The Browns by Mrs. Albert V. Specht (Amesta Agatha Murphy) (1937)

(From a copy belonging to her son, Theodore R. Specht. The original is in the possession of Dr. Walter A. Specht, Jr.)

Three brothers by the name of Brown lived in Wales. About 1750 one, Moses Brown, came to America and perhaps took part in the Revolutionary war from N.Y. We learn of a son, John, born Nov. 17, 1791. After the opening of territory of Ohio to settlement, we next find John and family at Chillicothe, Ohio. He attained manhood just in time to take part in the War of 1812. Lucky as his father, he returned unscathed to resume farming.

At 24 he married an Irish girl of 23, Margaret Gormley (a raw-boned muscular daughter of James Gormely) in 1815. John was a short, stocky-built substantial person. From this union sprang a large healthy family of 5 boys & 2 girls: James (1816), William Cunningham (1820), Mary (1821), Jane (1833), Joseph Hazen (1829), Charles (1831), & Henry (1833). To make ends meet John Brown ran a stage coach from the East to the Mississippi.

By 1840 the Browns have left Ohio for Terra Haute, Indiana. With all the help of his boys John Brown decided to let the older sons leave home to make their own way. So we find William working for Uncle Basil Justice, a wealthy horse-breeder and in 1846 he was married to a daughter of a well-to-do farmer -- Amelia Stevens. No gift did he get from Justice, and when the emigration of the Indiana farmers to Wisconsin began, he took along his bride. William & Amelia started paying for a farm, near Gratiot, Wisc., and a large two-roomed house with a fireplace. Before being fairly settled, however, hearing of the new homesteads in Iowa, offered so cheaply near Osage, they soon went out in wagons, leaving the mortgaged home. On the bleak grass prairies of Iowa they erected a shanty, and here was born their infant son Michael, who soon died. Before another year went by, another son, lay beside him. One day a dark cloud along the horizon aroused their curiosity and then anxiety. A prairie fire was racing toward them with incredible speed. No time to save anything. Hastily hitching up the horses to the wagon, they drove for dear life. On their return later they found the house gone and the feathers burned off the chickens. Disgust filled their hearts; loneliness and sorrow were too much in that place. Back to Wisconsin they went only to buy another piece of land with a mortgage, but this time with a smaller, humbler house. But they were among relatives and church brethern, and William felt he could supplement the small income of his 40 acres with wages earned in the wintertime chopping wood for neighbors. A comedown for the daughter of a former country "Esquire".

William's brother, James, had been married to Eleanor J. Blair in 1839 and sister Mary, to Jacob Piersol in 1840. "Aunt Mary and Uncle Jacob" owned a large farm and were fast becoming prosperous in this Old Baptist community near Gratiot. Their ever-increasing family now included Emma, Harriet, John, Charles, Wilson, Alice, Eliza & Justice. 1850 brought a change in William's family. A little girl, Mary Eleanor, was born and lived; & two years later, Sarah. Seven years passed by before Elizabeth Ann was born (1859) and another sister 3 years later, Margaret Rebecca.

Happy childhood days for the little cousins: the Browns, Piersols, Stevens, especially for "Lizzie", Eva & Eliza, who were of the same age.

But a cloud of another magnitude was appearing on the horizon.

Old John was to see the young men of his pioneer family, like their forefathers, arrive to adult life in time for the next war -- the Civil War. Hazen (31 yr) now married to Lydia M. Way, Charles (29) married to Julia Stevens, Henry (27) married to Louiza Jane Brown (not in family) were all called to arms; leaving to their wives the earning of the living and the care of the children. Henry lost his life in battle. William was drafted at the age of 45, near the end of the war, although his teeth were in poor condition. Little Elizabeth never forgot these times when mother sold butter and eggs to pay off the mortgage; and that night when a weary figure in blue dropped his gun and knapsack behind the door -- the war was over.

The titian-haired little schoolgirl thrilled to the tales her father told and trudged joyfully with her dinner pail past hedges of blackberries and past a lonely burying ground on one estate, across the plank to a ford to the school house. The pretty plump Nelly Morton with the dimple taught her adoring pupils. The cousins were there, also the two "Johns" the girls all admired. The summer days were full of play & sunshine and winter with its sliding. A hill ran past the door to the country road at the top. Many a time had she & Maggie & dog Tray watched at the window for Father as he appeared at the top of the hill after a day's work, never too tired for a little girl, with a twinkle in his eye. (I know, for that merry twinkle still lives in my heart too -- he never grew old.) There were so many joys. Those wonderful suppers of milk & mush with bread (salt-rising)and jam made from fresh berries hid along with jars of sweet butter and cool milk in the spring. Then what joy when Uncle Isaac appeared with his bob sled and big well-fed bays to take "Willy's" family to his home for a feast or holiday.
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