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Brandon School

Charles M. Brandon, manager of the Cherry Cotton Mills, was instrumental in the establishment of a school in the East Florence area which was known as the Sixth Ward School and had its first two sessions in a residence a few blocks east of the present site of the school. Miss Ada Coffee was the first principal and Miss Emma Hiss was her only assistant. At the beginning of the third session, the school was moved to the brick store building on the corner of Aetna and Union streets. The free kindergarten was opened on the first floor of the building and the school occupied the second floor. The Florence Evening Bulletin made note in 1900 that a fence had been built around Brandon School to keep the hogs from being allowed to bunk under the school and scratch themselves on the corners of the building.

Mr. Brandon donated land for the school and the city built a five-room frame building which was named for the donor of the land. In 1919 the five-room original building was moved to the back of the lot and the present building erected. 

























Above photos found in newspaper scrapbooks compiled by the late Oscar D. Lewis, located in the Local History and Genealogy Room of the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library.


Newspaper Articles 

Contributed by Lee Freeman, Mar 2006

Source: "Florence Happenings," the Florence Herald, Thursday, April 28, 1898, p. 1.

A subscription is being raised to build a school house in East Florence between the Cotton Factory and the Wagon Factory. The present school house is too small and is rented by the city. Wyley Freeman has the list in hand and will receive subscriptions.

[Contributor's Note: Wiley Francis Freeman (ca. 1847-1913) was the son of Mary Jones and ____ Freeman. He married Sarah Frances Wesson (d. 1894) of Lauderdale County, AL in 1866. She was the daughter of Wm. A. Wesson and Amanda Ijams. Wiley and Sarah Frances had ten children: William Joseph; Mary Betty; Amanda; Hattie; Georgia; Dan; Ella; Miles; Nannie; and Ben. In the 1890s, Wiley moved his family from Stony Point to East Florence where he, Miles, and Dan worked at the Wagon Factory. Wiley gave a speech at the dedication of the the new school, in October of 1899. See below.]

Source: "Sweetwater Chat," Florence Times, Friday, April 29, 1898.

Mr. Wiley Freeman has started the best thing we have seen yet. He is getting subscriptions to build a school house out here. That is the best kind of a move. We need one bad. We note the Florence Pump & Lumber Company has put in $20 to start the list. That is a generous act and a good big start at one and the same time. We are satisfied that every man who can will help push the thing along.

Source: "Bids for Street Work: City Council Awards Contracts for Street Improvements: School House for E. Florence," Florence Herald, Thursday, June 9,1898, p. 1.

Mr. Wiley Freeman reported having funds subscribed for a school building in East Florence and asked for help from the city. Messrs. Phillips, Smith and Patrick were appointed a committee to meet with the Board of Education and see what could be done toward making an appropriation. The committee will make a report to the Board of Aldermen.


Source:  "City Finances," Florence Times, Friday, November 18, 1898, p 3.

4. The city has no school building in Sweetwater, and no building adequate for the colored school. The Board of Education has been renting buildings for some years, and it would be cheaper for the city to own its own buildings, and far better for the comfort of the school children. . . . 

Sec. 6. Be it further enacted. That of the bonds authorized to be issued by this act, the sum of Sixty-nine Thousand Dollars shall be used for taking up, canceling and retiring the present outstanding bonds of said City of Florence, either by payment of the old bonds or by an exchange of the new bonds for the old, and for no other purpose. That the sum of Twenty-three Thousand Dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary, shall be used for the purpose of paying the floating debt said City of Florence may have on the first day of January, 1899. That the sum of Two Thousand and Five Hundred Dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary, shall be used for the erecting of a school building for white children to be located at some point in the Sixth or Seventh Ward in said city to be selected by the Board. That the sum of Two Thousand and Five Hundred Dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary, shall be used for the erecting of a school building for the Negro children of said city, to be erected at such point as the Board may determine. And the sum of Three Thousand Dollars may in the discretion of said Board be used for the purchase and improvement of a cemetery ground. . . .

Source: "Mayor Weakley's Message," Florence Times, Friday, December 9, 1898, p. 2.

SCHOOLS: Our schools are all in a thriving condition and are largely attended. Particular attention is called to Seventh Ward school which has grown from enrollment of about eighty-five to more than 200.

The city owns no school building in this section of the city and is compelled to pay rent for a building ill-suited for the purpose and I advise not less than $2,500 be expended in the erection of a building for the colored school, the money for this purpose to be procured from the sale of bonds as already stated.

Source:  "The City Council," Florence Herald, Thursday, June 15, 1899, p. 1.

