Joseph Madison Napoleon Bonaparte Nix, born 1814 in Twiggs County, Georgia owned marble quarries in the Sycamore area of Talladega County, Alabama. Nix was noted for providing marble in which he inscribed “Alabama. A Union of Equality, As Adjusted by the Constitution.” for the Washington Monument. The marble “was so like Carrara, that it was placed aside until a confirmation of its origin could be made.”
Nix, also known as “Alphabet Nix” had an office and a steam mill in Wetumka (Coosa County), and offices in Montgomery, Selma and Sylacauga. Nix advertised under the company name of J.M.N. Nix & Co. in the mid 1850s.
An advertisement in the Wetumpka Daily State Guard of January 3, 1849 reads:
STEAM MARBLE WORKS: AND TOMBSTONE MANUFACTORY: WETUMPKA, ALABAMA. This establishment has been erected with every improvement and is now in full operation. Having the advantage of steam power and being the owners of very extensive quarries of marble in Talladega County, they can sell finished marble as cheap as it can be sold at any establishment, either in Philadelphia or New York. Their Quarries furnish marble of the finest quality, suitable for tombs, monuments, furniture, mantle pieces, & c. of every description. The finest statuary marble can be had from this location –the only instance yet discovered in the United States. All persons wanting articles on their line, can be supplied on short notice. Their prices made to suite the times. Good supplies will be constantly kept by Capt. J.B. Harris, at Selma, and by Madegan & March at Mobile where those in the respective vicinities are invited to call and examine for themselves before purchasing elsewhere.
J.M.N.B. Nix & Co. was listed as the sculptor/carver of the Alabama Commemorative Stone–the first stone installed in the Washington Monument. The specifications called for “States of the Union properly represented” with a block of stone quarried locally and carved with the name of the state or donor organization. The Nix block submitted was inscribed “Alabama. A Union of Equality, As Adjusted by the Constitution” and “was so like Carrara” that it was placed aside until a confirmation of its origin could be made. It cost the state $155.30 and was the first Memorial Stone installed in the monument’s walls.
Nix first married Mary Jane Fitzgerald and had two sons: Reuben Fitzgerald Nix and Joseph John Nix. After Mary Jane died in 1839, Nix married Mary E. Young, daughter of Bernard Young, a “good pious old Methodist Preacher” of Virginia and had several more children.
Nix joined Bernard Young’s son Bernard W. and they operated “Alabama Marble Works” in Montgomery, Alabama under the name of “Nix, Young and Nix” and later as the Montgomery Marble Yard with just “Young & Nix.” B.W. Young posted a notice of Dissolution in 1859 in various newspapers, stating that “B.W. Young will continue the Marble Business.”
The “Reuben F. Nix Marble Yard” in Montgomery, Alabama was operated by J.M.N.B.’s son. Reuben signed his tombstones “R.F. Nix, Montg’y, Ala.” Reuben was in business with his brother Inge Ringold Nix in the early 1870s, so some stones are signed R.F. & I.R. Nix. J.M.N.B. Nix signed his tombstones in a variety of ways, most typically “Nix & Co.” or simply “Nix” with the city.
J.M.N.B. Nix died in 1887 and is buried in the Old Sylacauga Cemetery in Talladega County, Alabama with his second wife Mary (1824-1905), son Bernard and two of his grandchildren. Nix and his son Bernard’s tombstones are relatively simple marble slabs and are signed “Morris Bros. Memphis.”