Person:William Bibb Figures

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William Bibb Figures


Photo from the ADAH Digital Collections
 President of Huntsville, 1854-1855 and 1868-1870; Editor and Publisher of the "Huntsville Southern Advocate"

Born:March 6, 1820, Coffeeville, AL
Died:October 1, 1872, Huntsville, AL
Buried:Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville, AL
Residence:423 Randolph Avenue SE
Husband of:Harriet Stokes Figures
Father of:Henry Stokes Figures


Notes:

•  The title of "President of Huntsville" was used instead of "Mayor" in the early years. - Editor's Note

•  "Son of Major Thomas (1786-1863) and Elizabeth Walker (Coleman) Figures, who came to Alabama in 1810 and settled in Coffeeville, where they lived for the rest of their lives, the former was a major in Gen. Coffee's command in the Indian War of 1816, the latter lived in Elbert County, Ga., and later in Maury County, Tenn., before her marriage; brother of Charles Coffee Figures, who was born in Fort St. Stephens where his mother had fled for protection from the Indians; grandson of John and Mary (Walker) Coleman, who moved from Virginia to Elbert County, Ga., then to Maury County, Tennessee, and finally to Alabama, the former was born March 6, 1765, and the latter, June 30, 1767. " - Owen

•  "Mr. Figures received his education from an old log school in the country near Coffeeville; and when he was twelve years old, went to Huntsville to live with his uncle, John James Coleman, serving an apprenticeship in his uncle's newspaper office. During his apprenticeship, he read a course of law, and when he was nineteen years old, bought the paper from his uncle, becoming sole proprietor and editor. The paper was issued under the name of the 'Southern Advocate,' before the War of Secession, and after the war was known as the Huntsville 'Advocate.' Mr. Figures remained the editor until his death in 1872, with the exception of that period during the war when the Federal troops occupied Huntsville, at which time the publication was suspended. He was mayor of Huntsville before the war and for two terms after the war; and served as State senator from Madison County during the Confederacy. He was a presidential elector on the Douglas ticket for Alabama, and was registrar in chancery at the time of his death. He was restrained from taking part in the War of Secession by ill-health, but gave his eldest son to the Confederate cause. He was an old school Whig, and after the war accepted the provisional government during the first term of President Grant, but turned against the reconstruction policy, supporting Horace Greeley for president in the next campaign." - Owen

•  "Married: February 1, 1843, at Huntsville, Harriet L. Stokes Mitchell, daughter of William and Mattie (Powell) Mitchell, who lived at Shelbyville, Tenn." - Owen

•  Father of: 1. Henry Stokes, who served in the C. S. Army and was killed in the battle of the Wilderness; 2. Otey, m. (1) Helen Steele, (2) Minnie Steele, Tuscumbia; 3. Claude, m. Carrie Dill, Savannah, Ga.; 4. Mattie. m. James Sanders Allison, Huntsville; 5. Frank, Lexa, Ark.; 6. Norman Gayle, m. Addie Noble, New Orleans, La.; 7. Daisy, m. A. Ewing Echols, Huntsville; and five others who are deceased." in a book published in 1921. - Owen

•  Father of:
Henry Stokes Figures 1842 - 1864
Harriet "Hattie" E Figures 1844 -
     (married Robert L. Hallenguist on May 6, 1869, Madison County, AL)
William H Figures Dec. 7, 1847 - Oct. 1, 1872
Otey Figures Feb. 23, 1851 - March 27, 1921
     (married Helen (Minnie) Steele)
Claude Figures 1854 - Nov. 23, 1917
     (married Dill Carrie L. on July 3, 1882, Madison County, AL)
Mattie E Figures April 29, 1856 - March 12, 1937
     (Married James A. Allison, November 18, 1886, Madison County, AL)
Nellie Figures 1859 -
     (married John S. Shelton, May 8, 1882, Madison County, AL)
Frank Figures 1861 - Dec. 27, 1882
Daisy Figures 1867 -
     (married A. E Echols on February 15, 1886, Madison County, AL)
Norman G Figures 1869 -
     (marriage to Addie in 1900, Census shows him in New Orleans after 1900)
Flora Figures May 5, 1849 - June 30, 1853.
Powell Figures Nov. 20, 1852 - Jan. 16, 1855. - Ancestry.com

•  "William Bibb Figures was the editor of the Advocate before the war and until his death in 1872. Figures was quite active in local politics, serving as mayor of Huntsville before the war and for two terms after the war, chairman of the Fifth District Executive Committee of the Union Republican Party, justice of the peace, and registrar in chancery . Of the old Whig school, he approved of the provisional government during the first term of President Grant. Figures had the reputation of being a competent editor, who reported every happening carefully and accurately." - Bounds

