It is a well attested maxim that the greatness of a community or state lies not in the machinery of government, nor even in its institutions, but rather in the sterling qualities of the individual citizen, in his capacity for high and unselfish effort and his devotion to the public welfare. In these particulars he whose name appears at the head of this paragraph has conferred honor and dignity on his county, and as an elemental part of history it is consonant that there should be recorded here a resume of his career, with the object in view of noting his connection with the advancement of one of the most flourishing and progressive sections of the commonwealth, as well as his career as a member of one of the most exacting professions to which man can devote his talents and energies.

Elba L. Branigin was born in Nineveh township, Johnson county, Indiana, on the 12th day of November 1870 and is the son of William D. and Nancy Jane (Lash) Branigin, both of whom also were born and reared in that vicinity. William D. Branigin is now an honored resident of Edinburg, this county, where he is successfully engaged in the implement business. The subject’s mother is deceased. To these parents were born seven children, of whom five are living, namely: Nora L., the wife of William O. Springer, of Greenwood, Indiana; Ollie A., wife of Samuel Gibbs, of Indianapolis; Daisy A., wife of Watson VanNuys, of Hopewell, Indiana; Verne, an attorney at Mt. Vernon, Washington, and Elba L., the immediate subject of this sketch. The latter was reared on the home farm and secured his elementary education in district school No. 6, of Blue River township. In 1887 the family removed to Franklin. In 1886 Elba Branigin had entered the preparatory department of Franklin College, in which institution he remained six years, graduating with the class of 1892 and receiving the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He made a splendid record while in college and in his freshman year won the declamation contest, being a speaker of unusual grace and eloquence. In 1891 he was president of the State Oratorical Association and in 1892 he represented Franklin College in the state oratorical contest. After his graduation, in 1892-3, Mr. Branigin taught a term of district school, and then served three terms as principal of the Trafalgar schools, having in the meantime married and removed to that town. During this period he had been applying himself closely to the reading and studying of law, and on April 27, 1896, he was admitted to the bar of Johnson county. On March 7, 1896, he had formed a law partnership with Thomas W. Woollen, who had formerly been attorney-general of the state of Indiana, this association continuing until the death of Mr. Woollen, on February 12, 1898. About a year later Mr. Branigin formed a partnership with Thomas Williams, which relation still continues. This is a strong and popular law firm, which has been connected, on one side or the other, as counsel in much of the most important litigation which has been tried in the local court, and Mr. Branigin’s reputation as a lawyer has steadily increased until now he is numbered among the leaders of the bar in his county. Well informed in his profession, faithful to his clients and the law, and possessing a rare equinimity [sic] of temper and kindness of heart, Mr. Branigin has not only gained high prestige in his profession, but he has also gained to a notable degree the confidence and good will of the people generally, He is an honest and fair practitioner, taking no part in the tricks of the pettifogger, which sometimes cast odium upon the profession.

Mr. Branigin is a man of high intellectual attainments, gained by much reading and study and close observation of men and things. He possesses a splendid library and some of his most enjoyable hours are spent among his books. In local history Mr. Branigin is especially interested and he has for a number of years given much attention to the collection of a vast fund of valuable information and data relative to the early history of Johnson county, the fruits of his work being presented in the historical portion of this volume.

On September 19, 1894, Mr. Branigin was married to Zula Francis, the daughter of Milton and Mary (McCaslin) Francis, of Franklin, and they have four children, namely: Gerald F., Edgar M., Roger D. and Elba L., Jr.

Politically, Mr. Branigin has, since attaining his majority, been actively interested in the success of the Democratic party, having served several years as secretary of the county committee and one term as chairman of that body. In 1896, while teaching at Trafalgar, he was elected county surveyor. From 1906 to 1910 he served as attorney of the city of Franklin and from 1910 to 1913 he served as county attorney, discharging his duties in these positions to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. He has rendered efficient and appreciated service as secretary of the Franklin Public Library ever since its organization, is president of the Franklin Commercial Club, and has been a trustee of and attorney for Franklin College since 1912. Socially, he is a member of the Phi Delta Theta college fraternity. His religious membership is with the First Baptist church of Franklin, of which he is a trustee and in the prosperity of which he is earnestly interested, being also teacher of the Bible class in the Sunday school.

Fraternally, Mr. Branigin has for a score of years been deeply interested in the work of the Masonic order, in which he has received distinctive preferment. In Franklin Lodge No. 107, he was received as an entered apprentice 
on October 6, 1893, passed to the degree of fellowcraft [sic] on October 31, 1893, and raised to the degree of a Master Mason on November 8, 1893; he was made a Royal Arch Mason on October 3, 1901, and received the orders of Knight Templar on December 12, 1901. He took the degrees of the Scottish Rite with the fall class of 1906, and on November 29, 1907, he became a noble of the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, being a member of Indianapolis Consistory of the former order and of Murat Temple, Indianapolis, of the latter. Mr. Branigin served as worshipful master of Franklin Lodge No. 107 in 1903, as eminent commander of Franklin Commandery No. 42, Knights Templar, in 1907 and in 1911 was excellent prelate of the latter body. He is now junior grand deacon of the grand lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the state of Indiana.

While laboring for his individual advancement, Mr. Branigin has never forgotten his obligations to the public and his support of such measures and movements as make for the general good can always be depended upon. A man of vigorous mentality and strong moral fibre, he has achieved signal success in an exacting calling and is eminently deserving of the large prestige which he enjoys in the community with which his entire life has been identified.

Branigin, Elba L. History of Johnson County, Indiana. Indianapolis, IN: B. F. Bowen & Co., Inc., 1913. pp 567-570.

Transcribed by Lois Johnson