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masthead edition


Ed Bridges

Ed Bridges

April 9, 2015

Birth of Alabama

Ed Bridges, Alabama Dept.
of Archives & History (ret.)

July 9, 2015

Early Alabama History

Jim Lewis
Author and former
Assistant US Attorney

October 8, 2015

Alabama After

Donna Baker, Editor
Alabama Heritage Magazine


Emmett O'Neal Library 6:30 p.m reception,
7:00 meeting April 9, 2015

The Birth of a State


he director of the Alabama State Archives, emeritus, Ed Bridges will make a return visit to the Jefferson County Historical Association on April 9 to talk about how Alabama became a state.

Alabama joined the Union as the 22nd state on December 14, 1819 having been carved from the old Mississippi Territory and the Georgia cession.

Mr. Bridges served as director of the ADAH for 30 years.

Alabama territory map

As Alabama approaches its bicentennial, this presentation will offer an overview of what led to Alabama statehood. It will be a "big-picture" view, looking at the struggle for control in North America between Spain, Britain, and France, the efforts of Indians to protect their homeland, the rise of the United States. The complex interplay of events involving all these players would end in the creation of the Alabama territory and then statehood.


April 12, 1887:

Alabama industrialist Henry DeBardeleben and his partners sell the first lots for the new city of Bessemer. Located twelve miles southwest of Birmingham and named after Henry Bessemer, the British inventor of the Bessemer steel process, the community was envisioned as a steelmaking center. Within a year Bessemer had a population of 3,500 and was dubbed the "Marvel City". It also attracted five blast furnaces.

Henry DeBardeleben

Henry DeBardeleben


Promote the Present By Exploring the Past


Message from the President

Alice Williams

Alice Williams


opefully by the time this reaches your mailbox we will be into full-blown spring after another cold and messy winter. We have another wonderful program scheduled as we concentrate on the run up to Alabama’s bicentennial.

Your officer team has been very busy in the last several months with several projects to report out. A big thank you is due to George Jenkins who has gathered up a complete set of the newsletters from July, 2007, through October, 2011, all edited by Bob Kracke. These newsletters, along with our membership roster, have been bound into a beautiful hardback volume with gold lettering. The wonderful articles that we all enjoyed those five years have now been saved in a permanent form. We will bind the Jim Bennett publications at the end of the fourth quarter.

How To Contact Us

Articles submitted for consideration should be 750‑800 words and must include the writer’s name, address and daytime telephone number or email. Several high resolution photos are also requested. Stories may be edited for grammar, spelling and brevity.

Jim Ben net, Editor.
Mail: The Jefferson Journal,
112 Meadow Croft Circle,
Birmingham, AL 35242.

The Jefferson Journal

Published quarterly by and for the membership of the Jefferson County Historical Association.
Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Editorial Board

Jim Bennett, Editor    Email:

Judy Haise    Email:

Tom Badham    Email:

Dr. Ed Stevenson    Email:

A large thank you is also due to Harry Bradford for the year spent securing insurance monies for the trashed Brock’s Gap historical marker and seeing it through to its final reinstallation across the road. Thanks are due as well to the Hoover Engineering and Public Works Department. Dues are still due, our major expense being the newsletter. If you are unsure of your status, please check with Harry at the April meeting.

On another front, the Mountain Brook City Council, at its Feb. 23rd meeting, voted to purchase a very large display case and execute a contract with the Birmingham History Center to mount an exhibit of artifacts from the Irondale Furnace. The exhibit will change out every four months or so, and will also, in time, exhibit other articles in their collection from Mountain Brook’s history. Your association participated in bringing this about, and monies from the association’s book account have purchased a large percentage of the items that will be displayed. There is no opening date set yet for the display, but we hope by mid-spring.

James Lowery, head of the Birmingham Mineral Railroad Signs Project, visited with us at our January meeting to give a report on their progress. They have now installed two signs, one at an historic site in the Woodlawn area, and a second in the historic Irondale area. They have also circulated four written, self-guided “Driving and Walking Tours” which have been favorably received. People are using them to go see the old railroad beds. A basic website for the project has been created at Bham-MRR.com which includes a link to the association’s website. Check it all out. Hope to see you at the April meeting.

