The New Nation Birthstone of the Nation William Lamb - Quarrier

William Lamb - Quarrier

Oral history should play a part in historical research, but there must always be an effort to find documentation to support it, at least in part. When the MacGregor family purchased Concord in 1859, they were told some of the oral history of the property. On the eastern end of the yard is a finely executed and inscribed Aquia freestone grave marker for Mary Lamb (c.1767-1815), the wife of William Lamb. The MacGregors were told that she had been enslaved by the Waller family and that her husband, who worked in the nearby quarries, had made the tombstone for her. It is one of the few inscribed gravestones for an enslaved person in the state of Virginia. Recently, documentation for at least part of the oral history was discovered amongst the records of the Commissioners who were responsible for the building of Washington, DC.

Whether or not William Lamb was ever enslaved is unknown. Certainly, by 1816, he was free as he received $94.40 from the government as payment for 15 tons of freestone ordered for the President’s House. In the fall of 1817, William participated in the firm of Holmes & Lamb, which sold some 73 tons of stone to the Commissioners for $435.58 (Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, rolls 225, 254). In December of that year, William sent another 20 tons to Washington for use in the Capitol. He signed the receipt for this payment with a mark. The following April, the Commissioners informed a group of nine quarriers that a “considerable quantity of freestone will be required this season for the public buildings here.” William Lamb was amongst those invited to submit a proposal. The Commissioners asked the quarriers to estimate what quantity of stone they would be able to provide by November. “The stone must be fine, durable, and subjected to a nice inspection” (Washington Commissioners’ Records, Apr. 18, 1818). Between 1816 and 1822, the Commissioners paid Lamb $791.78 for about 109 tons of freestone. This was used at both the President’s House and the Capitol. We do not know if he was quarrying at Concord or elsewhere. Though he has no gravestone, William may be buried with his wife at Concord.

The receipt states on Dec. 3, 1817, William Lamb was paid $161.06 for just over 20 tons of “Shop stone” delivered to Washington by Stafford quarrier and shipper James Morton (1793-1860). This had been ordered for use in the Capitol. William signed the receipt with a mark. George Blagden, Superintendent of Masons, signed the receipt as having measured the quantity (Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, roll 254). Shop stone was a lower grade material that was suitable for foundations, fill, etc.

While William Lamb wasn’t a major supplier of stone to Washington, he was the only African American quarrier the writer found named in the Washington Commissioners’ records as having received payment for freestone.