Joseph Arthur Gaboury

 Civil Engineer

Born:April 4, 1851, Quebec, Canada
Died:March 24, 1915, Leatherwood, Calhoun County, Alabama
Buried:Jacksonville, Alabama


•  His primary connection to Madison County is through his daughters:
     1.) Josephine Gaboury Chapman (Born Jacksonville, AL Oct. 24, 1896 - died in Mobile, Ala. Jan. 22, 1980.) Josephine married Rueben Chapman IV (Reuben II was the 13th Governor of Alabama)
     2.) Adelila Gaboury Seyforth married Otto K. Seyforth, manager of the Huntsville Utilities.
     "Adelia scorned candlelight for the ceremony, preferring modern electric lights instead. To please her, the Chapmans installed electric light fixtures and paid for utility poles and wiring to be run from Huntsville to their home. The utility company paid for the labor. And Adelia had her wedding ceremony illuminated by electric lights." "The house, according to Chapman family history, was the first home outside the Huntsville city limits to have electricity installed." - Maple Hill & Maroney

•  Married:
Caroline Josephine Frank also known as Carrie J. Frank Gaboury (1859-1947)
Marion Dolan Gaboury ( - 1882)
Alice O'Dwyer Gaboury ( - 1891) native of Montgomery - Maple Hill

•  Father of:>break> John Dolan Gaboury
Francis (Frank) P Gaboury (1884 - 1938)
Charles Gaboury (born about 1887) Arthur Joseph Gaboury (1888 - 1916)
Philip S Gaboury (1890 - 1910)
Adelia Gaboury (born about 1893)
Josephine Gaboury (born about 1896)
Morris Gaboury (born about 1899) - 1900 United States Federal Census

•  Joseph introduced the electric trolley car to the United States in Montgomery, Alabama. - Maple Hill

•  Joseph A. Gaboury in Montgomery:
Montgomery Has the First Electric Street Car
     "Up Court Street in Montgomery, at three o'clock in the morning came the. astonishing spectacle of a street car propelled by electricity. That was in 1886, when the first successful experiments with electric street cars were being made. Charles Van Depoele, a Belgian inventor, had been at work on his wonderful invention for five years or more, when Joseph A. Gaboury became interested in trying out an electric street car in the capital city of Alabama.
     Mr. Gaboury went to Chicago to investigate this new-fangled idea, which most people declared 'dangerous.' He became so enthused over Van Depoele's experiments that he asked the inventor to come to Montgomery and make an experiment on the street cars of that, place. So it came about that J. A. Gaboury, his son, Charles Van Depoele and a number of Montgomery men and women stayed awake one night, when everyone should have been asleep, in order to try the new electric street car. Van Depoele himself acted as motorman, the young son of Mr. Gaboury turned on the current. With a startling and most inspiring sort of noise, the car leaped forward. It glided up Court street to Grove, then across to Hull. After going three blocks up Hull street the excited passengers enjoyed the ride back to town.
     Miss Tuccoa Cozart, an Alabama writer and educator, was among the passengers on that early morning ride. She says that the watches of the passengers were magnetized, despite the fact that the motor was walled in on the front of the car, to shut out the danger, and that the motorman wore rubber gloves.
     Miss Cozart related the story of Gov, Thomas Seay's riding down Dexter avenue on a fine white horse, which was instantly killed when his iron shoes touched the street car tracks on Court Square. After that, she said, numbers of mules and horses were killed by the current- in the tracks. Then the people of the city held an indignation meeting, saying that it was an outrage for a trail of death like that to be allowed in the city. Then Mr. Van Depoelc had to invent some method of running street cars in safety.
     Several cities claim the distinction of having operated the first electric street cars, among them Richmond, Virginia, but Alabama historians say, 'Joseph A. Gaboury is distinguished as having constructed the first practical and, successful electric street railway system in the United States.' In 1887, there were eleven miles of electric street car track used in Montgomery, which was much more than any other city had built. There are still many people in the Capital City who remember the excitement and the thrills of their first ride, and the fear of being electrified which was justly felt. That was the beginning of great events in the world, and Alabama is rather proud of her share of the glory." - History Stories

