The Vagabond – Gadsden’s first furniture factory

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By Danny Crownover

Gadsden’s first furniture factory was located on the east side of North Fifth Street at the corner of Locust Street, immediately north of the old city hall. The factory was housed in a two-story frame structure and operated by Kittrell & Mayne. The factory had very little machinery, with most of the work being done by hand.

Bryant J. Kittrell, a lea-ding Gadsden businessman and manufacturer, was the business head of the firm. Talley Mayne, Sr., was the practical member. He had several sons, all of whom were fine cabinet makers. One of them was Talley Mayne, Jr.

Jeff Woodliff recalled that his father had a bedroom suite that was manufactured in the plant and that other families in Gadsden bought some of the bedsteads, bureaus and tables made at the factory.

Children could be found playing around in the old factory in 1879 while it was temporarily idle. The factory resumed operation that same year and continued to turn out furniture until the death of Mr. Kittrell in 1881.

One of the curiosities of the place were two cannon balls chained together. During the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies experimented with this weapon, which ultimately proved to be a complete failure. What those cannon balls were doing in that old furniture factory is not known. They were possibly there here for study by one of the machinists of the plant.

The Kittrell family came from England. Bryant’s parents, Dr. William Jones and Martha (Came) Kittrell, were natives of North and South Carolina, respectively. The Came family immigrated from Ireland.

Dr. Kittrell was a graduate of the University of Alabama and of the University of Alabama Medical School at Mobile. He died in Camden in 1863, leaving eight children. One of his sons, Robert Norman Kittrell, located in Gadsden in 1887. A daughter, Sarah B., married Dr. Anson West, a noted Methodist minister.
Bryant J. Kittrell came to Gadsden when about 20 years old. He operated a store which at one time had the firm name of Kittrell, Kittrell & Meeks. Bryant successfully operated a large sawmill on the west bank of Coosa River near the present site of Convention Hall. His picturesque two-story colonial home stood on the exact site of Convention Hall.

Bryant married the sister of the former Governor B.M. Miller. The couple reared five daughters – Daisy, Barnette, Bryant, Mabel and Alice.
Bryant J. Kittrell suffered from very poor health and was badly handicapped by it. His business associates said that if he had lived longer, he would have be-come one of the richest men in the state. He earned the reputation as an indefatigable worker who possessed tremendous energy. It was said that Bryant worked fast, almost in a trot, while going about his business.

Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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