Brittain Franks

 Huntsville City Marshal, Coroner, Businessman

Born:August 15, 1807, Tennessee
Died:December 27, 1891, Huntsville, Alabama
Buried:Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville, Alabama
Father of:William Jake Franks


•  His first name is spelled Brittian, Britton, Briton, Britten, Britain, Brittin, Britt - Editor's Note

•  There is speculation as to his parents in the Roots Web link. There are two possibilities offered. We recommend following that link for that information. - Editor's Note

•  Husband of Mary W. Hawkins who was born in Georgia about 1812. - RootsWeb

•  Brittain and Mary had moved from Hardin County, Tennessee to Madison County, AL by 1850. (Probably between 1840 and 1842/3). In the 1850 Census, Brittain is listed as a grocery store keeper and he also kept a boardinghouse. - RootsWeb

•  "There were 5 children born to this couple. The 1860 Madison County, Alabama census lists Rufus D, age 17, James W, age 15, Almeda E (known as Bettie later), age 14, and William (W.), age 12. An Eleanor P. aged 3/12 listed on the 1850 Alabama census; however, she must have died before the 1860 census. All the children were born in Alabama which gives the information that the family moved to Alabama some time between 1840 and 1842/43. .
     Rufus D. Franks was a confederate soldier in the 4th Alabama Infantry. He enlisted on April 24, 1861, at Huntsville and was made corporal by April, 1862. He was ill in June, 1862, with constipation and became 1st Corporal before October, 1862. He was appointed 5th Sgt. by December, 1862, but was "busted" to private by June, 1863. He was killed during the first day at the Battle of Gettysburg on June 2, 1863. .
     James W. enlisted September 8, 1862, at Huntsville in Russell's 4th Alabama Cavalry. A newspaper article dated February 12, 1863 gives the information that he died December 31, 1862 at Parker's Cross Roads. .
     Another newspaper article dated January 3, 1883 tells that (William) Jake Franks, the last son of Britain, was ill with consumption. He died November 17, 1883.
     The marriage records of Madison County, Alabama, lists in v. 13 p. 526 that Almedia E. Franks and George W. Dennis applied for a marriage license on January 15, 1863. No marriage date is given; however, the 1870 census shows that they and their 6 year old daughter, Ella, were living with Britton. George was a furniture salesman. Almedia was listed as Bettie." - RootsWeb

•  "Bettie A. Dennis (daughter of Brittain) and her daughter Ella W. Dennis (age 16) were living in the Brittain house in 1880. Bettie was listed as widowed and a dressmaker. Bettie's husband George was listed in the Franks 1870 census as a Furniture dealer born in Alabama." - Simpson & Campbell

•  Nancy Rohr gives background on an entry in Mrs. Chadick's diary saying: "Britian Franks had the unenviable position of town constable. He and his wife, Mary, ran a boarding house with as many as twenty boarders at a time. Their son, James W. Franks, about 18, would die at Parkers Cross Roads in the winter of 1862. Their oldest son, Rufus, about 20, would be mortally wounded in the abdomen on July 2nd of the next year." - Chadick & Rohr

•  The Huntsville city fathers appointed the town's first Marshal, Brittain Franks, acting as Police Chief, in 1850. - Record

•  Police Chief 1850-1866 and again from 1873 until he died in 1891. - Record, Two

•  During the Union occupation of Huntsville, Brittain Franks continued to serve as constable. - Stephens

•  Listed as a "Chief Deputy Sherriff" 1866-1868 - Record

•  Listed as Coroner 1871-1892 - Record

•  As Coroner in 1878, Brittain Franks was part of the White-Evans-Hall murder story. - Simpson & Campbell

•  Known as the "Town Marshal". - Fisk

•  Confederate Soldier - Maple Hill

•  In the Creek Wars (presumed to be the conflicts in 1836-1840, because he would not have been old enough to participate in 1813-1814 conflicts). He served in Webb's Company of the Alabama 2nd Mounted Volunteers. - RootsWeb

•  Besides being the Town Marshall, Brittain was listed in the 1859-60 city directory as connected with a business not mentioned in other references: Weaver W. & Co. (Wm. W., Simmons Williams & Britton Franks) Furniture and Piano dealers, Undertakers, etc. Located on the Public Square between Washington and Jefferson - Williams'

