Brewton tobacco tale retold

Published 3:18 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2006

By Staff
This is the first installment of a business that came and went in the early days. I found this in an issue of The Brewton Standard dated 1956. I thought some of you might just enjoy it.
By W. Emmett Brooks
(Editor's note: The following story of the tobacco venture in Brewton has been written to response to suggestions from many and various sources. It is being published in two installments and the second will appear next week.)
Enthusiasm over making Brewton a tobacco-growing center was first generated in 1908. In that year J. W. Terry had occasion to investigate the raising of tobacco in the Quincy, Fla., section and was sold on the possibilities of growing the crop here. Mr. Terry was a highly respected and prosperous farmer who owned the property in on which one of his grandsons, John Douglas, now resides. Before inspecting the project as a community enterprise, Mr. Terry gave tobacco growing a trial on his own. He planted a few acres under shade, built the required drying barns, harvested a fine crop, and made a great profit.
The variety planted was Sumatra Wrapper, which, as the name indicates, produced a fine-textured leaf used as a wrapper in the making of cigars. At the time of Mr. Terry's venture the wrapper was selling on the market at $3 a pound, which gave the grower a profit of around $1 a pound. With a minimum expected yield of 2,000 pounds to the acre, the money should roll in. In fact, there had been nothing quite so promising since gold was discovered in California. Thus the stage was set for what proved to be one of the most interesting, if at the same time unsuccessful, civic adventures ever undertaken in this community. Everybody saw visions of getting rich from tobacco and the selling job that done on this project was terrific.
The promotion-and this term is used in no way disrespectful sense-organized the Escambia Tobacco Company, which was incorporated on May 15, 1909. The enthusiasm with which the stock was purchased is indicated by the fact that the records show that there were 94 subscribers on the original list and they ranged from leading businessmen to kids on the street (of which the writer was one). The original charter of the corporation reads like a city directory and space will not permit a listing of the stockholders here.
Additional proof of the interest of our citizens as this enterprise is found in the total amount of stock subscribed. 1567 shares were sold at $10 each, giving the corporation a paid in capital of $15,670. When the population of Brewton in 1909 was less than 1500, and comparing dollar values now and then, the amount invested would perhaps be equivalent to raising at least $100,000 at this time. And all of this was done locally. There were no high-pressure outside organizers of stock salesmen. With one exception, every stockholder was a resident of Brewton. The exception was, by the way, Daniel H. Pratt, wealthy cotton gin manufacturer of Prattville, who sought to the privilege of investing $1,000.00 in the undertaking.
With the stock sold and the company ready for business, the following board of directors was named: E.M. Lovelace, president; H.H. Foshee, first vice-president; O.M. Gordon, second vice president; Dr. J. T. Boyd, secretary; M. F. Brooks, treasurer; J.W. Adkisson; J.E. Finlay, O.F. Luttrell and A.C. Smith. Only one of that board now survives-J.W. Adkisson, who is as he was then, president of Luttrell Hardware Company.
To further identify the others for the benefit of the younger generation, E. M. Lovelace was president of Lovelace Lumber Company and father of Ed Mac and Flournoy Lovelace of this city. S.S. Foshee was a wealthy lumber operator and landowner who built the home at the corner of Belleville Avenue and McLellan Street which is now occupied by Seaman Hudson and his family.
Mr. Gordon was of the naval stores business, coming here from South Carolina, and later became president of the Bank of Brewton. His son, Oscar, now lives in the home on Sowell Road which was erected by his father.
Dr. J.T Boyd was for many years a beloved dentist on Brewton, as his father before him. He and Mrs. Boyd lived on Greenville Avenue in what is now the Baptist Church Annex. After the death of S.S. Foshee, they purchased the home where they resided for the remainder of their lives. They had two daughters, Mrs. Peter Hamilton of Montgomery and Mrs. Albert Bel of Lake Charles, La.
M.F. Brooks was Judge of Probate of this county and had previously served as Circuit Clerk, and died in office after having served for more than 30 years in the courthouse. He was the father of the writer, my brother, Leon, and sister, Mrs. D.B. Hayes of Blountstown, Fla.
J.E. Finlay was a prominent merchant of Brewton for 50 years. For many years, and until his death, he was president of Robbins and McGowin Company and connected with other local business. His two sons, John David and Bob are now operating the company Bob (whose correct name is Norville Leigh Finlay) and his family now live in his father's home, which was originally built by S.J. Foshee who was the father of S.S. Foshee.
O.F. Luttrell was vice president and cashier of the Bank of Brewton almost from the beginning of that institution. He left here for a few years to engage in business in Sylacauga, but returned to resume his connection with the bank, which he continued until his death. His first home (since remodeled) is now occupied by Mrs. J.A. Hainje, which his later one is used as a church by the Latter Day Saints. One of his three sons, Frank Alex, still lives here, while the other surviving son, J. Oden, resides in Montgomery.
Albert C. Smith, the ninth member of the board, was another Brewton merchant for many years. He was one of the owners of the Brewton Bargain House, which was quartered in the building now occupied by Everage's. Like most businesses of that day, it was a general merchandise establishment where you could purchase anything from a paper of pins to a carload of fertilizer. Later he was one of the owners of a men's furnishing store, Smith-Colley Mercantile Company, and shortly before his death served a few years as postmaster of Brewton. His only son, Albert J., was president of a bank at Monroeville.

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