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This Day in Georgia History

December 07, 1881

Alfred Austell Died

To view letters of Alfred Austell, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Banker, financier, and railroad man Alfred Austell died in Atlanta, Georgia. Leaving his home in Tennessee at age seventeen, Austell quickly showed an aptitude for business. After settling in what was then Campbell County, Georgia in 1836, Austell rose rapidly in prominence as a merchant, planter, and militia leader. In 1856, Austell, along with a partner, organized the Bank of Fulton in Atlanta. Austell opposed secession from the Union, but did support his state’s cause when secession did occur, even taking up arms in the futile defense of Atlanta as Sherman approached in 1864. His bank and finances were virtually wiped out by the Civil War. But both Atlanta and Austell rose from the ashes. Indeed the city’s recovery from the war’s destruction was largely the result of Austell and his work. Refusing an offer to be Georgia’s provisional governor from his friend President Andrew Johnson, Austell organized the Atlanta National Bank on September 1, 1865; it was the first national bank in the South. In addition he and his partners established a cotton commission house in New York and a mercantile firm in Atlanta. Realizing the need for improved transportation to move business goods, Austell and his bank were instrumental in much of the post-war railroad construction. He served as president of the board of directors for the Southern Railway, and was a builder and/or director of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia, and Atlanta and Birmingham railways. In fact the town at the junction of the Atlanta and Birmingham railways was named in his honor.