Days Gone By - stories from the past

Who do you think bought the first deed in the city of Birmingham? Amazing vintage photograph

First Deed in the City of Birmingham

On the 1st day in June in 1871 lots were sold in the city of Birmingham. “The lots had been numbered and wooden pins driven into the ground to mark the limits. The branch water flowed across them in undisputed right of way; the browsing cattle and the birds, feeding their unfledged broods in the boughs of the trees, were the sole visible occupants. Many hopeful speculators had come, some of both sexes, and some who had walked for miles, because at the termini of one of the railroads they could find no conveyance, private or public. (continued below)

The photograph below was made by Colonel A. C. Oxford in 1873, Birmingham’s first photographer. He came to Birmingham from Marion Alabama and was a famous Confederate Veteran. He attended all reunions with his camera, his uniform and his daughter. His Confederate Album is in the Alabama State Archives. William H. Brantley purchased it for $75 and presented it to the ArchivesPhotograph by Colonel Oxford in 1873 Samford University

The sale of lots was satisfactory. The first lot was bought by Major Andrew Marre for $150. It was located at the northeast corner of First Avenue and 19th Street. Major Marre may be names as Birmingham’s first settler.

Founder member of Birmingham Freemasons

Andrew Marre was a merchant and cotton buyer. He came to Jones Valley in Jefferson County, Alabama from New Orleans, Louisiana. He constructed a two-story stone building on the lot to house his Marre & Allen general store. He also built a house on the southwest corner of 19th Street an Avenue E on the south side of the Railroad Reservation. He was a founding member of the Birmingham Lodge No. 384 of Free & Accepted Masons in December 1871 and a director of the Birmingham Insurance Company which was organized in 1884.

Note: Birmingham Lodge No. 384 has merged with other lodges over the years and is now a part of Hoover lodge No. 644 in Hoover, Alabama.

Robert H. Henley was the first mayor of Birmingham

Robert H. Henley

First house in 1871

The first house erected in the new city was completed August 28, 1871.

Municipal powers were granted to Birmingham on December 19, 1871, after a petition was submitted to the General Assembly by Colonel Powell and other leading citizens. Colonel Powell was president of the Elyton Land Company and a founder of the city. The first officials were Robert H. Henley, mayor; J. H. Francis, B. F. Roden, W. J. McDonald, A. Marre, J. B. Webb, John A. Milner and T. S. Woods, alderman; William Alexander, clerk; James McConnell, treasurer, and O. D. Williams, marshal.

The last spike of the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad was driven May 15, 1871, and the South and North Alabama Railroad was opened for business on September 29, 1872. by February 20, 1873, the city of Birmingham had a population of about 4,000, six churches, four hotels, a national bank, two mills and several small manufacturing enterprises. Birmingham was thriving.

1873 Photograph by O. V. Hunt at Birmingham Public Library that identifies some houses & buildings

Birmingham 1873 from top of Courthouse by photographer O. V. Hunt (from Samford University Library)

Key to photograph above

Birmingham in 1873 from top of Court-house showing:

  1. Chimney of old sail
  2. First Baptist Church 6th Ave. and 22nd St.
  3. First Methodist Church 6th Ave. 21st St.
  4. First Birmingham Water Works 13th Avenue and 22nd St.
  5. T. L. Hudgins Residence 6th Ave. and 21st St.
  6. Col. Terry’s Residence, where Phillips High was later built


  1. Peoples, Jared Encyclopedia of Alabama
  2. Jefferson County and Birmingham, Alabama historical and biographical. Published 1887 by Teeple & Smith in Birmingham, Alabama
  3. Birmingham Public Library

The Grand Masters of Free & Accepted Masons of the State of Alabama 1811-2011

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. alabama pioneers is very cool….love learning history of our state…

    1. Thanks Michael!

  2. the First Baptis chuchr at 6th Ave. & 22nd st isn’t that where the Kirkland Clinic is now?

    1. The photographer was atop the old courthouse which was on the northeast corner of 3rd Avenue N and Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N/21st Street N. The photo was taken looking north toward what is now called Uptown. The original location of First Baptist Church was the southeast corner of 6th Avenue N and 22nd Street N. Once the church moved to Homewood, the new owner razed the church and the site is now a parking lot. (

  3. […] as a commissary department for the railroaders. The first house erected in the place was that of Maj. Marre, which was built of rock from the highlands, there being no brick about in those […]

  4. I wish I could buy a house and land for $150

  5. […] as a commissary department for the railroaders. The first house erected in the place was that of Maj. Marre, which was built of rock from the highlands, there being no brick about in those […]

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