— Alice Williams, JCHA President


April 9, 2015

"Birth of Alabama"

Dr. Ed Bridges, Alabama Dept. of Archives & History (Ret.)

July 9, 2015

"Early Alabama History"

Herbert James Lewis


ACIPCO Organizer Charlotte Blair

—by: Judy Haise

John J. Eagan

John J. Eagan

Charlotte Blair

Charlotte Blair


harlotte Blair is believed to be the first woman in Alabama to sit on the directorate of a corporation, two in fact.

The first was the year 1899, and the spirited Charlotte Blair was on her way to succeeding in the corporate business world.

Charlotte’s ultimate goal was to start her own cast iron pipe company in Birmingham with its abundant deposits of iron ore, coal, limestone and dolomite, all found within a mile apart. Jones Valley already ranked among the nation’s leading producers of iron and steel.

Already known as The Magic City for doubling its population from 20,000 in to 40,000 in just a few years, competition would be fierce, as Birmingham already had five other local pipe manufacturers.

But, Charlotte knew the industry, having started work in 1892 at Radford Pipe & Foundry Co. in Virginia, as secretary to its president, J.K. Dimmick.

Her first success was when she moved to Birmingham. She was listed as corporate secretary in The New York Times Special Report, dateline September 12, Birmingham, Ala., and published Sept. 13, 1899: "Dimmick Pipe was organized and incorporated this am. Capital stock is $175,000, all of which was subscribed. D.R.P. Dimmick, former manager of Anniston Pipe Works was elected president and C. Blair, secretary. Among others interested are F.D. Dimmick, James Bowron and P.G. Shook of Tennessee, Coal & Iron & Railroad Co." It went on to say the 100-ton cast iron plant would cost $150,000 and employ 200–250 in Bessemer, Ensley or Birmingham.

Charlotte moved to Birmingham’s 1614 Sixth Avenue North and in 1903, her address changed to 2120 Fifth Avenue.

She made a break from Dimmick when stock was booming in 1905. She asked her brother James W. Blair of Atlanta to help her get backers for organizing a new pipe casting mill. He helped her acquire $150,000 in capital.

The new Birmingham plant manufacturing cast iron pipe and special castings would be American Cast Iron Pipe, the largest in the city. It was chartered and incorporated in Fulton County, GA, Oct. 9, 1905. Officers were: John Joseph Eagan (III) of Atlanta, president; William W. Orr, vice president; E.L. Douglas, vice president-operations; Charlotte Blair, corporate secretary; James W. Blair, treasurer; E.E. Linthicum of Birmingham, formerly of Anniston, plant manager; and George Muse. Additional stock holders were J.B. Campbell of Atlanta and W.H. Hassinger of Birmingham.

From the beginning, the studious and spiritual 35-yearold John Joseph Eagan looked on ACIPCO as his chance to run a company on a Christian basis, emphasizing the Golden Rule. Although he never graduated from high school, he had a great business sense. His $6,000 inheritance from his grandmother in 1892 grew to $73,000 eight years later.

Eagan first worked on a farm, then an Atlanta grocery for $5 an hour. But his most lucrative job was at his Uncle William A. "Bill" Russell’s Atlanta Tobacco Co. When Uncle Bill died in 1899, Eagan inherited it and his real estate holdings, bringing a hefty $750,000 after selling the store, as he didn’t care for the way business was conducted.

After the incorporation, ACIPCO immediately began excavating 41 acres Oct. 20 in North Birmingham on 14th Street between Sixth and Ninth Avenues, near the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

In November contractor W.F. Britton began work on the $1 million power house, machine shop and pipe foundry for building cast iron water and gas pipes.

The first payroll for 27 people the week of October 20-27, was just $151.21, with day laborers earning $1.25, and carpenters, machinists and pattern makers, all $3 per day. Bricklayers got 50 cents an hour.

