Brunson Lorenza Lewis

In 1850, or thereabouts, my Great Grandfather moved to Florida from Darlington County, South Carolina.  His name was Brunson Lorenza Lewis and was born, I think 1810.  His wife was Sarah Frances Taylor.  They had 4 children.  That wife died in 1859 in either Hernando or Marion County.  He then married Sarah Wiggins Lewis, also called Sally.  She was born in Florida between 1840 and 1842 and together they had 7 children born in Montbrook.  There is a Lewis burial plot in Montbrook where Brunson Lewis and Sarah Wiggins Lewis are buried. The old cemetery is called Plummer Cemetery. Montbrook is now a ghost town and part of Williston.  When they first came to Florida, they lived in Marion, Hernando and Levy Counties. Two of Brunson's daughters by his first wife are buried in the Key West Cemetery.  Brunson Lewis fought in the 1835 2nd Seminole War alongside his brother Mastin Lewis.  When Brunson died his wife Sarah received a government pension because of his war service.   Brunson and his first wife had a son Phillip born in 1840.  He died in Florida from complications of service in the Civil War.
 
There is a web site about Brunson Lewis at www.brunsonlewis.com.  Brunson was educated and came from a fairly wealthy family in Darlington, S.C. but chose to walk on the "wild side".  He seemed to have repented in his old age and even began preaching later in life.  In his later years, he said he could have made the world a better place but missed the opportunity.  Of course we have to remember that Florida in those days had little law and order.   
 
His last child was Frances Esther Lewis born in Montbrook (Williston) in 1874 and died in 1960 - the last of Brunson's children to die.  She was my grandmother.  Myself, I was born in 1941. Frances Esther had an older sister named Matilda born in 1864 and died in 1956.  As a child, Matilda told many stories about their life in Montbrook - she mentioned living in the Great Gulf Hammock. Very often Frances Esther's son Elmer who was born in Montbrook in 1895, heard his mother Frances Esther and Matilda talking about their childhood.  Matilda knew a lot about her ancestors and when she died, there went a lot of knowledge about those years in Montbrook.  We were too young to think about having her write those stories down.  Around 1890 or some after, Matilda lived with her husband in the wilderness at Gulf Hammock.  Often, for days and sometimes weeks, she was left alone except for some livestock and she said panthers, bears, and bobcats were plentiful.
 
But here is the actual story I wanted to tell you having to do with Frances Esther as told to her son Elmer (my uncle) and then told to us:  Frances Esther lived in the wilderness of Montbrook with parents Brunson and Sarah and siblings.  It seems that Brunson and his wife Sarah had gone somewhere and left the children at home.  It must have been morning because the boys set out to check their traps.  Esther was the youngest and too young to go along with her brothers and was left in the house.  Of course, it was a old Cracker House.  The door was latched and Esther played some in the house and then laid on the old wooden floor by the door and fell asleep.  Later, she felt something tag on her hair.  At first she thought the boys (brothers) were playing with her but after it tugged a few more times, she got up and tried to reach the latch to let the boys in.  There was a small crack between the door and the wall and it was through this crack that a panther was reaching, trying to get to Esther.  Well, she screamed and her scream brought the dog and the boys running.  The dog getting there first, scared the panther off into the woods.  The boys found the paw prints and could see where it was trying to get inside the house but luckily Esther had not been able to reach the latch. On the floor asleep, her long hair fell through the cracks of the floor and where the panther tugged on her hair.
 
Brunson Lewis is talked about in a book called "Dawn to Sunset Recollections of a Pioneer Florida Judge VOL 2 BY Judge E. C. May".  I also understand he is talked about in a Darlington, South Carolina book also.

Shared by: Barbara Schweer

Note: Both Brunson and his wife, Sara are buried in Plummers Cemetery in Levy Co.


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This Page Created and Updated © 2012- Fran Smith on 11-14-2011
Updated Information Added November 29, 2012 © Linda Flowers

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