PROFILE: Town of Brantley to celebrate 126 years
The following article was part of the Profile 2016 special section of The Luverne Journal. The section in its entirety can be found in the March 31 edition of The Luverne Journal.
When driving though the Town of Brantley, the beauty and quaintness of the town can truly take your breath away. Many drive through the town on their way to the beach, but few take the time to stop and admire the history surrounding the town.
Eva Stringer, acting secretary of the Crenshaw County Historical Society, has dedicated her time and attention to showcasing areas of Crenshaw County, such as Brantley. She takes pride in knowing that little communities such as these were just as important and necessary to the growth and creation of what we know today as Crenshaw County.
“There are only three traffic lights in Crenshaw County. Two are in Luverne and the third one is in Brantley,” Stringer said. “It’s such a wonderful little community.”
The formation of what would one day be known as Brantley began in 1890. At the time, a Central of Georgia railroad right-of-way was surveyed from Troy to Searight, Ala. A group of businessmen led by T.K. Brantley was interested in a town site somewhere along this stretch of land. After studying many different locations, the most desirable site was found in what is today called Brantley.
The Town of Brantley was founded on June 22, 1890, when the Brantley Land Company bought 40 acres of the Thomas H. Wyatt estate. The town was officially incorporated in 1895.
Before the town was officially known as Brantley, it went through two name changes, the first being Sasserville followed by Marcus. The name Brantley was decided on after T.K. Brantley moved to the area and started up multiple businesses.
The first jail in the Town of Brantley was located near the area of the current City Hall building and was built in 1893. At the time, water oaks lined the center of the streets of Brantley, with streets on either side. Rows of hitching posts also adorned the area along the sidewalks.
Brantley’s first mayor was Buster Wyatt, who served for two months and then resigned. It was after this that Joe Beard, a member of the first council, became mayor.
The town also had two wells at the time that furnished water for the businesses. The first was dug after the first business was established; the second was dug after it was apparent that the town population was growing. It was reported in 1910 that the population reached 803, and by 1940 it had climbed to 1,126.
Two fraternal organizations were present during the beginning years of the town: the Masons and the Woodman of the World. The first social organization was the Teakettle, which was organized by a small group of women. During the afternoons, these ladies would meet over quilt work, knitting or crochet work and would then serve hot tea with ginger or teacake.
In 1912, the town experienced a surprise like no other: a visit from the first airplane seen by citizens of Brantley.
Robert G. Fowler made an unexpected stop in the Town of Brantley when a combination of cold weather and high winds forced him to make a pit stop on the local ballpark field, according to reports by The Brantley Reporter. Fowler was flying an open cockpit bi-plane on a journey cross-country from San Francisco, Cal. to St. Augustine, Fla.
Upon leaving the ballpark of Brantley, issues occurred causing Fowler to hit a stump and crash. Damages to Fowler’s plane left him three broken wheels and a very broken up center and front frame. Fowler, thankfully, was not hurt in the accident, but narrowly escaped colliding with a barbed wire fence as he attempted to lift off.
Damages were estimated to be at least $500 and it reportedly would only take five days to repair. In actuality, Fowler remained in the area for 16 days before repairs were completed.
Brantley’s first school building was a one-room schoolhouse that stood on the corner of Main and Mill Streets. Brantley Land Company donated the land for the building, and approximately 40 students were enrolled.
After the student population outgrew the one room building, it was torn down and a second, larger schoolhouse was erected; this one now had two rooms. This building faced the tragedy of a fire in 1916 and was replaced with a two-story building. Not long after, the first high school building was erected in 1925.
In 1927, the introduction of paved highways came to the Town of Brantley and wound through the business section of town. Since then, the town has continued to flourish and has change with the times.
While much has changed since the founding days of Brantley, the small town charm is still present to this day. Many more businesses have grown from the originals, and Brantley High School now proudly stands as the educational facility for the town. The story of the town is nowhere near finished being written, and growth continues to happen in Brantley each year.