The Cranford family of Walker County left a great heritage to their descendants. I will start with John and Elizabeth Cranford, their son Chelsey Hardie Cranford, his son Henry Wilson Cranford and wife Edna Mae Newson Cranford, and their only child, Mary Willodean Cranford Brumbach. She leaves a son, Madison.
John and Josiah Cranford came through Walker County with Andrew Jackson. They came through the Oakman area and liked the looks of the land for corn growing. They later formed a caravan and settled in the county. This was a pilgrimage from Morgan County to Walker County in 1838.
Willodean Cranford Brumbach was a teacher for years at Walker College. She told me many tales about her ancestors. She finally wrote her stories and gifted me with a copy. She titled it THE STORY OF JOHN AND ELIZABETH WILKES CRANFORD. It was strictly a family book and was meant to preserve her heritage. These types of family books contribute much to our recorded histories.
Chelsey’s oldest son was John Harvey Cranford, better known as Jack. He was by far the most colorful of the sons. Jack was born in 1855 in the southern part of Walker County. During his whole life, he attended school 18 months. When he was 20 years of age, he accepted a job to teach school in a country school, and farmed betweens sessions of school.
He later became a clerk at B.M. Long’s store. School terms lasted only 40 days in those times, but it was long enough for him to fall in love with one of his students, Willie Ann Phifer. Jack went into business with Dr. W.C. Rosamund and later bought out the business. His dear wife died young and Jack channeled all of his energies into business and community affairs. He was elected Mayor of Jasper in 1892. He served Jasper for years both as mayor and councilman.
About 1897, Jack organized a little banking venture in the corner of his merchandise store. It was called “Spencer and Cranford Banking Company.” From this small “hole in the wall” banking venture came the First National Bank of Jasper.
In 1891, Jack and a friend, W.R. Spigt, were watching a “fast” train at the Jasper station and it stopped for fuel. A beautiful girl, Annie Eleanor Lyon, saw them and waved her bunch of roses at Jack. She became his wife and presided over his home with dignity. In 1898, Jack built Forest Acres, a white columned house later to become known as “the Bankhead House.”
This house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Among Jack’s many civic ventures were: shipping the first bale of cotton by rail out of Jasper, founding the Jasper Light and Water Company, developing the subdivisions of West Jasper, and placing concrete sidewalks throughout the city.
The Cranford’s owned the first Stanley Steamer car in town. It was bought in Birmingham and driven to Jasper by Cam Smith. I have heard stories in the past about the crowds forming on the streets to see the car.
Needless to say, the 14 children of John Cranford with their marriages across Walker County merged many old families into one. It is like a roll call of the early settlers to list these many families.
We have another inquiry from a reader. Shirley Mcrae at 686-5939 asked the changing of H.N. Boydry to Hotel Collins to Convention American Hotel, from Sept.26, 1938. If you have pictures or information, please call her.