1830, he was nearly 57 years old and suffering from acute hearing loss due to his many exposures to cannon and shell noise. After his appointment as Commandant, Hull rapidly found that mechanics at the Yard enjoyed many freedoms he was unfamiliar with in setting work priorities; Isaac Hull reported his new command in poor condition and in bad need of a cleanup program with many personnel and labor difficulties. He quickly found his civilian workers were increasingly concerned about rising prices and stable wages. Hull noted too in his "remark's" overstaffing in some areas and insufficient manpower in others. Historian Linda M. Maloney has pointed out many of the difficulties Isaac Hull confronted in his new command were in part due to the transformation as the Yard moved from a shipyard toward becoming a center of metal casting and ordnance manufacture for the Department of the Navy.1 During Isaac Hull's tenure there was only one naval construction project at Washington Navy Yard, the justly named: Experiment, an experimental vessel, built without interior frame that was so quirkily built, sailors were afraid to sail on her and she was later sold for scrap. The slowdown in naval construction meant that per diem employees were laid off with greater frequency. Where Commodore Thomas Tingey had tolerated overstaffing to keep his skilled mechanics on the rolls, Yard employees perceived Commodore Isaac Hull was "extracting the most work for the least amount of money " as he cut employment levels to meet workloads and Congressional appropriations for Washington Navy Yard. Hull's 1829 submission to the Board of Navy Commissioners is perhaps his clearest indicator of how he chose to reduce Washington Navy Yard staff inline with his budget. Something of the prevailing attitude with in the District of Columbia community toward Isaac Hull is reflected in this contemporary newspaper account of the Navy Yard:

"It was with regret we remark so little work going on there. ...Commodore Hull. who now commands the station , has got the yard in fine order. It is really much improved since he took charge of it: but there is less work doing then under the good old Commodore,
( Rest his ashes!) . We do not say this is any fault of the gallant officer who has it now in charge; but we should be glad to see some evidence that this Navy Yard as a building and repairing yard, is not sacrificed to the interests of those Yard which have more powerful political influence to protect them."
2

One important issue for the Board which Hull would be called on to address was the employment of slaves some of them belonging to Washington Navy Yard officers and senior civilian employees in violation of navy regulations. Isaac Hull's report lists eight slaves and three free blacks as employed at the navy yard. Hull's report is not a complete list of the enslaved in another report of 8 April 1830 to the Board he includes men not mentioned on his first list presumably because Hull was unaware of them. This 1830 list which Hull submitted includes the names of free and enslaved African Americans and the names of their owners. The name of Diarist Michael Shiner is included here for the first time with that of his owner Thomas Howard.

The exact number of employees and slaves employed at Washington Navy Yard varied with the season and the work at hand. Typically Washington Navy Yard reduced staff in the winter and took on more employees in spring and summer. Most employees listed were per diem except for 13 senior civilian who were paid an annual salary. The number of slaves employed is difficult to calculate since official naval correspondence most likely does not reflect those employed under categories such "in ordinary" or as "servants" to naval officers (Servant was the polite euphemism in the anti bellum period for slaves).

Black Employees: In the Navy Yard, white workers and free and enslaved African Americans worked together especially in the anchor shop in uneasy tension. Many of Navy's early leaders were aware of this tension and occasionally they took steps to limit the number of slaves employed less they provoke open animosity. The Board of Naval Commissioners Circular dated 17 March 1817 specifically bared the use of enslaved labor without the expressed permission of the Board. Sadly such orders routinely ran up against the entrenched resistance of white workers to performing what they viewed as menial work. John Davis of Abel, Washington Navy Yard Blacksmith Foreman, once summed up the prevailing attitude ( 13 March 1817 letter to Thomas Tingey ), "I believe [speaking of Black men] second to none in the establishment & his Ability seldom equaled by any ...If any Impropriety exists in the employment of such it has been unknown to me heretofore as we have found by long experience that Blacks have made the best Strikers in the execution of heavy work & are more easily subjected to the Discipline of the Shop & less capable of to leave us on any change of wages of wages ."

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Source: The Board of Navy Commissioners Letters Received by the Board from Officers 1815 -1842 and Commissioners Reports , Estimates, and Surveys are both located in the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C. Records Group 45.3 and are filed chronologically in volumes of Letters and Reports Received by the Board of Navy Commissioners from Officers. The Board's correspondence has not been microfilmed.

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Acknowledgements:

My thanks once again to Mr. Charles W. Johnson Archives Specialist, National Archives and Records Administration Washington DC as he done so many times before gave so generously his help and assistance in locating and giving me the opportunity to study and photograph these unique records of the Board of Naval Commissioners.