. . . At the special meeting Monday night the reports on the locations of and plans for the two new school houses will be heard, as will also the report of the special committee investigating the fire department improvements. The session will be one of the most important ever held by the present board, and all interested should attend.

Source: Florence Times, Friday, June 23, 1899, p. 1.

East Florence School Building: The plans and specifications for the East Florence School are here, and contractors are requested to bid on same. Bids the be [sic] opened at July meeting of city council. Plans can be seen at Clerk's office, city hall. Right reserved to reject any or all bids.

Source: Florence Herald, Thursday, August 10, 1899, p. 1.

New School Building: The East Florence public school building is going up rapidly. The storm sheeting is on and they will cover it this week. Mr. Nichols shows a deep interest in the public schools by his heroic efforts to get the buildings ready for the opening of the fall season. The new kindergarten room in the basement of the East Florence building will be ready for the fall opening. The kindergarten will commence and continue with the public school session.


Source: Florence Herald, Thursday, September 28, 1899.

Board of Education Honors Memory of This Lamented Citizen.

The board of education of this city has honored itself in naming the East Florence school "The Charles M. Brandon School." This action was taken at the meeting of the board on Monday night, and it is a graceful compliment to the memory of one who was, until his death, one of Florence's most highly esteemed citizens. 


In order to fittingly dedicate the new building to the memory of the lamented gentleman for whom it has been named, exercises will be held at the school building next Monday afternoon, when the following program will be carried out:

           "The School House in a Community or Ward," John T. Ashcraft.
          "The Ward School, Its Place in the Public School System," H. C. Gilbert.
          Address by Hon. John B. Weakley; Mayor.
          Response by Wiley Freeman.
          "The Purpose of the True Kindergarten," Miss Maud Lindsay.
          "History of the Florence Free Kindergarten," Thos. J. Philips.
          "Sketch of the Life of the Late Chas. M. Brandon," Dr. W. J. Kernachan.

The people of Florence and especially the patrons of the East Florence school, are cordially invited to attend the exercises Monday afternoon.

Chas. M. Brandon was one of the most popular men who ever lived in Florence, and the dedicatory exercises will prove of especial interest to those who knew and honor him. He was a friend of the people of East Florence and showed his interest in them in many ways, being a leader in the cause of education and christianity [sic] in that section.


Source: Florence Herald, Thursday, October 5, 1899, p. 1.

"Brandon Public School" of East Florence Officially Named

Phenomenal Increase in Attendance of Pupils From That Portion of the City--Miss Lindsay's Address.

A good sized audience of the people of East Florence, together with a number of visitors from up town, and a large number of school children, gathered at the new East Florence public school building at the corner of Ironside street and Cole avenue Monday afternoon.

The occasion was the dedication of the splendid structure, and the program as carried out was a sincere and worthy tribute to the memory of the man after whom it has been named--the lamented Charles M. Brandon--than whom the children of East Florence never had a better or more enthusiastic friend and helper.

The program was begun with a Scripture reading by Rev. Richard Hall and prayer by Rev. Harris K. Kirk.

Mayor Weakley, after giving a sketch of the rapid growth of the schools of East Florence, gave evidence of his earnest effort to meet the difficulties occasioned by the wonderful and continued increase in attendance. The commodious and comfortable house now named "The Brandon School" is proof enough to all that his labors have met with success.

Mr. Freeman responded with a good speech. He said he believed he represented all of East Florence when he stated they were proud of the Brandon school. Mr. Freeman has always been on the side of the children and probably no one has done more than he for the benefit of the schools.

Dr. Kernachan gave a short sketch of Mr. Brandon's life, which was not only appreciated but heartily endorsed by all, for they all knew Chas. M. Brandon and loved him.

Miss Maud Lindsay, principal of the kindergarten school, delivered the following splendid address:




"I always think that the kindergarten best explains itself, and its purpose by name. It is a garden for children where they may grow strong and wise and good--beautiful as the rose and pure as the lillies.

"Long, long ago Christ spoke to His fishermen by the sea of Galilee, and gave them a charge to keep, 'Feed My Lambs,' but it was a long time before men understood that the teaching of little children meant the teaching of the world.

"The future men and women of our country patter about with bare feet now about our town, and it is the purpose of every kindergarten to lead these little ones through love and kindness into the way of the right, and prepare them to be helpful and useful in whatever place they may be needed.

"We all know that little children are influenced by what they see and hear, and it is the purpose of the kindergarten to surround them with good and guard them from evil. We want to open their eyes to all the beautiful world around them, and teach them to look for loveliness everywhere.

