The Founders of Birmingham, Alabama

On January 26, 1871, a meeting was held in Montgomery, Alabama, in the offices of Josiah Morris & Company for the purpose of organizing the Elyton Land Company. At a meeting of the directors on the following day Col. James R. Powell was unanimously elected president of the company. Following this meeting the stockholders of the company met and adopted bylaws which included the following statement:

The city to be built by the Elyton Land Company, near Elyton, in the County of Jefferson, State of Alabama shall be called 'Birmingham'.

The names of the stockholders and the numbers of shares owned are listed below.

The Founders

Henry M. Caldwell
Dr. Henry Martin Caldwell was born in 1836 in Greenville, Butler County, Alabama. He graduated from medical school at the University of Pennsylvania and practiced medicine until the beginning of the Civil War. During the war he served in the medical department of the Confederate Army primarily with Alabama forces in the field. In 1875 he assumed the presidency of the Elyton Land Company in Birmingham succeeding his friend James R. Powell. His business interests also included the presidency of the Caldwell Hotel Company and directorships in the First National Bank of Birmingham, the Williamson Iron Company, and the Birmingham Iron Works. He was the first president of the Birmingham Trust and Savings Company. He also helped organize the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. He was married to Elizabeth Milner of Georgia, a sister of W. J. Milner. Dr. and Mrs. Caldwell had two sons and two daughters. Dr. Caldwell died on August 7, 1895.

James N. Gilmer
James Nicholas Gilmer was an adjutant general of the State of Alabama. He was born on March 20, 1839, in Montgomery. He was educated in the schools of his home county and later graduated from the Georgia Military Institute in Marietta in 1858. He helped organize the military company known as the Metropolitan Guards which participated in taking the Pensacola Navy Yard and the barracks and fort at Barancas on January 12, 1861, one day after the secession of the states of Alabama and Florida. During the Civil War he served with several different units as quartermaster, adjutant, and inspector general. After the war Mr. Gilmer returned to Montgomery and subsequently became involved in the Elyton Land Company and the creation of the city of Birmingham. In 1884 he was appointed by Governor O'Neal as adjutant general of the state and chief of the governor's staff. After two years in that office, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, for a short while, returned to Montgomery briefly, and in 1889 moved his family to Seattle, Washington, where he lived for more than twenty years operating a general collection business. He was married in 1864 to Lizzie B. Dixon of Memphis, Tennessee, and they had nine children.

Bolling Hall
Bolling Hall was a planter and a lawyer. He was born on May 8, 1813, in Baldwin County, Georgia. He was schooled in Autauga County and later attended the University of Georgia and graduated in 1831 at age eighteen. He was admitted to the bar in 1834 in Montgomery but decided to become a planter instead of practicing law. He served as a member of the Alabama legislature from 1849 to 1854. Prior to this he had been inspector general with the militia in 1835 and served in the Creek War of 1836. He was a director in the Eufaula Railroad until it was purchased by the Georgia Central Railway. He was also one of the promoters of the South and North Alabama Railroad and was a director with that line at the time of his death on March 5, 1897, in Coosada, Elmore County. He was married to Mary Louisa Crenshaw of Wetumpka in 1836, and they had twelve children.

Josiah Morris
Josiah Morris was born on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1818. He came to the South at the age of fifteen first working in a mercantile establishment in Columbus, Georgia. He was later involved in merchandising and the cotton industry in Columbus and beginning in 1852 in New Orleans at the largest cotton trading facility in the United States at that time. He had much financial success in New Orleans, and in 1856 he moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and entered the banking business. His friendship with John T. Milner, chief engineer for the South and North Railroad, led him to provide financial backing for the purchase of land in Jones Valley in December of 1870 on which to establish the new city of Birmingham. At the time of the formation of the Elyton Land Company in January of 1871, he suggested the name "Birmingham" for the new city. The Morris Hotel in Birmingham was later named for him. At the age of twenty-six he was married to Elizabeth Harvey, a Georgia native. They had one daughter. Josiah Morris died on March 9, 1891.

William S. Mudd
William Swearingen Mudd was a lawyer, a legislator, and a circuit judge. He was born near Louisville in Jefferson County, Kentucky on December 2, 1816, and was the son of James and Sarah (Swearingen) Mudd. He was educated at St. Joseph's College in Bardstown, Kentucky. In 1831 he moved to Alabama and settled in Jefferson County at Elyton. He began the practice of law in 1839 and was a member of the Alabama legislature from 1843 to 1848. After serving as solicitor of the judicial circuit for a number of years, he was elected as circuit judge and held that position from 1856 until 1883 when poor health forced his retirement. His plantation, Arlington, was located east of Elyton. Among Judge Mudd's business ventures were the building of Birmingham's first hotel, operation of the Oxmoor furnace, and involvement in the establishment of Citizen' Bank (later merged with the First National Bank). He was a stockholder of the Elyton Land Company from 1871 to 1884 and was director of that enterprise at the time of his death on September 2, 1884. He was married to Florence Jane Earle on December 22, 1841. They had six daughters, and four sons.

