Captain Timothy Meaher, was the son of James and Susannah Millay Meaher. James & Susannah were both born in Ireland.
Captain Meaher and his brothers; James M. and Patrick Byrnes Meaher came to Mobile, Alabama around 1836 from Whitfield, Maine. Timothy Meaher immediately took employment on a river boat and soon became a mate. Very shortly he built a steamer of his own and two others quickly followed.
The Meaher brothers benefited immediately from the bustling Southwest Alabama economy and their direct descendants still live and work in the Mobile area. Captain Meaher bought land and established a home three miles north of Mobile on what is now Telegraph road. He named his plantation Yorkville. The Meaher family, to this day, is one of the largest land holders in the Mobile River Delta.
Captain Meaher's enterprises complimented each other. He is said to have transported over 1,700,000 bales of cotton into the Port of Mobile. Although his primary enterprise was shipping cargoes from Mobile to Montgomery and back, his shipping business was supplied with vessels from his own ship yard and his ship yard was furnished with timbers from his own saw mill. He and his older brother James built one of the largest saw mills in the south on the banks of Chickasabouge creek, just north of Mobile.
His cotton plantations supplied a cash crop which helped to finance his other holdings. In 1847 Captain Meaher built the largest paddle wheel steamboat on the Gulf Coast, "The Republic." He was also well respected as a navigational pioneer of the Alabama River.
Captain Meaher is best known for commissioning the schooner Clotilde to travel to West Africa and bring back over 100 slaves. This was over 50 years after the importing of Africans was declared an act of piracy by the U.S. Congress and was punishable by death. In 1858, aboard his steamer The Roger B. Taney,( Named for the Supreme Court Justice who delivered the majority opinion in the Dred Scott Decision ) in route to Montgomery from Mobile, Capt. Meaher tendered a $100,000.00 wager to a northern businessman that he could send a ship to Africa and bring back a cargo of slaves into the Mobile harbor without being detected, within 2 years. Although Captain Meaher did not personally participate in the voyage, he bore all expenses. He hired the Clotilda which was 86 feet long and 23 feet wide, with a copper hull, and sent it all the way to the west coast of Africa to buy slaves from the Warring African Chiefs in the Benin and Nigeria areas at a rate of $ 50 - 60.00 each. The Clotilda was recognized as "the finest of it's type for both speed and cargo capability" on the Gulf Coast. Captain William (Bill) Foster, who had purchased the Clotilda for a price of $ 35,000.00,undertook the voyage. Upon arriving in Africa he loaded between 116 & 160 men, women and children on board his ship and set sail for Mobile, barely avoiding becoming a captive of the African Chiefs himself. The round trip journey lasted only 70 days.
Conditions aboard the Clotilda are said to have been as deplorable as any description on record. What little clothing the captives possessed was ripped from their bodies by their African captors as they were loaded on to the Clotilda Many made the transatlantic journey completely naked. They were not allowed to leave the hull of the ship until they had been at sea for 13 days.
Upon reaching the mouth of Mobile Bay Captain Foster sent word to Capt. Meaher announcing his arrival. He then transferred his cargo to the steamer, The Roger B. Taney and burned the Clotilda to the water line somewhere in Conner Bayou. Captain Foster disappeared, the Clotilda crew was immediately hustled aboard a steamer and sent to Montgomery. Even though Captain Meaher was charged with violating the Slave Importation Law there was not enough evidence to directly link him or his brothers to the voyage. Capt. Meaher was able to document 52 personal trips from Mobile to Montgomery during the journey of the Clotilda. Many of the Clotilda passengers were hidden in the Cane Breaks of the Mobile River Delta around the Meaher brother's plantation and others were set loose or delivered to planters who had agreed to their purchase immediately upon arrival. Capt. Meaher kept 30 passengers to work in his own enterprises. The outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 rendered the issue insignificant.
Captain Meaher’s prosperity depended greatly on the health, strength and abilities of the slaves who worked for him. He knew them personally and saw that their physical needs were met and that they were treated fairly. The Slaves, who were freed as a result of the American Civil War, were allowed to purchase a portion of Meaher's land in what is now known as Plateau, Alabama. Many descendants of this last shipment still live close by in an area called "Africa Town."
Cudjoe "Kazoola" Lewis was the last surviving passenger of this infamous voyage. Cudjoe spent the rest of his life, up until his final breath, wanting "to go back home." Cudjoe died in Plateau, Alabama in 1935. He is buried in Plateau Cemetery along with other Africans brought to America on the Clotilde.
Captain Meaher died at his home on Telegraph Road on May 3rd 1892. His funeral took place on May 5th and was largely attended. Reverend Father Cassidy officiated and the Captains remains were placed in the Family Plot in the Mobile Catholic Cemetery.
There is no attempt to diminish the horror and abomination of the slave trade. I have written facts as they are recorded in history.
Mary C Waters Meaher