Bricks, Fort Pike

 
… Russell’s file notes
 
Encyclopedia of Forts, Posts, Named Camps…
By Powell Casey – Bricks came from Bonne Fouca and Madisonville and from Pearlington. About 400 men were employed in brickmaking. From 30 to 40 vessels were used. Delay in construction partly because of failure of government to pay for services which caused the brickyards to shut down.
 

Historic Structure Report for the Preservation of Fort Pike

Document in-house at Ft. Pike says that by middle of June 1820 work was progressing well. Bennett and Morte’s brickyard on Pearl River had 700,000 bricks ready for shipment.
By July 1821 3,456,400 bricks had been delivered or used at site.
In Sept. 1821, severe hurricane hit area and did great damage to fort site. Losses included all the buildings erected for the care and feeding of workmen and six months supply just laid out for the coming building season. Bennett and Mote lost almost everything.
 

Google Source “Describe the present and original appearance [of Ft. Macomb]”

—says that one year after design (1817) Corps of Engineers contracted with Bennett and Morte of Washington to construct the fort on Chef Menteur (does not say Pike, but does say Macomb and Pike were designed simultaneously). Because of difficulties in finding laborers and delivering materials, work was not begun until 1922.
Many laborers died of yellow fever.
 
James Bennett and Peter Morte of Washington were contracted by Corps of Engineers to build Fort Macomb, and apparently Fort Pike as well.
 
Information that I have from Fort Pike (above mentioned in-house document) does not say “to build” but that Bennett and Morte’s brick yard on Pearl River had 700,000 bricks ready by June 1820.
 
Even though they were out of Washington, they appear jointly in 1820 census. It shows following:
 31 white males 16-26
 61         “            26-45
 37 “foreigners and naturalized”
129 total not taxed
 

New Orleans Library

= original documents relating to Bennett and Morte are in large number. Ones I have studied all relate to suits against them, although it may be that they were pursuing action against federal government for $70,000. Suits against them mostly small, a few hundred dollars, and several claims were for “ditching” and others for expense of lodging and cook.
Each suit that was settled for various plaintiffs was paid by bondsman, Nathanial Cox.
Most suits studied began in 1820 and 1821, which indicates that troubles for Bennett and Morte began before hurricane of Sept. 1821. Indeed, some of the summonses began as early as April 1820.
 
Docket #4005 dated May 1821 seems to position B&M as petitioners with “creditors” as defendants. This includes an “amended schedule” of debts having to do with their contact with the federal government for forts at Petite Coquille and Chef Menteur. (This seems to confirm they were working at both forts.)
The debt schedule includes “all negroes, tools, building materials” and totals $70,000.
 
Statement of debts mentions “Administration of Samuel Cox dec. state of Mississippi” for $500. Names mentioned with amounts of debt for those at Pearl River are:
Amos Lott – $101
John Barnes – 242
W. Bracy – 27
F.B. Lenoir (?) – 99
Also mentioned, in amount of $500, is E.M. Ripley, and Livingston of New Orleans for same amount. However, notation made that latter “unknown to Morte.” (One wonders whether Livingston was one of historic brothers.)
 
Docket # 3471 says Bennett was residing in NO, Morte in Mississippi.
 
Docket 3583 mentions Bennett residing at Pearlington. This was suit by James McGuire for $1130. He had been a carpenter working for $60 per month “principally at the mouth of Pearl River for 18 months until April 1820. He was making claim partly for time he was sick.
In interrogatory, he was asked, “Did not Mssrs. Bennett and Morte pay or assume to pay the bills of Sheriff, Favre, and McKinley and what was the amount.
 
 (National Trust Guide to New Orleans may contain additional information.)
 
Maxon book “Progress of the Races” – “A brick yard was started there but failed because the clay was not good.”
 
Docket # 3132 – Peter Murphy vs B&M
Further review of this may show what work was done and perhaps where. This could have been a Murphy from the area to become know later as Napoleon.
Cemetery records do not include Peter, but check 1820 census.