ROBERT B. KYLE, distinguished citizen and business man, of Gadsden, was born in Rockingham Ginty, N. C., May 24, 1826, and is a son of James and Elizabeth (Jones) Kyle, the former a native of County Tyrone, Ireland, and the latter of Henry County, Va. The senior Mr. Kyle came to America and settled in Rock County in 1820, and there in 1821 married Miss Jones. They had born to them two sons and five daughters. Mr. Kyle was a tobacco manufacturer at Leaksville, N. C., where he died in 183,i.
The subject of this sketch, from his early youth, was reared by his stepfather, Col. Joseph Kyle, a prominent business man at Columbus, Ga. Early in 1861 he joined the Thirty-first Alabama Infantry as first lieutenant, and at the organization of the regiment was made quartermaster. His health failing him, he was some time thereafter appointed to the local quartermaster's service, and assigned to Columbus, Ga., where he remained to the close of the war.
Col. Robert B. Kyle was one of the contractors who built the railroad from Opelika, Ala., to Columbus, Ga., in 1852. In the latter part of that year he moved to Cherokee County, Ala., and commenced farming; but, being of an active temperament and restless, unless engaged in trade and handling money, he left his farm, moved to Gadsden in September, 1857, and commenced merchandising. Gadsden at that time had a population of but one hundred and fifty people and but three small stores. Through his energy and management, Colonel Kyle at once built up a fine trade with all the surrounding counties of Northeast Alabama, and with others in Central Alabama.
The shipping facilities of Gadsden at that time were very inadequate, but Colonel Kyle, perceiving the necessity of more enlarged means of transportation, organized a company and built a steamboat for the Coosa River and its tributaries. This accomplished, Gadsden became a considerable cotton market, and trade generally more than trebled itself in a remarkably short time. At the outbreak of the war, Colonel Kyle had built up a very large business, and the population of the town had greatly increased.
After the war, Colonel Kyle returned to Gadsden and set about the rebuilding of his fortune. With the eye of a far-seeing intellect, he understood the natural advantages of this location, and proceeded without delay to develop them. He engaged at the mercantile business and soon afterward undertook the construction of the Alabama & Chattanooga Railroad, and subsequently, in connection with the late W. P. Hollingsworth, built the Gadsden branch from Atalla. This was the first important step toward the development of the natural resources of this town, and gave him additional facilities for handling lumber, cotton and other products of the county. His enterprise and business tact brought this business to the notice of the world, and, through him, Gadsden has become one of the largest interior manufacturing points of the long-leaf yellow pine lumber. His trade rapidly spread out to all parts of the country, and he shipped lumber as far north as Chicago, as far west as Kansas City, and eastward to the Atlantic seaboard.
Under Colonel Kyle's management, the lumber interest at Gadsden has become a gigantic industry, and gives employment to over one thousand men.
Colonel Kyle has been equally active in the upbuilding and development of almost every other meritorious enterprise so far established at Gadsden. He was the leading spirit in the organization of the Gadsden Furnace Company, and of the Elliott Car Works; is president of the Gadsden Land and Improvement Company, and holds a directorship in almost every other incorporated institution at this place.
Colonel Kyle is a modest, unassuming gentleman, takes a deep interest in the moral and intellectual advancement of his city and country, and is altogether one of the most progressive citizens of Northern Alabama. Energetic, far-seeing, brave and daring, he allows no obstacle to stand between him and the objects at all times in view.
In speaking of him, a recent publication says: "He has hewn down all obstacles, and brought his section of the country from a wild wilderness to be one of the most enterprising and inviting of the South. He is now a 'sentinel upon the watch-tower' that looks out to warn off all danger, as well as to see the necessities and ad-vantages of his country, and at once forms all combinations necessary to meet and utilize them to the interests of the community. No truer man lives; no politician, yet an anxious wisher for good and honest government. Such is Col. Robert B. Kyle, one of nature's noblemen."
Colonel Kyle was married December 1, 1848, to Miss Mary Thornton, a daughter of Dozier Thornton, of Cherokee County, and had born to him two children, one of whom is dead. The other, Mary A., is the wife of Marcus L. Foster, of Gadsden. Mrs. Kyle died in Cherokee County, Ala., 1855; in October, 1856, the Colonel was married to Miss Mary Nuckolls, daughter of Nathaniel Nuckolls, of Columbus, Ga. To this union twelve children were born, six of whom are dead. The living are Mrs. Nena Kyle Elliott, wife of James M. Elliott, Miss Bessie Lee Kyle, Miss Edith Marion Kyle, Miss Robbie E. Kyle, Miss Florie Maie Kyle, and Mr. Thomas Stonewall Kyle, who secretary and treasurer of the Kyle Lumber Company.
In consideration of Colonel Kyle's prominence and popularity as a citizen of Gadsden, the publishers take pleasure in presenting with this chapter a steel plate portrait of that gentleman.
Source: McCalley, Henry, Northern Alabama : historical and biographical. Birmingham, AL: Smith & De Land, 1888, pp. 835.