It Came from the Archives: 1909 Alumna Julia Wiley Brantley earned a bachelor’s degree from State Normal School

Julia Wiley was O.C. Wiley's daughter and A.A. Wiley's niece who was a member of the Troy's Class of 1909 and has her own story.

Julia Wiley was O.C. Wiley's daughter and A.A. Wiley's niece who was a member of the Troy's Class of 1909 and has her own story.

Earlier posts in “It Came from the Archives” covered A. A. Wiley and his brother O. C. Wiley and their importance to Troy and Troy University.

Julia Wiley
Julia Wiley, c. 1909

Julia Wiley was O.C. Wiley’s daughter and A.A. Wiley’s niece who was a member of the Troy’s Class of 1909 and has her own story.

Born in 1890, her neighbors were Troy’s powerful merchants and politicians.  She lived on the same street as Charles Henderson (bank president, mayor, State Normal College trustee, then governor 1915-1919) and the Bashinsky brothers (Leopold was vice-president of Farmers and Merchants Bank and L. H. was a major cotton buyer).  The 1910 census listed O C. Wiley as president of a fertilizer firm, but he was also first president of the Alabama Midland Railway, president of the State Normal College’s board of trustees, and had served the remainder of his deceased brother’s term in Congress to March 1909.

Julia received a B. S. degree with her twenty 1909 classmates in mid-May, in a formal multi-day ceremony preceded by printed invitations and a four-page program of events.  It included a sermon and annual address on Sunday, May 16; exhibitions of art and crafts, alumni activities and a dinner on Monday; addresses from students and a concert on Tuesday; and the graduation exercise on Wednesday, May 19.

Commencement Invitation in 1909

Almost immediately, she had to rush to New York by train to take the Hamburg America Line’s S. S. Königin Luise on a 92-day tour of Europe her father booked for her as a graduation present.  This was the Clark’s Ideal Tour “A” to Europe, and was the company’s most expensive offering.  With her friend Helen Henderson (daughter of Jeremiah Henderson and niece of Charles Henderson. She later married Emory Folmar) and their chaperone Miss Willette McMillan (Director of the Normal’s Art Department since 1897), Julia traveled in style with fifteen other tourists from Italy then through Switzerland, Germany, Holland and Belgium, France, and the English Isles.  The group visited Naples, Pompeii, Rome, the Alps, Nice, and rode horses in Ireland.  Julia even ran into Mr. Bashinsky at one of her ports of call before returning to the US on the White Star Line’s RMS Cedric.  She has left three scrapbooks from her trip.

Clarks Tour Booklet

Her grandson, Neal Brantley, described how the trip affected her. “Because the graduation trip was in 1909,” he wrote, “the tour group got to see things that would later be changed or destroyed by the two World Wars.  Julia never returned to Europe, but always talked about her trip and always showed her scrapbooks to her children and grandchildren.”

Life settled down after Julia returned to Troy.  In 1913, she married James T. (Jim Tom) Brantley, a hardware merchant in Troy who later developed the Hillcrest subdivision northwest of downtown Troy (and is now a preservation neighborhood).  They had four sons, one of whom became a physician and another a lawyer, both in Troy.

Jim Tom died in 1951 at age 62.  Julia Lamar Wiley Brantley continued to live in Troy until she passed away in February 1975. They are both buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy.

Many thanks to Neal Brantley who provided much of this information, the digital images, and the beginnings of the Julia Wiley Brantley Collection at the Wiregrass Archives.

Julia Wiley, left, and Helen Henderson, niece of Charles Henderson aboard a steam liner while on a European cruise.