West Blocton Bible Methodist
Alabama Bible Methodist Conference
Get your Atlanta SEO from the experts.
"We get results"
of Blocton, Alabama
Courtesy: Birmingham Public
HISTORY OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF TRUMAN HEMINGWAY
ALDRICH: THE FOUNDER OF BLOCTON
-Born October 17 in Palmyra, New York.
- Prescribed outdoor activities by family physician due to ill
- Attended Military Academy in West Chester, Pennsylvania and
Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
- Graduated with a degree in mining and civil engineering.
- Employed as civil and railroad engineer in New York and New
- Married Anna Morrison of Newark, New Jersey.
- Entered banking business with brother-in- law, George
Morrison, in Selma, Alabama in partnership with Colonel Cornelius
- Continued his outdoor pursuits by prospecting in the Cahaba
- Visited the coal mines at Montevallo, Alabama.
- Leased the Montevallo Coal Mines and entered the Cahaba
coalfield as a mine operator. Truman Aldrich said, "I knew
just about as much about practical coal mining then, as a horse
knows about holy water" (Emfinger 12).
Although it was mid-summer
when he leased the mines, he set his men to
digging coal. The act was unprecedented. In the forty
years that coal had been dug in Alabama, no man
had done such a thing in the summer time when the
weather was hot and humid. Mining in Alabama was
one of the highly seasonal industries... But then,
the story spread that Aldrich was a Yankee, and no one
ever knew what a Yankee would do.... He
enjoyed the amusement and curiosity excited by his
stacked up coal. Before Autumn, the coal was in
big pyramids, all over the scrubby field, near the main
ent7y. It kept piling up and the joke spread because
not a soul bought so much as a hat)lull. 7hen all
at once the first frost came. Everyone, of course,
wanted coal right away. He responded on the instant
to the demand of not only the immediate community and
the surrounding counties, but he even began shipping
coal all over the state, and drove out the English
coals in the southern section mid sold Montevallo
coal in larger quantities than had ever been done
before (Emfinger 12).
- Purchased the Montevallo Coal Mines. "Mining operations
over the State then were pretty small potatoes," said Mr.
Aldrich. "Montevallo, mind you, a small potato, too, like
the rest of 'em" (Armes 270).
- Considered the only real coal mine in Alabama.
- Called mining community west of Montevallo,
"Aldrich", after family surname.
Truman Aldrich heads the list
o the big coal operators of Alabama. No scientific
or genuinely practical methods were applied to
coal mining in this State until the early eighteen seventies
when Mr. Aldrich came into the field (Armes 267).
- Leased Montevallo mines to his brother William Aldrich and
Cornelius Cadle and started prospecting for a good coking coal.
- Prospected with assistant Joseph Squire in the Warrior coal
- Discovered the Jefferson and Black Creek Seams and sank the
first shaft mine in Alabama over these rich coals.
- Continued surveys, tests, and operations at various points in
both the Warrior and Cahaba fields. "Mr. Truman Aldrich set
[out] on foot, therefore, the first thorough survey and
systematic exploration of the Warrior field that had been
attempted" (Armes .272).
- Searched the area for coal. Men did not have to hunt for
limestone, or iron ore in central Alabama, those elements
- Incorporated the Jefferson Coal Company at Morris in Jefferson
- Owned by Truman Aldrich, Marshall Morris, and S. D. Holt. Mines
opened in 1875. Output helped fuel the Eureka furnace experiments
that produced the area's first coke pig iron at Oxmoor (White
- Located a succession of coal seams in the Warrior coal field.
- Joined with Henry DeBardeleben and Colonel Sloss to develop the
Warrior coal field which he had surveyed:
Those men of the Old Guard,
they were of great caliber. They had force,
character, invention, and they had courage and brains.
They were true pioneers. And it takes pioneers to
dare. He'll bet his last dollar on conviction.
there'd be no development, no construction, anywhere,
if somebody didn't take the risk in the beginning and if
everybody waited to be cocksure of their money. The
work that Aldrich [Blocton's founder] and
DeBardeleben did has left a lasting impression on
the country. Those two men deserve the respect and
gratitude of all the generations to come. For all will be
the beneficiaries in one way or another of these two
great captains of the Old Guard (Armes 346).