My thanks also to the District of Columbia Archives, who under the leadership of Dr. Stephanie Scott, Secretary District of Columbia, have made the District records readily available to historians and members of the public and especially two members of her staff Mr. Robert Jordan and Mr. Ali Rahmaan Archivist's, District of Columbia Archives who were able to locate important early Washington DC records related to Michael Shiner family and the last will of his Master Thomas Howard which helped confirm Michael Shiner's probable manumission date of 1836.

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Transcription Method: This transcription was made from digital images of the pages of Letter Received List of persons employed Washington Navy Yard 8 May 1829. In transcribing this listing I have striven to adhere as closely as possible to the original in spelling, capitalization, punctuation and abbreviation including the retention of dashes, ampersands and overstrikes. The Washington Navy Yard employees are arranged by Department and numbering system generally appears to follow where they were employed by the Navy Yard occasionally there are gaps where I was unable to provide a clear image or the page signature was sewn so tight that it was not possible to determine what was written. I have attempted to arrange the transcribed material in a similar way as that found in the original list. Those items in the remarks column are those of Commodore Isaac Hull

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The following is a list of persons employed in the Navy Yard Washington in the Month of April 1829
No. Names Stations Remarks Wages per day
        $ cts
1 Benjamin King Carpenter Discharged 10th April 1 76
2 George Gant " " " 1 76
3 Joseph Hurbert " " " 2 24
4 Daniel Page " Transferred to the Joiners Dept 1 36
5 Spencer Grant app, to Jo Owner Discharged 10th April 1 32
6 John Roby " " " "   88
7 John Horner " " " "   88
8 William Nevitt   " "   88
9 Alfred Sanford ' to Wm Doughty " "   58
10 John Rainbow " " "   58
11 Jeremiah Prime " " "   58
12 Thomas Young " " "   58
           
1 Robert Amistead Caulker      
           
1 Edward Booth Sawyer Discharged    
2 William Carrico " "    
           
1 John Nowland Mastmaker   2 50
2 John Quigley App:to Jo Nowland     88
           
1 William Easby 3 Boatbuilder Discharged, 18th inst 3 0
2 John Nicholson App:to Wm Easby ditto 1 32
3 James Townshend " " ditto 1 18
           
1 Edward Foster Mould Loft   1 76
2 Clement Humphreys " "   1 32
3 John Lenthall " "   1 76
4 John Murry " "   1 76
5 Richard Nicholson Boy   1 44
6 Robert Rose Gun Carriage Maker There are at present no gun carriage makins in the Yard. I therefore respectfully submit to the Commissioners whether those on this Roll should not be discharged, or set at other work- They are now putting up the Store room in the Store Keepers Depart. 2 24
7 William Peter "   1 50
8 Richard Quigley "   1 50
9 William Howard "   1 50
10 William Baldwin Boy     44
           
1 Dennis Osborn Shipsmith Discharged 1 96
2 William Parsons " Ten of the Forges in the Smiths Shops, that are not occupied & nearly all of them require more or less repairs in the Brick Work; and I respectfully submit it, would not be well to have cast iron troughs for the Forges as those made of wood are constantly being carried out & there is danger of Fire from them/ 1 52
3 Stanislaus Rigsby "   1 52
4 Robert King "   1 52
5 Edward Wayson "   1 52
6 William Rigsby "   1 12
7 John Moody "   1 14
8 Horace Frazier " 70
9 Thomas Butler "   1 0
10 Henry Warner App. to B. King   1 0
11 Adam Gaddis Camboose Smith   1 90
12 James Harrison "   1 80
13 Samuel Nelson "   1 80
14 William Free "   1 80
15 Peter Jewell "   1 80
16 Walter Hutchinson "   1 80
           
1 William Ellis Steam Engine Under the direction of Jno Judge Machinist    
2 Charles Langley "      
3 George Carnes " Free-Black    

No. Names Stations Remarks Wages per day
        $ cts
1 James Tucker Anchor Smith   3 0
2 John Gess "   1 52
3 John Teker     1 32
4 Frederick Bopp     1 32
5 Lewis Newman     1 32
6 Allen Cannon     1 32
7 Richard Brooks     1 12
8 William Jones       90
9 Washington Shaw     1 32
10 Electus Davis " Slave to John Davis 1 12
11 Joseph Thompson " Free- Black   90
12 Charles Thompson " Slave to Mrs. Washington   80
13 Moses Dyson " Slave to Carey Seldon   80
14 Leonard Taylor " Slave to Mrs Nailey   80
15 Alex Taylor " Slave to Ditto   80
16 William Brown " Slave to Jas Tucker   80
17 Frances Nalley " Slave to Mrs. Van Reswick   80
18 Robert Gibson " Slave to Lieut. Ramsey   80
19 Walter Sommerville " a free Black   90
20 John Farrar " App: to Jas Tucker   52
21 Thomas Goss " " Ditto   52