•  "In January of 1842, ads appeared in The Democrat for Huntsville Inn: "William W. Edwards, having purchased of William Gaston his entire interest in the above named house, has formed a partnership with Britain Franks ... they will continue to keep Public Entertainment in the above mentioned house on Jefferson street, nearly opposite the Bell Tavern. ... Rates have been reduced." - Wasson

•  After the war, people in the south found the financial recovery difficult. This is what was said of Mr. Franks: "Britain Franks, town constable, whose wife kept the boarding house, struggled to make ends meet. Although he was sober and reliable and owned some real estate by 1869, his credit report showed he was 'slow to pay and much embarrassed.'" - Chadick & Rohr

•  "The Huntsville Police Department, which had been plagued with discipline problems throughout Reconstruction inherited a new City Marshal. It appears that Britton Franks was appointed to strictly supervise. Shortly after he assumed office, Franks suspended three policemen for drinking to excess, disorderly conduct, and associating with a woman of ill repute. Perhaps the marshal's actions had a positive effect upon his men, for records indicate that officers made numbers of arrests under Franks' supervision." - Tumlin

•  Superintendent of Maple Hill Cemetery 1862-1882 and again starting in 1883 until he died in 1891. - Record, Two

•  His house is listed as one involved in the fire of May 1850. - Fires

•  A mention of Brittain Franks is made by Record in this context: "Indicative of the trend of things to come, and the economic situation locally, the year 1864 had drawn to a close with an action of the Madison County governing body to pay a small bill of Brittain Franks for services as Bailiff for the September 1865 grand jury. The county voted to pay the bill 'when in Funds.' The amount of the bill? $10.20. Madison County was concerned with the question now, 'To Live Or Not To Live.'" - Record

•  This is a recollection from 1871 (including a memory of Brittain Franks): "Thomas Hubbard, the then oldest living Mason in Alabama, returned to Huntsville in 1872, and the sight must have astounded him. He remembered Huntsville from 1815 as having only a few cabins. He also remembered Brittain Franks, newly elected to the new post of Cotton Weigher by the city fathers." - Record, Two

•  Sarah Huff Fisk, in her fictionalized story of a period of Huntsville's history, mentions Brittain Franks more than 65 times. As the town's marshal and coroner, he is woven into the her story when she tells of the murder of Mr. Shoemberger and the events that follow the murder. Fisk also writes of his properties, his business, his activities, and his influence. While this is fiction, Sarah Huff Fisk is recognized as a careful historian and her stories had more integrity than some accounts professing to be non-fiction. - Fisk

•  Fisk says of his business: "The Cox & Franks Commission House stood almost behind them on the corner of Jefferson and Clinton streets. It was certainly of ample size to accommodate a commission business. Everything from plowshares to huge wardrobes was crowded into the large room." - Fisk

•  In her story, Fisk confirmed that Brittain was "Marshal Frank" and "Coroner Frank" at the same time. - Fisk

•  His home was moved to the southeast corner of Washington and Clinton when the Episcopal Church was built. He lived in it for 37 years and then it was moved again to Washington Street. - Fisk

•  Brittain Franks had boarders. It appears that most of them rented beds from him (not rooms)
The 1859-60 city directory lists the following such people:
     Littleton G. Figg (of Nevells & Figg)
     Eli A. Franks (Saddles, Harness, etc.)
     Rufus B. Franks (clk)
     Wm. Gassaway. (Carpenter)
     James Hickman (Slave Dealer)
     Wm B. Lloyd (Livery and Sale Stable)
     Anthony Mosesman (Cabinet Maker)
     David B. Stradford (Harness Maker)
     Horatio Willett (Carpenter)
Those not listed in the directory but listed in the 1860 census are:
     Nancy Hawkins
     Mary J. Landers (Seamstress)
     John Hunt (THE John Hunt?)
     Anthony T. Linder (Carpenter)
     George W. Humphry (Carpenter)
     Samuel T Huston (Harness Maker)
     Reuben Fariss (Butcher)
     Joseph Willet (Carpenter)
     Thomas Craig (Carpenter)
     William Story (Caroebter)
     William Boyd (Painter)
     Robert Comeron (Painter)
     Anna B Comeron
     Amanda Comeron
     Henry Fritz (Shoemaker)
     Nathan Williams (Blacksmith)
     Henry Sykes (Laborer)
     Julia Mcbroom
     Martha Mcbroom (Washerwomen) - Williams' & Census 1860