- Incorporated with DeBardeleben and Sloss the Pratt Coal and
Coke Company, the first big coal company in Alabama. He was
superintendent and mine manager.
- Joined the American Institute of Mining Engineers. He was the
first Alabama member of this society.
- Supervised the completion of the Pratt mines and railroad and
shipped the first coal and coke to Birmingham.
- Ethel Armes stated in The Story of Coal and Iron in Alabama,
But for the opening of the
Pratt mines the little town of Birmingham might indeed
have utterly collapsed ...Among the three men who
are spoken of today as the Old Guard, DeBardeleben, Sloss
and Aldrich, the town [Birmingham] began to be builded
anew, and gathered forces for its start in the race for
leadership of the new industrial South. The foundations
of the future were laid by them on a solid bed of coal
and coke. Henry DeBardeleben said, "And it was
through T Aldrich that this Pratt coal, the best coking
coal in the State, became known and opened up to
commercial use" (Armes 274).
Mr. Aldrich got out the coal.
He stayed at the camp, slept in a log shack near the
commissary, and managed the mine, the railroad, the men,
and machinery - all the detail work. He also attended to
the surveying . and engineering, and kept up what
he called his "geologizing". He worked night
and day. The three men worked eighteen hours a day, for
nearly three years. They made a success of the mines and
the money began to roll in (Armes 274).
- Resigned as general manager of the Pratt Coal and Coke Company
to organize "the greatest coal company of that period in the
South", THE CAHABA COAL MNWG COMPANY: BLOCTON, ALABAMA
- Started with an area of more than twelve thousand acres of coal
- Created a great sensation in the Birmingham District.
- Closed a $400,000 coal deal with Henry DeBardeleben and
"then began the building of his new coal mining world in the
Cahaba region" (Armes 296).
- Desired to create a coal company that would make the Pratt coal
mines "play second fiddle".
- Built his new empire in the Blocton Basin of Bibb County.
Blocton Basin was almost eighteen miles long and averaged over
five miles wide.
- Acquired several thousand acres of additional coal land.
- Partnered with Cornelius Cadle who had acquired additional
lands in this area.
- Purchased land in the center of the southern Cahaba coal basin
(Blocton Basin) to build his Number One Mining Town - Blocton,
-Truman Aldrich recorded land purchases from:
April 8, 1883 George W. Tillery
April 8, 1883 Elias Callahan
May 1, 1883 J. C. Reach
May 4, 1883 Urriah Smith
May 7, 1883 W. G. Morrison
May 19, 1883 R. D. Smith
June 11, 1883 R. P, McCully
June 11, 1883 R. D. Smith
July 2, 1883 S. G. and M. J. Daniel
July 11, 1883 Swann and Bilflips
July 14 1883 Swann and Billips
(Bibb County Deed Books, 1883).
Truman H, Aldrich
- The founder of Number One Mining Town: Blocton, Alabama and The
Cahaba Coal Mining Company
June 27, 1883 - Signed petition of
incorporation with brother William Aldrich, Cornelius Cadle Jr.,
and Charles Turner at Woodstock. They declared a capital stock of
one million dollars composed of 10,000 shares of $100 each.
June 30, 1883
- Filed Declaration of Incorporation for the Cahaba Coal Mining
Company at the Bibb County Probate Office. The primary purpose of
the corporation was:
- the mining and selling of coal,
- the making and selling of coke,
- the construction and operation of railroads.
July 13, 1883
- Issued Certificate of Incorporation by the Bibb County Probate
- Constructed an 8.2 mile Woodstock to Blocton railroad line at
an expenditure of $160,000.
- Located the Cahaba Coal Mining Company headquarters at what
would soon become Number One Mining Town: Blocton, Alabama.