By May 12, 1906, the first cast was made, and a week later on May 19, the first carload of pipe was shipped for installation under Atlanta’s streets. The pipe was still in service when ACIPCO celebrated its 50th anniversary.

First office building at the American Cast Iron Pipe Company

First office building at the American Cast Iron Pipe Company pictured soon after the company was organized.

Early on Eagan instituted the Eagan Plan, incorporating the risky Golden Rule in business, all the while building a small ACIPCO city with all the amenities of the larger Birmingham.

Retired school administrator Bob Atkins of Homewood was born in 1946 and grew up in ACIPCO, with its only drawback having to "wipe the cinders off the car before pollution controls." His machinist father came back from the Army to a job there, his mother was a wartime ACIPCO researcher, and Atkins was a summer employee until he graduated in 1970 from Jacksonville State. Brother Tom Atkins is a chemical engineer at ACIPCO.

"I never ever heard of Charlotte Blair," Atkins recalls, but he always revered Eagan as a great man and the only ACIPCO founder. "And ACIPCO still celebrates Eagan’s birthday every April."

After Eagan married socially prominent Susan Baum Young of Atlanta, June 19, 1919, he commuted by train from Birmingham to Atlanta for weekends with his wife and their two children. Early ACIPCO workers recalled Eagan walking the nearly two miles from the Ridgely Apartments (now Tutwiler Hotel) to ACIPCO.

He continuously served as either president or CEO until his death from tuberculosis/meningitis at age 54 in Atlanta, March 30, 1924. That’s when ACIPCO employees received the ultimate gift: All of the ACIPCO common stock (which he had bought back in 1921 and worth around $1.2 million) in trust for self-governance.

What happened to Charlotte? She reportedly left the company in the fall of 1908, and retired to San Francisco and Atlanta. She passed away in Atlanta, Dec. 9, 1917.

Today ACIPCO goes by American and employs 1,600 in Birmingham and another thousand at its subsidiaries in Alabaster, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Minnesota.

Sources: “The New York Times,” (Sept. 13, 1899;) Linn-Henley Southern History Library clipping files; “ACIPCO News”: Silver Anniversary (1930,) and (January, 1918;) “People and Pipe: ACIPCO 50 Years of Service” (1955;) “John Eagan: The Golden Rule for Life and Business” (Lois Trigg Chaplin, 2003); and “The Valley and the Hills” (Leah Rawls Atkins, 1981.)

Pizitz ad Birmingham News, April, 1958

Birmingham News, April, 1958.



Was Key Circle Named For Francis Scott Key?

Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key


f it wasn’t it is likely it was named for a Key relative in the Milner Family

Mr. Key, famous author of our national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner," was a relative of Henry Key Milner, an engineer with the Elyton Land Company and first president of the Birmingham Country Club.

The early American patriot and anthem writer was sent to Tuscaloosa in 1833, then the capital of Alabama, by President Andrew Jackson to seek the support of Gov. John Gayle for Indian removal. Jackson favored enforcement under terms of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. While the Choctaws and Cherokees agreed to accept land in Oklahoma, the Creeks resisted.

Key died in 1843 so he never visited Birmingham. It is also thought he visited Russell County in the Indian dispute.

Henry Milner’s father, Willis Milner, was a student at Mercer College in Georgia during the Civil War when he enlisted in the Confederate Army. After the war, Major Milner made his way to the Greenville household of his brother-in-law, Henry M. Caldwell, becoming a partner in his drugstore. In October 1865 he married Gustrine C. Key of Lowndes County, with whom he had two children, Henry and May Clare. Another was born, but died in childhood. Henry Key’s mother, Gustrine, was the daughter of Dr. James F. Key of Lowndes County who was also the relative of Francis Scott Key.

Key Circle, near the intersection of Argyle Road and Stratford, is in Milner Heights so there is the link made back to Francis Scott Key’s family

Key Circle, near the intersection of Argyle Road and Stratford, is in Milner Heights so there is the link made back to Francis Scott Key’s family (Milner Heights Historic District, 2013).

