William Dudley Chipley

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An obelisk dedicated to Chipley's work was erected at the Plaza Ferdinand VII in Pensacola, Florida.

William Dudley Chipley (June 6, 1840 – December 1, 1897) was an American railroad tycoon and statesman. He created two railroads in the Florida Panhandle and served one term as mayor of Pensacola, Florida and in the Florida State Senate.

Early life[edit]

Chipley was born in Columbus, Georgia, the son of Doctor William Stout Chipley and Elizabeth Fannin Chipley. Chipley's grandfather, the Reverend Stephen Chipley, was one of the founding citizens of Lexington, Kentucky. William Stout Chipley was renowned for his work relating to brain diseases and held two jobs: a professor of medicine at Transylvania University and the warden of the Eastern Asylum for the Insane in Lexington.

Chipley moved with his parents back to Lexington when he was four years old, and was raised for all of his formative years in Kentucky. He graduated from the Kentucky Military Institute and Transylvania University.

Military service[edit]

The base of the obelisk, with his biography inscribed.

After graduation from Transylvania, he enlisted in the 9th Kentucky Infantry, fighting for the Confederacy. He was elevated to the position of lieutenant colonel and was wounded at the battles of Shiloh and Chickamauga before being taken prisoner at the Battle of Peachtree Creek near Atlanta. As a prisoner of war, Chipley was transported to Johnson's Island on Lake Erie in Ohio, and served time there until the war was over. In mid-1865, he settled in Columbus, Georgia and married Ann Elizabeth Billups, the daughter of a prominent Phenix City, Alabama planter.

Chipley would later be implicated in the Ashburn affair. He was brought to trial, in which the federal government attempted to jail Chipley for his role in the murders of the soldiers he fought during the Civil War. With Alexander Stephens representing the defense, Chipley was found not guilty by a jury of his peers. It was only revealed later that Mrs. Chipley had in her possession a letter Stephens wrote to Chipley, in which the government apologized to Chipley and offered him freedom because the prosecution had no evidence. Chipley turned down the offer, and instead waited for vindication at the trial.

Railroad executive[edit]

Monument in the town of Chipley

Chipley became fascinated with the railroad industry shortly after the Ashburn affair trial. He built what would become the Columbus and Rome Railroad, and later became involved with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from 1873 to 1876. It was at this time that he moved to Pensacola, Florida, where he built the town's first railroad (this line would eventually become a part of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad). He also built the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad, linking the Atlantic coast of Florida with the Gulf Coast states for the first time.

His achievements in the railroad industry inspired the residents of Orange to name their town Chipley in 1882.

Statesman[edit]

The residents of Pensacola donated money to inscribe an epitaph to immortalize Chipley's contributions to the city. Among other words, Chipley is referred to as a "soldier", "statesman" and a "public benefactor".

Chipley created the Democratic Executive Committee in Muscogee County, Georgia in the late 1860s, and was its first director. He later served as director of the Florida Democratic Executive Committee.

After opening the two rail lines in Pensacola, he parlayed his industrial success into one term as the mayor of the town (1887–1888). He also served in the Florida State Senate from 1895 to 1897, and lost his bid for United States Senator in 1896 by one vote.

While on a trip to Washington, D.C., Chipley died on December 1, 1897. He was in the middle of a trip to lobby lawmakers to base more industrial endeavors in Florida. He was buried in Columbus, while the townspeople of Pensacola erected an obelisk in the Plaza Ferdinand VII in his honor.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Biographical Notes, Memoirs of Florida, Volume 1, 481–483, 1902 ([1])