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Thank You For 180 Years of Service!

Posted September 20, 2016

Mobile Gas Service Corporation has reached a milestone. The natural gas utility is celebrating 180 years of delivering dependable and reliable service to homes, businesses and industries in Mobile County and the surrounding areas, including small sections of Baldwin County.

Here is a brief walk through history on how the company came to be and how it still holds dear the core values  of safety, customer service and corporate citizenship that has made Mobile Gas Service Corporation a leader in natural gas for eighteen decades.

The History of Mobile Gas

On September 20, 1836, James H. Caldwell entered into a contract with the City of Mobile.  Through this contract, he was granted a 30-year franchise to light the city with gas and furnish the citizens with gas lights for their homes and businesses.  This new business was known as Mobile Gas Light and Coke Company and was the ancestor of the present Mobile Gas Service Corporation.

English born, Caldwell was apprenticed to the theater at nine years old.  By 1816 he was a leading American actor barnstorming the country with his own company.  In 1820 he settled in New Orleans where he built his own theater and lighted it with 250 gas lights.  He was an actor, dreamer, builder, businessman, politician, and promoter.  He wanted to see New Orleans illuminated at night, so he organized a gas company, and later did the same in Mobile.

picture9Using his own money, Caldwell imported gas manufacturing equipment from England and erected a plant in Mobile.  From the early 1800’s to the mid 1900’s, gas was manufactured through a process of  heating coal and oil in enclosed ovens and extracting gases for use in lighting and cooking – a very different process than the natural gas fuel we know today.

Over 1,500 manufactured gas plant (MGP) sites operated across the U.S. during this period.  One MGP site operated in Mobile. Through much of the 19th and 20th centuries, manufactured gas was a significant industrial achievement, with plants across the U.S. ushering in some of the conveniences we know today such as home heating, cooking, and lighting. picture8

With the advent of electricity, electric lighting replaced gas lighting, and adapting to the changing market, Mobile Gas Works, along with other manufactured gas facilities across the U.S., concentrated on other home conveniences such as home heating and cooking.
By 1838 Caldwell’s Mobile Gas Light and Coke Company had 850 customers.  It was the fifth oldest gas company in America.

After Caldwell’s death, his three sons continued the gas business in Mobile.  On February 23, 1866 the business was incorporated.  The first president, elected in 1855 following the interim administration, was Santos Rubira.  Rubira, born in Spain, came to America and founded an import-export firm in New York.  Under his leadership, Mobile Gas Light and Coke Company kept pace with the increasing demands for gas service.  Rubira married Caldwell’s widow and their descendants are very much a part of Mobile’s civic, business and social life.

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In 1894 the Alabama Legislature extended the company’s franchise until 1926.  Normal operations continued until May 1903 when Mobile Gas Light and Coke Company and the Electric Lighting Company of Mobile were combined. In 1906 Mobile Gas Light and Coke was reorganized as Mobile Gas Service Corporation.

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Mobile’s manufactured gas plant, with additions throughout the years, continued to serve Mobile until the advent of natural gas in 1930. The natural gas line reached Mobile in 1930 changing the fuel from manufactured gas to natural gas.  This plant discontinued operations around 1931 when the city began receiving the natural gas we know today through pipelines that transported the fuel across the country.  Mobile was one of the first cities of importance to receive this new fuel. The Company was incorporated in 1933.
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This beginning marks the foundation of the fifth oldest gas utility in the United States and Mobile’s oldest corporate citizen – Mobile Gas.

Mobile Gas Today

Mobile Gas Service Corporation currently serves over 87,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in southwest Alabama, and operate over 2,250 miles of pipeline – plus 46 miles of transmission line. The Company operates in the cities of Mobile, Saraland, Satsuma, Chickasaw, Semmes, Bayou La Batre, Creola, Mt. Vernon and Prichard. It also operates a small section of distribution pipeline in the cities of Spanish Fort and  Loxley in Baldwin County, east of Mobile.

 

Catholic Boys Home 1949. Courtesy: Erik Overbey Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama

Catholic Boys Home 1949. Photo Courtesy: Erik Overbey Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama

 

Early Days of Mobile Gas Service Corporation

Early Days of Mobile Gas Service Corporation

 

Mobile Gas Service Corporation is currently headquartered at 2828 Dauphin Street in Mobile, with a branch office in Prichard; employing more than 200 people.  The building on Dauphin Street was once the Catholic Boys Home.  Mobile Gas Service Corporation purchased and remodeled the building in the mid-1970s and moved its operations to Dauphin Street from its Bienville Square site. The Company has been operating on Dauphin Street for almost forty years.

 

Mobile Gas Service Corporation, Present Day

Mobile Gas Service Corporation, Present Day

 

Mobile Gas Service Corporation has been a community partner and good corporate citizen since 1836. Outreach through charitable giving, leadership development, safety and environmental education, and employee volunteerism impacts about 700,000 people annually.

The natural gas utility also supports the local economy through participation in Chickasaw Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, Prichard Chamber of Commerce, Saraland Chamber of Commerce, Tillman’s Corner Chamber of Commerce, Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, Bayou La Batre Chamber of Commerce, the SouthWest Mobile County Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Mobile Alliance, etc.

Thank you for doing business with Mobile Gas Service Corporation and being a part of our rich history.