In 1871 Milner and Caldwell attached themselves to the construction of the South & North Alabama Railroad and moved to what would become Birmingham. Soon thereafter Milner joined the Elyton Land Company as secretary and treasurer, remaining in those offices when Caldwell took over the presidency of the company in 1875. When the company decided to fund a water works, Milner was placed in charge of the project. He also oversaw the operations of the company’s Birmingham Belt Railroad and Highland Avenue Railroad. He further managed the Lakeview Park resort which anchored the streetcar line.

His son, Henry Key Milner, was also prominent in Birmingham’s development and became, like his father, an engineer for the Elyton Land Company. In 1912 Milner organized the Milner Land Company, which laid out areas in Southside around Key Circle and Milner Heights. Key Circle is near Milner Crescent and Milner Streets, also early references to the Milner family.

John C. Henley’s book "This is Birmingham." states that Chestnut Hill was opened in 1913. In the same year the section "on the side of the mountain leading to the Water Works road was developed and handsome homes were built in this part of the South Highlands known as Milner Heights." John T. and Willis J. also owned a huge amount of land on the south flank of Red Mountain, south of Key Circle, where some ore mining operations were developed including the Hedona Mine.

Henry Key Milner was an advocate for economic development, supporting the Alabama Good Roads Association, the Warrior River movement, the Terminal and Transportation Committee, and the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. He served on the Alabama State Harbor Commission, headed the American Protective League, and was a vestryman at the Episcopal Church of the Advent.

As to the Key Circle naming, Alice McSpadden Williams, great great granddaughter of John T. Milner, said, "I have some vague recollection of something of this nature."

"Henry Key Milner was the son of Willis Julian Milner, the third and youngest son of Willis Joshua Milner and a half-brother of John T. Milner. Henry’s mother was Gustrine Carolyn Key of Sandy Ridge, Alabama."

Sandy Ridge was the location of the Key family farm on Highway 31 about 15 miles north of Greenville in Lowndes County.

Interestingly, the Star Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key after the bombardment of Baltimore in 1814, did not officially become the national anthem until adopted by congressional resolution in 1931.

Key Circle, near the intersection of Argyle Road and Stratford, is in Milner Heights so there is the link made back to Francis Scott Key’s family (Milner Heights Historic District, 2013).

Sources: Historic Birmingham and Jefferson County, Bennett, 2012; History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Volume 4, Thomas McAdory Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen, 1921; Jefferson County and Birmingham, Alabama: Historical and Biographical, John Witherspoon DuBose, 1887; Interview with Alice McSpadden Williams, 2015.


Uncle Billy Gould
Pioneer Coal Prospector

—by: Tom Badham


e was known as the man who found fortunes for others, but never one for himself. Born a coal miner’s son in 1830 near Glasgow, Scotland, his father worked in the Verterville and Sankerton mines. As was the custom then, William Gould started work as a young boy. He never had a chance for any education other than what he could pick up on his own. This lack of education may have caused some of the hard luck he experienced later in life.

With no advantages in life other than a quick mind and indomitable spirit, he decided to seek his fortune in the United States. At age 20, leaving behind his pregnant wife Jeannie, he immigrated to the coal regions of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. In three years he had saved enough to send for Jeannie and his young son, whom he had never seen.

Coming across an advertisement in the Philadelphia Sun offering fair inducements for experienced coal miners at Tuscaloosa, the small family made the hard journey south to Alabama. In those five years before the Civil War he moved from one county to another working in coal mines. His mining experience began to pay off. He managed the Alabama Coal Mining Company’s mines near Montevallo and opened the Ragland Mines in the Coosa Coal Field in St. Clair County.

When Gould arrived in Alabama the state’s iron foundries were paying $40 a ton for hard clean burning anthracite Pennsylvania coal. The soft bituminous Alabama coal was too dirty and smoked too much for foundry use. As soon as he could put together enough money he built the first coke ovens in Alabama. His crude bee hive coke ovens, ruins of which may still exist near Helena, purified the local coal enough for foundry use.

