A new County was created by the Georgia Legislature, South of the Satilla (from Pierce Co.), West of the Old Post Road (from Wayne Co.), and north of Charlton County in the (now) Hickox/Bachlott area. It was called "the Back-Woods" of South Georgia. It needed a name that would inspire; it needed a role model. The name "Brantley" reflected perseverance, hard works and dedication to the people of south Georgia!
Benjamin Daniel Brantley
The committee organizing the county chose the name of Brantley, named for Benjamin Daniel Brantley of Blackshear. Brantley was a self-made man; not having the "advantages of schools and colleges, of influential friends, of family prestige and of money." He worked his way up as a real leader of men and won the "love and affection" of many people from this area of Georgia.
Through his mercantile business, opened in 1857, B. D. Brantley came in contact with many of the people of the territory who became his friends. He furnished his customers with "supplies of all kinds and a market for their products." B. D. Brantley traveled extensively throughout the territory. He knew how the people lived, what they depended on to make money. He knew how their lives could be improved and offered his help unselfishly.
Most of the area depended on timber and wool for their livelihoods. With the increasing growth of the area, B. D. Brantley encouraged the growing of cotton and erected the first cotton gin and fertilizer plant. He also encouraged the development of the turpentine industry operating the first turpentine still in Pierce County.
B. D. Brantley was widely known and respected in the territory for all his helpful business advise, as well as the many public services he provided for the area, such as the building of schools and churches.
Brantley's services did not go without recognition during his lifetime, nor had people forgotten what he had done for them or connected with their generation after his death, when his name was chosen for the proposed new county. Benjamin Daniel Brantley's business is still in operation today as the "A. P. Brantley Company." It has become one of the institutions of South Georgia, along with its subsidiary companies.
Of the new counties created, so far as they could be created by legislative enactment, several have interesting stories co-organization, and even more interesting stories in the lives of men for whom they have been named.
In South Georgia, particularly, the new county of Brantley is of interest, and the Morning News is glad to have the opportunity of presenting a sketch of the distinguished Georgian who will live in the name of one of these new counties and on the future maps of his native state.
Benjamin Daniel Brantley died at his home in Blackshear, Pierce County, on March 18, 1891, and now nearly 30 years later the Georgia legislature has proposed to create a new county and, in honor of his memory, to name it Brantley County.
The new county will be carved out of Pierce, Wayne, and Charlton counties, the area of each of which is large enough so that neither will be injuriously affected by the territory it loses. Each of these counties consented to the making of the new county, and they agreed upon Hoboken, now in Pierce County, to be the county seat.
The creation of Brantley County is the culmination of long continued efforts, on the part of the people affected, to have a new county in their immediate section. It will add greatly to the comfort and convenience of these people, and will undoubtedly result in a growth and development of the territory involved more than justifying its creation. The reasons urged for its creation were so strong and persuasive that the bill therefore, on its passage through the legislature, met the opposition of but one vote in the State Senate and but nine votes in the House.
Those who will become the first citizens of Brantley County selected its name. Their reasons for the selection, and the significance they attach to the name selected are too well known among them to call for any statement, but there are many who must vote upon the ratification of the new county who are not informed in these regards, and who should be told something of the manner of the man whose name is thus to be preserved to future generations, and so this brief sketch is written:
Benjamin Daniel Brantley was essentially a self made man. Born of poor but respectable parentage, he found himself handicapped in many ways in the struggle of life. Bereft of a father when but a few weeks old, and denied the advantages of schools and colleges, of influential friends, of family prestige and money, he had but his own strong, determined self upon which to reply. His equipment, meager as it seemed when he began life, proved all sufficient to overcome his many handicaps, and when he died at the age of 59, in the fullness of strong and vigorous manhood, he had unshackled himself from poverty, and lifted himself above the environment of his beginning, had made himself a leader of men at a time when only real men could lead, and had won for himself not only the respect and esteem but also the love and affection of the masses of the people throughout a large section of Georgia.
The story of the humble beginning and the gradual growth of this section of the state to riches and power is in part the story of his life; for, led thereto in his young manhood by his pioneer instinct, his courage, his leadership and his wise counsel contributed much to its growth and development; and as it grew he grew with it.
When one looks back on his life, it is not hard to see from whence came the success that crowned his efforts. It came because of his exalted manhood, for in all things he did and refrained from doing, he was ever and always a real man. And he looked the part. Six feet one-and-three-quarter inches in height straight as an Indian, with black hair and eyes, and with perfect Grecian features, his appearance was such as to inspire admiration and confidence.
