Brewton is the county seat of Escambia County. It is located on the southern border of Alabama just north of the Florida Panhandle. The city has been voted one of the 100 best small towns in America. It is the birthplace of gospel singer William Golden, of the Oak Ridge Boys, and country singer Lawrence Hankins "Hank" Locklin was a long-time resident.
The area that now includes Brewton was originally part of the Creek Nation. In 1817, Gen. Andrew Jackson ordered the construction of Fort Crawford in the area, in the aftermath of the Creek War of 1813-14. Soon after, settler Thomas Mendenhall constructed a sawmill near the Conecuh and Escambia rivers. The settlement that grew up around the sawmill became known as Newport. By the time of the Civil War, the town included a railroad depot and several other mercantile businesses and had a population approaching 500. The town was officially incorporated in 1885, and the name was changed to Brewton to honor a prominent local family by that name.
Because it was located on major rail lines, the town was a center of manufacturing and commerce, including mills and cotton warehouses, when it was established. Surrounded by vast acres of longleaf pine forest, the town was also a hub for lumbering and timber export; the T. R. Miller Mill, established in 1848 and still in operation today, is one of the oldest privately held companies in the state. When Escambia County was established in 1868 after the Civil War, Pollard was chosen as the seat. However, Brewton's growth outpaced that of Pollard, and by 1883, county residents began to support moving the seat to Brewton. In 1886, much of the town was devastated in a fire, but the residents rebuilt, as they did after several subsequent fires. The Brewton Standard, which began publication in 1906, remains the major town newspaper today. The town's economy still remains heavily tied to forest products.
Brewton’s population at the time of the 2010 Census was 5,408. Of that number, 84.0 percent identified themselves as white, 8.6 as African American, 4.1 percent as two or more races, 1.9 percent as Native American, 1.7 percent as Hispanic, 0.2 percent as Asian, and 0.2 percent as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. The city's median household income was $34,390, and per capita income was $20,467.
The workforce in present-day Brewton is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (35.3 percent)
· Retail trade (11.9 percent)
· Manufacturing (10.3 percent)
· Construction (5.6 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (5.6 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (5.6 percent)
· Public administration (5.6 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (6.5 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (5.1 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (4.0 percent)
· Information (2.4 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.8 percent)
· Wholesale trade (0.4 percent)
Brewton City Schools include one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school serving approximately 1,200 students and employing approximately 130 teachers. Higher education is provided by Jefferson Davis Community College, a two-year institution offering a variety of academic programs.
Brewton lies at the junction of State Highway 31, which runs north from the city, and U.S. Highway 29, which runs east-west. State Highway 41 runs south from the city into Florida.
Events and Places of Interest
Brewton has been featured twice in the book The 100 Best Small Towns in America. The Brewton Historic Commercial District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Each June, Brewton hosts the Alabama Blueberry Festival in Burnt Corn Creek Park. The event, which celebrates the local blueberry harvest, features arts and crafts, live entertainment, a children's fun fair, and an auto and motorcycle show. The town also celebrates New Year's Eve each year with a Blueberry Drop. Several city parks provide residents with recreational opportunities, and during the fall, the town gathers to watch T. R. Miller high school football, the all-time leader in wins in the state.
Claire M. Wilson
Published December 14, 2009
Last updated July 12, 2012