•  "JOSEPH A. GABOURY. distinguished as having, as civil engineer, constructed the first practical and successful Electric Street Railway system in the United States-viz., that of Montgomery, Ala.-is a native of Montreal, Canada, and was born in April, 1852. After a thorough preparatory training in his native city, graduating from St. Hyacinthe College, he visited Paris, France, and there completed his study of mining and civil engineering. Returning to Canada in 1871, he followed his profession until 1874. In that year he came South, where his eminent ability as civil engineer found ready recognition. In the practical pursuit of his profession he visited the principal cities of the Gulf and South Atlantic States, and in 188.3 located at Montgomery, where, as before noted, he constructed the Electric Street Railway system of that city.
     Mr. Gaboury came to Jacksonville in September, 1887, and in February, 1888, associated with others, perfected the organization of the Jacksonville Mining and Manufacturing Company, a gigantic joint-stock concern with $500,000 capital.
     It is to Mr. Gaboury that the people of this vicinity are indebted for the discovery near here of the immense beds of kaolin, which chemists and porcelain men pronounce equal to any found in the world. Under his direction and management this kaolin is to be developed, and as its virtue and quantity is unquestioned. Jacksonville may be looked to at an early day as the seat of one of the most important industries of the South." - DeLand and Smith

•  "JOSEPH A. GABOURY, Civil Engineer and railroad contractor of Jacksonville, Ala., was born near Montreal, Can., in 1851. He was a son of Francis and Catharine (Lavigne) Gaboury, both of whom were natives of Canada. Joseph A. Gaboury was reared and educated in Canada until he was eighteen years of age, having attended by this time the university, and taken a classical course and a course in civil engineering. Graduating at the age of eighteen, he remained a short time in Canada, and was soon engaged as civil engineer on The Cincinnati Southern Railway. He afterward served in the same capacity on The Big Sandy Railroad; The Fort Worth & Denver City Railroad; The Knoxville & Ohio Railroad; The Western North Carolina Railroad; The Tidesville and Lake Harney Railroad; The Georgia division of the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad; The Blue Mountain Mineral Railroad; The Arcadia, Gulf Coast & Lakeland Railroad; the Columbus, Georgia street railroad, and on The Capital City Street Railroad, Montgomery, Ala.; on all these railroads working as contractor as well as engineer, except The Fort Worth & Denver City Railroad. The street railways in Columbus, Ga., and Montgomery, Ala., he built and owned. With his partner Mr. Charles Vanderpoel of Detroit, Michigan, Gaboury made Montgomery, Alabama, the first city in America to build a practical electric trolley car passenger system thereby proving that the electric tram was viable as a means of public transportation. After their success at Montgomery, the city of Columbus, Muscogee county, Georgia, copied the model created in Montgomery. After these initial city systems were proven reliable, sound, profitable, etc., electric transit was adopted in myriad other places.
     In 1883, he adapted electricity as a motive power and was the first in the United States to successfully and practically apply electricity as a motive power, and that in Montgomery, Ala. He was a large real estate owner and developer, one of the largest in Alabama. He was the sole owner of The Blue Mountain Railroad, in connection with iron, basic steel and pig iron production." - Find A Grave

•  When writing about the Gaboury's historic house and the people living in it, Augusta Martin Butler tells the following trolley story: "It is said that as each man took his seat in the car, immediately his watch stopped. This was caused by the dynamo which was in the front of the car and uncovered. No harm was done the watch, however, for after leaving the car, it began ticking once again. The dynamo was a magnet for keys. A man's key ring, or any single key being brought into the car would immediately be drawn in its direction. At this time bustles were the height of fashion and as the dames and belles of the day stepped into the entrance of the car (which was at the rear) they quietly slipped into the seat nearest the door as the dynamo held the same fatal attraction for the steel in the bustles as it held for the gentleman's keys." - Butler

Related Links:

•  1900 United States Federal Census - Access to the census is through an paid subscription. (Originally found at

•  Butler - Article about his home in Montgomery by Augusta Martin Butler for the Alabama Pioneers Webpage. Originally located at, but no longer available.

•  DeLand and Smith - Northern Alabama: Historical and Biographical, by T. A. DeLand and A. Davis Smith, 1888, page 499.

•  Find A Grave - Page created by mulder and maintained by WSalmond.

•  History Stories - History Stories of Alabama, by Mrs. Pitt Lamar Matthews, 1920, pages 212 & 213.

•  Maple Hill - Maple Hill Cemetery, Phase One by Diane Robey, Dorothy Scott Johnson, John Rison Jones, Jr., & Frances C. Roberts (Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society), 1995, page 110.

•  Maroney - Article titled "The Withers-Chapman-Johnson House, A Plantation Cottage" by Micky Maroney in Historic Huntsville Quarterly, Vol. XV, #3, Spring, 1989, Historic Huntsville Foundation, page 4.

The Following Pages Link to this Page:
•  DeLand and Smith
•  History Stories
•  Maple Hill
•  Maroney