Persistent, industrious and steadfast, the Bickerstaff brothers - James Henry and William Jefferson Jr. - paved the way for their family to sustain and prosper for decades to come when they developed a partnership to form Bickerstaff Brick Company in 1885 becoming one of the largest family – owned brick manufacturers in the world.
Born in Russell County, Alabama on May 17, 1844, James Henry Bickerstaff was the fourth born of eight children. His younger brother, and eventual business partner, William Jefferson Bickerstaff Jr. was born November 2, 1850 in Russell County, Alabama.
James Henry and William Jefferson Jr. are the sons of William Jefferson Bickerstaff who was born September 18, 1819 in Butts County, Georgia. By 1839, William Jefferson Sr. had married Martha Christian Humber, who was also from Butts County, Georgia.
When War broke out in 1861, William Jefferson Bickerstaff did not turn his back on the South. Instead he, and two of his sons - Robert Humber and James Henry -willingly fought against the North to preserve their heritage. Unfortunately, William Jefferson Bickerstaff Sr. was injured during the Battle of Murfrees and later succumbed to his wounds. He died in 1863, two years before the war ended.
Despite their father’s death, Robert Humber and James Henry continued fighting for the South. Robert Humber soon followed his father in death. He (and many other soldiers) contracted measles in Sangster’s Crossroads, Virginia.
James Henry Bickerstaff, who was only seventeen years old when he joined his father and older brother on the battlefield, did not leave the War unscathed. After recovering from a wound to his thigh, he later lost his left arm during battle and was forced to return home before the War ended.
Born in Russell County, Alabama on May 17, 1884, James Henry Bickerstaff was the fourth born of eight children. His younger brother, and eventual business partner, William Jefferson Bickerstaff Jr. was born November 2, 1850 in Russell County, Alabama.
Despite losing his arm at the age of 19, James Henry Bickerstaff did not let his disability deter his dreams of future success. In November 1869, he married Emma Lindsay Howard and went on to have three children before 1875.
Little more is known about the brothers’ dealings during the Post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, but by 1885 the pair had found the entrepreneurial spirit and purchased the Abercrombie Brickyard in Brick Yard, Alabama. The company was coined Bickerstaff Brick Co. and expanded dramatically in the years to come.
During the company’s development and expansion, William Jefferson Jr. married Elizabeth (Bessie) Nell Bright in December 1897. The next year, two of James Henry’s sons - James Henry Jr. and Augustus Howard - joined their father and uncle in the brickyard business.
By 1901, farm-land previously owned by the Abercrombies and sold to Henry P. Moffett was sold to the Bickerstaffs and as a result, this land became the J.H. Bickerstaff Farm Co. In 1909, both companies were incorporated. Unfortunately, James Henry did not live to see this monumental accomplishment. He died one day after his 62nd birthday on May 18, 1906. William Jefferson Jr. served as the Bickerstaff Brick Co.’s president until 1916 (he later died in 1924) when the company was turned over to the sons of James Henry.
Later the old Abercrombie farm was expanded even further when Arthur Bussey, organizer of the Dixie Brick Co., joined his part of the farmland with that owned by William Bickerstaff Jr. This new partnership resulted in the construction of a brick making plant.
Throughout the following decades, the Bickerstaff Brick Co. and the J.H. Bickerstaff Farm Co. remained family run establishments, thriving and expanding with the Bickerstaff family, operating well into the 20th century. By 1966, now run by Richard H. and Frank Jeter Bickerstaff, the Bickerstaff Brick Co. was renamed Bickerstaff Clay Products Co., Inc. Various savvy modifications helped make Bickerstaff Clay Production Co. Inc. one of the largest family-owned brick manufacturers in the world. By the time Bickerstaff Clay Production Co. Inc. was sold to Australian based brick manufacturer Boral Bricks, Inc. in 1995 there were operations in Russell County, Al; Bessemer, Al; Cobb County, Ga; and Pensacola, Fl.
Even though the Bickerstaff Clay Production Co., Inc. is no longer in operation today, the Bickerstaffs have left behind a family legacy that spans three centuries. Today, many of the family members reside in the Columbus-Phenix City area and are still contributing to the growth and preservation of their community.svm