New Birmingham. Born during iron rush of 1880s. Population about 3000. Had 2 iron furnaces, “The Tassie Bell” and “The Star and Cresent,” 15 brick business blocks included banks, ice plant, electric plant, pipe foundry, school and palacial southern hotel where Jay Gould and Grover Cleveland were guests. Street railway connected with Rusk. Became ghost town in 1890s due to financial troubles of iron companies. – Historical Marker Text. Marker erected 1966. Located 1 mile southeast of Rusk on US 69
New Birmingham, once called the “Iron Queen of the Southwest,” was a short-lived industrial town. It was founded by Anderson B. Blevins, a sewing-machine salesman from Alabama who traveled on business to Cherokee County in the mid-1880s. Impressed by the large iron ore deposits in the area and the already operating iron foundry at the Rusk Penitentiary, Blevins envisioned an industrial center comparable to Birmingham in his home state. He returned to the East and with the aid of a number of capitalists, including James A. Mahoney, future New York mayor Robert Van Wyck, and his brother-in-law William Harrison Hamman, founded the Cherokee Land and Iron Company (renamed the New Birmingham Iron and Land Company in 1889). In 1888 Blevins obtained options on 20,000 acres of land, much of it with rich iron ore deposits. A mining operation was established almost immediately, and within a short time work began on a fifty-ton blast furnace (named Tassie Belle in honor of Blevins’s wife) and on rolling and planing mills.
In addition to the foundry, the company planned to develop an entire community. The new town, known as New Birmingham, was platted just east of the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad; on October 12, 1888, the firm began selling lots. Streets-named for cities in Texas and the Northeast-were laid out and graded. The business district was in a fifteen-block area on Dallas, Galveston, and San Antonio streets. Within a few months a small town had developed, and by 1890 New Birmingham had an estimated 2,000 residents, a bank, a saloon, a sash and door factory, an iron pipe foundry, a large brick kiln, an ice factory, wagon and plow works, two cornice factories, and one of the first electric generating plants in Texas. An interurban railroad was built to link the town with nearby Rusk. By the early 1890s more than 400 houses and businesses had been constructed. The centerpiece of the new town was the three-story brick Southern Hotel, which featured running hot and cold water, electric lights, and an elegant restaurant. Continued Reading New Birmingham History from the Handbook of Texas Online >>