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Alexander B. Andrews, the railroad executive who managed the completion of the Western North Carolina Railroad, was born to William J. and Virginia Hawkins Andrews near Franklinton on July 23, 1841. With both of his parents dead by 1853, young Andrews was placed under the guardianship of his uncle Philemon B. Hawkins, a railroad developer. Andrews left Henderson Male Academy in 1859 to join his uncle in work on the Blue Ridge Railway in South Carolina. After working briefly as a clerk, Alexander Andrews was promoted to general superintendent, purchasing agent, and paymaster. He continued in that capacity until he left to enlist in the Confederate cavalry. Serving the majority of his time as first lieutenant of Company B, First North Carolina Cavalry, Alexander Andrews fought in most of the Army of Northern Virginia’s campaigns of 1862 and 1863. His most noteworthy battle experience was his attack and repulse of United States gunboats near Hamilton, a rare occurrence of fighting between naval and cavalry units. Shot through a lung in 1864, Andrews was forced to retire from service.
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In 1867 Andrews became superintendent of the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, and attained the same position with the Chatham Railroad the following year. In 1875 he became the superintendent of the North Carolina Railroad line of the Richmond and Danville Railroad, leaving the Raleigh and Gaston. By the 1880s Andrews administered all of North Carolina’s Richmond and Danville concerns. Because of his strong reputation in the railroad industry, Andrews became an advisor for railroad issues to Gov. Thomas J. Jarvis. It was in that capacity that Andrews became entangled in the scuffle to complete the Western North Carolina Railroad. Through difficult terrain and even more challenging financial and political struggles, Andrews managed to achieve the railroad’s goal of reaching Ducktown at the state's western edge. The 1885 geyser constructed at the railroad’s gateway to the mountains near Old Fort was named in Andrews’ honor. He remained an important figure in the railroad industry, working as a vice president of the Southern Railway Company until his death in 1915. He served on many boards, business and philanthropic, and was a founder of the Home for Confederate Veterans in Raleigh. Andrews died on April 17, 1915, and was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh.
Alexander B. Andrews Collection, North Carolina State Archives
Alexander Boyd Andrews Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Chapel Hill
Margaret W. Morris, “The Completion of the Western North Carolina Railroad,” North Carolina Historical Review (July 1975): 256-282
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 34-36—sketch by Bennett L. Steelman