No. Names Stations Remarks Wages per day
        $ cts
1 James Seatlin Plumber It is believed that there are more men employed in the Plumbers dept than required , unless the Commissioners have some particular object in keeping up the number.- 1 52
2 Samuel Briggs 4 "   1 52
3 Michael Carroll "   1 52
4 Phillip Carver "   1 52
5 Henry Gazandamer "   1 52
6 Thomas Goodall "   1 52
7 Thomas Halliday "   1 52
8 Henry Martin "   1 52
9 James Mullen "   1 52
10 Thomas Sanderson "   1 52
11 William Sanderson "   1 52
12 James Spence "   2 0
13 Adam Lloyd "     90
14 Cornelius Long "     90
15 Benjamin Bryan "   1 32
16 Clement Woodard "   1 32
17 James Long     1 21
18 Joshua Gibson       90
19 William Bland " App:to Jno Davis 1 21
20 John Holroyd 5 " " Ditto 1 0
21 John Bland " Boy   40
22 James Carver " Ditto   40
           
1 Thomas Lyndall Master Joiner   3 0
2 John Smoot Joiner   1 80
3 Antonie Catalano "   1 80
4 Horatio Kingsbury "   1 80
5 Daniel Page     1 80
6 Peter Griffin "   1 80
7 Samuel Middleton "   1 80
8 Louis Marceron "   1 80
9 John Fitzpatrick "   1 80
10 George Lyndall 6 " App: to Thos Lyndall    
11 John Higdon " " "    
12 Thos Roby " Laborer    
13 Theodore Roby " Boy    

No. Names Stations Remarks Wages per day
        $ cts
1 James Martin Master Blockmaker 3 0
2 William Martin Blockmaker   2 0
3 Alfred Bell "   1 40
4 Richard Cole "   1 40
5 Joseph Cox     1 40
6 David Cunningham     1 40
7 Washington Duval     1 40
8 William Dykes     1 40
9 Thomas Gibson     1 40
10 William Gleeson     1 40
11 Joseph Holroyd     1 40
12 Samuel Harwood     1 40
13 Benjamin Harwood     1 40
14 Robert Jackson     1 40
15 Aquilla Stinchcomb     1 40
16 James Thompson     1 40
17 William Walker     1 40
18 Samuel Warner     1 40
19 Charles Ellis     1 40
20 William Burniston     1 40
21 Clement Granger     1 40
22 Stanislaus Tench   Attends Circular Saw 1 12
23 George Hermon   Making Shop & hammer handles, &c.- 1 12
24 Washington Hermon     1 0
25 Hezekiah Anderson   Rivets Blocks 1 12
26 John Jolly   App: to Jo Martin    
27 Henry Gee   " "    

No. Names Stations Remarks Wages per day
        $ cts
1 Philip Inch 7 Painter   2 0
2 John Gibson "   1 24
3 William Turberville "      
           
1 John Spalding Armourer   2 12
2 Thorton Brawber "   1 24
3 William Mackey "   1 24

No. Names Stations Remarks Wages per day
        $ cts
1 Nathaniel Durity Laboratory   1 0
2 William Wright "   1 0
3 William Hodge     1 0
4 Washington Bright     1 0
5 John Martin     1 0
           
1 George Herrald Rigger   1 24
           
1 Ignatius Hon Saw Mill Employed under the direction of John Judge 1 40
2 William Willis " " 1 0
3 Charles Kelly " " " 80
4 Bennet Godard " " " 80
5 John Bright " " " 80

No. Names Stations Remarks Wages per day
        $ cts
1 Edmund Brown Cooper Discharged 1 50

No. Names Stations Remarks Wages per day
        $ cts
1 Robert Speiden Overseer Lab   1 50
2 Richard Brooks Messenger     88
3 Richard Mitchell Driver of Oxen   1 16
4 Jacob De Reamer Laborer     72
5 Riezin Wilburn "     72
6 James Bright " Employed in Navy Store   88
7 Antonio Figarro "     72
8 Patrick Connell "     72
           
