>A changing community

>In 1887 Bessemer was founded by Henry F. DeBardeleben. DeBardeleben is being honored today by the Kiwanis club of Birmingham as it inducts him along with three others into the Birmingham Business Hall of Fame. His credits include (for Birmingham) forming the Pratt Coal and Coke Co. and the DeBardeleben Coal and Iron Co., which later merged with TCI.

As for Bessemer, the King of the Southern Iron World, as he was known, Henry DeBardeleben came here around 1887. (History – Bessemer Chamber of Commerce)

At age 30 he came to Birmingham and they soon had acquired a controlling interest in the Red Mountain Iron and Coal Company, which was later renamed the Eureka Mining Company. Debardeleben was the general manger of this company. It was during this time in 1886 that he proposed to buy a site consisting of 4,040 acres of land that was located about 13 miles to the southwest of Birmingham for approximately $100,000. Debardeleben’s plan was to build eight furnaces and to add two additional railroad outlets to the city within two years. He believed that the future of this city and the surrounding areas depended on the success of its iron and steel resources. This became the key part of Debardeleben’s organizational structure for the city. Debardeleben even renamed the city to reflect the resources in the area that it could offer. The original name of the city was Brooklyn; however Debardeleben decided to rename the city Bessemer in honor of Sir Henry Bessemer, the British scientist who was famous for his contribution to the steel making process.

“His descendants have made a mark in the Birmingham area….” the release about today’s award says.

For instance, I guess, his son, Charles DeBardeleben? According to Diane McWhorter, in Carry Me Home, Charles DeBardeleben identified himself as “one of the greatest believers of White Supremacy” and proclaimed his contempt for an organization (labor union) that let whites “mingle and associate with Negroes.” It gets worse.

But this is not about Charles. It’s about the positive changes that Henry brought to our area.

Another positive step toward change is the announcement from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama that the Jefferson County McCalla Industrial Park is being designated as an “AdvantageSite,” the first such site in Jefferson County.

This site is next to the proposed intermodal facility to be built by Norfolk Southern. Being designated an AdvantageSite helps to “take away much of the guess work for a company looking to locate or expand in the state. Industrial sites earn the designation after an extensive process that verifies all types of information, from the ownership to environmental studies and zoning and other essentials.”

In other words, it helps in recruiting development. This should help to bring the type of development that Norfolk Southern is predicting alongside their hub.

By the way, if you were unable to attend their information meeting last week, McCallaCan.com
has the answers you are looking for. This site provides most of the information that was presented at the Bessemer Civic Center. (Without being under the watchful eye of the Bessemer Police whose presence offended so many of the McCalla residents).

There are other changes coming to Bessemer. There is someone thinking outside the box, with a vision that can help our urban neighborhoods get out of the rut we are in. More about this later.

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