Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brown cousins and the genetic tendency to pioneer

I have photographs only, among the Brown siblings, of my great-grandfather, Joseph, shown here with his second wife, Penelope Dawson, during the late 1860s in Washington County, Iowa. His third wife, Chloe (Boswell) Prentiss/Brown, was my great-grandmother.

My cousin, Marilyn, pulled in about 5:30 last night, sat down to chat for about 45 minutes on a very cold December evening while her cell phone (which had died somewhere in Kansas) recharged, then hit the road again, planning to arrive at her home near Michigan City, Indiana --- not far east of Chicago --- before dawn today. There's little doubt she made it.

There's no point in worrying when dealing with this branch of the family, genetically engineered to pioneer, so I just told her that her mother --- Helen --- would have been proud. I wrote here about Helen's death at age 91 last July in Utah.

Marilyn had been working since late October at her mother's home in the little town of Delta, sorting through generations of accumulation (she'll wrap up that job in the spring) and distributing same to grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and had decided to drive her mother's old white Dodge traveling van --- year 2000, mileage well in excess of 100,000 --- home from Utah rather than renting a U-Haul. It was packed to the ceiling with her daughters' selections, including multiple cartons of crystal purchased during the early 1950s in Germany.

I whiled away part of yesterday afternoon, waiting for Marilyn to get here, inputting obituaries into the online Brown family database. 

The Browns originated, sort of, at New Carlisle, Ohio, where our ancestor William Brown Sr. --- just off a boat from Ireland --- married Eleanor Kelley, daughter of Solomon Kelley, about 1809. Not long thereafter, they moved a county west to the Fletcher vicinity of Miami County. Brown Township, where Fletcher is located, was named for Great-great-grandfather.

William B. Brown --- son of Solomon Kelley Brown (William's and Eleanor's eldest), first-cousin of my maternal grandmother and a great-uncle of Marilyn's mother --- kind of illustrates the family tendencies that his nieces, Helen and Marilyn, inherited. So here's one of his obituaries that I typed into the database yesterday:

The Piqua (Ohio) Daily Call, April 19, 1929

Fletcher, Ohio, April 16 (1929) --- With the death of William Brown, April 10, 1929, the second oldest resident of Fletcher passed to that beyond. Just across the street from the Brown residence lives Mrs. Hannah Moore who is several months Mr. Brown's senior. In their beginning schooldays, Mr. Brown and Hannah Howland Moore were schoolmates and neighbors.

William Brown was born Sept. 19, 1833, on a farm one mile east of "old Brown schoolhouse," known as the "school section." His parents, Solomon Kelly and Mary Ralston Brown, continued to live there until the mother died when Mr. Brown was eight years old. The Browns moved to Paulding county and in the spring of 1847 started on a long trek to Oregon country. Coming to Fletcher for an extended visit before leaving, they decided to go to Cincinnati by canal. It took several days to make the trip because canal traveling was done only by day. From Cincinnati this adventurous family with many others reloaded their goods onto a larger river boat and their way led by the rivers to Independence, Missouri. At Independence four yoke of oxen, two cows and provisions of flour, bacon, hardtack, etc., were purchased for the long journey westward.

The Browns joined a large train of 48 covered wagons that started out from Independence. They were able to make about 15 miles per day and would camp near water holes at night. Later on, the wagon train was divided into two sections so making camp for the night would not take so long a time. William Brown drove the extra cattle at first, but later took his place among the men as a driver of a covered wagon.

They would eat from the provisions in the wagons and all the game that could be procured. A close watch was kept all the time for Indians, who were not troublesome till nearing the end of their journey. When Mr. Brown's half sister died on the journey, the remains were buried on the trail and the oxen trampled over the grave to hide it from the Indians.

Fording the rivers was a source of trouble and danger. They lost a yoke of oxen crossing one stream. In the mountains, the Indians stole 13 of their cows and others had arrows sticking in their backs. They reached Oregon country after six months and 16 days of wagon travel. The Browns built a log cabin on their claim and found that their closest neighbor lived five miles away. To get more provisions the elder Mr. Brown drove 40 miles for flour and wheat, selling a yoke of oxen to pay for them.

Hearing from a neighbor of the gold strike in California in 1848, Solomon Brown and son, William, joined the prospectors for gold in 1849 and by October of that year had made over $9,000. 

During the years in the West, Mr. Brown joined with a sheep herder and helped drive a large herd of sheep to California; then he volunteered in the Indian War and for four days terrible fighting occurred where the Indians increased so in numbers the white settlers had to fight for their lives and homes. Many were killed but Mr. Brown escaped injury. Several years were spent in Idaho and Montana, and finally, after 19 years in the West, William Brown surprised his Fletcher relatives with his return.

He took a farm north of Fletcher, procured from the government (transfer written on Parchment and signed by Andrew Jackson, president. The parchment now in the possession of Omer Iddings who purchased the Brown farm two years ago.)

William Brown and Louisa Brown were married October 1, 1884. They lived on the farm until 1911 when Mr. Brown retired and they moved to Fletcher Feb. 17, 1897. He became a member of the Presbyterian Church and was a faithful adherent. In later life his hearing became dulled and made it impossible for him to attend church services.

This man who has lived nearly 96 years was able to be about the house and yard and go to the post office for the mail. He enjoyed working the garden; last fall he had spaded more than half of his garden to be ready for spring planting. Only last month was he compelled to take to his bed. the gradual decline led to his death April 10, 1929.

The widow, Mrs. Louisa Brown, remains to "carry on" what Mr. and Mrs. Brown had accomplished during their happy wedded life. Their nephew, R.O. Brown, and wife of Valsetz, Oregon, have been with the Browns for several years, attending to their wants and being boon companions.

A part of this story that tends to be underplayed a little is the fact that William B. Brown and Louisa Brown were first-cousins, not considered that unusual in the 19th century but still looked upon as somewhat odd. Their marriage reunited halves of their grandfather's farm at Fletcher divided by inheritance and generally was assumed by other family members to have been platonic. Whatever the case, there's no doubt they were genuinely fond of each other. When Louisa died three years after William B., our Brown family was entirely gone from Ohio.

My great-grandfather, Joseph Brown, and his brother, Archibald Steele Brown, high-tailed it for Iowa during the 1850s after having shared the farm at Fletcher that William B. and Louisa later reunited. Solomon Kelley already had settled in Oregon. Other family members scattered across Kansas and Colorado.

Helen, in death, closed her family circle a little, too. After funeral services during August in Orem, Utah, her daughters and son-in-law accompanied the remains to Willamette National Cemetery at Portland, Oregon, for burial --- not that far from Corvallis and Philomath, where her great-grandfather, Solomon Kelley Brown, had settled during the 1840s.

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