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It all began 160 years ago as a birthday celebration for Matthew Eugene Brunson. He and his wife, Sarah Blanchard, moved their family to Coffee County, Ala., in December 1853 in 12 wagons. They were followed two years later by his brother, Rev. Hezekiah “Kiah” Brunson, and in 1860 by his widowed sister Amanda Brunson McDurmont.
Matthew was born April 13, 1806, the first child of Josiah and Sylvia Pinckney Brunson. Each April, the family would gather and celebrate on the Sunday nearest to his birthday.
Matthew and Sarah’s seven children included: Josiah Pinckney, Matthew “Matt” Eugene, Anna, Silas, Eugene “Pig,” Sallie, and John Franklin.
Kiah and Rebecca also had seven children, including: Easaw, Warsaw, Eliza, Effie, Anna, Teat, and Lucious. And Amanda Brunson McDurmont had two children: Bersha and Charlie.
The home Matthew Brunson built in the 1850s is still the oldest standing structure in Coffee County, although it has been moved from its original location.
During the Civil War years, the Brunson family experienced tragedy. All of the boys of age served in the Confederate Army. The birthday celebrations were held very prayerfully during those years. During reconstruction years, the birthday celebrations grew as children were born into the family. Young ladies would wear their finest spring outfits and the men donned their best suits.
One of the earliest descriptions of a Brunson Reunion must have been about 1872: “ The family began to gather early in the day and each came in his carriage, buggy or surrey... Grandfather Matthew, the family patriarch, in whose honor the Reunion was held, was the center of attention. He wanted to be brought up to date on every detail of family happenings.”
Grandmother Sarah was considered to be the most gracious and cultured woman in those parts. She was so graceful that she was considered “queenly” by her children, grandchildren, relatives and friends.
Even after Matthew Brunson died in 1877, birthday commemorations continued to be held each April. The family grew at a rapid rate and “basket dinners” came to be a part of the celebration. Since the dinner had turned into a picnic affair, it was held under the large oak trees in the yard of the Brunson home.
Beginning in 1888 (and continuing 20 years), the Brunson Reunion was held down the hill at the home of Matt & Nan. Ladies would proudly unpack their trunks and baskets of luscious food and placed it on the 50-foot table.
Arthur Claire and his wife Vickey began hosting the Reunion at their home in 1909 (a month after his father’s death). In 1914, Vickey died of typhoid disease, and Arthur later married Zelma Rowe who helped to raise Arthur and Vickey’s five children. Arthur and Zelma later had 2 children together.
After moving the Reunion from the town of Brunson to Elba, Arthur introduced barbecue to the tradition, which is a special part still of today’s Reunion.
includes information extracted from “A Backward Look,” a
book by Judge Marion B. Brunson, recounting the people, places and events
which have “influenced and shaped the noble heritage which is ours.”
“Through the years, we have learned more and more about each other,” Judge Brunson said. “We appreciate and recognize each other with more sincere and genuine devotion because of the togetherness which the Brunson Reunion has created.”
family and no people can live on the glories of the past,” he
added. “[A Backward Look was not] written for that purpose.
We need to better understand the origin and facts of our historical
family Reunion which has been passed down to us. We should cherish
this pioneer heritage and transmit it to future generations.”