- Mapped out a model community with north/south, east/west
streets on Number One Hill and along Caffee Creek. Tenth, Ninth,
Eighth, etc., and Cadle Streets were on the hill. Front, Aldrich,
Anna, Spring and Madison Streets were between the creek and the
Old Woodstock Road. Church sites, school sites, community garden
sites and a site for a tennis court were included. - Constructed
home west of tenth street on knoll overlooking Blocton. It was
two storied with a Victorian observation tower. (His brother
William Aldrich had similar Victorian towers constructed at his
home in Aldrich, Alabama after 1889). The Aldrich home in Blocton
was remodeled many times during the twentieth century. (Property
of David and Sue Pickett for the last half of the twentieth
February 10, 1884
- Reported to Bibb Blade "The road is now complete, and the
company expects to ship coal tomorrow... the place [Gresham] has
near 200 inhabitants at present.... This bids fair to become
another Magic City" (Bibb Blade. February 20, 1884).
March 5, 1884
- Named Gresham by newly appointed postmaster and company
vice-president Colonel Cadle after Union Civil War general he had
served with at Vicksburg (Charles Adams research).
- Renamed Blocton by founder Truman Aldrich after seeing a ton
block of coal removed from one of his early mines (c. 1884-85).
April 26, 1884
- Authorized an issue of gold bonds of $500,000.00 for the
purpose of paying for the mining development, railroad
construction, and other indebtedness. $30,000 was used to open a
new No,2 mine.
- Incorporated with William Berney, Robert Jemison, L. D.
Aylett,. and Joseph McLester the Central Bank (Berney National
Bank) of Birmingham.
- Published without cost to State, Alabama, State Bulletin No.
I containing descriptions of new Tertiary fossils with nine
plates of illustrations. As a boy he took up the hobby of
collecting fossils and pursued it with such a devotion that he
became a noted authority.
- Incorporated with others the Leeds Land Company in Jefferson
County (White 76).
- Elected president of the Blocton based Cahaba Coal Mining
Company, the second largest of thirty-three coal and iron
companies in Alabama.
March 31, 1887
- Reported in Annual Report that the two mines at Blocton:
|produced 135,010 tons of coal,|
|No. 2 mine in the
"Underwood" seam had an average daily output of
|the cost of the coal including
general expenses was $1.08 per ton and the average
selling price was $1.31 per ton,|
|profit for the fiscal year amounted
- Produced such a favorable quality of coal for steam
purposes that the company could not fill all the orders. At least
four railroad corporations were being supplied "Blocton
- Created new expansion opportunities:
|projected sinking of four new mines,|
|planned for the construction of four
hundred coke ovens.|
March 31, 1888
- Stated in the Fiscal Year Annual Report that four new mines had
|Mine No. 3, a slope in the Underwood
or No. 2 seam,|
|Mine No. 4, a slope in the Woodstock
or No. I seam,|
|Mine No. 5, a slope in the Woodstock
|Mine No. 6, a drift in the Underwood
|Construction of coke ovens to the
number of 300 were nearing completion.|
|Completed railroad tracks to mines
Nos. 3,4,5, and to the coke ovens, the length of the new
tracks being six miles.|
|Constructed 128 dwelling houses
during the year bringing the total to 282.|
|Made a net profit per ton of coal of
42.8 cents which included a profit of 15.1 cents per ton
from sales of merchandise.|
|Estimated that demand for
"Blocton Coal" was in excess of supply and it
was projected that the company could market at least
2,000 tons of coal a day. |
|Began actively recruiting miners
from outside the region.|
7he miners who settled in
northern Bibb added variety and color to the county's
fairly homogenous population. They came not only from the
region but also from states as far north as Iowa and from
such places as Belgium, Italy, Austria, Hungary and
Bulgaria... Usually the European men preceded
their families and lived in stockades on the company
ground in Number 3 Town....
(Ellison, Bibb County Alabama
- Fired the first bank of beehive coke ovens.
- December, 1888 Closed Blocton mines due to a miners'
strike. A ten per cent reduction in wage rate went into effect
throughout the Birmingham District. The company, in the face of
competition, was compelled to lower wages. Coal was furnished to
the company's customers from mines elsewhere. The strike failed
and reduced wages were continued in effect.
