John Franklin Brunson Sr. and sons were leaders in business and community

Published 10:35 am Monday, November 2, 2020

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In last week’s column, the family of Matthew Eugene Brunson and Sarah Blanchard was introduced and covered down to his youngest son, John Franklin Brunson. Today’s writing will feature John Franklin’s family along with a few other Brunson relatives.

But first, one of Matthew Eugene Brunson’s younger brothers will be introduced. Littleberry Hezekiah “Kiah” Brunson, the third son of Josiah Brunson Jr., was born in 1815 in Richmond County, Ga., and died in 1877 in Coffee County, Ala. Once he settled in Coffee County, he purchased several tracts of land. He was married in 1836 to Rebecca Ann Brooks, and they became the parents of the following children: Easaw, b. 1838, d. 1864; Munharshel, b. 1838; Eliza Rebecca, b. 1842, d. 1881, m. 1859 Elijah Winslow (1799-1881); Abersham, b. 1846; Effie Vera, b. 1849, d. 1898, m. 1868 Wiley J. Deal (1834-1910); Anna, b. 1853, d. 1898, m. 1877 Daniel David Knight (1855-1927); Teat, b. 1855, d. 1862, single; Littleberry, b. 1855; and Lucious P., b. 1859, d. 1900, m. 1880 Ella A. Taylar. Kiah rendered service in the Confederate Army during the War Between the States and was killed in action in Tennessee.

Back to John Franklin Brunson Sr. who was born in 1856 in the Brunson settlement of Coffee County, Ala., as the youngest child in his family.  He spent his early years in the Woodland Grove community where he attended a one-room school and attend the local Baptist Church with his family. During those years he learned farming skills from his father.

In 1887, John Franklin Brunson Sr. was married to Ella Luverne Treadwell, daughter of Dr. William Augustus Treadwell and Lucy Sorrell of the Victoria community. He and Ella made their home in Victoria for a few years where he operated a cotton gin, sawmill and gristmill. In 1891, they decided to move back to his home area in the Brunson community. There he managed the Brunson plantation and continued operating the mills. He also opened a large commissary in which he served as Postmaster of the Brunson Post Office until it was closed in 1906. In 1908, they moved into “town” and built a large house in the middle of the Town of Elba. While residing there, John F. operated a cotton warehouse and continued with his farming interests.

John Franklin and Ella Brunson were the parents of the following children: John Franklin Jr., m. 1921 Leola “Ola” Johnson; William Matthew, m. Annie Lou Alice Rushing; Emmett Treadwell, m. Foye Edna Thomas; Sarah Lucy, m. William Lee English; Mable Ross; and Beatrice Luverne, m. George Reuben Saxon.

The oldest son, John Franklin Brunson Jr., attended business college in Birmingham and became head of the household following his father’s death in 1916. He took care of his mother and assisted with his younger siblings. He taught in the Coffee County Schools, kept books for the Elba business and bank and later worked in the Kinston Bank. He and his family resided in Kinston for about six years until the bank closed during the Great Depression. They returned to the Town of Elba, and he established the Elba Insurance Agency. When the Elba Bank closed in 1931, John became an independent banker operating the Elba Merchants Exchange. He continued with this work until the Elba Exchange Bank opened in 1938. John Jr. became principal stock holder and president, a role he filled until his retirement, but he continued as Board chairman until his death.

John Franklin Brunson Jr. was married in 1921 to Leola “Ola” Johnson, daughter of Edwin Pinkney Johnson and Mary Elizabeth McDuffie of Samson, Ala. Edwin owned land and farmed in the Samson community. He served as Superintendent of Geneva County Schools and later as Postmaster of the Geneva Post Office. Edwin is credited with naming the Town of Samson, and the family resided on Johnson Street, which was named in his honor.

John Brunson Jr. and his wife Ola were the parents of the following four daughters: Catherine, b. 1922, d. 1996, m. Otto Luening; Eugenia, b. 1923, m. Virgil B. Day, a retired attorney and former Vice President of General Electric; Eleanor, b. 1927, m. William F. Sparks, owner of Sparks Printing Company in Tupelo, Miss.; and Judith, b. 1931, d. 1998, m. Wilbur Bullock and lived in Hattiesburg, Miss., where she worked in the speech and hearing department of the University of southern Mississippi.

John Franklin Brunson Sr.’s second son, William Matthew Brunson, was born in 1889 in the Brunson community. He worked on the farm and earned as much education as possible in the local school. At 17 years of age, he was awarded a state license to teach which he did for four years in the local school. Realizing a need for more education, he enrolled in Abbeville High School and completed requirements for a diploma in one year. In 1911, he entered the University of Alabama and was graduated with a law degree in 1916.

During his time at the University, Will was extremely involved in curricular and extracurricular activities. These included him being a member of the varsity football squad, a Jason, director in YMCA, member of the student honor committee, founder of Aurora, and participant in the college drama program. An outstanding achievement was his organizing the Student Self Help Bureau, which enabled students with financial needs to attend the University. Even while participating in so many activities, Will earned enough from all his varied services to cover his expenses while in college. He began at a coal dump and moved to being a waiter, an agent for a steam laundry, running a shoe shine stand and serving as secretary-treasurer of the mess hall and finally as steward of the dormitory hall. These services not only enabled him to secure his education, but he was able to assist a younger brother in attending the University.

In addition, when Will left college and entered the business world, he had a savings of $1,200 to help him with a new start in life. He returned home and opened his law practice in the Town of Elba where he experienced a very successful career. In addition to his law work, he owned and managed several farms. As expected, he was very active in his community in several capacities. He served on the local school board and the Elba City Council. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army and served as Commander of the local American Legion Post. He was President of the Elba Chamber of Commerce and the local Lions Club. He was also an active member and leader of the First Baptist Church. In addition, he became a Mason, Shriner, Praetorian and Woodman of the World.

In 1919, William “Will” Matthew Brunson was married to Annie Lou Alice Rushing who was born in 1898. She was the daughter of William McDonald Rushing and Mary Wise of Elba. They were the parents of the following five children: William Lister, b. 1921, d. 1978, m. with three children; Grover Bowden, b. 1924, d. 1936 at 12 years; Jack Rushing, b. 1928, d. 2006, m. 1948 Edna Allen (1927-2004) and had infant daughter b.&d. 1954 and son, William Barry, b. 1958, d. 1992, and two living children; Patsy “Pat” Sue, b. 1931, d. 2019, m. 1953 Ned Flowers Folmar (1924-1986),  four children: Flowers, L. Dale, Patrick and Wilson Douglas; and Jerry Burton, b. 1934, d. 1999, m. Sara Selsor Rawlson with four children. William Matthew and Annie both died at Elba and were buried there in the Evergreen Cemetery.

John F. Brunson Sr.’s third son, Emmett Treadwell Brunson, was born in 1893 in the Brunson Settlement. In 1926, he was married to Foye Edna Thomas (1906-1993). They were the parents of two children: Emmett Thomas, b. 1931, d. 1982; and another living child. Emmett and Foye died in Enterprise and were buried there.

John F. Brunson Sr.’s youngest daughter, Beatrice Luverne Brunson, was married in 1928 to George Reuben Saxon.  They were the parents of three children: Bettye George, b. 1929, d. 2009; and two living children.

It is planned for more on this Brunson family line to be covered in next week’s column.

Sources for today’s story include and family stories written by descendants and printed in The Heritage of Coffee County, Alabama.

Anyone who finds an error in the above genealogy is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: