I’ve lived several places around this state. Some of them were named for Revolutionary War heroes, former presidents or places in Europe.
I spent most of my growing up years in Social Circle, a town named for a group of fellows who gathered around a well to drink water (that’s the puritanical version, others think it may have been firewater).
The only place I’ve ever known a namesake of a town was Braselton. When I moved to this area, I had the occasion to meet Henry Braselton, who, at the time, was mayor of the town of Braselton.
If Hollywood was casting someone to be a timeless Southern gentleman, they would have selected Henry Braselton. With his lovely wife, Janice, they were the very picture of graciousness and hospitality to people of all walks of life.
In its early days, Braselton was a family enterprise. The Braselton brothers had a dry goods, grocery, hardware and furniture enterprise that composed the town’s main block. They even had a bank. It was the Braselton Brothers Bank.
In the days when post office jobs were patronage appointments, I would imagine that there would have been a Braselton serving as postmaster.
The stores were sturdy brick, and the Braselton family homeplaces were Greek revival style houses that were stately and beautiful. Henry and Janice made their home on a site that overlooked downtown Braselton.
It was Mayberry, Grover’s Corners, Lake Wobegon and every quaint little town with that unique style of life that is ebbing away.
Henry Edward Braselton died this week. He was the son of John Oliver Braselton, who founded the town in 1922.
The Braselton brothers decided in the 1980s that they should sell their town.
They owned 1,750 of the 2,000 acres that made up the village. Finding the right buyer would be a challenge.
Actress Kim Basinger wanted to make Braselton the location for a film studio and tourist attraction. In 1989, she and a group of investors paid $20 million for Braselton. Basinger fell on hard times and, in 1993, she sold her interest in the town. The dream of Braselton turned Hollywood never happened and the enterprises that once comprised the thriving Braselton brothers business were shuttered.
Henry never told me, but it was clearly evident that this wasn’t what the Braseltons dreamed would happen to their family town.
But Henry Braselton did so much for the town. With his courtly Southern ways, he helped lure businesses that included Chateau Elan, Haverty’s furniture, Mitsubishi and Mayfield Dairies, just to name a few.
A few years ago, it was newcomers, the very beneficiaries of Henry Braselton’s vision for his town to grow, who turned him out of office.
But when it is your town, built with the hard work of your family, you never stop loving it.
“I think you have a love for the town, a love for the people, a love for the history, and that’s incentive to try to be involved,” Henry Braselton once said.
He set a great example for others to copy.
Harris Blackwood is the author of “When Old Mowers Die.” His e-mail address is email@example.com.