March 31, 1889
- Stated in the Fiscal Year Ending March 31, 1889 Annual Report:
|produced 354,678 tons of coal of
which 303,406 tons were shipped to customers,|
|operated 140 coke ovens and 150 were
ready for operation,|
|shipped 17,802 tons of coke, 100
tons a day being shipped to the Eureka Company at Oxmoor
and the same quantity to the Birmingham Furnace and
Manufacturing Company at Trussville,|
|authorized 185 additional coke ovens
because of the successful use by the Pioneer Mining and
Manufacturing Company of coke made from the company's
coal, and a favorable report on the qualities of the coke
for blast furnace purposes by John Fulton, a recognized
- Sanctioned the first commercial photograph of beehive coke
ovens by photographer Horgan.
December 31, 1889
- Produced 75,774 tons of coke at the Blocton beehive coke ovens
during the first full year of operation.
- Contributed material for the publication of the Geological
Survey of Alabama - Report on the Cahaba Coal Field, written
by Joseph Squire (Squire 9).
- Inaugurated coal trade with Gulf Ports, West Indies, and South
- Sold thirty-three thousand acres of land he owned with Captain
Danner in the Brookwood area of Tuscaloosa County. Truman Aldrich
and A. C. Danner were the original organizers of the Standard
Coal Company and owned all the coal land in that region. One mine
had been opened at Brookwood, a few miles of railroad had been
constructed and Dubley Station had been established on the
Alabama Great Southern main line.
Captain Danner stated of this enterprise:
It was our intention to go
right across the railroad and build down to the
Warrior River, put on barges and bring such coal
as we could sell to Mobile by water; but we were ahead
of our time in our desire to develop the coal resources
of Alabama, and undertook too much for our capital
and our credit.. and very few appreciated the great
future that was ahead of us in the coal business We got
into financial trouble and had to abandon the enterprise
March 31, 1890
- Stated in Fiscal Year Ending March 31, 1890 Report:
|produced 500,694 tons of coal, an
increase of 146,016,|
|produced 75,676 tons of coke, an
increase of 58,870,|
|received a profit of $0.327 per ton
|added 185 additional coke ovens.|
June 1, 1890
- Operated 467 coke ovens with an
estimated output of 600 tons a day.
- Produced coke that maintained its good quality and gave
satisfaction to its users.
- Planned to install a disintegrator before the end of the year.
Summer, 1890 - Boasted
that Blocton had:
|increased in population to 3,600,|
|shipped coal products from Blocton
over three truck line railroad systems; the Louisville
and Nashville Railroad Company, The East Tennessee,
Virginia and Georgia Railroad Company, and the
Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railroad
November 12, 1890
- Deeded to the Blocton Baptist Church a prime lot in the Number
One Mining Town. Truman Aldrich had reserved a lot for a church
at the comer of Cadle and Tenth Street. It overlooked the school
house and Depot.
December, 1890 - January 13, 1891
- Curtailed coal and coke production due to a strike by the
miners. The strike was caused by the effort of the United Mine
Workers of America to gain control of the mine labor and to
dictate wages and rules to the mine operators. The strike was
rendered unsuccessful in its object by the, introduction of Negro
labor which indicated to the miners that they would be
permanently unemployed unless their demands were withdrawn.
July 30, 1892
- Consolidated the Cahaba Coal Mining Company and the Excelsior
Coal Company. Truman Aldrich was president of both companies.
December 19, 1892
- Carried out an agreement conveying the Cahaba Coal Mining
Company to the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company. This
terminated the active career of the Cahaba Coal Mining Company in
Blocton. The company conveyed to TCI:
|44,000 acres in lower Cahaba coal
|15 miles of standard-gauge railroad
track with appurtenant equipment,|
|467 coke ovens,|
|575 tenement houses, stores, and
|Seven coal mines in active operation
with a daily capacity of 3,000 tons.|
April 4, 1893
- Reported by the President of TCI in the annual report to the
By this very important union
of interests [Cahaba Coal Mining Company,
DeBardeleben Coal and Iron Company, and TCI], the
three most important producers have become united
instead of remaining in active competition....
