On this day in Alabama history: Joshua Mitchell sets railroad-industry record

On this day in Alabama history: Joshua Mitchell sets railroad-industry record
Birmingham mineral railroad viaduct designed by J.L. Mitchell, spanning Newfound Creek, Birmingham, 2001. (Jet Lowe, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

April 29, 1904

Joshua Lafayette Mitchell (1866-1906) made his mark for building railroad trestles in Alabama and Georgia in the early 20th century. In 1900, Mitchell and his family moved to Jefferson County, where he took a job building train trestles in mining communities. The Georgia native had already been building wooden railroad trestles for 13 years.

In 1902, Mitchell was hired to construct 34 wooden trestles on the 35-mile Cane Creek branch of the L&N Railroad in coal-mining areas of Jefferson and Walker counties. Fifteen of those trestles were more than 75 feet high. When the No. 10 trestle over Newfound Creek was completed on April 29, 1904, it was 720 feet long and 116 feet high, making it the highest wooden trestle in the nation at the time.

Mitchell was recognized for his accomplishment in newspapers, and he and his family were featured in the May 1, 1904, issue of The Atlanta Constitution. Mitchell then built trestles in Cordova in Walker County and Itawamba, Mississippi, and returned to Alabama to build housing for the new Bessie mining community in Chilton County.

Mitchell was born near Loganville, Georgia, on Oct. 28, 1866. He and his first cousin, Nettie Long, later married and had eight children.

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

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