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Texas | Columns

"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

Looking back at
Professor Badu
of Llano County

Michael Barr

Nicholas Joseph Badu was a student in Paris, France until the night he and his college buddies got a wild hair, drank too much wine, painted the statue of the Virgin Mary blue, and placed an empty wine bottle in her arms.

It was sacrilege of the worst sort. The college expelled the vandals and filed charges. Badu's father, at the end of his rope, told his wayward son to go to jail or go to America.

Badu chose America. His father quietly hustled him out of the country.

The young man sailed to Nova Scotia in 1880. He traveled by ship to New York and then to New Orleans. He met a group of French Engineers on Bourbon Street and went with them to Tampico, Mexico to build a railroad.

In Mexico he contracted yellow fever. His friends placed him on a freighter bound for New Orleans. He was barely alive. No one thought he would survive, but he recovered.

Badu came to Texas after seeing the name "Paris" on a map. He worked as a teacher of mathematics and French at Mrs. Ellen Richardson's School for Young Women in Paris. His students called him "professor," and the name stuck.

Professor Badu married Charlie Carrol Neal in Paris. The young couple moved to Austin where Badu managed the Avenue Hotel at the corner of Congress and 8th streets.

Looking for a business opportunity, Professor Badu went to Llano in 1894 to investigate the mineral deposits in the Hill Country. He liked what he saw and decided to stay.

Llano was booming. When prospectors discovered iron ore deposits in northwestern Llano County, the town changed overnight from a village in the middle of nowhere to a community of some importance.

Badu managed the Algona Hotel in Llano. Except for a 2 year stretch as manager of the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Badu made Llano his home for the rest of his life.

Professor Badu did more than anyone to call attention to the mineral resources in Llano and surrounding counties. He formed a company to mine iron ore from Iron Mountain near Valley Spring. He mined another site near Fly Gap along the Mason County Line.

Professor Badu's company mined manganese. His men extracted copper from Babyhead Mountain and talc from a hill near Oxford.

Barringer Hill, 22 miles northeast of Llano, was one of his more interesting projects. Geologists identified 47 different minerals at Barringer Hill before Lake Buchanan washed over it.

Badu never found the mother lode, so he got creative. In addition to mining, he bought and sold property. He acted as an agent to buy and sell property for others. He parlayed his minimal discoveries into a profitable business.

Badu was a natural salesman. He had a way with people. He was comfortable sipping cognac with New York capitalists. He was equally at ease drinking whiskey and telling jokes with the men who worked the mines.

No one did more to publicize the minerals of Llano County than Professor Badu. He would periodically go to Austin and San Antonio, talk up his discoveries and attract new investors. He made many trips to New York, Cleveland and Chicago. His connections brought eastern capital into Llano County.

His contemporaries insisted he was a developer, not a promoter. During all the years he handled mineral development he never offered stock to the public for sale.

When the iron boom went bust, Professor Badu sold granite and marble. In 1916 his company mined molybdenite used for hardening steel. He shipped the stuff to England where manufacturers used it to forge large guns and armor plating.

In 1890 the Llano Improvement and Furnace Company built a 2 story structure to house the First National Bank. When the iron boom fizzled and the Llano Improvement and Furnace Company went bankrupt, Badu bought the building. He and his family lived on the upper floor and rented the lower floor to the bank. The building still stands just north of the river.

Professor Badu died in Llano on January 30, 1936 and is buried in City Cemetery.

Llano TX - Badu House
Badu House
601 Bessemer, Llano TX
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, December 2017
Llano TX - Badu House side entrance with historical marker
Badu House side entrance showing historical marker
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, December 2017
TX - Llano City Cemetery Badu Family Plot
Llano City Cemetery Badu Family Plot
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, December 2017
Llano City Cemetery N. J. Badu Monument
Llano City Cemetery Nicholas Joseph Badu Monument
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, December 2017

Michael Barr
"Hindsights"
January 1, 2018


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    "Hindsights" by Michael Barr

  • Willow City 12-15-17
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  • Legends and Giants 11-15-17
  • Everything Changed Except Lady Bird 11-1-17
  • Celebrating the Fire Ant 10-15-17

    See More »


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