27. May 2013 · Comments Off on COLE, Edmund W. (Colonel) · Categories: Biographies · Tags: , ,

COLONEL EDMUND W. COLE, born in Giles county, Tennessee, July 19, 1827, and passing away in his native state, in 1900, honored and beloved by all, was one of the greatest pioneer spirits of the south, whom the progressive new south of today, and especially the state of Tennessee, honors and reveres as one of the great master minds with farseeing vision of the future which has made their country what it is. Like all such men of the south, Colonel Cole inherited a pedigree of achievement. We find his ancestors in Virginia, distinguished Revolutionary soldiers, and tracing back in unbroken lines to the best of Scotch and English inheritance. A son of Captain Willis W. and Johanna J. Cole, both Virginians, migrating first to Kentucky and then to Tennessee, like Andrew Jackson. His father died when he was an infant, leaving his widow with nothing but a small farm and four other brothers and one sister, besides the three months old Edmund.

The hard work of the farm until he was eighteen years old prevented Edmund W. Cole from having anything but a scant education, but the work made a splendid physical man of him–the mind he already possessed–and with this equipment he came, at eighteen years of age, to begin as a clerk in a clothing store, and later in a book store, where he acquired knowledge of literature and the classics. His career placed him among the great executive minds of the entire south. Like all great men he inherited from his mother the spiritual gifts which formed his splendid moral character. Johanna Cole was a most remarkable woman, with a character like the Spartan mothers of old, gifted beyond her day and generation, of unswerving principles, intensely religious and devoted to the Methodist church, thus stamping in her son all the qualities of her remarkable mind, until it was said of him that he never went into a business engagement or solved any great business problem without first considering whether or not it would be fair and just to all concerned, regardless of his own gain. His promotion was rapid. In 1849 he became bookkeeper at the Nashville post office. In two years he was elected general bookkeeper of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad until 1857, when he was advanced to superintendent of the road. When the Civil war broke out Colonel Cole, like all loyal southerners, joined the Confederacy, where his career was both brave and honorable. After the war, finding his country devastated, he began life over and moved to Augusta, Georgia, and was elected general superintendent of the Georgia Railroad & Banking Company. Afterward he was elected president of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. He held this position for twelve years, with phenomenal success, adding millions to the value of its capital stock. During his administration the Nashville & Northwestern, McMinnville & Manchester, Winchester & Alabama, and the Tennessee Pacific Railroads were added to the main line. Colonel Cole was the first to conceive the idea of a grand trunk line under one management, from the west to the Atlantic seaboard, believing such a line with a trans-Atlantic line of steamers practicable. This he worked out on a large scale.

Colonel Cole accumulated large private interests in Nashville, which absorbed his [p.387] time and attention, causing him to resign the railroad presidency in 1882. In 1883 he inaugurated and opened the American National Bank with a capital of six hundred thousand dollars. Because of the confidence of the people in Colonel Cole, the rush to subscribe for stock in this bank was unprecedented in the history of banking in Nashville. He became president and in six months consolidated it with the Third National Bank of Nashville, an old and prosperous bank, well established in the confidence of the public. Later, he inaugurated the Safe Deposit, Trust & Banking Company in connection therewith. He was a man of indomitable will and energy to accomplish any great task he undertook. His powers of combination were unusual, never neglecting the minutest detail. He was of tall, commanding figure, his manner grave and polished, he had an unusually magnetic influence over men, and was broadminded in his opinions, a liberal and public-spirited citizen, contributing to all public enterprises, educational, religious and charitable. He was a democrat, a Methodist, a member of the State Board of Health, a Mason, a member of the Tennessee Historical Society and a patron of literature, music and fine arts.

Colonel Cole was twice married. First, to Miss Louise McGavock Lytle, daughter of Archibald Lytle, one of the most prominent citizens of Williamson county, Tennessee. She died in 1869, leaving five children. On the death of their son, Randall Anderson Cole, Colonel Cole bought and presented to the state of Tennessee the handsome property known as the Randall Cole Industrial School, as a memorial to his son. Second, Colonel Cole was married in 1872, to Miss Anna V. Russell of Augusta, Georgia. Of this union two children were born, Whitefoord Russell Cole and Anna Russell Cole (Mrs. Demsey Weaver). Mrs. Anna Russell Cole is a woman of rare attainments and beauty, of great intellectual endowments, and gifted with regal graces of personal charm of mind and soul. No woman ever lived in the south who has been more beloved and admired for all the qualities of southern womanhood, which seem to have blossomed in her spirit. She has lavishly expended her wealth on all worthy philanthropy and charities, on everything that would uplift and ennoble her state and people. A patron of the fine arts, she erected in her home state a classical monument to the four great southern poets. Her beautiful home, near Nashville, where she still lives and graciously entertains, is a mecca for lovers of literature and art, and those who would come to behold in her the last queenly type of that noblest aristocracy of the old south.

This sketch would not be complete without mention of their son, Whitefoord Russell Cole, who, though yet a young man, has had a phenomenal career in the business and social qualities inherited from both parents. It is only necessary to say that, besides being at the head of many other activities, for the past four years he has been president of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad, and amid a long line of great presidents of that road, whose executive ability have made it one of the outstanding railroads of the country, Whitefoord R. Cole is proving to be one of its greatest. Modest, loyal, a southern gentleman of the old school, and yet with all the vision, courage and ambition of a son of the newer south, Whitefoord R. Cole will carry the family name even to greater heights of honor and success. (Tennessee, The Volunteer State, 1769-1923, Vol. 2, John Trotwood Moore and Austin P. Foster, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1923)

Editorial Note: Edmund Cole passed away in 1899.  See his record at Find-a-Grave.

Comments closed.