How The Brown Family Got to Dayton (1935)




Dayton Daily News - November 3, 1935

How The Brown Family Got to Dayton by Howard Burba

A history of Henry Brown, from Lexington, Virginia to Dayton, Ohio in 1793.
A history of Thomas Brown, from Manahawken, New Jersey to Dayton, Ohio in 1828.


[transcription of article]

If you happen to belong to that grand old clan bearing the family name of Brown you have far more to be proud of than the mere fact that there is a prominent street in Dayton named for you.

You have to cite another honor, the distinction of knowing that your family name figured in local affairs long before there was a town here in which to christen a street by that name. There was a member of the Brown family doing a thriving business with the Indians and first settlers of this section of the Northwest Territory quite a while before John Cleves Symmes had disposed of the site upon which the town of Dayton stands, and before Daniel Cooper came along to lay off that site into building lots.

Not all the Browns who now make this garden spot of the world their abiding place can trace a direct lineage, of course, to old Henry Brown, rough-fisted and substantial pioneer, whose vision of a great new empire west of the Alleghenies brought him to these parts from the state of Virginia in the year 1793. But many of them can, and a lot of the oldest families of Browns do, and with a full measure of pride. For Henry Brown was the first of the good old family name to take up citizenship within the then new settlement of Dayton. It was the descendants of his three children born in the original Brown homestead near where the present Steele high school stands, who carried the family line down through the years to the present day. If you can trace your ancestry back to Henry Brown then, indeed, you have far more to be proud of than the mere fact that there is a street in Dayton bearing your family name.

Henry Brown's ancestors were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, who emigrated to this country from the north of Ireland about the year 1740 and settled in "Burden's Grant," which included half a million acres of land on the Shenandoah and James rivers, in Virginia.

Henry Brown was born near Lexington, Va., about the year 1770, and lived there until 1793, at which time he came to the Northwest Territory as military secretary for Col. Preston, who was in command of a regiment in Wayne's army, then being organized at Cincinnati for an advance against the Indian tribe. Mr. Brown was afterward interested with others in forwarding supplies to the army and to the garrisons at forts Hamilton, St. Clair, Greenville, Jefferson, Recovery, Defiance and Wayne.

From the nature of the roads and the difficulties and dangers of the service, all supplies were forwarded by pack-horse trains. This department was in charge of an officer who was designated as "Pack-horse Master General." The trains were divided into pack-horse brigades of 60 to 75 horses each, with a captain in charge and men to load and unload and care for the horses. Armed guards necessarily accompanied these pack-horse brigades as guards against Indian attacks. Mr. Brown was thus employed with the army until the spring of 1795, when he entered into partnership with John Sutherland at Hamilton, their business being trading with the Indians. They erected a log cabin storehouse just south of the historic stockade, now marked by a monument on Hamilton's main street.

Friendly tribes at that time occupied most of the country west of Wayne's road to the Maumee as hunting grounds. Their camps were to be found along all of the streams from Hamilton north to the Wabash and Maumee. This firm traded goods to the Indians for furs and pelts and when white settlers began to locate on lands west of the Miami, the Indians gradually withdrew to the north. But Sutherland and Brown followed them up with agents who carried goods from point to point on pack-horses.

In 1799 Mr. Brown took a large stock of goods to Fort Loramie and opened a branch store there, from which he sent traders to the Indian villages along the Wabash and Maumee rivers.

In 1804 business had so changed that he moved his branch store to Dayton and opened on the east side of Main st. just south of Monument, then shown on the town plat as "Water st." It was the beginning of the original Brown family in Dayton.

From this little store traders were sent with goods among the settlers west and north and to the Indian villages at Greenville and beyond to the Mississinawa and around St. Marys and the Auglaize and down through the Maumee valley. A trader would start with two or three pack-horses loaded with goods and often in order to dispose of them took extraordinary risks incident to the long, lonely trips through the wilderness. Sometimes they would be absent months at a time, never returning until their stocks had been completely disposed of. Then their pack-horses would be loaded with furs and pelts which they brought back to Dayton and from here they were marketed at Cincinnati and as far south as New Orleans.

