Throughout the past one hundred years, there have been many notable events take place…five major wars, twenty-five presidential elections, the first man on the moon and current space station program, advancements in electronics from telephones to computers, artificial organ replacement and laser surgery, cars that practically drive themselves, and farmers using GPS systems to plant and harvest their crops. All people can say they have knowledge of these events from reading about them or watching documentaries on them, but few can say they were alive when the actual events took place. Otis Earl Bryant, who celebrates his one hundredth birthday on November 26, is a living witness of life in and around Grayson County from 1913 to 2013. And, for someone who has never lived more than ten miles from his birthplace, Otis has had quite a full and memorable life.
His adventure all started on November 26, 1913, in a log house on a farm off Bryant Hollow Road in Welchs Creek, Kentucky. He was the third of seven children born to Argalis and Martha Ellen Embry Bryant. His older siblings were: Espie (Veda), both deceased; Damon (Cuba), both deceased; Odell (Ida Mae), both deceased; Opal Woosley (Estil), both deceased; Macy Higgs (Marion), and Murl Day (Hargis). Otis attended Bryant Elementary School and worked on the family farm along with the rest of his brothers and sisters.
After marrying Frankie Louise Crume from Spring Lick in 1938, Otis and Frankie moved to a farm on Bryant Ridge Road and raised crops and livestock. It was there and in Caneyville, where they moved to in 1943, they became parents of three children: Charles Leon (Wanda, deceased), a pharmacist in Cave City; Paul Aaron (Brenda), operator of Otis Bryant and Son, Inc., and Mary Sue (Randy), a retired registered dietician in Leitchfield. In addition to their three children, Otis and Frankie also have ten grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.
Otis became interested in running a business while living on his parents’ farm. His family operated a wheat thresher that was towed behind a steel-wheeled tractor from farm to farm. The farmers could have their crop threshed and bagged on site. They also had a sawmill that they moved from place to place and planed the farmers’ cut trees. The brothers would board with the family who was having them to process their wood. In 1942, Otis and his cousin Abraham Bryant bought a flour and cornmeal mill from Huff Brothers in Caneyville. Otis delivered the flour and cornmeal as far away as Paintsville, Kentucky. At various times from 1942 to 1962, Otis’s brothers Espie and Damon were also involved in the operation of the business.
In 1962, Otis opened his own feed mill on Hwy 62 toward Leitchfield with his brother-in-law Arthur Crume. Not only did they sell and deliver feed and custom mixes and farm supplies to ten and more surrounding counties, but he and his son Paul expanded the business to include seed, fertilizer, and custom planting and harvesting. In 2008, the feed part of the business was sold and the name of the business was changed to Caneyville Milling. Paul still operates the fertilizer and row crop part of the business under the name of Otis Bryant and Son, Inc.
Despite working six days a week at his business from opening to closing until his late 80’s, Otis still found time to be involved in helping his community grow. Otis was a member of the original Caneyville Volunteer Fire Department. He served as fire chief for many years and was on call 24/7 for any fire emergencies within Caneyville and the surrounding communities.
He was also one of the founders of the Leitchfield First Federal Savings and Loan and served on its board of directors until it was sold to Integra Banking Corporation. And, he was a member of the board of directors for the Grayson County War Memorial Hospital in the 1950’s and 60’s. After Frankie’s death in 2000, Otis spent less time at the business and more time at his home where he loved to watch old westerns and the news channels. He also renewed a past friendship with Jewel Mudd, who now resides in Spring View Health and Rehab Center. He visits Jewel, who is 101, several times a week.
He is a faithful member of the Caneyville Church of Christ and still attends services whenever his health permits.
Due to his declining health, he recently moved to the Bee Hive Assisted Living home in Leitchfield where he loves to talk with his fellow residents and the many friends and family members who stop by to visit. To celebrate Otis’s one hundredth birthday, there will be a cake and punch reception on Sunday, December 1, from 1:30 to 4:00 at the Bee Hive. Everyone is invited to stop by and wish Otis a happy birthday. All are welcome and Otis and his family would love to see you. No presents, please!