Henry F. DeBardeleben
Henry Fairchild DeBardeleben (born July 22, 1840 at Dutch Bend, Autauga County – died December 6, 1910) was an industrialist, once called the "King of the Southern Iron World", and the founder of Bessemer.
DeBardeleben was the son of Henry and Mary Anne Fairchild DeBardeleben, farmers in Montgomery County. His father died when Henry was 10 and he and his mother moved to the city of Montgomery, where he took a job working as an apprentice baker in a grocery store. At the age of 16 he moved to Prattville to became a ward of industrialist Daniel Pratt, a family friend. He lived in the Pratt's mansion and worked as a foreman in Pratt's lumber yards and cotton gin factory.
In April 1861 DeBardeleben joined the Prattville Dragoons as an ensign and commissary officer and went with the unit to Pensacola for training. The following February the unit was deployed in Chattanooga, Tennessee and was engaged in the Battle of Shiloh, and later at Corinth, Mississippi. By the beginning of 1863, DeBardeleben had resigned from the army, eloped with Pratt's daughter Ellen, and returned to his father-in-law's machine shops
Pratt Coal and Coke
After the end of the Civil War, DeBardeleben and Pratt rebuilt the Oxmoor Furnace near Birmingham. Pratt bought controlling interest in the Red Mountain Iron and Coal Company, and installed DeBardeleben as its general manager. He inherited the company on Pratt's death in 1873.
In 1878 DeBardleben joined with Truman Aldrich and James Sloss to found the Pratt Coal and Coke Company, which developed the Pratt seam west of Birmingham. A year later he began construction, with T. T. Hillman, of the Alice furnaces, named after his oldest daughter. DeBardeleben sold the Pratt company to Enoch Ensley in 1881 and briefly relocated to Mexico. He returned in 1882 and, by 1886 he was ready to pursue grander plans. He founded the DeBardeleben Coal and Iron Company and purchased, all-told, over 150,000 acres of mineral lands in the Birmingham District, making his the largest industrial concern in the South.
On a 4,040-acre parcel southwest of Birmingham, around the community of Brooklyn. he platted out and developed as the city of Bessemer, named for the British inventor of an improved process for making steel. His Bessemer Land and Improvement Company occupied a handsome two-story brick building at the center of the new city and the first lots were sold on April 12, 1887. Rapid investment and growth in the area earned Bessemer the nickname of "Marvel City". In 1892 DeBardeleben sold his industrial concerns, then valued at over $13 million, to the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company and was made a vice-president. He made a failed attempt to assume control of the company, losing most of his assets in the process. Ellen died in 1894.
The aging DeBardeleben was not finished with industrial development, nor with marriage. He married Katherine McCrossin in 1898. His Alabama Fuel & Iron Company, founded with his sons Henry and Charles, began coal mining at Margaret in St Clair County and the Acton Basin in present-day Hoover beginning in 1906. He also held an interest in the Birmingham Rolling Mills and Birmingham National Bank.
- Fuller, Justin (January 1986) "Henry F. DeBardeleben, Industrialist of the New South." The Alabama Review, Vol. 39, No. 1.
- Ingham, John N. (1983) Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313213623