AT&N Railroad's Foreman was Rufus Newell
In 1900 Rufus M. Newell of Tuscaloosa was hired by Judge John T. Cochrane, head of the Tuscaloosa Belt Railway, to construct a railroad from Reform to Mobile. Rufus Newell had married Mary E. Lawrence, December 4th, 1873, and they had a large family including Mary Docia Ann, Laulea Jane, John, Tiney, Walter, Sarah, Cordelia, Emily, Gilly Hester, Thomas Bedford, and Freddie Pickens.
Rufus, Mary, and their big family moved to Reform and bought the two-story Bell house which has now been made into a one-story dwelling and owned by Mr. and Mrs. O. P. Elmore -- it is located behind the I. G. A. store.
The railroad bed was made with big mule-pulled scoops and crude tools. It was hard, slow work. The hours were from "can 'til can't" and even the young Newell boys worked on the railroad. Mrs. Newell cooked for the laborers. End of track camps were set up as the railroad progressed. Tents were set up to house the workers and as foreman Rufus Newell was responsible for getting the work completed on schedule. The big Newell family followed the railroad all the way from reform to Mobile.
With the extension of the Carrollton Short Line Pickens County gained a new town - Aliceville - named for Judge Cochrane's wife. The town grew rapidly because of the faster and cheaper transportation other railroad offered. The founders of Aliceville were farmers and they could ship farm products cheaper by railroad than by river transportation. The roads were in no condition for trucking.
The first run of the AT&N Railway train was on January 18, 1903. The entire population of this area came in wagons, surreys, buggies, and on horseback to witness the arrival of the train as she came into Aliceville.
Without the railroad there would have been no Aliceville. The people of the communities Framonia and Bridgeville moved to be near the railroad and soon Aliceville was a thriving town.
Upon the completion of the railroad in Mobile a big celebration was held. Judge Cochrane was so pleased with "a job well done" that he told Rufus Newell and his boys they could write their own tickets. The only one to take the judge up on his offer was Gilly Newell who asked for and got a job on the train. He stayed with the company 48 years retiring as an engineer and resides with his wife (the former Kate Parnell of Reform) in York, Alabama.
Rufus M. Newell died June 24, 1929 and his wife, Mary lived another 20 years.
Gilly and Freddie are the only children living today. Mary Docia Ann died when she was fifteen years old. Louisa Jane married Jerome Hobson around 1894. They had four children, Ira, Penn, Willie Lou and Mary Etta. She died December 23, 1968. John married Josephine McDaniel around 1902. They had 3 children, all boys, Lester, John, Edger and Paul. Walter Newell married Annie Pearson and their children were Lucy Mae, Sara Palmer, Johnnie and Helen. Sarah Cordelia married W. B. Kilpatrick in 1901 and had one son, Dwight Dewitt. After Mr. Kilpatrick's death she married Ira C. Simpson of Stansel. They had six children, Ida, Faye, Kate, Margaret, Neil and Stoner (my husband). Emily Newell married Robert Lee Simpson around 1914. They had seven children, Grace, Percy, Ida, Louie, Eltrym, Mabel, and Robbie. Gilly Hester Newell married Kate Parnell and they had 4 children, G. H. Jr., Doris, Edrice, and Rufus. Freddie Pickens Newell married Laura Wilma Horne and they had one daughter, Mary Ann.
Stoner remembers his grandfather as a loveable, funny man. Once Stoner put his feet (with his shoes on) in his grandfather's rubber boots. He couldn't get them off and his grandfather told him he would have to wear them forever...when Stoner started crying his grandfather reached in and untied Stoner's shoes and slipped his feed out of his shoes, then pulled the shoes out of the boots. Stoner's sister, Kate, remembers her grandfather and his old one-eyed horse that he called "Cyclops". He plowed up his garden patches with the animal. She recalls that many Missionary meetings broke up early because of the salty language of the old man when he plowed Cyclops.
But Rufus was a man that got the job done...and his sweat went into building a railroad that conceived a town...Aliceville.
This is a picture of Mr. G. H. "Gid" Newell, who retired as an engineer in York, Alabama. When Gid was asked about his AT&N memories in 1971 his thoughts were...My daddy helped build this railroad from its beginning in 1900. He was a small contractor with four head of mules which he used to drag and scrape surveyed areas before rail laying. When daddy built the railroad into Aliceville, which was just a place in the swamp, we stayed there for several years laying-out and grading the streets of the town. Later, when the railroad got enough money to build a bridge over the Tombigbee River, we continued building the line into Cochrane. About this time I started firing for the AT&N.
This article appeared in the Pickens County Herald, the Aliceville newspaper, in 1977.