Alabama Marble Pioneer
Dr. Edward F. Gantt, a physician and surgeon who served under General Andrew Jackson during the Creek Indian campaign, is said to have made the first recorded discovery of Alabama marble in 1820. Born in Ann Arundal County, Maryland, on the 20th day of March, 1791, young Gantt moved with his parents, Robert and Elizabeth (Compton) Gantt to Tennessee. After achieving his medical degree, Gantt migrated to Alabama, eventually settling in Selma where Gantt organized Selma’s first medical society and became the Dean of the Board of Physicians.
In 1834 Gantt partnered with Edward Sims & Co. to form Sims & Gantt Quarries just south of Sylacauga. Edward Sims, a Tuscaloosa entrepreneur, died in 1840 and is buried in Tuscaloosa’s Greenwood Cemetery with his wife Sarah “Sallie” Banks. The partnership continued with Gantt owning one-third share of the business and the remaining two-thirds owned by the surviving partners of Edward Sims & Co.
In 1847 Gantt partnered with John Knott Taylor and Henry McKenzie “for the purpose of carrying on the business of manufacturing marble.” This short-lived partnership was dissolved in 1849.
By 1850, Gantt moved to Sylacauga and in 1860 he formed “Talladega Marble Company” with partners John McClannahan (formerly a Judge of the Probate Courts of Shelby County, Alabama) and John F. Conaley.
Gantt, one of the delegates with the National Democratic Party of Talladega in 1860, traveled to Montgomery supporting Alabama’s secession just prior to the Civil War.
Gantt’s mills were burnt down in 1865 and Gantt died in 1867 before they were rebuilt. Gantt’s will was contested on the grounds that “he was never married and did not leave a child him surviving” and that adoption papers could not be located for his daughter Louisa. His contested will, first examined by a jury that hung, was finally proclaimed valid by the Supreme Court five years after his death.
The Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce honored Gantt’s early industrialism by forming the “Edward Gantt Industry of the Year Award” which is awarded annually to area businesses for their contributions to the community.