•  "In 1850, he was a grocery keeper and they had five children: Rufus B., eight years old; James, six years old; Alameda E., four years old; William W. three years old; and Eleanor P., was three months old. Mary's sisters, Nancy Hawkins, twenty-eight years old; and Elizabeth Hawkins, twenty-six years old; John Slaughter, a grocery keeper; and Henry Lemburg, a sixty-year-old, carriage maker from Prussia also lived in the home. During 1854, Franks purchased 80 acres of land.134 He served as Town Marshall from 1850-1866. Brittain Franks served in the War Between the States as a Private in the Fourth Alabama Infantry Company. Son, Rufus, now seventeen years of age, was a student, as was his younger brother James. The house was listed as a boarding house that housed eighteen people, reflecting the town's growing diversity with a wide variety of crafts and talents including shoemaker, blacksmith, painter, carpenter, harness-maker, butcher, seamstress and cabinet-maker. In 1872, Franks was (appointed) Madison County's only cotton weigher, then served as Coroner from 1873 until his death in 1891. Franks also held the position of Maple Hill Cemetery Sexton (Superintendent) from 1862-1882 and from 1883-1901, and the Sexton for Glenwood Cemetery from 1880-1881. By 1870, the boarding house occupancy had diminished. His son, William lived with them and five other tenants.138 Briton Franks and his son Rufus were buried in Maple Hill Cemetery. Each has a Confederate grave marker. There is a note that Brittain Franks was a widower, but a record of Mrs. Frank's burial could not be found." - Simpson & Campbell

•  "Brittain Franks died at his residence in this city (Huntsville) Sunday night Dec. 27th, 1891. City Marshal Brittain Franks, aged about 85 years. His remains were laid to rest Wednesday, followed by the Hon. Mayor and Board of Aldermen and other city officials and a large concourse of citizens." - Huntsville Gazette

Related Links:

•  1860 Census - This version of the census can be viewed only with an paid subscription. (Originally found at

•  1880 Census - This version of the census can be viewed only with an paid subscription. (Originally found at

•  Chadick & Rohr - Incidents of the War: The Civil War Journal of Mary Jane Chadick, by Nancy M. Rohr, 2005, pages 93, 94, 311.

•  Find A Grave - Page created by Graveaddiction

•  Fires - Article titled: More "Fires of Huntsville: by Elise Stephens for the Historic Huntsville Quarterly, Vol. XXII, #2, Summer, 1996, Historic Huntsville Foundation, page 97.

•  Fisk - Built Upon the Fragments In 1880's Huntsville, Alabama, by Sarah Huff Fisk, 2001.

•  Huntsville Gazette - Huntsville Gazette Obituary, Saturday, January 2, 1892

•  Huntsville Police Chiefs - City Marshal 1849-1866 & 1873-1891 (Originally found at

•  Maple Hill - Maple Hill Cemetery, Phase One, by Diane Robey, Dorothy Scott Johnson, John Rison Jones, Jr., & Frances C. Roberts (Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society), 1995, page 39.

•  Record - A Dream Come True: The Story of Madison County and Incidentally of Alabama and the United States, Volume I, by James Record, 1970, pages 106, 140, 169.

•  Record, Two - A Dream Come True: The Story of Madison County and Incidentally of Alabama and the United States, Volume II, by James Record, 1978, page 22, 374, 382.

•  RootsWeb - Page created by cassie.

•  Simpson & Campbell - The Sins of Madison County, by Fred B. Simpson with Mary N. Daniel & Gay C. Campbell, 2000.

•  Stephens - Historic Huntsville: A City of New Beginnings, by Elise Hopkins Stephens, 2002, page 53.

•  Tumlin - Article titled: Criminal Justice in Madison county, Alabama April 1865 to December 1874 by Mary G. Tumlin for Huntsville Historical Review, Volume 19, #2, Jul-92, Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society , page 7.

•  Wasson - Articled titled: Huntsville's Old Hotels by Joberta Wasson for Historic Huntsville Quarterly, Vol. X-XI, #3-4-1, Spring-Summer-Fall, 1984, Historic Huntsville Foundation, page 21.

•  Williams' - Williams' Huntsville Directory, City Guide and Business Mirror. Volume 1. 1859-'60, by Reprinted by The Strode Publishers.

The Following Pages Link to this Page:
•  Chadick & Rohr
•  Fires
•  Maple Hill
•  Record
•  Record, Two
•  Tumlin
•  Wasson
•  William Jake Franks
•  Williams'