Forgotten Trails: Streets of Brewton bear many interesting names

Published 1:28 am Wednesday, January 3, 2007

By Staff
This week I will finish with the information written by Mr. Emmett Brooks about how the streets of Brewton got their names.
September 13, 1956
In order not to prolong this series to the possible point of disinterest, if not actual boredom, this will be the final chapter on the names of the streets of Brewton. However, I think it proper to complete the survey, so to speak, to mention the remaining cross-streets in the older residential section that have not been covered so far.
Rankin Street was named for Charles F. Rankin who came to Brewton in 1873 from Monroe County, and who was, quite obvious, one of our earliest citizens. He engaged in the mercantile business, served as mayor and postmaster of Brewton and circuit clerk for Escambia County. Having known him intimately for many years, if I were to select the most beloved man who ever lived in Brewton, it would be &#8220Uncle Charley,” as he was affectionately known by everyone in the county. He was a true Southern gentleman-kind, patient, courtly, soft-spoken and charitable-and one literally without an enemy in the world. One tragedy struck in the life of Mr. Rankin. His first wife died in the terrible yellow fever epidemic that swept Brewton in 1883. Their only surviving son is Herbert C. Rankin, prominent Brewton attorney. He and his wife reside on the site of the original Rankin house. A daughter by Mr. Rankin's second marriage, Mrs. Claude P. Sawyer, lives in Anniston.
Just north of Rankin Street is Brooks Street, which was named for my father, Judge Millard Fillmore Brooks, who came to Brewton in 1883 as agent for the L &N railroad. He was a native of Pike County, and, like many other children of the days immediately following the Civil War, had no opportunity to attend school-thanks to the dammyankees.
But the northern troops, who burned what they could not steal of his meager possessions of his family, could not destroy his ambition to learn. Being a prodigious reader, through his own efforts, he became one of the best-educated men I have ever known. He and my mother first lived at Atmore, which was then Williams Station, where he worked as telegraph operator and later as station agent for the railroad. Three years after coming to Brewton he was elected circuit clerk and held that office until he was elected probate judge in 1904, a position he held until his death in 1915.
Like most of the other earlier residents of the town, he built his home on what is now Belleville Avenue. The original house was remodeled and enlarged by him and is now occupied by Mrs. Roberta Sowell and owned by my sister, Mrs. D.B. Hayes, of Blountstown, Fla. Mrs. Hayes, my brother Leon, and I are three surviving children of four. The oldest brother, Morse, died of pneumonia at the age of 25, but not until after he had assisted in organizing and had become the first cashier of the Bank of Atmore. He also had the distinction of owning the first automobile in Escambia County and, believe it or not, it was a Cadillac-such as it was.
Perhaps I should apologize for concluding my coverage of the older streets of Brewton on a family note, but it would be false modesty for me to omit the name of my father in dealing with the names of these early residents of Brewton who took a leading part in its development. The offices, which he held, his work in his church and in civic groups, and the esteem in which, he was held by the people of this section, stand as evidence of the contribution to his day and generation. Had he entered the business world, he might have become wealthy, as did many of his close friends. He chose public service which, at best, not conductive to the accumulation of a large estate. But in his name and record he left his children a heritage of which they can be, and are, justly proud.
This concludes the street names. I may continue with some more of his writings next week or I may tell you the story of Bonnie Beach.

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