•  His newspaper office was on the east side of Franklin between Public Square (Eustis) and Gates. - City Directory, 1859-'60

•  "He was a member of the Huntsville Bar Association" - AAUW

•  Alderman 1853, 1854, 1855, - Record Vol. 2

•  Mayor 1854-55 and 1868-1870 (His second term was approved by Union Army to take place of E. B. Clapp who was put in office by Union Army, but later resigned) - Record Vol. 2

•  Register of Land Office November 15, 1850 - May 10, 1853 - Barefiled

•  United States Commissioners (Court) 1872-1875 - Record Vol. 1

•  Register of Circuit Court (Register in Chancery) 1869-1872 (ended when he died) - Record Vol. 1

•  He was a member and elder in the Presbyterian Church. - Owen

•  Articles of Incorporation were filed for the Presbyterian Church in Huntsville in February 1869. William B. Figures was listed as a Board of Trustees along with John J. Fackler, Samuel Coltart, Isaiah Dill, Robert W. Coltart, Robert G. Smith, and Mathew W. Steele. - Shenk & Shenk

•  "Mr. William B. Figures, mayor of Huntsville in 1869, reminded the aldermen that the existing charter of Huntsville had given the mayor and aldermen power to establish a school or schools for the children of the community, to employ teachers, and to fix their salaries. He said that this had not been implemented and closed with a strong statement that the need to do so was urgent. Evidently, the aldermen and citizens reacted favorably to his appeal. It is likely that a petition for a new charter was made, for an incorporating act, known as the Charter of 1869, was approved in March 1870." - Schools

•  Mr. Figures supported Stephen A. Douglas for US President against "Black Republican Rule" - Record Vol. 1

•  Maybe because Mr. Figures had been responsible for the local newspaper, although out of print during the conflict, he and his wife seem to be central to the news gathering and sharing in the community. - Chadick & Rohr

•  The Figures' house was next door to the Chadick home. So that is probably one of the reasons Mr. and Mrs. Figures factor so prominently in her journal. - Chadick & Rohr

•  The Figures' Home at 423 Randolph Avenue was built around 1845 by George Steele and purchased by William Bibb Figures in 1850. - AAUW

•  Mrs. Chadick enters in her journal: "Clara, George and Davie have gone fishing with a party of children with Mr. Figures ' protection. I fixed them off with a basket of refreshments. I made them a dish of tictac-parched corn, with molasses candy poured over it, of which they were particularly proud. They went off in high spirits, and I hope their enjoyment may equal their anticipation. They have been shut up inside the picket lines so long they were perfectly jubilant at the thought of escaping for one day." - Chadick & Rohr

•  Several places in Mrs. Chadick's journal, Mr. Figures' loyalty to the South was questioned. - Chadick & Rohr

•  Figures is on a list of "Rebels" that had conducted themselves very much like Yankees, during the occupation. This would not have been a compliment because it is offered after this paragraph "At daybreak of this morning, an immense amount of stores were burnt by the Federals. Tons of meat, a great deal of which was stolen from the country around: barrels of sugar and molasses, from 50 to 100 barrels of corn, boxes of soap and candles, in short, a great deal which, on no account, would they have given to the Rebels." - Shapiro #2

•  The Union Army took editor Figures press off to Maysville in December 1863 for the purpose of starting a newspaper in February. - Record Vol. 1

•  September 5, 1868 - Two more companies of troops arrived, bringing the total to eight and a total number of men to about 500. They camped on the Whitesburg Pike although General Rugers' headquarters were in the Calhoun House. Mayor E.B. Clapp resigned. Governor Smith appointed W. B. Figures.
     June 22, 1869 - "Mayor W. B. Figures announced that velocipedes (bicycles) were prohibited in the streets and on the sidewalks due to the danger to people in vehicles and on horseback."
August 6, 1869 - "Policeman Armstrong was suspended by Mayor Figures for alleged knowledge about the disguised men and failure to arrest them." - Pruitt

•  "One day two drunken soldiers were going waveringly down East Randolph Street. As they neared the Figures' place one of them noticed the inscription on the carriage block: 'Figures, 1850.' He said, 'Well any fool would have known that them were figures.'" - Chapman

•  "Many local men mentioned by Mrs. Chadick established leadership roles again. William Figures, next-door neighbor to the Chadicks, survived the War with Confederate contracts for printing and good management on his part. During the Federal occupation he was given, or forced to accept, Union printing jobs. Either way, Mr. Figures in 1865 managed to have a personal value of about $20,000 according to his credit report. After the War he tactfully renamed his newspaper, the Southern Advocate, simply the Huntsville Advocate, 'The Official Journal of the U.S. Government for the Northern District of Alabama.'" - Chadick & Rohr