Helena Coke Ovens, erected 1860s at the confluence of the Cahaba River and Buck Creek near Helena

Helena Coke Ovens, erected 1860s at the confluence of the Cahaba River and Buck Creek near Helena; also called Eureka, they may be the oldest standing coke ovens in the South (Library of Congress).

He began selling his coke to the foundries at $8 a ton. His coke soon took over the foundry trade in Alabama. He began sending from 50 to 100 barge loads of coke and coal a year down river to Wetumpka, Montgomery and Mobile.

When the Civil War began, he and his partners Charles and Fred Woodson acquired 1,700 acres of coal land mineral rights in Shelby County. They sunk a shaft 130 feet deep with a slope of 400 feet. He got out 75 tons of coal per day, all of which was sent to the Confederate Arsenal and Naval Foundry at Selma. Then in 1865 General Wilson’s Union army attacked the works, burning 3,000 tons of coal and destroying all the buildings and machinery. This left Gould penniless at war’s end.

At age 35, Gould started over with nothing. With most industry in the South destroyed, he tried his hand at being a cotton broker in Selma. Unfortunately for Gould, this business failed by 1870. Again "busted" he started over at age 40, doing what he knew how to do, finding and mining coal.

State Geologist Michael Toumey told him that if he could ever find the black band seam of iron ore, the state would pay him $500 as a bonus. As quoted by Ethel Armes, "I looked high and low for it. I found it at New Castle in 1870, but I dinna find trace of the cash! "Near that location John T. Milner later began his New Castle Coal Mines. In 1874, after completing a pine log "corduroy" road, several ox cart loads of coal from the seam was sent to Birmingham to test its suitability for making furnace coke.

Known locally as "Uncle Billy", Gould enlisted his old customer and friend from Selma, Maj. Tom Peters along with J. H. Pritchard and Baylis Grace to bring word of the mineral riches in the area to the world. Unless pig iron could be made with local coke, instead of thousands of bushels of expensive wood charcoal, none of the vast storehouse of minerals could be exploited.

On Feb. 28, 1876, coke pig iron was made from local iron ore and the coal that had been found by "Uncle Billy" Gould. The fuel used in the Oxmoor Furnace experiment proved good quality iron could be made from coke reduced from Alabama coal and opened the door to the development of the Birmingham steel industry.

Going into partnership with H. T. Beggs, they bought 160 acres on top of the seam that Uncle Billy had found. They opened two drifts to explore the seam. At a 100 foot depth they discovered a coal seam four feet, eight inches thick. This seam was later named the Pratt seam in honor of Daniel Pratt who died three years previously and whose investments developed it.

Unable to compete with the moneyed industrialists moving in to exploit the seam, Gould sold his little 80 acre share as he said, "Sold it for a song! Aldrich and DeBardeleben put the tune to it." Gould was then hired to do preliminary work on locating the seam by the newly formed Pratt Coal and Coke Company.

Working for Enoch Ensley as "scouts", Gould and Llewellyn W. Johns prospected through Colbert and Franklin Counties for coal and iron ore seams for Ensley to purchase. By the summer of 1889 Ensley owned another huge amount of mineral lands and went into partnership with Walter Moore. Uncle Billy also worked for Edward M. Tutwiler in the Tutwiler Coal, Coke and Iron Company mines at Coalburg and at the Vanderbilt Furnace.

At age 62 in 1892, in Tuscaloosa County Uncle Billy had his last mining venture. Unfortunately, the business didn’t prosper and he again "went busted". Then his house caught fire and burned to the ground. "Even my hat was burned up," said the old gentleman. In his day, Uncle Billy made a fair amount of money, but he always sold out too early and then had to make for the woods to find more coal.

Sources: The Story of Coal and Iron in Alabama by Ethel Armes; The Birmingham District: An Industrial History and Guide by Marjorie L. White; Sloss Furnaces and the Rise of the Birmingham District by W. Davis Lewis.




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