At their stores in Dayton and Hamilton the firm of Sutherland and Brown exchanged much of their goods for whisky, flour, pork and grain, which they shipped by river to Cincinnati and New Orleans. Produce was shipped down the Ohio in flat-bottom boats and on rafts. When the Miami river was low, cargoes were "lightered" over the river in dugouts--canoe-like vessels made from giant forest trees. Sometimes, to get the dugouts over, the crews would scrape out channels of sufficient width to float the boats, then having passed the riffle they would reload and float down to the next where the operation was repeated. A crew was sometimes detained at the shallowest riffles for several days and often a week's time would be lost in getting a fleet across.

For two or three years prior to the dissolution of the firm, Messrs. Sutherland and Brown were largely engaged in the purchase of cattle in the Miami valley and over in Kentucky. The cattle were driven north to Fort Loramie, across the portage to the Auglaize river, then down to the Maumee and thence to Detroit where there was ready sale to the government, to the Indians and to settlers.

"It is hard to realize the delays, perplexities and difficulties in business in that time," writes and early historian... "To purchase goods a merchant would travel on horseback from Dayton to Philadelphia. As far as the forks of the Muskingum the road was but a single bridle path through the dense forest, with not a house or settlement on the way. The traveler necessarily packed his provisions for that part of the trip and camped by the way, without shelter and regardless of unfavorable weather. Three months' time was generally required for the trip, purchase of stock and getting the goods delivered in Dayton.

"The goods were hauled in wagons over the rough roads from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, a ton and a half being a good load for a five-horse team. From Pittsburgh the goods were shipped by river to Cincinnati and hauled from there overland to Dayton. When the water was at a favorable stage shipments could be made by pirogues up the Miami river."

To Henry Brown belongs the distinction of having built the first brick house in the village of Dayton. That house was erected in the year 1810, on Lot No. 10, the present site of the new courthouse.

The hostile intention of the Indians toward the United States began to develop in that same year, and from the increased danger to traders Messrs. Sutherland and Brown withdrew their agents and dissolved partnership. Mr. Brown removed his goods to the north room of his residence and continued business there. At that time, or possibly the next year, he was made government agent in charge of Indian supplies that were distributed under Indian Agent Col. John Johnson of Piqua.

On Feb 19, 1811, Henry Brown was married to Miss Kitty Patterson, a daughter of Col. Robert Patterson. The wedding was celebrated at her father's house on the Rubicon farm, adjoining the present site of the National Cash Register plant, the Rev. James Welsh officiating. Catherine, or "Kitty" Patterson as she was best known, was born at Lexington, Ky., March 17, 1793.

Three children were born to this union, the first additions to the original Brown family in Dayton. The eldest of these was R. P. Brown, born on Dec. 6, 1811 and married to Sarah Galloway at Xenia, O., on Oct. 31, 1837. This son died in Kansas City, Mo., on May 4, 1879.

The second child born to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Brown was christened for this father. Henry Brown, jr., was born Dec. 3, 1814, and married Sarah Belle Browning at Indianapolis on Feb. 7, 1837. He died in Dayton Nov. 25, 1878. His wife was born at West Union, O., on Feb. 18, 1819 and died in Dayton Oct. 15, 1858.

The youngest of the trio of children was Eliza J. Brown, born in Dayton Oct. 20, 1816. She married Charles Anderson on Sept. 16, 1835. Col. Anderson was a native Kentuckian, having been born at Louisville on June 1, 1814.

"The business life of Henry Brown," declares an early local historian, "was characterized by sound judgment, firmness and energy and having faith in the good judgment shown in the selection of the site at the mouth of Mad River as the future business center of the valley, he invested largely in Dayton property. When prosperity came to the little town of Dayton during the War of 1812, he was one of the most prominent and influential men of the community and was held in the highest esteem throughout his entire life. He urged the opening of roads to all neighboring settlements, was active in the interest of public improvements and all affairs looking to the public good. When in 1813 the increase of business made it desirable that a bank should be established in the town of Dayton, he aided in the organization of The Dayton Manufacturing Co., the town's first financial institution, and secured for it a considerable loan from the government.

