Caton descendants were active businessmen in Andalusia

Published 2:23 am Saturday, August 22, 2015

When most people who are citizens of the Andalusia area hear the name Caton, they naturally think of the Caton Transfer trucking company, Bass-Caton Insurance Company and the Andalusia Tire Company. Descendants of the Caton family built and operated these successful businesses to serve the Andalusia area. Their ancestors came to Covington County during the late 1800s.

The earliest ancestor of this family identified by this writer is Willie Allen Caton, born in 1868 in Alabama, but the exact location was not found. He apparently settled in Covington County during the 1880s since he was married here in 1888 to Florence E. Taylor. Florence Ellafair Taylor, b. 1867, was the daughter of Windal William Taylor and Matilda Ann (Jones). The Taylor family was quite large, and they lived in Searight and mostly in the Rose Hill community. Willie and Florence were enumerated there in 1900 and 1910, but by 1920 they were residing in Florala, where they lived out their lives.

Willie and Florence Caton reared the following children: John Ransom, b. 1889, m. Lena Mae White; William Alfred, b. 1891, d. 1964; Bessie, b. 1892, d. 1984; Effie, b. 1892; Ruthie P., b. 1894; Buna Mae, b. 1895; Noah Windell, b. 1900, d. 1970; and Beatrice, b. 1903. Husbands of the daughters were J.P, Steele, J. W. Steele, J. W. Flournoy, N.H. Ellis and G.H. Diamond.

The oldest son, John Ransom Caton, became well-known in the Andalusia business community. One of his most successful business adventures was the establishment of the Caton Transfer trucking company. It was first located on Baker Street and later moved to the West ByPass where the current Centurytel Telephone Office is located. The site is next to the current Andalusia Tire Company, which is owned and operated by the sons of Jimmy Caton, a son of James Ransom Caton. At John Caton’s death, his son, James Ransom Caton, assumed management of the company and expanded it to the extent of having terminals in Andalusia, Birmingham, Montgomery and Bay Minette.

John Ransom Caton had interests in the Wright Brothers and Caton Commissary, located adjacent to the Horse Shoe Lumber Company at River Falls north of the M. L. More Memorial Bridge, which spans the Conecuh River. Following the destruction of the sawmill by the 1929 Flood, Caton bought some of the salvageable remains of the mill. One item was a very large chain used to hoist the logs out of the river in preparation for sawing them into lumber. Caton later used a section of these chains to decorate the porch of his new home, which he built on the east side of South Three Notch Street across from the Brooklyn Road junction.

The Caton house was completed in 1929 and was of a most interesting architecture. It is understood that the architect was David Tadlock, who also designed at least some of the other three similar houses in Andalusia: Spellar Moates’ house on East Three Notch Court, L.N. Evers’ house on Snead Street near Andalusia High School, and the Grady Chapman house on East Three Notch Street in which the former Simone’s Restaurant was located. The family has usually regarded it to be “Dutch Colonial,” but in Bill Hansford’s recent publication, Architectural Design in Andalusia, he described it as being of “Cotswolds Cottage” style, patterned after a section of fine houses in rural Southwest England where the people prospered from herding sheep. The unusual pieces of stone throughout the bricking of these houses were cut from the banks of the Conecuh River at River Falls. The stones even have pieces of shells embedded in them. The location of the house and property has been zoned for business, and the last occupant recently vacated it.

John Ransom Caton was married to Lena Mae White (1891-1968), daughter of John Clement White (1843-1930) and Sarah (Lowman) (1859-1924). They reared three children: Louise, b. 1911, d. 1976, m. Nathaniel “Nat” Waller Jr. (1910-1991); James Ransom Jr., b. 1913, d. 1992, m. Lois Barrow; and Charles Bethea “Fay,” b. 1915, d. 1985, m. 1936 Carolyn Boron Brunson. John Ransom Caton died in a Montgomery, Ala., hospital of pneumonia following surgery. In his obituary, it is stated that he was regarded as one of the leading businessmen of Andalusia. In addition to operating the fleet of trucks, he managed a cotton gin and was a construction contractor. He was also a well-known and respected citizen as well as businessman. Lena Mae Caton was also respected and is remembered as one who played the piano for the children’s department at the First Baptist Church.

The daughter, Louise Caton, and her husband, Nathaniel “Nat” Waller, owned and operated a Sinclair service station, located on the east side of South Three Notch Street in the lot next to the First Presbyterian Church. They had two children, Louise “Lulu” and Nathaniel Jr. “Buddy.”

The oldest son, James Ransom Caton, was married to Lois Everett Barrow, daughter of John Henry Barrow and Sarah Bernice (Dixon). James assumed management of Caton Transfer following his father’s death. He built a fine home for his family on Brooklyn Road, the one with all the Magnolia trees in front lawn, which was completed during the early 1960s. He sold Caton Transfer to G.F.A.Trucking Company in 1970. His wife, Lois, was a successful entrepreneur when she and her sister, Merle Barrow Jones, founded the Town and Country Shop, which featured fine ladies wear. James and Lois reared two sons: James “Jimmy” Caton, m. Patricia Evers; and John Gerald “Gerry,” m. Mildred “Millie” Dean Mason.

Jimmy Caton worked in his dad’s trucking business until it was sold in 1970. At the time Jimmy was working in the Birmingham terminal of Caton Transfer. He and his wife moved for a time to Atlanta, and a few years later, returned to Andalusia. In January 1974 Jimmy purchased Andalusia Tire Company from Walter Beall who had previously been a business partner with Byron Hair. The company is now operated by Jimmy and Patricia’s three sons, and it is located next to the site where Caton Transfer was on the West ByPass.

The youngest son, Charles Bethea “Fay” Caton, was married in 1936 to Carolyn Boron Brunson, daughter of Charlie Brunson and Foye (Mathis). They made their home in Andalusia and eventually resided in the John Ransom Caton house. Charles Bethea Caton Sr. became a well-respected businessman in his own right. For a time he worked in the Brunson Bakery of which he had part ownership. His wife, Carolyn conducted a cake decorating business out of the bakery. During the 1950s Charles B. “Fay” went into the insurance industry. He formed a partnership with Charlie Bass and Bellaire Krudop. After Krudop went out on his own, the company became Bass-Caton Insurance Agency. Fay and Carolyn Caton reared two sons: Charles Bethea Jr. “Skipper,” m. Phyllis Rawls; and Christopher “Chris” Seale, m. Jennifer Cheryl Harrison.

The sources for today’s narrative included the following:, census records and mostly Caton family records. There were also interviews with Chris Caton, Patricia (Evers) Caton and her grandson, Stephen Caton.

Anyone who might find an error in the above or who has additional information on this Caton family or those Caton families who lived in the Straughn or Red Level areas is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email:


The Covington Historical Society will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 27, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Guests and prospective members are most welcome.