By Delbert Reed
May 2, 1965
community is mainly judged by its streets, houses and public buildings, then Brownville is
Once upon a time there was a tiny community called Red Valley, and all the houses in the town were painted red. Then the community was named Brownville, and all the houses were panted brown.
It was a unique beginning for Brownville, Alabama, a unique rural town in northwest Tuscaloosa county about 20 miles from Tuscaloosa.
Brownville has to be one of the most unusual communities in Alabama and in the entire country.
Starting with its brown houses, the quiet, shady little village is unlike any other place youll ever see.
Brownville is one of the few remaining "company" towns in existence. All the houses, the only store, the only industry, the train and even the railroad line are owned by a single company, Brown Wood Preserving Company.
Brownville began in 1925, when W. P. Brown started a wood preserving plant in what was then Red Valley.
With the building of the plant, which has produced millions of creosote utility poles, the community began to grow and grow and grow.
It became a boom town in the late 1920's and the company built white and colored schools and community buildings and helped operate them for the Brownville residents and their children.
The colored school was the first in the area. And the churches were used by all faiths.
The town was much larger then, than it is today, since modern machinery has reduced the number of workers at the plant, which still operates at least two shifts per day, five days per week, with 100 employees.
The community is nestled on the edge of Sipsey Swamp and its streets are lined with oaks and willows, now in full bloom with the new green of spring.
Summer evenings in Brownville are quiet and pleasant, and most folks spend them sitting on the front porch swing, breathing the creosote-scented night air and swatting a mosquito now and then.
The youngsters of Brownville spend their summer days playing baseball or swimming in the "old swimming hole" about a mile away in the bend of the Sipsey river.
William (Dock) Ellis has lived in Brownville longer than anyone else there today, having come there in 1919 when the community was called Hog Eye, even before it got the name of Red Valley.
Mr. Ellis retired last year as railroad section foreman and after 45 years of work in Brownville. His son Leon is now section foreman, having taken over the job after working with his father for several years. Another son, J. E., works at the Brownville plant also.
A post office was established in Brownville in 1926, with Mrs. W. N. Ellis as postmaster. She served in that position until 1948, when Mrs. Lois Windle, present postmaster, took over.
The company store is managed by Mr. And Mrs. Charles Bagwell, who moved to Brownville from Berry to take over the job about 10 years ago. The store handles almost everything in the general household line, and carries an even wider variety of articles during the busy years.
Mrs. L. M. Crossland, whose husband works on the train that works around the pole yard and carries the finished poles to the GM&O junction at Buhl, has seen Brownville grow, too. She moved to Brownville as a child with her father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson South, when the plant was being built, The Souths moved into one of the first "Brownville" houses at that time. Mrs. Crossland recalls the early Brownville days when the church was used as a movie house on Saturday nights and for worship on Sundays and when the town hotel, or boarding house, was filled with guests.
The women of Brownville find recreation and fellowship in their home demonstration club, which carries out several projects each year. Mrs. George Stabler is the current president of the club.
Several of the plant employees have been with the company for almost 40 years, having come to Brownville when the plant began full operation in 1926. Among the older employees are J. O. Wicker, Harvey McDaniel, Martin Ledbetter, M. E. Thrasher, E. E. Thrasher and Clyde Kendrick, engineer on the train. Clyde Sexton has been around Brownville for quite a spell, also, having moved there as a young boy of seven.
Another interesting Brownville resident is Mrs. Vera Naugher, who came to Brownville in 1948, as principal of the Brownville Elementary School.
Mrs. Naugher taught school for 42 years, 39 of them in Tuscaloosa County, before her retirement in 1956.
Today, the Brownville school is closed and the building is used for apartments. Youngsters in Brownville now go to school at Montgomery Elementary or Northside High.
The creosote plant turns out thousand of poles, both large and small, per month, with most of them going into states along the east coast.
Ray Bobo is plant superintendent and has been at the job for 12 years.
The railroad, officially known as the M&G (Mobile and Gulf) line, is owned by the company, but is run under a separate operation.
Brownvilles shady lanes, its brown houses, sprawling pole yard and company store make it an interesting community and a pleasant home to the 60 to 75 families who live there.
Its also a nice place to visit.