John B. Boddie
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John B. Boddie, one of the most successful business men in Birmingham, is a native of Dayton, Marengo County, Alabama, where he was born in October, 1849. His father’s ancestors were of French extraction. His mother, who was a granddaughter of General Winchester, of Revolutionary fame, and a sister of tlie gallant General E. W. Rucker, of the Confederate Army, is of Scotch-Irish descent. The parents were natives of Alabama and Tennessee respectively, and were married in the latter State in 1846, but immediately removed to Marengo County, Alabama. In 1859 his father’s death occurred, during a typhoid-fever epidemic, leaving the mother with four children. John B. was the eldest of the number, and received a good education, first as a pupil of the celebrated Henry Tutwiler, and from
thence he went to the University of Mississippi. Before graduation he was called, when only seventeen years of age, from his studies to assume the management of an estate valued at over 0,000. The legislature relieved him from the disabilities of non-age to allow him to assume his responsible trust. These large interests he successfully controlled until the disastrous year of 1873, and from that period until 1883 continued the uneven struggle.
He purchased his first of piece property in Jefferson County, in 1883, at Wood’s Station, which he sold within seventeen days at a profit of ,000, his entire capital being less than one thousand dollars of borrowed money.
He intuitively recognized the magnificent natural beauty of the Southern Highlands for suburban homes, and purchased twenty acres, composing the most desirable locations, and began developing the property, which is now finely improved and dotted with some of the finest suburban residences in the State. He still owns considerable lands in that portion of the city, which is being improved rapidly.
His speculative operations in the business portion of the city have been marvelous, and the execution of them rapid and masterly. A few of them are cited to preserve for posterity some idea of what one man accomplished in the central business portion of Birmingham. His active mind saw at a glance that Morris Avenue would become, by reason of its freight facilities, the center of the wholesale trade, and he accordingly purchased from the Elyton Land Company 975 feet between the railroad and the avenue, paying per front foot. In eight months he had sold all at a profit of over 5,000.
His next venture was on First Avenue, between 21st and 25th streets, purchasing 650 feet from the Elyton Land Company at per front foot, and choice corner lots from diflerent individuals. He then conceived the idea of erecting a magnificent hotel to improve the property, to cost 0,000. After months of planning the desired location was secured by the purchase of the site of Dr. Caldwell’s handsome private residence at a cost of ,000, the hotel to bear the latter’s name, and the Elyton Land Company to take ,000 of the stock, and the balance divided between Mr. Boddie and seven other prominent capitalists. This bold stroke of policy cleared for our subject ,000 on the sale of his lots, and secured the erection of the finest hotel in Alabama, in which he is a large stockholder.
Desiring a permanent investment, he decided upon the southwest corner of First Avenue and 20th street. After several months of negotiations, with an eye single to
becoming the sole possessor of this most eligible business lot, he became the owner of the entire lot, 100×100 feet, paying for it ,500. This lot is now conceded to be worth 5,000. Mr. Boddie intends this lot to be a permanent investment, and will erect upon it a handsome business block, consisting of five stories, with elevators and all of the superior improvements of the age, to live as an enduring monument of his success for many years. These are but fair samples of his many successful operations. He also owns much valuable real estate, and is interested in various enterprises, among which we name: Sloss Steel & Iron Company, North Birmingham Land Company, North Highlands Company, Coalburg Coal & Coke Company, Central Land & Improvement Company, in most of which he is a director. Mr. Boddie has done more to advertise Birmingham and the advantages of Alabama as a safe investment for capital than any other one man. Recognizing the force of placing information abroad, and keeping it before the people, he has been liberal in the extreme sense of that word.
The "New South," one of the finest illustrated monthly magazines in the South, and one that is doing more to attract capital to the South than any other publication in the State, owes to Mr. Boddie the fact that it is on a substantial basis today, and without his timely assistance it would probably have suffered the fate of many other such periodicals.
Since coming to Birmingham he has paid off a large indebtedness contracted prior to coming here, has aided liberally all demands of charity and religious denominations, and has accumulated in a few years a fortune, which is fast increasing, and that in many examples would require a lifetime to secure.
Socially he is most pleasing, and ever ready to extend to the visitor any information and all of the courtesies native to a Southern gentleman. He resides in a finely appointed home, one of the finest and first built on the Highlands, which he is continually beautifying by all the appliances of decoration, furniture and art.
Mr. Boddie was married in 1879 to Miss Annie Perryman, of Mobile. She died in 1883, leaving one child, John B., Jr. January 21st, 1885, he was united to a second wife, Miss Jennie Cleves, of Memphis, Tenn. One child has been born to them, Mary.
They are both members of the M. E. Church, South.
– from Jefferson County and Birmingham Alabama: History and Biographical, edited by John Witherspoon Dubose and published in 1887 by Teeple & Smith / Caldwell Printing Works, Birmingham, Alabama