The city of Bessemer has a rich historical background which dates back over 110 years. The city was founded in 1887 by Henry F. Debardeleben, who is pictured to the left. Debardeleben was considered a pioneer industrialist that had a plan to build a city literally from the ground up. At age 30 he came to Birmingham and they soon had acquired a controlling interest in the Red Mountain Iron and Coal Company, which was later renamed the Eureka Mining Company. Debardeleben was the general manger of this company. It was during this time in 1886 that he proposed to buy a site consisting of 4,040 acres of land that was located about 13 miles to the southwest of Birmingham for approximately $100,000. Debardeleben's plan was to build eight furnaces and to add two additional railroad outlets to the city within two years. He believed that the future of this city and the surrounding areas depended on the sucess of its iron and steel resources. This became the key part of Debardeleben's organizational structure for the city. Debardeleben even renamed the city to reflect the resources in the area that it could offer. The original name of the city was Brooklyn; however Debardeleben decided to rename the city Bessemer in honor of Sir Henry Bessemer, the British scientist who was famous for his contribution to the steel making process.
In the early days of the city, Debardeleben put almost all of his energy into revitalizing the industries that were already located in the area. However, other companies around the country began to look at Bessemer as a possible site for relocation. Debardeleben founded one of the first buildings in the city in 1887, the Bessemer Land and Improvement Company, which is pictured to the right. The company began surveying the land and plotted streets, parks, and lots around the area. The company sold its first lot on April 12, 1887. Soon afterwards, land values began soaring in the area. Land in the area in 1886 was selling for around $10-25 per acre, but by the spring of 1887 land was selling for as much as $18,000 per acre. The population was also booming in the area. In just over a year, there were more than 4,000 people in Bessemer. The 1880 census placed Bessemer's population as eighth in the state. The city reached fourth in the state in terms of population by 1890 and remained there for several years afterward.
However, with the rapid growth of the city, the people in Bessemer began to see needs that they hadn't needed before. There was an increase in crime in the city. As a result, Bessemer held its first court in June 1887. The people of Bessemer had elected R.M. McAdory as the first mayor and he had eight councilmen working with him. The people voted to incorporate the city on September 9, 1887. There were also committees setup to study the needs of the city and to supply solutions for the needs. The council soon decided that it needed more room to function. Thus a city hall was built (pictured to the left) to accomodate for the rapid expansion of the city. The people in Bessemer also decided that they needed better fire fighting capabilities. There was also a need for better education in the city. The Roberts School was constructed soon afterwards. It was the first permanent school that was located in Bessemer. The school is pictured below.
Furthermore, Bessemer has come a long way since its birth. It has had to endure both good times and bad times. The Great Depression hit Bessemer very hard. It has also endured several recessions. However each time the people of the city were able to hold on and fight back. Thus today, with a population of about 30,000, Bessemer continues to enjoy being a city that is still experiencing growth and expansion.
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