"The children in our kindergarten last year learned to shut their eyes very close to keep from seeing the child who was doing bad; and that had a wonderful influence on the bad child, too, for he felt that he had been shut out from their love and friendship, and he wanted to get in again.

"The purpose of the kindergarten is to keep from the ears of our little ones all that is course and rude, and lead them to listen only to those things that make the music of the world, pleasant, pure words and loving counsels. I once heard a minister request that all the children in his church stand up, and when a great number were standing he asked all to sit down who had ever heard anybody swear, and out of that number every child sat down but one. And the minister said,


"Who's been swearing before these children?" Ought we not to be careful what they hear?

"In the kindergarten we are all workers, everybody busy, little hands being trained, little minds developed. Somebody looking in at the window might think we were only playing, but every play holds a truth that grown people might well learn. Every song is a lesson in dictionary, every story a language lesson, the playthings are the beginnings of lessons, the games are full of lessons in politeness and unselfishness, and all the running, jumping and skipping that little people need keep them healthy and happy.

"The purpose of the kindergarten is to prepare. It is the gateway to life, school and heaven, for who but little children are of the kingdom of God? and
               I have read a joyful gospel
               In each eager child's face,
               For a little child shall lead us
               To the Father's throne of grace;
               Let the heirs of Christ's divineness
               Find on earth their rightful place
               While love is marching on.["]

Mr. Thos. J. Phillips followed Miss Lindsay giving the financial history of the kindergarten.

Unfortunately Mr. John T. Ashcraft, secretary of the Board of Education, who was on the program, was kept away by the illness of his brother.

Superintendent H. C. Gilbert explained the place of the ward school in the public school system. All went away delighted with the first public exercises ever given in the C. M. Brandon school. 

Epilogue (2016)

Brandon School was closed in 2004 and razed in 2015 to make room for a new hospital.  The following was found on the website of the demolition company:

"It’s just another sign of change for the east Florence area that will transition from neighborhood to construction site in the coming months as crews prepare the 25 acres for construction of a 280-bed hospital to replace Eliza Coffee Memorial. It was announced in 2012 that Regional Care Hospital Partners the Brentwood, Tennessee-based company that owns ECM Hospital wanted to purchase property in the area bordered by Veterans Drive, Helton Drive, Central Avenue and Enterprise Street for a new, regional medical center. At that point, the hospital company was embroiled in the bureaucratic process required in Alabama to gain permission to build a hospital. Florence Mayor Mickey Haddock said the hospital company had multiple conversations with city departments about construction plans. The hospital site will have to be rezoned from residential to accommodate the hospital." Read entire article here.

Brandon Third Grade...1911

"...Miss Coplan's third grade class of 1911 at Brandon School is shown here.

They are: first row, Hamer Gamble, Theo Wilks, Oscar Hardiman, Paul Trammel, John Smith, Clyde Cole, Paul Faulkner; Second row, Daisy Kirby, Teresa Johnson, Ethel Kirby, Gertrude Trammel, Mae Rickard, Alma Nichols, Gertrude Cole, Audrey McKinnley, Ethel Ray, Elsie Ray, Colina Bevis; third row, Alvin Landrum, Charlie Freeman, unknown, Ray Harris, Hoarse Kirby, Ann Laura Hale, Miss Coplan, Maud Tucker, Leslie Patterson
unknown, Susie Adams."

Brandon Fifth Grade, 1911

"...The fifth grade class of Brandon School in 1911 poses for the class photograph. 
Students are, first row, left to right, Kilburn Faulkner, Edward N. James, Audrey
McKinney, Clayton White, May Anderton, Annie Phillips, Katie Hewitt, Second 
row, Salone White, Louie Cole, Odie Ramsey, Theo Wilkes, Jesse F. Eastep,
Pink Gamble, Albert Douglass and Horace Kirby. Miss Mary Milner, teacher, is
not pictured."

Left: Photo contributed by Floyd Blevins. 

"Picture taken between 1937 and 1942

One of the girls in this picture is my mother, Uessie (Butler) Blevins. Can anyone identify the other students?" Floyd Blevins 


Photo contributed May 2006 by Floyd Fowler.

The first boy in the second row - on the left, wearing suspenders - is William Fowler (1933 - 2000)

Photo contributed by Floyd Blevins

"Picture taken between 1947 - 1954. One of the students is Wallace Shook. Can anyone identify the other students?" 
Floyd Blevins 

Photo contributed by Margaret Behel on 26 Aug 2006

"I don't know the teacher's name or any of the other students, and I don't know the year, but I think it may have been about 1938. The young man in the center of the back row next to the teacher is my father, Odell Armstrong born in 1926." Margaret Behel

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