JOHN BENTON BROWN
A Short Biography of John Benton Brown, 1837-1876
B. Brown was born about 1837 and raised on the family farm in Trumbull
County, Ohio, to Daniel and Mary (Benton) Brown. In the 1860 United
States Census, he is living with his sister Emily and her doctor
husband, Newton Rice, in Braceville, Ohio. While there he is studying
medicine under the tutelage of Dr. Rice.
In September 1861, John
volunteered for Company G, of the 19th Infantry Regiment of the Ohio
Volunteers and was quickly promoted to Sergeant. According to medical
records, on January 1, 1862 while his unit was in Kentucky, he
contracted Typhoid Fever and was sent to a hospital in Nashville,
Tennessee. Because of the debilitating effects of the disease, he was
deemed unable to perform his duties and was discharged in May.
Returning home, John
began a slow recovery process living most of 1863 with his sisterís
family. In an affidavit, Dr. Rice states that his brother-in-law is only
a shadow of his former self and for months is unable to walk without
the aid of crutches. Eventually he did regain enough mobility to get
around and finish his medical training and by late 1865 is looking for a
location to establish a practice.
In October 1865, he
married Mary Jane McCombs of Trumbull County. After the death of her
husband, Mrs. Brown struggled to survive and was forced to take on the
U. S. Government in an effort to claim widowsí pension rights.
While on a journey to
the south looking for a place to set-up his medical practice, John is
advised to go west and settle in Missouri, which is exactly what he
did. And in April or May of 1866 he relocated to the town of Tipton in
Moniteau County where he established himself as a country doctor and
druggist. While in Tipton, he lived within a short distance of J. A.
Payne, D. P. Swearingen and P. L. Swearingen who are all well acquainted
with John and his wife Mary. Several years later, these three friends
gave affidavits in support of the widow Maryís claim to pension
benefits. By February 1868, Messrs Payne and Swearingen had moved to the
town of Metz in Vernon County, Missouri. Seeing the need for a doctor in
Metz, D. P. Swearingen invited John to settle there. In May or June,
John followed his friends to Metz and began practicing and for some
months also was in the drug business in the little community of Pleasant
Before leaving Tipton,
a son, William McCombs Brown, was born on July 3, 1867. After his
fatherís death, Willie grew up in Ohio; briefly tried his hand as a
druggist before settling in to a life as an orchard farmer in Ashtabula
County. He died on December 12, 1942 at the age of 75.
During the time the
Brownís lived in Metz, the extent of Johnís physical condition is
revealed through various documents included in the widowís pension
application. It is evident that the long-term effects of Typhoid Fever
were manifested by spinal cord distress, lung damage that would
frequently result in his coughing up blood, and bowel damage resulting
in recurrent bouts with diarrhea. Additionally, the stress suffered by
his leg muscles continued to hamper his ability to walk without a great
deal of pain. The net result of these residual effects left John with
little if any body strength and would indirectly contribute to his early
Due to his diminished
physical abilities, John applied for and was granted a War of 1861
(Civil War) Invalidís Pension by the Army. However, because the Army
regarded him as only one-quarter disabled (a position John would
protest) the pension was set at $2 per month. Insulted by the paltry
amount, he refused to collect the money. It was this decision that would
instigate a series of documents intended to persuade the Army to award
the pensionís unclaimed funds to Johnís widow Mary Jane.
On May 5, 1871, Lillian
Clair Brown was born in Metz. Just like her brother, Lilly would grow up
in Ohio, marry, and on August 26, 1917 die a premature death from
tuberculosis. At 46 years old, she left behind 7 children ranging in age
from 19 to 5. She is buried in her adult hometown of Conneaut, Ohio.
For reasons unknown, in
May 1875, John moved to the new boom town of Corry in Dade County,
Missouri. Lead and other minerals had been discovered in the area, and
overnight a rush was on. Originally satisfied to run a pharmacy, by
mid-1876 John is caught up in the pursuit of riches and became a partner
in a lead prospecting venture. In August, while inspecting a local mine,
fate and the years of physical debilitation took their measure. A large
rock fell on John, severely crushing one of his legs. The local doctor
tried to set the bones, but the weakened condition of his legs would not
promote healing; and it was decided that amputation was the only answer.
Fourteen years after his bout with Typhoid Fever, John was unable to
recover from the amputation surgery and died on October 11, 1876.
Since John apparently
died in Corry, it had been presumed he was buried there, but word was
received from a local Dade County researcher that there is no record of
him at the old Corry Cemetery. It is understood that the cemetery is in
good shape and is part of what little remains of the small town whose
bust came only a few years after its boom. So if he was buried there,
his grave must be unmarked.
After Johnís death,
Mary Jane returned to Ohio and settled in Youngstown where she supported
her two children as a hat maker. During the late 1870ís she pursued the
unclaimed money from Johnís Invalid Pension award and beginning in 1891
launched a long but eventually successful struggle to collect his Civil
War Widowís Pension. A conflict she had with the Army was that they
would not concede that Johnís death was caused as much by his Typhoid
Fever induced condition as it was by the mine accident.
She eventually went to
live with Lilly and her husband George Arthur in Conneaut, passing away
on January 12, 1917, not knowing that her daughter would join her only
seven months later. Mary was 80 years old.
I first came across John while researching his mother who was a
sister of my great-grandfather, George Washington Benton. With such a
common name, his search proved to be a difficult task; but after many
months I was able to find him in Vernon County in 1870. Because he
seemed to be such a mystery, I dedicated a personal effort to tell his
story. This effort has paid off with more personal information about
John Brown than for most of the family in my genealogical records.
I was able to identify the Civil War Windowís Pension
Application filed by Johnís wife and have received the same from the
National Archives. Because there were unusual circumstances surrounding
Johnís premature death at the age of 39, a number of affidavits and
documents concerning his post Civil War movements are part of the
file. These include approximate dates and the location of his tenure in
Yet, it is odd that without the tragic illness suffered by John
and without the contentious circumstances of Maryís quest for pension
money, much of what information I now know might never have been
compiled. If he had lived to a grand old age as a country doctor, there
may have never been a widowís pension file with its 40 documents for me
to read. After more than 130 years, John Brown has come back to life;
only because he suffered so much in life.
Because he was an early citizen of your County, I thought that
some of this information might be of interest to the Society. Feel free
to use this story in whole or in part as you see fit.
September 3, 2006
(The above biography was written by
Bob Benton and provided to the Tri-County Genealogical Society so
that the information could be made available to others.)