Brannons once major part of local cotton industry
by W. Winston Skinner
The Brannons are back.
A family prominent in Newnan and Coweta County a century ago, the Brannons now mostly live elsewhere. A prominent Methodist minister was the progenitor of much of the local family, and in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Brannons were merchants and cotton factors of note in the area.
Dr. Barbara A. Brannon, who oversees tourism for the Texas Plains Trail Region through the Texas Historical Commission, is the advance team for this weekend’s gathering of Brannons and their kin. She grew up in Atlanta and has fond memories of weekend visits to Newnan.
Her uncle, Jack Brannon, the last living family member from his generation, will be coming from Florida to be with family gathered from far and wide. They plan to have lunch at Chillabration at the Moreland Mill on Saturday and possibly get together for a bite at the original Sprayberry’s barbecue restaurant in Newnan,.
Barbara Brannon said the family has ties to many other local families — including the Askews, Andersons, Powers and Camps. Several homes inhabited by members of the family still stand in Moreland and Newnan.
Barbara Brannon has visited two huge brick structures associated with the family — both built originally as stores. On Monday, she toured the old Manget-Brannon building on the train tracks just south of downtown Newnan.
Her tour guide was Alison Wallace, executive director of Bridging the Gap, a ministry that helps local people and organizations with food and other needs. BTG now uses the brick edifice as a storage building and a staging area for part of its ministry.
Barbara Brannon took notes and snapped pictures as they climbed stairs to see all three floors of the building.
Built prior to 1913, the building for years was a cotton warehouse, according to the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society’s 1988 history book. The Manget-Brannon firm members were cotton factors, buying cotton from local farmers and monitoring the market to determine the best time to sell.
The building was constructed in stages, and Wallace pointed out a painted sign — the remnants of “groceries & grain” can still be read — on an original exterior wall that became an interior one after a long ago addition.
Barbara Brannon noted the sign and remarked on BTG’s continuing to provide food for Cowetans from that building. “I was enormously pleased to see that the Manget-Brannon building is benefitting such good work,” she said. “I'm sure my Brannon kinfolks will be glad to learn of it, too.”
That same day, Barbara Brannon also met Joe Crain Sr., who remembered several members of her family. Crain’s wife, Elizabeth Farmer Crain, is part of the Manget family, business partners with the Brannons in Newnan a century ago.
On Tuesday, Barbara Brannon traveled south to Moreland where she visited the Moreland Mill — part of it built as a store by William A. Brannon in the 1890s. She ran into Carol Chancey of the Moreland Cultural Arts Alliance that morning. Chancey was washing collards for the Chillabration dinner to be held at the mill on Saturday.
Chillabration is sponsored by MCAA and Team Georgia of the Transplant Games of America.
William Brannon’s brother, Robert Franklin Brannon, married Lou Glanton Camp, who came from the large Camp family that settled around Moreland in the county’s early days. R.F. Brannon also ran a store in Grantville around 1880 and built a home there in 1893.
Several generations of the family are buried at the Grantville City Cemetery.
“Coweta Chronicles,” a book on local history published in 1928, noted one member of the family had served as mayor and councilman in Moreland, operated an insurance business and served as cashier of the Moreland Banking Company.
The history also listed Elizabeth Brannon as a student at the State Normal School in Athens — it later became the education school at the University of Georgia — in 1918. She was part of a team of “Coweta girls at the State Normal School” who created a banner with a flag bearing a star for each Cowetan serving in the U.S. Army during World War I.
Barbara Brannon said her uncle, John Phillips Brannon Jr., worked on WCOH when the Newnan radio station began broadcasting in 1947. His on-air personality reportedly was called Uncle Zeb. “I hope to verify and learn more about that,” she said.
W.A. Brannon and R.F. Brannon were sons of Franklin Marion Troupe Brannon and his wife, Hannah Westwood Brannon. F.M.T. Brannon, a Methodist minister, is described as “greatly beloved” in “Chronicles.” He was pastor at Prospect Methodist in Lone Oak in 1877 and at Jones Chapel in Madras and Mt. Gilead in Raymond in 1885.
Barbara Brannon said she understood her ancestor accepted the call to preach after an inn he owned in Harris County burned. Hannah Brannon, a Tennessee native, died in 1923 “in her 92nd year after a faithful and useful life as the wife of an itinerant Methodist preacher and mother of a large family,” according to “Chronicles.”
The Brannons have left their mark in Coweta County, and now they are coming back to see the places where their ancestors worked and lived.