Whilst the present development
of your property looks very large and is
relatively large (this Company being the largest
producer of bituminous coal and pig iron for the open
market of any company in America), notwithstanding this
fact, we are not working and have not worked over five
percent, of our property. This vast mineral domain
represents in area more than thirty per cent of all
the available and accessible mineral land of the
states of Tennessee and Alabama, and more than
sixty per cent, in value of all the coal and iron
in both these states.
The possession and ownership
of such an estate should be a matter of pride to
all the stockholders, for when it is fully, developed,
it will not only be a great heritage to your posterity
but will also be the greatest factor in building up
and giving prosperity to the South (Allen 27),
accomplishments -Truman Aldrich and the Cahaba Coal Mining
Company centered in Blocton, Alabama:
|Resided in Blocton for ten years.|
|Produced several hundred thousand
tons of coal annually.|
|Became one of the leading
producers of coal in the Birmingham District.|
|Furnished all the coal,
with one exception, to all railroads going to New
|Acknowledged as the "best
and largest area of good coal lands ever gotten
together in the State at that time".|
|Controlled through ownership,
partnerships and in corporations an estimated 1.2
million acres. "1,238.031 in all, barring 635
acres of 'surface' ", according to Ethel Armes in
The Story of Coal and Iron in Alabama
|Considered the most important
achievement of Mr. Aldrich's career as a coal man.|
|Sold "Blocton Coal" to
furnace companies, railroad companies, the
domestic market, and the Latin American export
market" (White 110).|
|Constructed 467 of the best
quality beehive coke ovens in the Birmingham
District. Photographs of the banks of beehive coke
ovens were used in many publications 1890's- 1990's as
the best example of beehive coke ovens). (See: History
of The Historic Blocton Beehive Coke Ovens: Blocton,
- Consolidated his company with TCI and became second
vice-president and general manager of TCI.
- Moved to Birmingham in 1893 and resided at 17 Street between
Aves. J. and H.
- Rescued TCI from bankruptcy during the most severe depression
of the nineteenth century.
- Traveled to New York and raised money. "T. H. Aldrich's
action at this juncture helped the Tennessee Company over its
most critical period" (Armes. 427).
- Convinced Braxton Bragg Comer, a future governor of Alabama, to
advance TCI $19,000 in grain and flour for its commissaries. Each
day during the depression Comer would drop by to see the TCI
general manager, Truman Aldrich, inquiring, "Going bust
today?" And Aldrich would reply, "Not today Mr. Comer,
but I can't tell about to-morrow" (Armes 426).
- Resigned from TCI, and entered politics.
- Labeled his profession as capitalist in the Birmingham City
- Nominated to the fifty-fourth Congress by the Republican and
- Elected but because the election was contested he served only a
portion of the term.
- Resided in Washington D.C. and at the famous Morris Motel when
- "Returned to the coal business as a sailor to the.
sea" (Armes 450).
- Became President of the Cahaba Southern Mining Company.
- Opened and operated the mines at Hargrove in Bibb County.
- Resided at 930 South 20th Street in the exclusive Southside
area of Birmingham.
- Became president and treasurer of Cahaba Southern Mining
- Moved to the prestigious Highland Ave. District of Birmingham
near the Episcopal Church.
- Became vice-president of Birmingham Machinery and Foundry
- Named acting-president of Sloss-Sheffield Company, the second
largest iron and steel company in Alabama. (Only TCI was larger).
- Purchased a large tract of coal land in lower Jefferson County
and opened the Virginia Mines. An underground explosion at these
mines in 1905 was one of the worst early coal mine accidents in
the Birmingham District. The explosion entombed the entire day
crew and knocked out the entrance to the mines. When rescuers
finally cleared the 1500 foot shaft, they found 106 dead men and
20 dead mules (White 309).
- Incorporated with others the East Birmingham Land Company that
successfully promoted this suburb as a home for diversified
- Listed as presidents of Aldrich Mining Company and Cahaba
Southern Mining Company.
