During the American Civil War, Selma and Vernon, Alabama had one thing in common. Both towns were locations of foundries, used in the manufacture of essential war material needed by Confederate troops.
Selma’s blast furnace and smelter sat along the Alabama River. It’s referred to in most publications as the Selma Ordinance and Naval Foundry. This was a large operation, producing cannons, cannon balls, ammunition, rifle components, and the like. The facility was destroyed by Union soldiers on April 5, 1865.
The Hale & Murdock iron furnace in Vernon was constructed in 1859. A much smaller plant than that in Selma, initially it produced plow parts, horse shoes, and other farm related equipment. In 1861, production shifted to manufacturing bullet molds and cast iron products designed to help the war effort.
Remarkably, Union troops did not discover the Hale & Murdock location like it did Selma’s, sparing it from destruction. The facility continued to operate four years after the Civil War ended until finally going bankrupt in 1870.
Both the Selma and Vernon foundries were responsible for making components that killed thousands of federal troops. The precise number of deaths those items are responsible for, will of course, never be known.
Some 23 years after Vernon’s Hale & Murdock smelter shut down, one more fatality was added to the list. This one wasn’t due to an act of war. Thomas Ballinger Moore’s death was the result of a freak accident.
Mr. Moore was a much-respected farmer in Lamar County. He had a wife and several children. On July 24, 1893, he was at the abandoned smelter salvaging bricks. Most likely they came from the kiln.
Evidently some of the heavy bricks had sunk into mud. The old foundry location is close to Yellow Creek which is prone to flooding. Digging a trench to retrieve his treasures, Moore was standing near six-feet in the hole when a bank of dirt collapsed on top of him.
One of Thomas’s young sons, along with another boy, rushed over to brush dirt away from his face. Mr. Moore was solidly encased up to his neck. The children ran for help.
It took several men to extract Thomas from his unintended grave. He was upbeat during the whole episode, telling rescuers,
“I hate to see myself die!”
When they finally got him out there was no noticeable external injuries. It appeared he’d be okay.
Unfortunately, serious internal damage had been done. Four days later the much loved man passed away.
As it always does, remnants of war claimed yet another, in Thomas Ballinger Moore!