Stephen Russell Mallory was a customs official, lawyer and judge in Key West, served two terms as US Senator from Florida (1851-1861), and then served throughout the Civil War as the Secretary of the Navy of the Confederacy.
Stephen Russell Mallory was born on the island of Trinidad in 1812. His exact birthdate is not recorded. He was the second son of Ellen Russell Mallory (born near Waterford, Ireland) and her Connecticut-born husband Charles Mallory, a construction engineer. Stephen, his parents and elder brother John left Trinidad around 1820, after his father contracted consumption. Looking for a healthy climate for the ailing Charles Mallory, the family eventually settled in Key West in 1823, but both Charles and John Mallory died shortly thereafter, leaving the young widow Ellen Mallory to support herself and young son Stephen alone. At the time, Ellen Mallory was the only white woman in Key West. She survived by opening her home as Key West’s first and only boarding house, which it remained for over 30 years. Ellen struggled to provide her son Stephen with a good education, sending him to boarding school in Mobile and in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. When Ellen could no longer afford to pay his tuition, Stephen returned home to Key West in 1829. Her son Stephen later wrote that Ellen Mallory was a very stern and demanding mother, but she nursed the sick and injured of Key West, during epidemics and hurricanes, and was renowned for her kindness, hospitality and Catholic piety. She would live until 1855 to see Stephen make her a very proud mother and grandmother.
In 1833, 19-year-old Stephen Mallory was appointed as Customs Inspector for Key West by President Andrew Jackson. He served in the US Army during the Seminole War from 1835 to 1837. He studied the law in the office of Judge William Marvin, was admitted to the bar in 1840, and then practiced law in Key West. He also served as an elected Monroe County judge from 1837 to 1845.
With his career prospering, in 1838, Stephen Mallory courted and wed Angela Sylvania Moreno, a daughter of the leading Spanish family of Pensacola. Her parents were the wealthy and prominent Don Francisco Moreno and Josepha Lopez Moreno. Francisco Moreno, also known as the “Father of Pensacola”, was the official representative of the King of Spain in Florida for over fifty years. Don Francisco died in 1883 at the age of 92, was the father of 27 children, and had 75 grandchildren (including 9 Mallory grandchildren) and 127 great-grandchildren.
In 1845, Stephen Mallory was appointed Collector of the Customs by President Polk. In 1850, he was appointed US Senator by the Florida Legislature, was re-elected in 1857, and served as US Senator from March 4, 1851 until his resignation on January 21, 1861 (when Florida seceded from the Union). Mallory was well-respected by his colleagues for being a thoughtful and hard-working Senator. Senator and Mrs. Mallory were also very popular in Washington society, he for being a gregarious and humorous conversationalist, and she for being an elegant and sophisticated hostess. While in the US Senate, Mallory served as Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs.
The Civil War was a turning point in the history of the United States, and for the Mallory family. In 1861, Mallory was appointed Secretary of the Navy of the Confederate States by President Jefferson Davis. He served in that post until the end of the Civil War in 1865, when he fled Richmond along with Jefferson Davis and the rest of the Confederate Cabinet. They went first to Danville, Virginia, then to Greensboro, Charlotte and Abbeville, and finally to Washington, Georgia, where Mallory submitted his resignation. He then went on to La Grange, Georgia, where he was temporarily reunited with his wife and children.
Most people in the northern states believed that the Confederate government had been involved in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, even though there was no evidence of their involvement. Stephen Mallory was one of the Confederate leaders who was charged with treason. On May 20, 1865, while he was still at La Grange, Georgia with his family, he was roused from his bed and taken into custody. From there he was taken to Fort Lafayette in New York Harbor, where he was confined as a political prisoner. His wife Angela travelled to Washington, DC to lobby President Andrew Johnson and other influential persons to pardon and release her husband from prison. On March 10, 1866, President Johnson finally relented, and granted Mallory a “partial parole.”
On July 16, 1866, Mallory returned to his home in Pensacola, Florida. By then, Mallory had lost his once large fortune, and his house in Pensacola was in ruins. His former slaves were homeless, unemployed and starving. By the terms of his federal parole, Mallory was not permitted to hold public office, so he made a living by re-opening his old law practice. He managed to repair his house, to care for his former slaves and find them employment, and then welcome his beloved wife Angela back to a suitably comfortable home. He remained active, outspoken and controversial in local and state affairs for the next few years. In the winter of 1872, he began to complain of his heart, and his health began to deteriorate; but still, he remained active. His end came rather quickly. He is said to have been “listless” on November 8, 1873, began to fail that night, and on the morning of November 9, 1873, died. He was buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery in Pensacola.
Stephen and Angela Mallory had nine children: Margaret Mallory, Ellen Josephine Mallory, Francis Moreno Mallory, Francis Moreno Mallory (II), Stephen Russell Mallory, Jr., Charles Albert Mallory, Atilla Fitzpatrick Mallory, Ruby Angela Mallory and Nellie Mallory, five of whom died young. Only daughters Margaret (“Maggie”) and Ruby and sons Stephen Jr. (“Buddy”) and Attila (“Attie”) survived into adulthood. Their son, Stephen Russell Mallory, Jr. (“Buddy”), followed in his father’s political footsteps and became a US Congressman (1891-1895) and US Senator (1897-1907).
If you would like to read more about the fascinating life of Stephen Russell Mallory, there is a biography titled “Stephen R. Mallory” by Prof. Rev. Joseph T. Durkin, S.J. of Georgetown University, published in 1952.
The year 2012 will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Stephen Russell Mallory, after whom iconic Mallory Square in Key West is named. The Mallory’s were a remarkable Florida Irish family, and deserve to be remembered and honored for their contibutions to Key West, Pensacola and Florida.