•  His real and personal property were valued at $10,000 and $20,000, respectively in 1860. - Shapiro #2

•  References indicate that Mr. Figures was considered, by some, to be a Unionist and that he was secretary of the Union Republican Club after the war. - Shapiro #1

•  Bailey has written an interesting book about the power struggles after the Civil War. Mr. Figures is mentioned several times. The details are too complicated to summarize without context. - Bailey


Related Links:
•  AAUW - Photo and description of his home at 423 Randolph Ave. Glimpses Into Antebellum Homes of Historic Huntsville, Alabama, Ninth Edition by American Association of University Women, Huntsville Branch, Huntsville, Alabama, 1999, page 59.
•  ADAH Digital Collections - Alabama Dept of Archives and History
•  Ancestry.com - Page owned by bkrasis and can be viewed only with an Ancestry.com paid subscription
•  Bailey - Neither Carpetbaggers Nor Scalaways: Black Officeholders During the Reconstruction of Alabama, 1867-1878 by Richard Bailey, 2010. (This link just goes to part of the book, and the full book can be purchased here.)
•  Barefiled - Old Huntsville Land Office Records & Military Warrants 1810-1854 by Compiled by Marilyn Davis Barefield, 1985, page iv.
•  Bounds - Article titled "Reconstruction in Huntsville and Camison County, Alabama, 1865-1869" by Sarah Etheline Bounds in Huntsville Historical Review, Volume 3, #4, Oct-73, page 13, Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society
•  Chadick & Rohr - Incidents of the War: The Civil War Journal of Mary Jane Chadick by Nancy M. Rohr, 2005, pages 76, 79, 81, 277, 285, 291, 292, 293, 308.
•  Chapman - Changing Huntsville 1890-1899 by Elizabeth Humes Chapman, 1989 (originally written in 1932)
•  City Directory, 1859-'60 - Huntsville Directory, City Guide and Business Mirror. Volume 1. 1859-'60 Reprinted by The Strode Publishers, pages 18, 27, 44, 82, 93
•  City of Huntsville - List of City Presidents and Mayors
•  Find A Grave - Page created by Heather
•  Flickr - Photo of his house on Randolph
•  MCRC - Madison County Records Center
•  Owen - History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Volume 3 By Thomas McAdory Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen, 1921, pages 575-6.
•  Pannick - Article titled "A Tragedy of the Civil War: Lieut. Henry Stokes Figures, 4th Alabama Adjutant 48th Alabama" by John Pannick in Huntsville Historical Review, Volume 11, #1 & #2, Jan-81, page 15-19, Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society (While the article is about Henry, his son, it includes information about Mr. FIgures.)
•  Pruitt - Eden of the South: A Chronology of Huntsville, Alabama, 1805-2005 by Raneé G. Pruitt, Editor, 2005, pages 54, 62. 63, 66.
•  Record Vol. 1 - A Dream Come True: The Story of Madison County and Incidentally of Alabama and the United States, Volume I by James Record, 1970, pages 108, 117, 135, 192, 293,
•  Record Vol. 2 - A Dream Come True: The Story of Madison County and Incidentally of Alabama and the United States, Volume II by James Record, 1978, pages 15, 343, 351, 352, 355, 566, 567.
•  Schools - Article titled: "The History of the Huntsville School System Inception to Autonomy by the Centennial History Committee, Huntsville Historical Review, Volume 9, #3 & #4, Jul-79, page 19, Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society
•  Shapiro #1 - Article titled "John Benton Callis: Madison County's Republican Congressman" by Norman M. Shapiro in Huntsville Historical Review, Volume 29, #2, Spring-Summer 2004, (pages 19, 42, 43) Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society.
•  Shapiro #2 - Article titled "Invasion and Occupancy of Huntsville, Alabama by the Federals, April 11 to August 31, 1862, Edited and Annotated by Norman M. Shapiro in Huntsville Historical Review, Volume 27, #1, Jan-00, pages 14, 22, Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society
•  Shenk & Shenk - The First Presbyterian Church, Huntsville, Alabama, Sesquicentennial 1818-1968 by Charlotte Forgey Shenk and Donald Hugh Shenk, 1968.


The Following Pages Link to this Page:
•  423 Randolph Avenue SE
•  Harriet Stokes Figures
•  Henry Stokes Figures


From City Directory, 1859-'60.


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