T C I & RR Co.

Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company

When I was in college, I attended the University of the South, prior to going to engineering school at Georgia Tech.


A few years after college, while working on as a field engineer on a bridge inspection project, my boss, Mr. John Allen, showed my how to "read rails".  That is, he showed me how to read the mill marks on railroad rails, to see when and where the rail was "rolled" or made.


At the time we were working near a branchline railroad in southern Tennessee, and the rail was marked "TENNESSEE".  John explained that this rail was made in Birmingham, AL, which made no sense to me whatsoever.


What do these facts have in common?  History is a tangled web of events and this is no exception.  How in the world are The University of the South, the "Tennessee Company", railroad rails and Birmingham, Alabama all linked historically?


The Tennessee Company was owned by Nashville and New York businessmen who purchased and developed coal property on the Cumberland Plateau in southeast Tennessee.  Part of that development included setting aside a 10,000 acre grant of land used to establish a university in the Episcopalian or Anglican tradition, which would be able to serve students in the south .  This was The University of the South, founded in 1856.  The name of the company at that time was the Sewanee Mining Company, and the University was located at the village of Sewanee.  The popular name of The University of the South is Sewanee.


Subsequent development led to a name change to the Tennessee Coal Iron and RR Company, or Tennessee Company for short.  Mergers and acquisitions followed, including merger with the Southern States company which had developed iron furnaces at South Pittsburg, Tennessee.  These interests and others, particularly Enoch Ensley from Memphis,  acquired very significant industrial property in the Birmingham area at Ensley, AL.  The Ensley Works became a very significant steel property and was key in the growth and development of the Birmingham District as a steel and particularly a rail manufacturing center.  When this acquisition was made, it carried the name of the Tennessee company along to Birmingham, Alabama, the Tennessee Coal Iron and Railroad Company.


So, now you know the "rest of the story."

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