Ranburne, Alabama

Submitted & Transcribed by Eric Stack
Source: Sherry Green - Transcribed exactly as written
Photo by Rivers Langley; SaveRivers (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Misty McIntyre Photo by Rivers Langley; SaveRivers (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

    Ranburne is a small but special town, at least to the people living there. The population of Ranburne was 417 in 1976 and has increased by only thirty-five people in the last twenty-four years. The present population is now 452 (Pam Richardson, 2003). The location of Ranburne is the southeastern corner of Cleburne County, and Cleburne is in the northeastern part of the state. It is approximately forty miles southeast of Anniston, Alabama and two miles west of the Georgia state line.

Lost Creek

    Ranburne is the oldest settlement in the county. It was first called Lost Creek and was settled in 1814. In 1828, Indians from the Cherokee and Upper Creek tribes gathered around Oak Level to settle a boundary dispute. As this was near the Lost Creek settlement, the settlers moved their families to Rome, Georgia for safety until the Indian trouble subsided. By 1830, all was finally calm and Lost Creek was permanently settled (The Cleburne News, 1976). There is an old legend that an Indian child was lost in the swamps of the creek near present day Ranburne. There was a great deal of excitement and quite some time was spent in search for the child; therefore, this is why the creek, church, and community acquired the name "Lost Creek" (Overton, England, and Myers History of Ranburne).

    Lost Creek was in Randolph County until Cleburne County was established in 1866. Randolph, Calhoun, and Talladega Counties gave the land for Cleburne County. The county was named for General Patrick R. Cleburne of Texas, the Confederate general who was killed during the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 20, 1864 (General L.O. Grice, 1976). Later, in the year of 1894, Lost Creek was named Ranburne. Judge T.J. Thomason, judge of Randolph County, and J.E. Thomason, named it. The name was derived by taking the first three letters "Ran" from Randolph and the last five letters "burne" from Cleburne (Mary Yates, 1976).


    The first railroad came to Hopewell, about ten miles from Ranburne, in 1883. It was called the Georgia Pacific. Before that time the people of Ranburne had to go to Rome, Georgia, in wagons and pick up merchandise (General L.O. Grice, 1976). In the early 1900's cars were certainly not plentiful in Ranburne, but there were many horse and buggies. There were few roads, and the ones that existed were rugged. The best part of the road was in the middle where the horses had pulled the wagons. Between the years of 1928-35, the school bus was in service an average of six months out of year because of a lack of funds. The rest of the time the students walked. "However," Gus Hearst states, "I lived three miles away from the school and could cut through the woods walking and beat the bus most any day" (Gus Hearst, 1976).


    The first school building, a one-room log house, was constructed in 1860. Some of the teachers who taught there were Mr. George Pirkle, Miss Annie Bass, Sam Wiggins, Joe Walker, and John Ballard. When the old log house became too small for the enlarged enrollment, the Baptist Church was used to house the pupils (Overton, England and Myers History of Ranburne). A new school was later built, being a three-room building with odd Fellows Hall and Masonic Hall upstairs, erected where the Methodist Church stands today. Later this building was destroyed by fire. Then a two-story building with four classrooms on the first floor, an auditorium and two classrooms upstairs was built near the present site of the bus garage. In 1933, this building was sold to the highest bidder, Isac Truitt, who built houses with the wood (Overton, England and Myers History of Ranburne).

    A new rock building was erected in 1933. Two-horse wagons and a few trucks owned by community people hauled rocks in to build the new school. This schoolhouse burned in 1936, and a new concrete building replaced it in 1940. The NYA and PWA were instrumental in the construction of the building (Overton, England and Myers History of Ranburne). The concrete building, built in 1940, is the present high school today. The first addition of six classrooms in 1967 housed 1st and 2nd grades. The school became two in 1987 when Ranburne Elementary School became a separate entity in with Charles Ray Hendrix appointed as principal. The school grew with an addition of twelve new classrooms in 1984. In 1996 Mr. Charles Ray Hendrix accepted the position as transportation supervisor and was replaced by the first female principal at Ranburne, JoAnne Edwards. Under the direction of Mrs. Edwards, the present principal at Ranburne Elementary School a third addition in 2001 included ten classrooms and a new office. In 2003 the 1984 addition was bricked with pavement and walkways added (JoAnne Edwards, 2003). Cleburne County High School is located in Heflin, Alabama. However, the opportunity to have the school was given to Ranburne first. Three men from Ranburne, Jim Lowery, J.J. Moon, and Thomas McLeod, went to Bowdon Junction and caught a train to Heflin. They turned this opportunity down because they felt it would be a burden on the Ranburne residents to board the students and faculty (Pat Arrington, 1976).