He cherished high ideals, possessed and unfaltering courage and rugged honesty which became his chief characteristic. His word was his bond and was everywhere so accepted. He scrupulously kept his every obligation, scorned deception, and knew no short cuts to any goal at which he aimed. He craved success, but would not have it unless he could fairly earn it. His life is an object lesson to every aspiring youth, for it shows the things which may be achieved by honesty, industry and thrift, unaided by any extraneous influence. It shows that the learned professions, politics, the science of war, literature, the arts, the sciences and great genius are not the only roads to fame and renown; for here was a man who through life's journey traveled none of these roads and yet so lived and wrought that a generation and a half beyond his death he is still remembered and, because he is remembered, it is proposed to give his name to a county of the state.
Benjamin Daniel Brantley was born in Laurens County, Georgia, Jan. 14, 1832, the youngest child of Benjamin Brantley and Elizabeth Daniel. Benjamin Daniel's father, Benjamin Brantley, was the son of Joseph Brantley. Elizabeth Daniel was the daughter of Benjamin and Lucretia (Bergamont) Daniel. Joseph, Benjamin Daniel's grandfather was a soldier in the Continental Army under General Nathaniel Green, enlisting from North Carolina.
At birth Benjamin Daniel was named Joseph, after his grandfather, but his father dying when he was only three weeks old, his name was changed to Benjamin Daniel, Benjamin for his father and Daniel for his mother's maiden name. His father was a native of North Carolina, removing from that state to Laurens County, Georgia, where he met and married the woman of his choice.
Following his fathers death, Benjamin Daniel Brantley's family moved in a short time to Montgomery County. In both Laurens and Montgomery counties a living was gained by hard work on the farm, which was his chief vocation until he reached manhood.
In the early fifties he followed his brother William to Waresboro in Ware County and entered the mercantile business as a clerk in his brother's store. It was while living at Waresboro that he married Janet Baker McRae, the daughter of Chistopher and Chistian McRae of Montgomery County. To this marriage much of the success that later came to him was due to his marriage, for his wife proved herself in every way a real help-mate. She freely assumed her share of the bread-winning burden and by her industry, economy and thrift contributed much to the common fund. Her cheerful spirit and even temperament smoothed over many rough places, while her counsel, ever modestly given, was always wise. She was never so much concerned to obtain worldly goods as she was to be sure of upright, Christian living, and her sweet and refining influence strongly contributed to the strengthening of his high ideals and to the resolution with which he adhered to them. To this union were born seven children, Christian Elizabeth, Margaret Lucretia, William Gordon, Archibald Philip, Benjamin Duncan, John Thomas and Jeanette Harriet.
In 1857 Mr. Brantley, aspiring to independence and to a business of his own, removed to Blackshear, where he remained until his death. Alex Douglas of Appling County, contributing something to a small capital fund, the firm of Brantley and Douglas was launched, with Mr. Brantley in charge of the business. In those days it was no small undertaking to conduct a mercantile business in Blackshear, for there was no railroad, and stocks and merchandise had to be freighted by wagon train from Savannah, the nearest wholesale center, a distance of a hundred miles or more. The old Atlantic and Gulf Railroad, although then under construction, had not reached Blackshear.
He chose a place of business wisely, for although Blackshear was without a railroad, it was so located to be, as it became the trading center of a wide stretch of country which now includes Appling, Wayne, Coffee, Ware, Charlton, and Pierce counties.
It was nothing unusual in those days for wagon trains containing wool, hides, wax, poultry, and a little cotton to arrive in Blackshear from long distances, and after spending a day or two in traffic and trade to return on the journey home. The old Lee, Douglas, Taylor, Meeks and Tanner families were prominent among those who made these trips.
In 1870 the style of the firm was changed to Brantley & Company, the partner now being Judge William M. Sessions, then Judge of the Superior Court of the Brunswick Circuit. In 1878 Judge Sessions sold his interest in the business to Mr. Brantley and removed to Marietta, Georgia, and the business was then conducted for a number of years by Mr. Brantley alone under his name.
Later he associated his two oldest sons, William G. and Archibald P., and him, and the firm became B. D. Brantley and Sons. Later still, his son, William G., withdrawing to engage in the practice of law, his son, Benjamin D. Jr. was admitted in his place, and the firm name was again changed, this time to A. P. Brantley and Company, his son, Archibald P., having attained with his approval and encouragement, a commanding position in the conduct of the business. In 1891, Mr. Brantley having died, the business and as well Mr. Brantley's entire estate, was incorporated under the name of The A. P. Brantley Company, which company, with its many subsidiary companies, has become and is one of the institutions of South Georgia.
