Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Teamster

 What Was a Teamster? (Before 1907)
As early as the 1900 Federal census James Nelson Strader was a teamster. How could a man be a teamster in the 1880’s? This was one of my first genealogical questions on 1880 careers. And, the answer had nothing to do with Great-Grandpa James laying the groundwork for Jimmy Hoffa. He was just doing his job in a Lyons Kansas salt mine.

History of Teamsters
It’s not clear when or how the word teamster entered into the American language, but by 1819 it was a bona-a-fide profession. The Online Etymology Dictionary states a teamster is “a person who drives a team of horses, especially in hauling freight.” The origin comes from the word “team” (abt 177). It further explains that by 1907, horse teams were replaced by motor truck drivers.[1]

The teamsters were valuable in the operations of mining; just as much as the blacksmiths, wood cutters, diggers, and those who were involved with smelting.[2] To expand the etymology definition, the origin of the word is also associated with “teaming” oxen and mules for hauling their finds from mines.

African American Teamsters
Paying Negro Teamsters [3]
By 1861, during the Civil War, slaves were used as teamsters for the Confederates and ex-slaves for the Union. They chiefly transported salt, coal, and other needed resources.[4] Although often the blunt of jokes and comics, the pride of being paid for service was not lessened.  The involvement of the Negro Teamsters is best explained in the Harper Weekly article.[5]
[MARCH 7, 1863.
ON page 148 we reproduce an illustration by Mr. Waud, representing THE PAYMENT OF THE NEGRO TEAMSTERS. Mr. Waud writes: "In the Army of the Potomac there are probably from 8000 to 10,000 negroes employed as teamsters. This is a business they are well fitted for, and of course it relieves an equal number of white men for other duties. A teamster's life is a very hard one, particularly at this season of the year. It does not matter how much it storms, or how deep the mud, subsistence must be hauled to the camps, and day and night, toiling along with tired horses and mules, the creaking wagons are kept busy carrying to and fro commissary, quarter-master, and ordnance stores, in addition to keeping the camps supplied with fire-wood. White teamsters have $25 a month. Colored men are paid $20, an increase of $10 a month on 'Contrabands pay' previous to the proclamation of emancipation.
Accurate, Accessible Answers

[1] Online Etymology Dictionary; http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=teamster; accessed 24 May 2010
[2] Reports on the Geological Survey of the State of Missouri, Missouri. Geological Survey; Google Books, pg 679; online: http://books.google.com/books?id=lLgEAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA679&sig=VZxdf0Y6ks5Ilib2eNQ0h-252Ok&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false; accessed 24 May 2010
[3] Paying Negro Teamsters; Civil War Harper’s Weekly, 7 Mar, 1863; online accessed 24 May 2010, http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1863/march/paying-teamsters.htm
[4] The History of the Civil War in America, John Stevens Cabot Abbott; Google Books; pg. 192; online http://books.google.com/books?id=jsALAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA192&lpg=PA192&dq=slaves+as+teamsters&source=bl&ots=q2gcrgRNOF&sig=AcoANyFzrjHxDESkk3YxAwlI0SA&hl=en&ei=JFH7S7D_IZmOMveioKYB&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CCsQ6AEwBTgK#v=onepage&q=slaves%20as%20teamsters&f=false; accessed 24 May 2010 
[5] Paying Negro Teamsters; Civil War Harper’s Weekly, 7 Mar, 1863; online accessed 24 May 2010, http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1863/march/paying-teamsters.htm


  1. I have some Hoogerzeil relatives from Beverly, Massachusetts who were described as teamsters in the 1800s up until the 1920 census. They owned a moving and carting service. All the men in this family were described as teamsters in the town directory, military papers, etc. I've found quite a few advertisements in newspapers for the business "Hoogerzeil Express". You might be able to find all this, too.

  2. Not so exciting for me Heather. Great-Grandpa Strader was a teamster for the salt mine in Kansas. He died young.

  3. When were his birth and death dates?

  4. Todd,
    His tombstone says from 1870-1919. But he was actually born in about 1868. I have record of him being 2 years old in 1870. At that time he was living with his mother in Hart County Kentucky. He died in 1920. I'm going to work on this line a bit more. But I have great information on this line. I'll post it!

  5. my son-in-law also lives and works in a lyons kansas salt mine. do you have the history of the mine?. thank you

  6. My great-grandfather stated in a deposition that he was hired by the 106th Ohio Regiment to drive a team for them. They were to pay him, but they never did. He left them and joined the 14th Colored Infantry in Gallatin, Tennessee.

  7. My Great, great grandmother was listed as a Teamster in Brooklyn 1892 at the age of 69. I remember my Mom saying something about a grandmother being the first woman teamster. Crazy.

    1. Now that's fun. Be sure to research her. There are plenty of records and news articles for you to wade through. Her story should be told! If a3Genealogy can assist in your research, just send an email to Kathleen@a3genealogy.com