    Sports mean a lot to the people of Ranburne and have for a long time. An early sport was town ball, which is about the same as softball. Wrapping string around something hard made a ball. Baseball came in later, and Ranburne had the best basketball team in the county in the 1930's (Gus Hearst, 1976). Football began in 1930 with Denson Simpson being the coach. The first team members were: Vachel Smith, Red Jacobs, Clint Stevens, Joe Howle, James Vincent, Gordon Mobley, Preston Pounds, J.E. Thompson, Myron Sellers, Clio Otwell, Hearsten Smith, and Gus Hearst. The first game did not turn out too well, as the score was 96-0, Cedar Bluff winning. According to the former player of the mighty first team, Gus Hearst, nothing was against the rules except fighting. "You got a touchdown the best way you could and got a man down the best way you could. They have softened the game quite a bit since those days." Equipment was limited, but they each had a helmet, shoulder pads, pants, and a jersey. They used their own shoes and nailed cleats on them. It was three or four years before they ever won a game (Gus Hearst, 1976).

    The team improved until the record of the fall of 1934 was: lost two, tied two, and won two. Six games were played that year and the schedule included Jacksonville, Oxford, Heflin, and Ohatchee. They played Jacksonville at Ranburne and Jacksonville won, but Ranburne did not travel to Jacksonville to return the game in fear that they would lose. While playing Oxford, Gus Hearst, the center, played an entire half without a helmet. The boy in the backfield had lost his, and the coach asked Gus to give his helmet to the backfield boy. In the second half, the Oxford coach gave Gus a helmet. The last game of that season was with Ohatchee; this being the first time Ranburne had played them. Before the first quarter ended, Ohatchee was leading 13-0, but Ranburne pulled it out in the end with a victory of 36-13 (Gus Hearst, 1976). Mr. Hearst also pointed out that during gathering time almost all football players stayed out of school but were called in for the game with no practice. When it was not gathering time there was practice, and it was rough (Gus Hearst, 1976).

    With years of work and improvement, Ranburne has become known for its fine football team. The people there have great pride in the football, which has brought recognition to the town. The improvement led to a 1975 state football title for 1A schools after defeating Sweetwater of West Alabama. They were chosen state champions once before, but this was the first time they received the title for playoff victories. Girls' sports have also grown and become an important part of the school's history. There had been an early girls' basketball team in the 1930's but the program was dropped. The girls' basketball team was reinstated in 1977 coached by Tim Smith. After years of work and dedication the 1991 Lady Dogs basketball team won their way to their first state tournament and the 2A State Championship. They returned to state tournament play for three consecutive times between the years of 1992-1994. Their record breaking season for that period of time was 107 wins and 13 losses. At this time, the Lady Dogs basketball team is still coached by Tim Smith. The first girls' softball team began in 1990 coached by Rhonda Cason. Slow pitch was played until 2002 when the girls, coached by Trevor Kribbs, changed to fast pitch softball.


    The number of businesses in Ranburne can be counted easily. The town consists of one restaurant called The Bulldog Farmhouse Restaurant, Ranburne Supermarket, one bank with another bank under construction, Ranburne Income Tax office, Carolyn's accounting office, Clinton's Service Center, Texaco convenient store, two used car lots, NAPA auto parts store, McCormick Printing Shop, Progas Store, Stateline Gas, Ledbetter's Auto Body Shop and car service, Forsyth's Floor Covering, Alabama/Georgia Realty, Sally's Pet Grooming, Alabama ABC Store, Ranburne post office, Joyce's Beauty Shop, Mitchell Motors, three churches, and one school (Pam Richardson, 2003). This is the growth from the time of the first store and post office owned by Emmett Thomason. J.L. Lowery and Bill Hensen built the next store and put up a gin and corn mill. In 1935, the town consisted of four dry good stores, a school, a gin, two churches, a grist mill, a blacksmith shop, and an auto garage. The town was also lucky enough to have a doctor by the name of Dr. Lindsay (Virgim Lower, 1976).

Incorporation of town and mayors

    The town of Ranburne was officially incorporated November 12, 1957. The first mayor of Ranburne was Adrian Cook who was sworn in February 11, 1958 and served a two year term. The next mayors to serve the town were Virgil Lowery, Cecil Butler, Clyde Gibbs, Pat Arrington who served from October 4, 1972 until his death in November 3, 1991, and Mike Wiggins who served two terms. The present mayor is Herman Grizzard. Mayor Adrian Cook and council voted to proceed with the building of the town jail on September 24, 1959. Before this time, prisoners were taken to Heflin jail and a residence was used for the city hall (John Smith, 1976).

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