Alabama Pioneers Honored

Biography: Robert Elbert Bowdon born September 11, 1874 – photograph

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(1874 – 1959)


Robert Elbert Bowdon, superintendent and one of the chief stockholders of the Keystone Lime company at Keystone, Ala., was born Sept. 11, 1874, at Calera, in Shelby county, Ala. He had the benefit of refined and educated parents and was given a good common school education.

He early engaged in business for himself, beginning at the very bottom of the ladder as an office boy in the Brinkerhoff bank at Calera. Being faithful in small things, he was gradually advanced until he became cashier of the institution. He was serving in this position when it went out of business in 1893.

At that time, Mr. Bowdon was actively engaged in the development of the lime quarries of the county. He was first connected with the Calera Lime company as secretary and treasurer and after two years he became manager of the Calera Land & Lime company.

The following year this company was reorganized and he served its successor, the Calera Lime Works, as bookkeeper, until 1898. In 1898 he established Keystone Lime Works at Keystone. This company reorganized as a stock company, and Mr. Bowdon served as general superintendent. The plant is capitalized at $50,000 in 1903 and became a large business in lime products.

Mr. Bowdon was as energetic in his social as in his business life. He was connected with the Democratic organizations of Shelby county as a committeeman, was also a member of the fourth district congressional committee and was secretary of the Democratic executive committee. Mr. Bowdon was active in school affairs, being trustee of his township and president of the Keystone board.

He was a worthy member of the Masonic fraternity, Lodge 410, at Helena, and he and his family were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, of which he served as steward and trustee. Mr. Bowdon was also superintendent of the Sunday school. In July 24, 1896, he married Ettye Holcombe. She was the daughter of Jasper and Lucy Holcombe of Calera. Ettye died Dec. 16, 1971.

They had three known children, the oldest two, Frank and Willie Maye were deceased by 1903

  1. Frank W. Bowdon
  2. Willie Maye Bowdon
  3. Roberta D. Bowdon was the youngest. Roberta D. Bowdon was born 1902 and married Edward S. Lymon, JR on Nov 25, 1924. She died in 1934 and was buried in Montevallo Cemetery.

The father was a son of Samuel Bowdon who with his family came to Shelby county from North Carolina early in the last century and settled on a farm near Montevallo, where he passed the remainder of his days. Bowdon was a man of fine education and became a wealthy land and slave owner. Robert E Bowdon’s father, Samuel Felder Bowdon was born at the old plantation in 1834 and died July 19, 1894.

Samuel Felder Bowdon married Margaret Frances Cunningham born 1840 in Alabama who was a daughter of Joseph H. Cunningham. (May 22, 1793 Wilkes Co., NC -May 7, 1857 Shelby County, AL) and Lucretia ( Wilson) Cunningham (1816-1866) Their family consisted of eight children, of whom five were living in 1903. Some of the children of Samuel and M Margaret (Cunningham) Bowdon according to 1880 census were

  1. Samuel F. Bowdon (b. 1864 AL);
  2. Lewin N. Bowdon (b. 1866 AL);
  3. Robert E. Bowdon (b. 1874 AL);
  4. Lula D. Bowdon (b. 1877 AL)
  5. Willie W. Bowdon (b. 1879 AL)

Samuel Felden Bowdon was a merchant before the war. In that struggle he was a first lieutenant, and later was a teacher and bookkeeper. He was a Democrat and a Mason. Both parents early joined the Methodist church. Margaret resided at Calera. Samuel F. Bowdon died Feb. 26, 1959 and is buried in Salem Cemetery, Calera, Shelby County, Alabama. Margaret Frances (Cunningham) Bowdon was born August 31, 1840 and died March 21, 1908. She is buried at Salem Cemetery, Calera, Shelby County, Alabama.


  1. Notable Men of Alabama edited by Joel Campbell DuBose Volume III
  2. 1880 Shelby County, Census
  3. #42897385 # 42897379 # 42897386


This biography can be found in Biographies of Notable and Not-so-Notable Alabama Pioneers Volume V