15 Patrick Callaghan "      
16 Edward Mudd "     72
17 William Dorney "     72
18 Thomas Upton "     72
19 William Brown "     72
20 William Beach "     72
21 Andrew Brown " Employed at Stables   72
22 Stanislaus Edelin "     72
23 Henry Mahue "     72
24 Theodore Jones " Discharged   72
25 Richard Taylor "     72
26 Richard Brown "     72
27 Mattias Kemp "     72
28 John Luit "     72
29 William Bagley "     72
30 Henry Alford "     72
31 Charles Hambleton "     72
32 Alex Gibson "     72
33 BowenLucas "     72
34 Thomas Luzby "     72
35 Thomas Peake "     72
36 Horatio Luit " Discharged   72
37 Francis Smith " ditto   72
38 James Berkley " ditto   72
39 Osborn Ecton "     72
40 James Blancy " discharged   72
41 George Gray " ditto   72
42 Albert Umberfield "     72
43 Charles Bing "     72
44          
45          
46          
47 Washington Bright       72
48 John Martin       72
49 Thomas Seaman       72
50 David Porter   Boy    
6 Six Horses & Cart   Foundation of Timber Shed.-    
  [Monthly Pay ] 8        
  William Doughty Navy Construction   1900 }
  Carey Selden Storekeeper   1400 }
  James Owner Shipwright   1200 }
  Benj King Blacksmith   1200 }
  John Davis of Abel Plumber   1000 }Monthly }Pay
  Mordecai Booth Clerk to Commdt.   850 }
  John Judge Mechanist   850 }
  James Carberry Inspector     }
  Thos Howard 9 Clerk of the Yard     }
  Rich Barry " to Commt     }
  James Adams " to N. Store     }
  Francis Berry " of Check     } Monthly }Pay
  Jas Smith Porter     }

 
[Note on bottom of page] rec in Letter from Com. Hull dated 8 May 1829


Naval regulations prohibited officers from holding slaves, except as servants, custom deemed otherwise. As the listing of slaves employed at Washington Navy Yard make clear naval officers and senior civilians had strong vested economic interests in the continuation of such labor and resisted every efforts to curtail it. A report from Commandant Isaac Hull to the Board of Naval Commissioners gives some sense of how the issues that slavery presented were construed.
I have understood from Captain Shubrick that when you were last in the Navy Yard you enquired of him whether Slaves belonging to Officers were employed at the Yard and at the same time informed him there was a positive order against employing Slaves belonging to Officers. I have caused a search to be made but can not find any such order either by circular or by letter receipted for this yard and I have found all the Slaves now in the yard and many others that I discharged since I took the Command here, I took it for granted they were employed by Special Permission and that permission given because while men could not be found to work in the Anchor Shop. I now have the honor to forward a list of all the Slaves now employed in the Yard. Those belonging to the ordinary might be discharged and White Men or free Blacks taken to fill their places but I fear we could not find a set of men White or Black or men even Slaves belonging to poor people outside the yard to do the work the men now do in the Anchor Shops. The competent mechanics have long known them and I have no cause to complain, on the contrary, I consider them the hardest working men in the yard and as they understand their work they can do much more work in a day than new hands could and I should suppose it would require many weeks if not months to get a gang of hands for the Anchor Shop to do the work that is now done (Hull, 5 April 1830, RG 45)

As Linda Maloney has noted10 the number of slaves listed do not coincide, in his previous report, IsaacHull had listed a total of 13 slaves employed at the Washington Navy Yard (Hull, 8 May 1829, RG 45). Some these slave masters rented their slaves to work at the yard and allowed them a portion of their wages for their own personal use. Free African-Americans often earned the same wages as white workers but generally had to work in a world of racial prejudice with limited opportunities for advancement but despite such heavy odds, some former slaves such as Moses Liverpool, Basil Brown and Michael Shiner managed to prevail and enjoyed some measure of autonomy and economic well being.