- Organized the Hillabee Gold Company with his son in Tallapoosa
- Became president of the Hillabee Gold Mining Company.
- Repurchased the Montevallo Mines and became its president.
- Pictured in The Story of Iron and Coal in Alabama. One
of the few full page portraits in this book.
- Listed as president of Montevallo Mining Company.
- Appointed Postmaster of Birmingham by President Taft.
- Purchased a residence in the exclusive Glen Iris neighborhood
built by Robert Jernison Sr.
- Listed as mining engineer in Birmingham City Directory.
- Appointed regional advisor on resources and conversions to the
War Industries Board of the United States. He devoted his entire
time to this duty as one of the "Dollar a Year Men".
- Helped organize the Alabama Manufacturers and Operations
- Returned to his profession as mining engineer.
- Listed his profession as geologist.
- Continued to five in the exclusive neighborhood of Glen Iris,
- Involved in General Mine Equipment Company of Birmingham.
- TCL/USS closed its mining operations in Blocton due to high
freight rates and the depressed price of steel.
- Listed as paleontologist in Birmingham City Directory.
- Considered one of the top four paleontologists in the world
after a life time of field study of fossils, especially shell
- Awarded honorary doctor of science degree from University of
- Donated his collection of more than twenty thousand shells and
shell fossil specimens to the State Museum of Natural History
located at the University of Alabama.
- Died on April 28 at age 83.
- Buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Jefferson County.
- TCI/USS closed its commissary in Blocton, ending its last
active operations in what Truman Aldrich called Number One Mining
Town: Blocton, Alabama.
- U. S Postal Service closed the Blocton Post Office. All mail
was sent to the West Blocton Post Office.
- The Truman Aldrich/Pickett house stands as the lone sentinel
overlooking the site of The Number One Mining Town : Blocton,
Alabama, "once the Magic City of Bibb County".
TRUMAN H. ALDRICH: The
Founder of Blocton, Alabama
Allen, W. B. Tenneesse Coal- Iron- and
Railroad-Company- MS.533 84-148 MH3.
Birmingham Public Library, Department of
Archives and History, TCI, 1932.
Armes, Ethel. The Story of Coal and
Iron in Alabama. Birmingham: Chamber of Commerce, 1910.
Biography of a Business.- Centennial
Year 1860-1960. Birmingham: Tennessee Coal and
Iron Division, United States Steel
Corporation, n.p., 1960.
Birmingham City Directory. 1883
Cruikshank, George M. A History of
Birmingham and its Environs. 2 vols. Chicago: Lewis, 1920.
Deed Books, Bibb County. 1883 - 1893.
Ellison, Rhoda C. Bibb County Alabama
: The First Hundred Years, 1818-1918. Tuscaloosa: University of
Alabama Press, 1984.
--- Place Names of Bibb County, Alabama Brierfield:
Cahaba Trace Commission, 1993.
Emfinger, Henry A. The Story of my
Hometown, Aldrich, Alabama. Aldrich: Privately Printed, n.d.
Flynt, Wayne. Mine, Mill and Microchip
A Chronicle of Alabama Enterprise. Northridge: Windsor, 1987.
McMillan, Malcolm C. Yesterday's
Birmingham. E. A. Miami: Seemann, 1975.
McCord, Howard F. Baptists in Bibb
County. Centreville: Privately printed, 1979.
Keyes, Lyda M. History.- First Baptist
Church West Blocton, Alabama. West Blocton: Privately
Pierce, Lewis. Birmingham View Through
the Years in Photographs. Birmingham: Birmingham Historical
Squire, Joseph. Geological Survey of
Alabama, vol. V (Cahaba Coal Field). Montgomery: Brown, 1890.
White. Margorie L. The Birmingham
District: An Industrial History and Guide. Birmingham:
Birmingham Historical Society, 1981.
NUMBER ONE BLOCTON: The History of the
Number One Mining Town - Blocton, Al
This essay was written by Rev. Robert E. Praytor and was
compiled to HTML by Matt Arnold
of Blocton, Alabama