Brandon’s Pioneer Families Speak Of Legacy To Brandon Community

Members of Brandon’s pioneering families told stories and relayed some of their family’s history and the impact on the Brandon community at the annual Community Affairs Dinner on Tuesday, February 21. The dinner and the discussion were hosted by The Community Roundtable.

Brandon is a great place to live, work and raise a family. It is often referred to as Tampa’s premiere bedroom community. Of the 100,000 plus residents (per 2010 Census) who live in Brandon, how many know its history? Brandon’s history is rich and storied and dates back to the mid 1860s.

On Tuesday, February 21, The Community Roundtable hosted “A Conversation With Brandon’s Pioneering Families” at its Annual Community Affairs Dinner held at Center Place in Brandon. Six members of some of Brandon’s pioneering families graciously agreed to discuss their family’s history and that of the great town in which we live.

The six pioneers included Claire Simmons Bryan, Mike Brandon, Helen Mulrennan Young, Judy Darcey, Paul Dinnis and Dick Stowers. Mark Nash, a Brandon native and Trustee with the Community Roundtable acted as moderator for the panel. Nash said, “We heard from legacy families (the Brandon, the Kings, the Bryans and the Mulrennans) as well as legacy business and community members (Dick Stowers of Stowers Funeral Home and Paul Dinnis, the original editor of The Brandon News) who all played such a significant roll in the evolution of our community.”

Judy Darcey, whose mother in law was Alyce King Darcey, daughter of Ralph Garland King and granddaughter of John R. King, who in 1881 homesteaded the property that is now the Vineyard said of the event, ” The discussion was a good beginning. I wish that we had done this earlier, but it is never too late to start recording family history.”

Dick Stowers, whose iconic Stowers Funeral Home is housed in the two-story Brandon family homestead (built in 1876 by James H. Brandon) said, “I love to reminisce. It’s been fun watching Brandon grow, but I wish there had been better planning for all of the growth we have seen.”

Listening to each of the panelist was like being taken on a verbal historical tour of the greater Brandon area. Nash said, “We had some amazing historical connection to the community on the stage.”

Helen Mulrennan Young, whose family owned the land where Mulrennan Middle School now stands said, “I have a copy of the land grant that my grandfather received from President Chester A. Arthur.” Mulrennan’s parents believed that education was important. Her father was a Trustee for the Brandon School, so it is fitting that a school bears their name.

Paul Dinnis said, “I am not a pioneer. I came to the area in 1959.” Nevertheless, Dinnis is a wealth of knowledge of the area. He told of how the Brandon Women’s Club was one of the first in the community to cook school lunches and started the first community library in the area.

Claire Simmons Bryan, is the granddaughter of E.E. and Ella Simmons. The land where FishHawk Skeet Shoot sits is land previously owned by her father, Hobson Simmons. Bryan helped to organize the first band a Brandon High School and has the first annual “Brandon Eagle.”

Mike Brandon, the great grandson  of John Brandon, the founder of the Brandon community told family stories of their homestead, donation of land and founding of the community.

The evening spent with the six pioneers was both enjoyable and informative . This program would not have been possible if it were not for the hard working members of the Community Roundtable. For more information, please visit www.TheCommunityRoundtable.org or call 661-4350.