A List of Colored men free & Slaves now Employ'd in the Blacksmiths & Engine department & in Ordinary at the Navy Yard Washington
Names Where employed Rank Character To whom belonging
Jo Thompson Blacksmith Shop Striker Free - - - - - - -
Nat Summerville do. do. do. do. - - - - - -
Electus Davis do. do. do. Slave John Davis of Abel, Master Plumber
Moses Dyson do. do. do. do. Cary Seldon, N. Store Keeper
William Brown do.. do. do. do. Mr. Jas Tucker, Anchor Smith
Robert Gibson do. do. do. do. Lieut Ramsay
Francis Nally do. do. do. do. Mrs. Reswick (widow)
Lyn Taylor do. do. do. do. Mr. Wailes( widow)
11
George Carnes Steam Engine Labour Free  
Henry Over in Ordinary O.Seaman Slave Miss Sarah Ann Bean (child)
Michael Shiner " do. do. do. Mr. Thos Howard ( Clerk of Yard)
John Thompson " do. do. do. Mrs. Sims ( widow)
Basil Brown " do. do. do. Mrs. Allen ( widow)
John Williams " do. do. do. Purser Beal
Nathaniel Ducker " do. do. Sandomen Mrs. Bland ( Widow)
James Compton " do. do. do. Mr. Jas Carberry . Inspector
April 8, 1830-

A List of Blacks (Free & Slaves) now Employ'd in the Navy Yard Washington Shewing where Employed, to whom belonging & wages paid to them Serially.
Names Where employed Character Wages To whom belonging
Jo Thompson Smith Shop Free 112cPay - - - - - - -
Nat Summerville . do. do. 90.- - - - - - -
Electus Davis do. Slave 90.- Master Plumber of Y'd
Moses Dyson do. do. 80c. N. Store Keeper
William Brown do. do. 80c. Master Smith
Robert Gibson do. do. 80c. 1st Lieutenant
Francis Nally do. do. 80c.  
Lyn Taylor . do. do. 80c..  
George Carnes Steam Engine Free 88c.  
       
Henry Over in Ordinary Slave $10 p. mo  
Michael Shiner " do. do. $10.00 Clerk of Yard
John Thompson " do. do. $10.00  
Basil Brown " do. do. $10.00  
John Williams " do. do. $10.00 Purser Geo Beal,
Nathaniel Ducker " do. do. $8.00  
James Compton " do. do. $8.00 Inspector of Timber N Y
Navy Yard Washington
                   April     1830 -

Bibliography :

Brown, Letitia W. Free Negroes in the District of Columbia 1790-1846
Oxford University Press New York 1972

Green, Constance McLaughlin. The Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the Nation's Capital.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967.

____. Washington: A History of the Capital 1800 -1950.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962.

_____. The Economic Position of Free Blacks in the District of Columbia
in The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 58, No. 1. (Jan.1973), pp.61-72.

Maloney, Linda M. The Captain from Connecticut: The Life and Naval Times of Isaac Hull.
Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1986.

Peck, Taylor Round-Shot to Rockets A History of the Washington Navy Yard and United States Naval Gun Factory.
United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland 1949

Sharp, John G. History of the Washington Navy Yard Civilian Workforce 1799-1962.
Stockton, CA: Vindolanda Press, 2005.
http://www.history.navy.mil/books/sharp/WNY_History.pdf

Shiner, Michael The Diary of Michael Shiner Relating to the History of the Washington Navy Yard 1813-1869.
Navy Department Library online, transcribed with an Introduction and Notes John G. Sharp 2007.
http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/shinerdiary.html

Tremian, Mary. Slavery in the District of Columbia: The Policy of Congress and the Struggle for Abolition.
New York: G.B. Putnam's Sons, 1898.


Endnotes

1Maloney, Linda M The Captain from Connecticut: The Life and Naval Times of Isaac Hull.
Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1986. pp 419-440.

2Daily National Intelligencer ( Washington DC) May 20, 1831; Issue 5706; col A

3William Easby Master Boat Builder continued to work at WNY for many years see
http://www.genealogytrails.com/washdc/appind_padgett_w.html

4Samuel Briggs, plumber was one of the leaders in the 1835 Strike at WNY for the 10 hour day. See
Daily National Intelligencer 14 August 1835

5John Holroyd and his son Joseph Holroyd both worked at WNY for long periods of time. For Joseph Holroyd's apprenticeship papers see
ttp://www.genealogytrails.com/washdc/appind_holroyd_j.html

6George Lyndall , Joiner, was a leader in the 1835 Strike for the 10 hour day

7Philip Inch would later become Michael Shiner's boss when Shiner was reassigned to the Paint Shop see
Diary of Michael Shiner

8Brief biographical information on some of the Washington Navy Yard Salaried Employees listed is located at:
http://www.genealogytrails.com/washdc/wny1819.html

9For a Biography of Thomas Howard Senior and transcription of his last will and testament see
ttp://www.genealogytrails.com/washdc/howard_will.html

10Maloney , Linda M. page 525 endnote 31

11Michael Shiner writes of his fellow slaves in Ordinary see his diary entries for 1828.


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