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Biography: John Burwell Farrell born June 26, 1872 – photograph

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Shelby County, Alabama

John Burwell Farrell was superintendent of education of Shelby in 1902 and was a gentleman well and favorably known among the educators of his section. His birthdate was June 26, 1872, in Beat Eight of Shelby County, Alabama. His father was a son of John Farrell and Sallie (Butler) Farrell and was born in Shelby County, Oct. 11, 1829.

The woods, at that time, abounding with almost all kinds of game, he soon learned to use the rifle and to use it well. When a boy he was known to be an early riser, and while his mother prepared the morning meal “Jim,” as he was called, was sent to drive up the calves that had been grazing through the night. Often upon his return, he brought with him the fruits of his young marksmanship in the form of a fat, juicy venison which, of course, added very marterially (sic) to the pleasures of the morning’s meal. He was not selfish in his nature but demonstrated his spirit of boyish generosity by dividing the fruits of the hunt with his white friends and with the Indians, whom he had made friendly by his kindly bearing toward them. And thus it will be seen that his parents were among the early pioneers of the country.

The mother of John B. was Mary A. Niven daughter of Jesse Niven and Susan (Tycer) Niven, who also were early comers to the country. During the Civil war she demonstrated a spirit of true patriotism and love for her country by running her mother’s mill on “Yellow-leaf creek” in the daytime, and at night spinning the thread and weaving the cloth that covered the bodies of the little ones at home; she made the clothing worn by her husband and brothers who were faithfully fighting the battles of the Confederacy.

The husband was a member of Company A, of the Second Alabama cavalry, to which cause he was faithful until the surrender of General Lee. Returning home in the spring of 1865, he found himself financially broken up, with nothing to begin life anew with, save a sound body and an exhaustless store of energy. To him were born a family of sixteen children, eleven of whom were living in 1904.

The father and mother of our subject were consistent members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, but in January 1904, the death angel came and erased his name from the church record kept by men, the recording angel transcribing it in the records of the Heavenly church above. The mother was still alive in 1904.

By reason of financial inabilities and bodily afflictions of other members of the family, the educational development of John B. Farrell was somewhat neglected; however, he received a good common school education and taught for a number of years in the public schools of the State of Alabama, his native State. In the spring of 1902, he sought political favors at the hands of the Democratic party and without a dissenting voice was given the nomination. In the following November, he was elected by a handsome majority over his opponent. His faithfulness to official duty was evidenced by a renomination without opposition. He was a faithful member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, a member of the Knights of Pythias; stood five feet and ten inches in his shoes, and balanced scales at two hundred pounds.

John Burwell Farrell, Sr. passed away Dec. 30, 1928, and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Jefferson County, Alabama. His wife Stella (Posey) Farrell (1881- 1951) who is also buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Two of their children include, also buried in Elmwood:

  1. John Burwell Farrell, Jr.
  2. Mary Carolyn Farrell


  1. Notable Men of Alabama: Personal and Genealogical, Volume 1 edited by Joel Campbell DuBose
  2. Find A Grave Memorial# 70214124 # 70861776 # 48079232 # 89655953 # 89620434

Shelby County Alabama Pioneers Volume I

This Volume reveals the relationships between the ACTONS, BAILEYS, CLOWER, CROWSON, LEES, NABORS, NELSON, ROBERTSON, and WILSON families of early Shelby County, AL. Notes and sources are included. Genealogy reports with all supporting evidence, wills, and deeds when available are included.



  1. Good Morning,
    The Shelby County Board of Education has the pictures of former Superintendents hanging on the wall of the auditorium in Columbiana where Board meetings are held. John Farrell’s picture is not included. How could I get a copy of his picture shown above suitable to be framed and included with the other Superintendents.

    1. This picture is a copy from an old book and not suitable from framing. You might check with the person who posted the same picture on here.

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