"His wife was an amiable, modest woman, yet for almost 50 years was among the most active Christian workers in Dayton. In 1815, being sick in bed, a number of ladies met in her room and, with her help, organized the Female Bible and Charitable Society of Dayton. All through her life she was faithful to the good work thus begun.

From exposure suffered during his earlier years in the valley and afterward in the active management of the business with Mr. Sutherland, Mr. Brown's health was broken, so much so that toward the close of the year 1822 he was confined to his bed and, after a lingering illness, he died in the afternoon of May 9, 1825. He was buried the next day in the old graveyard on Fifth st., near Wilkinson. Mrs. Brown was married to Andrew Irwin, by whom she had one son, A. B. Irwin. Her second husband dying shortly after their marriage she was married for the third time, her last husband being H. G. Phillips, for years one of the leading merchants of Dayton. He died in 1859, and she passed away on Aug. 12, 1864.

Henry Brown had been living in Dayton about 24 years when still another Brown, unrelated save for a kindred feeling that here was the land of milk-and-honey of biblical forecast, took up his residence. This time it was Thomas Brown of New Jersey, and if you trace your relationship to his humble home in the then struggling village of Dayton you, too, are justified in any boasted pride of ancestry you may care to indulge in. Like Henry, the first pioneer to bear the name of Brown, Thomas, the later arrival, wrote his name high up on the scroll of worth-while civic achievement.

Thomas Brown came within less than six years of living out an entire century. Born in the village of Manahawken, N.J., on April 10, 1800, he lived to the ripe old age of 94 years and one month, passing away in Dayton in 1894. He was a worthy son of a worthy sire, his father, Capt. Samuel Brown, having served with honor through the Revolutionary War. As a boy in the little New Jersey town, Thomas Brown showed a fondness for anything mechanical or mathematical and when but 12 years of age he had completed his study of mathematics from arithmetic through trigonometry and measuration .

His indomitable pluck, which made for him so successful a standing in after life, was shown in his determination by walking all the way from Philadelphia to Lebanon, O. He worked around the latter village for awhile, moved to Xenia in 1825 and then, three years later, came to Dayton to make it his permanent home.

Thomas Brown was a carpenter-contractor, having learned that trade in his younger years in the east. Shortly after arriving here he became associated with the pioneer contractor of early days, Thomas Morrison and under his personal direction some of the city's most substantial business structures were erected.

Hard work, crowned by success won for him the respect and esteem of all citizens and in 1848 he was elected a member of the first school board in the city. His term of office expired in 1841 and he was then elected a member of the Ohio legislature. Later he was made director of Ohio prisons and still later a trustee of public works of the state of Ohio. That concluded his political service and in 1868 he purchased an interest in the firm of S. N. Brown and Son, of which his son was the leading spirit. He was chosen president of that concern, a position he held until his death on May 8, 1894.

In 1824 Thomas Brown was united in marriage to Sarah Groome Brown, the widow of his brother, John, and became the father of four children: Ellen, Samuel N., Charles R. and Caroline. It is the descendants of these children, scores of them now residing in this community, who can lay rightful heritage to a pioneer ancestry of which anyone may well be proud.

Thomas Brown, or "Uncle Tommie," as he became affectionately known to all and sundry in these parts, was a Federalist and followed the many changes in that organization until it became known as the Republican party. He was an ardent Republican and never missed a vote if he could possibly avoid doing so. Old and feeble as he was, he voted on May 1, 1894, exactly one week before he died, at a special congressional election. He was always proud of the distinction of having voted for 18 presidents.

He was a public-spirited citizen and the first man in Dayton to use natural gas. As long as there was an abundant flow the natural gas company had a pipe in front of his house, which he lighted every evening. It is also related of him that a few years before his death there was a report that the walls in the Symmes block, which had been newly erected, were out of plumb. Old as he was, he climbed up the scaffolding and, lying down on a scantling, he sighted down the wall and pronounced it perfect and such it was afterward found to be.

An odd coincidence in the death of "Uncle Tommie" Brown rests in the fact that he was exactly as old, to the very day, as was his wife when she died 10 years before. In his later years he often declared to relatives and friends that if he could live to be as old as his faithful wife was at her death, he could die content.

Fate granted him that favor. Fate, it seems, has always been kind to those who bear the name of Brown.

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