We are blessed in Lawrence County with a younger generation of residents whose connection to family and home convinced them that this is the place they want to live and raise their own children.
Fourth District Commissioner Brandon Brown is one great example. He grew up in the district, attended Leoma Elementary and graduated Loretto High School in 1993. He then left for Clarksville, Tennessee, to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Science at Austin Peay University. After working in the ag industry there a short time, he found a way to come back to Lawrence County.
“I wanted to come home,” he says of his move back 18 years ago. “I wanted to be with family and raise my kids here.”
He and his wife Felicia, who works with commercial customers at First Farmers & Merchants Bank, have two sons: a 14-year-old at Loretto High School and an eight-year-old at Leoma Elementary. For eight years they have lived on land once owned by his grandfather, just across Sugar Creek from the place Brown himself was raised.
As part of his grandfather’s farm, the land was used to raise crops including cotton, watermelons, and corn. Brown grew up working in their commercial cow-calf operation, which he continues today. His parents, Buddy and Judy Williams Brown, “primarily farmed,” but held jobs at Murray and Reynolds Aluminum, too. His mother’s late parents, Lacy and Evelyn Williams, were well-known in the community as owners of the (Fall River) Crossroads store.
Brown is a longtime employee of Lawrenceburg Utility Systems, which provides electric service to the entire county and gas and water to customers in and around the city. He started out reading meters and maintaining right of way, was a lineman apprentice for four years, then a journeyman lineman, then Truck Foreman, and now Safety Director. It’s Brown’s job to make sure fellow employees have and are using safety equipment and take all required training. He also helps present programs to the public about gas and electric safety concerns.
The district Brown represents is rural and includes parts of Leoma and the Revilo, Fall River and Copperas Branch communities. It consists primarily of small farms and single family homes, with some newer housing developments. The biggest issues for his constituents, he said, are taxes and water rates.
Brown made a point to educate himself about county government through local media, reading news reports and watching County Commission meetings broadcast by LawrenceburgNow. It didn’t take long to decide he wanted to get involved. “I wanted to make a difference,” he says.
The district he serves is rich in history. Lawrence County Archives Director Kathy Niedergeses was kind enough to share information about two communities there, Copperas Branch and Fall River.
There are two stories behind the name “Copperas Branch,” one much more appealing than the other. “Bonnie Prince Bobo said the branch that runs through the community had copper in it, but Iva Clark said that “copperas” was a yellow-colored spongy material her father fed to hogs,” Niedergeses said.
All reports agree that in 1928 the community convinced the local Board of Education to build a school at Copperas Branch, to save their children the three mile walk to Cherry Hill School. The building completed in 1929 was 748 square feet with a 12-foot ceiling. It contained 26 single desks, one double desk, three tables and seven chairs.
A wood stove provided heat, and sometimes lunch for the students was cooked on it. Since the walls of a well on the property kept collapsing, water was carried from neighboring farms and kept in a bucket or barrel at the school. Each student brought a drinking glass from home, and water was dipped from the bucket into it.
Former Copperas Branch student Mary Frances Barnett remembers the letter “E” falling from the alphabet that was displayed on cards over the blackboard. Someone stuck the fallen letter at the end, and as a result some students thought “E” belonged there.
Church services were held in the school when a preacher was available. Later, Eva’s Chapel Baptist Church was built with concrete blocks (purchased for $1 each) and named for Eva Henderson Prince.
The school was consolidated with New Prospect in 1953 and the Copperas Branch school building was purchased by the newly-chartered Community Club in 1957. It is still being used by the club today.
Fall River was a much larger commercial center in its day, home to grain mills, a woolen mill, a wool carding factory, a tan yard, and other enterprises. A mill built in 1900 still stands on the banks of Clear Creek.
The first owner of record of the mill property was John Garner, according to a survey dated May 21, 1821. His holdings in the area began with an occupant land grant, 15 acres awarded after he had occupied and improved the land for three years. He eventually owned 447 acres around that original plot.
Local historian Wallace Palmore writes, “It has been written that the first mill at Fall River was built before the American Civil War by an unknown person. In Lula Belle Smith’s articles on ‘Dams of Lawrence County’ she states that the first gristmill at Fall River was built in the early 1820s and the woolen mill above Fall River was built around 1817.”
The gristmill and woolen mill were reportedly burned by Union Soldiers sometime between May 15, 1864 and October 23, 1865. These were rebuilt and in the late 1860s much of the land in the area became the property of the Hagan family. A meeting house that served as both school and church was built and called Hagan’s Chapel.
The Lawrence Union newspaper reported November 5, 1891 that the Sunday School at Hagan’s Chapel had 75 enrolled. Other editions from that time refer to the Fall River School, so the two were in separate buildings by that time. The first reference to “Fall River Methodist Church” rather than Hagan’s Chapel was seen in 1896.
Fall River United Methodist Church and Fall River Church of Christ are both within stone-throwing distance of Clear Creek, and are located on opposite sides of Fall River Road on Clear Creek Road. Fall River Church of Christ is also within sight of the Fall River Mill, now owned and being offered for sale by the Wilburn family. On the market with it are two houses, a former general store, and 575 acres.