Forgotten Trails: Old letter reveals history of O'Bannon

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, October 1, 2008

By by Lydia Grimes
A few weeks ago I had a visit from Faye Franklin of East Brewton. She had been going through some of her mother's things and found the following letter to the editor written by Elizabeth O'Bannon, from Kreole, Miss. I thought it was very interesting and maybe you will too.
Dear Sir:
I realize this suggestion is liable to torch off another Battle of Burnt Corn Creek, which took place in 1811.
The wash-hole has been called ‘O'Bannon' ever since the late 1880s, when my father Clyde, and his brothers went a-washing' in the creek every day. They had no other bathtub. They lived in the plantation house that stood for years near Union Cemetery. Every bedroom was furnished with a wash-stand, a china bowl and pitcher for water. Members of the family usually took their baths, if any, in such a little bit of water you would have thought they were ecologists.
Daddy and his brothers blew out the wash-hole with sticks of dynamite to deepen it. The point they selected was a regular crossing on the creek, for as that time there was no bridge across Burnt Corn. One either rode a horse across it, or used one of the boats tied up on both sides of the crossing.
On the side of the creek where people are going to play golf and eat hot dogs when the modern dinosaurs get through scarring the earth, my great-grandfather, Bill O'Bannon, had a corn patch. Bears liked the sweet corn just as well as Grandpa did, and a field hand by the name of Es had the job of running the bears out of the corn every day and some nights. Lots of times it was Es that did the running, however. One moonlight night when Es was sitting up in an apple tree in the corn patch, waiting with a shotgun to scare off the bears, he fell asleep, dropped his gun, fell out of the tree among a few bears. They say that's the night Es learned to swim, because he forgot to untie a boat and paddle across Burnt Corn on his way home.
I have often thought that maybe we could re-name the park Bear Patch after Es and the hog bears. Anyway, Wash-hole is sort of malaprops now that most Brewtonians perform their ablutions in tiled showers.
Now about putting all those ‘nature trails' down there around the wash-hole. I don't see any use in that. There are numerous footpaths through those woods. They were originally made by deer, back when the Creek Indians owned that land before our ancestors murdered them and took over. Many a time I've run barefooted in a wet bathing suit from O'Bannon to the road that runs by Union Cemetery in just a few minutes. Although one time I did almost pull my little toe off when it got hung on a root in the path.
If Brewton does happen to put ‘nature trails' in there, I suggest you might call it The Trail of Tears in remembrance of the Creek Indians. We might as well be poetic about it.
Since Burnt Corn is such a beautiful expression, and the creek is one of the most beautiful in the world, and since Burnt Corn takes in the history of the area (not just the history of one family), I submit Burnt Corn Park as a proper name for Brewton's recreational area.
I asked Daddy once why Burnt Corn was called that, and he said it was because the early settlers had to burn their corn to keep the Indians from seizing it during one of their raids. I accepted that answer for a long time, till I came across another explanation in a very old history book. The author of the old book said this about it.
I'm very sad to think that the wash-hole area is going to be ‘improved, modernized, and maybe even turned into a Little Coney Island. Change is not always progress, you know.'
As everyone knows, O'Bannon was developed somewhat in the 1970s with baseball fields and a concession stand. There was also, and still is, a covered pavilion down there. I don't know what happened in the development of the place, but we all know that O'Bannon is still known as O'Bannon.
One more bit of information that some of you may or may not know. I have written more than once about the Ard family. The ancestor of the Ards is being honored as a Revolutionary veteran at Bethel United Methodist Church outside of Ozark. His oldest son, John, is also buried there. Descendants in this area are from another son, George Ard, who married Abigail Barrow and lived in the Escambia-Santa Rosa area. If you would like to attend the ceremony, it will be on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008 at 2 p.m. with a reception to follow. Here are the directions to the church. From North (Ozark area): Follow U.S. 231 S. to Midland City, AL. Turn left onto Co. Rd. 59 (Wachovia Bank sits on right as you turn) Proceed until Co. Rd. 59 comes to a dead end (approx. 13 miles). Turn right onto Co. Rd. 36. Church (red brick) will be on the right (approx. 2 miles).
Maybe you would like to meet some of your kin there. I know I would love to go.
If you have an idea for a topic for this column, please let me know. You can give me a call at 867-4876 or drop me a line by email at
Until next week, happy hunting!

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