Forgotten Trails: Brooks offers tales of city's streets

Published 7:29 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2006

By Staff
I hope you are enjoying the Emmett Brook articles about the street names and all the other good information that he included in the newspapers in the summer and fall of 1956.
I want to stress that I only am rerunning what he wrote, and I take no credit for it. I only want you to read them and have the enjoyment that I have had.
August 2, 1956
Many people wonder why Belleville Avenue follows a somewhat curving route for much of its length while the other north-south streets of Brewton are practically straight.
The answer to that question is found in the fact that it was the first residential street running north from the railroad and before it was even dignified with a name, the early residents began building their homes along the road to Belleville, which is exactly what it was.
While Belleville is now little more than a crossroads some 25 miles north of Brewton, a hundred years ago it was something of an important trading point and agricultural center.
The road leading to it from this direction was naturally known as the Belleville road. Like most roads of that day, it followed the line of least resistance.
At any rate, the newcomers selected their home sites along the road and didn't worry about straightening it out.
Personally, I am glad that they didn't for I have always thought that the graceful curves add extra beauty to the street that it would otherwise not have.
For some reason that I have never been able to determine, what is now Belleville Avenue was divided into two avenues.
From St. Joseph north to Sowell Street it was officially designated as &#8220Parker Avenue” while from that point on it was known as Belleville.
The lower section was named for Henry T. Parker, one of the early residents of Brewton. Mr. Parker lived at the end of Evergreen Avenue (literally) and he and his family will be discussed more at length in connection with that street.
To eliminate confusion, I suppose, some years back the city council designated the entire street as Belleville Avenue and the name &#8220Parker” has been discontinued except in official records.
Not only did many of the pioneers of Brewton build their homes along Parker-Belleville (if you will pardon use of the combination) but they also erected their churches and public buildings along its route.
The original Escambia County courthouse was, quite appropriately, located at the corner of Court Street. It was purchased by C.H. Conoley some years after the present one was built, and was remodeled into the spacious home owned by Mrs. John D. Leigh.
Just across the street from it was the combined city elementary and high school from which many of us of the older generation received diplomas bearing the high sounding heading Brewton Collegiate Institute.
The front portion was added to the original building &#8220which replaced one destroyed by fire” in 1903.
The Methodists built their first church where Kelly Center is now located.
The Baptists and Universalists where their present edifices now stand, while the Presbyterian Church faced north on Sowell Street just behind the structure, which is now used.
In those days the town (it wasn't a city then) limits extended to one mile to the courthouse so I suppose Belleville Avenue officially ended at that point, which is just below the present Joe Sowell residence.
However, the matter is not material. There were few houses north of the branch previously referred to. The present elementary school property was a small farm, while on the east side of the street (or road it mostly was then) was a combination of what are commonly known as a &#8220bay” and &#8220crawfish bog.”
If you doubt that last assertion, just try walking around the grounds of the high school after a fairly heavy rain.
Are you remembering any of these places? I bet some of you are. Isn't it fun to find out where some of these buildings were.
Some of them are now gone and it's always good to know how it used to be.
Happy Hunting!