Algernon Sidney Buford

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Algernon Sidney Buford
Born(1826-01-02)January 2, 1826
DiedMay 6, 1911(1911-05-06) (aged 85)
OccupationRailroad executive

Algernon Sidney Buford (January 2, 1826 – May 6, 1911) of Chatham, Virginia, is best known for his presidency of the Richmond and Danville Railroad during its massive post civil war expansion into the Southern Railway system (now part of Norfolk Southern).

Early career in Chatham, Virginia[edit]

Buford was a graduate of the University of Virginia, and came to Chatham, Virginia, to enter the practice of law. His choice was understandable, since several illustrious attorneys had established practices in the town, including Whitmell Pugh Tunstall, who had been the creator and first president of the Richmond and Danville Railroad.

Buford was related to Tunstall. He was Tunstall's nephew-in-law and in manner of speaking, his brother-in-law as well. He married Emily Winifred Townes, daughter of George Townes and Eliza Barker Tunstall. Eliza was the older sister of Whitmell P. Tunstall, and had reared him after the death of their mother.

Buford represented Pittsylvania County in the Virginia House of Delegates during 1853 and 1854.

Civil War[edit]

During the American Civil War, in 1863, Buford was in charge of the Virginia Depot, on 13th street, south of Cary Street, (Shockoe Slip), in Richmond. After the war, he became known as Col. Buford.

Reconstruction, President of the R&D[edit]

With the support of Virginia Governor Francis H. Pierpont, on September 13, 1865, Colonel Buford became president of the 140-mile (230 km) Richmond and Danville Railroad (R&D). Damage from the war, including the bridge across the James River between Manchester and Richmond was repaired.

Over the next 20 years, as R&D President, Col. Buford extended the trackage to three thousand miles. The R&D's early acquisitions included the Piedmont Railroad in 1866, and the North Carolina Railroad in 1871.

In 1872, the R&D extended aid to the Atlanta and Richmond Air Line Railway to help it complete its road between Charlotte and Atlanta. The line was to become a key link in the "Piedmont Air Line,” a system of railroads across the southeast.

Bon Air, Virginia[edit]

Bon Air, Virginia, was developed as a resort community of Richmond located 9 miles (14 km) west on the Richmond and Danville Railroad.

Col. Buford personally (as well as through the Richmond and Danville Railroad) was much involved in the development of the community, originally known as Brown's Summit, later renamed Grand Summit,[disputed ] and eventually renamed again Bon Air), derived from the French expression for good air. In 1877, he was among the first investors and officers in the Bon Air Land and Improvement Company. Other R&D officials involved in the development of Bon Air were General Thomas M. Logan, Col. Andrew Talcott, and Talcott's son, Thomas Mann Randolph Talcott. Among Bon Air's residents of the period was druggist Polk Miller, who founded Sergeant's Pet Care Products and became a notable musician.

Expanding the R&D[edit]

In 1878, the R&D acquired the Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta Railroad.

In 1880, the Richmond and West Point Terminal Railway and Warehouse Company was chartered to acquire railroads which the R&D could not acquire directly due to a limitation in its charter. One of these was the former Richmond and York River Railroad. The Terminal Company quickly purchased over 700 miles (1,100 km) of existing railroads and acquired the franchises for a number of projected lines including the Georgia Pacific Railway and the Rabun Gap Short Line Railway.

In 1881, the R&D leased the Piedmont Air Line system, by then renamed Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line Railway, forming the Richmond and Danville Railroad System.

In 1885, the R&D bought the Lawrenceville-to-Suwanee line in Georgia from the Lawrenceville Branch Railroad. This line was sold to the Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line Railway in 1908, and was abandoned in 1920.

The R&D leased the 61-mile (98 km) North Eastern Railroad (Georgia) in 1886. In 1887, the Terminal Company gained control of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railway.

In 1888, the Terminal Company purchased the entire capital stock of the Georgia Company, which held a controlling interest in the Central Railroad and Banking Company. In 1889, the 566-mile (911 km) Georgia Pacific Railway was completed and began operation from Atlanta to Greenville, Mississippi. It had been leased to the R&D in January of that year.

In 1890, the Terminal Company acquired a controlling interest in the Alabama Great Southern Railroad.

By 1890, the R&D System covered 3,300 miles (5,300 km) of track in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas. However, the R&D System had become financially unstable during all the growth. In 1892, the R&D and subsidiaries entered receivership.

Reorganized by J.P. Morgan and his New York banking firm of Drexel, Morgan and Company, they emerged in 1894 as the Southern Railway Company, which controlled over 4,000 miles (6,400 km) of line at its inception. In 1980, Southern Railway Company later became part of Norfolk Southern Railway.


Buford is honored by the naming of the thoroughfare Buford Road in Bon Air, Virginia.

Buford, Georgia, a town (and later a city) on a portion for the Richmond and Danville Railroad system was named for him.


External links[edit]