It is difficult when looking at the plant of this company as it is today, with its many ramifications of mercantile business, bank, cotton ginnery, fertilizer plant, acid chambers, tobacco and potato warehouse, to recall its humble origin in the little store house which Mr. Brantley built in 1857. Gone long ago is that little store house; gone, too, is the neat and modest log cabin in which he made his first Blackshear home; gone, too, is Mr. Brantley, but verily his works live after him.
The business founded by him and long conducted under his personal direction was in the nature of a supply business. His customers came from all the adjoining counties, and he furnished to them, not only the supplies of all kinds needed by them, but a market for all their products. It was a business which caused him to acquire an extensive acquaintance, with the result as a general rule that each new acquaintance proved a new friend. It enabled him to extend many favors, and knowing well as he did the hardships of adversity his ear was always attuned to hear the cry of the needy and distressed.
He made many trips through-out the territory he supplied, and the knowledge he thus acquired, coupled with the knowledge gained from those with whom he came in daily contact, kept him informed at all times of the conditions existing throughout this territory. He knew how the people lived, and how they could better live; the character of their homes, and how they could be improved; and as he knew, so he taught. He knew upon what products the people relied for a money return, and he was quick to tell them of other products affording a better and more certain return.
For a number of years after he established his business the most of the money in circulation in his territory came from timber floated down the river in freshet times to the mills at old Burnt Fort, and from the sale of wool. Sometimes he freshets did not come and the logs rotted on the ground. The growth of the country made sheep raising more and more difficult, and he constantly urged the people to give more and more attention to the growing of cotton and other crops, and he encouraged them to do so by erecting a cotton ginnery and a small plant for the making of fertilizers. He was ever ready to furnish facilities for the development of new industries. He had been quick to discover the possibilities of the soil around him and ever strove to develop them. His love of the farm continued throughout his life, and the planting and growing of crops was his chief recreation. He taught the people that their yellow pine trees had a value aside from their timber by erecting and operating the first turpentine still in Pierce county.
His knowledge of the territory in which he did business showed him its latent resources, and to the development of these resources he gave freely of his time and ability. He believed in and encourage progress, and not progress in material things alone, but in moral and spiritual things as well. He saw the need of school houses, and encouraged as well as aided in their construction. He contributed to and urged the building of churches and supported every moral movement. Possibly when all has been said in praise of him that could be said, it will be agreed that great as were his work as a public benefactor, his greatest work was in the example he set and the influence he exerted as an upright, loyal citizen. He was a faithful apostle of law and order, and frowned upon every violation of law, no matter how trivial it might be. He always paid homage to the law and to the constituted authorities and encouraged others to do likewise. He lived a clean life, and was possessed of few if any vices. He eschewed all intoxicants, and did so in times when the general rule was otherwise. He never acquired a taste for or the use of tobacco, and he never knew one playing card from another.
The many manly qualities and virtues he possessed, and the public services he rendered did not go without recognition from the public during his life time, and more than once he was called upon to fill public office, notwithstanding the fact that he cared nothing for publicity and never sought political honors. During the Civil War while he was serving as a private in the Fourth Georgia Cavalry, he was elected by the votes of this regiment, resident in Pierce county to the office of clerk of the Superior and Inferior Courts of that county, which office he creditably filled until 1868, when he retired. He represented Pierce county in the Georgia House of Representatives one term (1873-74), and later was called to the office of county treasurer, which office he was filling at the time of his death, following a continuous service therein of about 18 years. He was for some time secretary of the Masonic Lodge at Blackshear.
Mr. Brantley was not permitted to live the allotted three score years and ten, but he lived long enough to see the fruition of his early aspirations, to see his chosen section climb to a position of power and importance in the affairs of the state; to see the people he loved grow in peace, comfort and plenty, and to see his children full grown men and women, and know that each of them had been true to this teachings, and that not one had brought the slightest taint upon his name.
He did not die ripe in years, but he did die rich in the knowledge of a good name given by him to his descendants and still preserved, and rich in the love and affection of a great people whom he served long and well. His sainted wife survived him for several years, and then joined him in a glorious reunion in that Beautiful Beyond for which she had prepared him and herself long years before.