William F. Nabers
William Franklin Nabers was born in Jefferson County, Alabama, on August 6, 1830. He was educated in the schools of his home county and later graduated from the University of Tennessee. He farmed extensively until the 1870's when he joined Col. James Powell, John T. Milner, Major Thomas Peters and others in the plan to establish the city of Birmingham. Since one property he owned was in the vicinity of the site of the proposed city, it was used for the planning and discussion of surveys of the land that was controlled by the Elyton Land Company. This building has often been referred to as "the first house in Birmingham" and was located on what later became the southeast corner of First Avenue and Twenty-first Street North. William F. Nabers also built the Crystal Palace, an amusement park situated in what was known as Nabers' Grove in the present Southside area of the city. He was married on February 5, 1867, to Virginia Elizabeth Worthington who was the daughter of Benjamin Pinckney Worthington, another original stockholder of the Elyton Land Company. William F. Nabers died on November 15, 1918. He had six children.

James R. Powell
James Robert Powell was born on December 7, 1814, at Powellton in Brunswick County, Virginia. He came to Alabama in 1833 and lived in Lowndes County initially. In 1836 he moved to Wetumpka and began a twenty-five year career as a stage owner and mail contractor. He was for a time sheriff of Coosa County. He was elected to the state senate in 1853 and again in 1855. After the end of his second term he moved to Montgomery to live. He was elected president of the Elyton Land Company at its inception and served in that position from 1871 to 1874. He was the first elected mayor of Birmingham serving from 1873 to 1875. Col. Powell was known as "The Duke of Birmingham" for his enthusiastic promotion of the city. The most notable example of this was his invitation to the Press Association of New York to visit the new city. The resulting publicity gave worldwide attention to Birmingham. Col. Powell died in December of 1883 as a result of a shooting. He was residing on his Mississippi plantation at the time of his death. He married Mary J. Smythe of Virginia on December 14, 1858. They had two daughters.

Samuel Tate
Samuel M. Tate was born in Middle Tennessee in 1817. While a child he moved to Fayette County, Tennessee, where he received his education. In about 1840 he became a merchant in Somerville, Tennessee. When the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was chartered in 1846, he became its secretary-treasurer and was later its president. During the Civil War, Col. Sam Tate was involved with railroad business in Alabama having much correspondence sent to him at Demopolis. In 1868 his construction company contracted with the South and North Alabama Railroad to build a rail line from Montgomery to Decatur. This was almost completed in 1871 when the company sold its contract to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Sam Tate was also listed among the early ironmakers of Birmingham being one of the people who organized the Birmingham Coal and Iron Company in 1880. He lived in several places in his later life including Florida and the Little Rock, Arkansas area. He died in Memphis on July 26, 1892. He was married and had at least two sons, Samuel Tate, Jr., at whose home he died, and Thomas Tate, who served briefly as mayor of Birmingham during 1872.

Campbell Wallace
Campbell Wallace was a merchant, a bank president, and a railroad man. He was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, on December 7, 1806. In 1834 he became a partner in a mercantile firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was president of the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad beginning in 1853 and continuing into the Civil War. After the war he intended to become a farmer but was appointed by Georgia Governor Charles J. Jenkins as superintendent of the Western and Alabama Railroad which post he held from 1866 to 1868. The next year he contracted with Col. Sam Tate to build the South and North Alabama Railroad from Montgomery to Decatur. He was president of the Atlanta State National Bank (later the Merchants' Bank). In 1879 he was appointed to the Georgia Railroad Commission and was made chairman in 1883. He was an elder in the Presbyterian church for many years. He was married in 1831 to Susan E. Lyon. He died on May 3, 1895 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Benjamin P. Worthington
Benjamin Pinckney Worthington was born in Kentucky on November 19, 1814. He married Caroline Mitchell of South Carolina in Jefferson County, Alabama. They had eleven children. He owned an 800-acre farm in what is now the Avondale area of Birmingham. The Worthington home was a large, eight room structure with high ceilings, a veranda, and six columns at the front. It was equipped with the first water system in the area supplied by springs later submerged under Rushton Park. A portion of land originally purchased by the Elyton Land Company was sometimes called "Pink Worthington's frog pond". After the Civil War B. P. Worthington intended to move his family to South America, but following a shipwreck off the coast of Cuba and a two-year sojourn in Florida he returned to Jefferson County and to his former home. In 1871 he was one of seven people who incorporated the National Bank of Birmingham with a paid-up capital of $50,000. He died on November 19, 1884 and is buried in Birmingham's Oak Hill Cemetery.

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