Fall 1997
Caroliniana Columns

The Brunson Builder:
Vincent Joseph Fontaine

by Julia Youmans

House built by Fontaine - 22.2 K
Fontaine constructed this home, located at 107 Main St. North, prior to 1880 for Legatsy Caroline Brunson, daughter of town founder, at the time of her marriage to T.W. Williams. The
house remains in the family, currently serving as the home of
Mrs. J. W. Preacher, grandaughter of the original owners.

From an early age I knew our home on Railroad Avenue in Brunson, South Carolina was built by Vincent Joseph Fontaine for my grandfather, Judson Hannerhan Lightsey. In those early years of my life I knew very little about Mr. Fontaine, but as time passed I learned about his early life, his coming to America from France, and his building and construction activities in our section of South Carolina.

Due to hardships
suffered in France
following the Franco-Prussian
War of 1870-71, Mr. Fontaine
decided to seek
opportunities in America
Due to hardships suffered in France following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Mr. Fontaine decided to seek opportunities in America. I was not able to how he happened to reach what was then Beaufort County, Prince Williams Parish, South Carolina, near St. Nicholas Lutheran Church in a section known as Jennys. The present address would be R. F. D., Fairfax, Allendale County, South Carolina.

I learned that Mr. Fontaine's father was Bernard Eugene Fontaine, but could not determine his mother's name. Vincent, born between 1849 and 1850, was one of six children. He had a brother named Eugene, another brother (name unknown) and three sisters, Jeanette, Scesarene and Josephine.

In 1878 at the age of twenty-nine Vincent married Amanda Loadholt who lived near Brunson, South Carolina. To Vincent and Amanda were born three children, Scesarene in 1879, followed by Josephine and Charles Bernard a few years later.

The 1880 United States Census recorded that Vincent lived in the Jennys section, married Amanda Loadholt, had a daughter named Scesarene, a French mother, an Italian father, and most noteworthy for the thrust of this story, attended architectural school in Italy.

About this time my grandfather, Judson Hannerhan Lightsey, married a sister of Amanda Fontaine whose name was Hasseltine Christina Loadholt. A brother of my grandfather, John Frederick Lightsey, married Amanda's other sister, Sarah Loadholt. Not only was our home built by Vincent Fontaine, but we were further connected to him since my grandfather and uncle married his wife's two sisters.

Vincent Fontaine designed and constructed our home on Railroad Avenue in 1886. We learned from a deed in the Hampton County Court House that Mr. Fontaine owned the land, built the house and sold it to my grandfather. Although valued at $1,000.00, no money changed hands, though an exchange of property took place. My grandfather signed over to Fontaine his share and that of his daughter to Loadholt property in the county for the house. Since his daughter by his first marriage, Louisa Lightsey, was a minor, he signed for her as her guardian.

After learning that Mr. Fontaine owned property in Brunson where he was designing, building and selling houses, we further checked records and found that a very dear friend of his, Frank Brunson, had given him some land in the town of Brunson in exchange for their friendship and a mortgage on the Loadholt property near Jennys. Frank Brunson was a son of the founder of Brunson, and his home built by Mr. Fontaine, was just across the railroad from the Fontaine home. It has been torn down and another home built there now.

Today as you travel through Brunson and the surrounding area, look at the homes and remember many owe their origin to the transplanted French architect and builder, Vincent Joseph Fontaine.

Editor's Note: Caroliniana Columns may print articles of special interest to our members on topics related to South Carolina history or the collections of the South Caroliniana Library.

The Papers of the Manker and Youmans families are available for research in the collections of the South Caroliniana Library. Consult the description in the 1996 Annual Program.

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