Forgotten Trails: Review of book on area of interest given

Published 3:16 am Wednesday, January 17, 2007

By Staff
I want to take a little break and mention a couple of things.
A couple of weeks ago I got a telephone call from a nice lady asking if I would be interested in receiving a book for review. We get requests such as this every few months, but this one was a little different. The book, &#8220Longleaf,” is targeted toward young readers. Roger Reid, who is a writer, director and producer of the award-winning Discovering Alabama series on Alabama Public Television, wrote it. It is a mystery involving a couple of youngsters in the Conecuh National Forest.
I love to read anyway, so I thought I would give this one a try. I think it will be a good one for the 10-12 age group. The story is pretty good and because of its location in a national forest that is so near, it bears reading. Those who know little about the Longleaf Pine will get some information. I know, for me, it brought back memories of lying in the bed at night, listening to the pine trees ‘sing' to each other. I had forgotten that sound. I think I will try to be quiet the next time I am in the trees and listen to the sounds the trees make when the wind is blowing through them.
If you are interested in getting the book for your youngsters to read, you can find it at NewSouth Books and or you can stop by the Brewton Public Library, as the copy sent to me will be given to them.
I also want to remind you about the maps I mentioned a few weeks ago. The Sanborn Maps were made for insurance purposes and are quite detailed. The copies that Tom McMillan ordered have been placed in the Thomas McMillan Museum at JDCC. I have also been told that Probate Judge Rachel Agerton is planning to purchase copies to be placed in the probate office. They are very interesting and will give you an insight as to what was where in days gone by.
Now back to the writings of Mr. Brooks. This is the last of them for a while. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I did.
November 22, 1956
The face-lifting that is being given to the front of Robbins and McGowin Company's store by John David and Bob Finlay will not only add to the attractiveness of the establishment, but it brings to mind an interesting fact that perhaps not too many people know.
The two-story section of the store which is occupied by the hardware department is the first brick building to be built anywhere in this section and is now more than 80 years old. The brick used in its construction were shipped here from Montgomery. After the job was completed and word got around that there was a building of that type in Brewton, people came from miles around just to get a look at the unusual structure.
It was built by the firm of Harold Brothers and Scott, which operated a saw mill about five miles east of Brewton on Conecuh River at a spot near the present residence of Col. and Mrs. L.T. Weaver and which is still known as &#8220Harold's Mill.” The firm erected the building as a commissary for its employees and, as was custom in the day, a line of general merchandise was carried and sold to the pubic.
While much of its production was rafted down the river to Pensacola, the company also built and operated a railroad into Brewton to give it access to the L &N. The tracks crossed Forrest Avenue in East Brewton within a few feet of where the East Brewton Methodist Church now stands. Although I haven't noticed in several years, I am sure that if you will look toward the west down the south side of the church building, you see some sign of the old right-of-way. After the mill suspended operations the tracks remained for several years until World War II when they were taken up and sold for much need scrape metal.
Getting back, (or moving forward) to the present store, Robbins and McGowin was first organized by J.I. Robbins and J.G. McGowin. A short time later, Alex McGowin Jr. and J.E. Finlay, who had their individual stores here, combined their businesses with the other firm and the company became known as &#8220Robbins and McGowin Company, Inc.” as it exists today.
Mr. Robbins who, by the way, built the residence on Belleville now occupied by Mrs. Matt O'Bannon, left Brewton and went to Florida to engage in the lumber business. One of his two sons, Bruce, is now a prominent lumberman of Tampa.
The two McGowins also went into the lumber business and were among the owners of W.T. Smith Lumber Company at Chapman. J.G. McGowin moved to Chapman and his sons continue to operate the business there. Although he lived for a short time in Mobile where he also had interests, Alex McGowin always called Brewton home. He built the beautiful residence that stood where the Citizens-Farmers and Merchants Bank is now located.
Mr. Finlay continued with the company and was president and principal owner at the time of his death. Since then his sons, John David and Bob, have carried on with the business. The first buildings occupied by the company were the three just south of Roberts Motor Company. They were all connected and the first occupied by the millinery and ladies' ready to ware department; the second, men's clothing and shoes; and the third, groceries and hardware. There was not question about its being a &#8220department” store in a literal sense-the departments were separated by brick walls. The present three-story section of the store was built in 1908 and connected with the historic building adjoining it.
So it is no idle boast when Robbins and McGowin's advertises itself as &#8220Brewton's oldest department store.”

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