Miami County, Ohio Genealogical Researchers -- Sponsored by the Computerized Heritage Association


    A member of one of the old pioneer families of Miami County, William B. Brown was born September 19, 1833, in Lost Creek township, on the farm now owned by Andrew Ralston. His. grandfather, William Brown, was a native of the Emerald Isle, and about 1796 left his home near Belfast and emigrated to America. He was then about eighteen years of age, his birth having occurred in 1778. The family was of Scotch-Irish ancestry and of Presbyterian faith. It is supposed that his marriage to Ellen Kelly occurred in Clark County, Ohio. The lady was a daughter of Solomon Kelly and was born in South Carolina, whence she emigrated to Clark county where her parents died. Some years after their marriage William Brown and his wife removed to Lost Creek township, Miami county, and in 1852 took up their abode in Fletcher. He had entered the farm now owned and occupied by the subject of this review, William B. Brown, on section 26, Brown township, while still living in Lost Creek township. The old patent bearing date March 12, 1829, was signed by Andrew Jackson, then president of the United States. The land had not then been divided into townships, and when the division was made Brown township was named in his honor. The farm has always remained in possession of the family. It was inherited by his son, John Brown, and his maiden sister Jane. At the death of John Brown his interest passed to his widow and children, one of whom is Mrs. W. B. Brown. Jane Brown married Joseph Van Horn, and, dying without children, willed her interest, to W. B. Brown, her nephew, who by marriage to his cousin, Louisa J. Brown, the only daughter of John Brown, united the two interests, so that the original farm is now owned by our subject and his wife.

    John Brown, the father of our subject, married Nancy Bigger, daughter of John and Margaret Bigger. The former came to Miami county in 1834, when his daughter Nancy was ten years old. With his family he settled on the farm in 1852, and there Louisa was born August 21, 1853. She was reared and has always lived upon this farm. Her father here died when about thirty-seven years of age, leaving a widow and four children. The widow remained on the old homestead until her death, which occurred in her sixty-eighth year. They had a family of four children: William W., who died in 1888, at the age of thirty-seven years; Louisa J.; James Hearst, a practicing physician of Centralia, Kansas; and John Campbell, who is an attorney-at-law in Holton, Kansas, and dean in the university at that place.

    William Brown, the original representative of the family in this county, came to the present farm with his son, John, dying August 21, 1864, at the age of eighty-six years. He was a weaver by trade and operated a loom at his own home. Of the Fletcher Presbyterian church he was a charter member and very strict in his views on religion. He denied his children even the privilege of whistling or cracking nuts on Sunday, being very strict according to the old Puritan ideas of religion. He had five sons and several daughters, namely: Solomon Kelly; Joseph, who was an Iowa pioneer and died in that state when about eighty-one years of age; James, who went south and was accidentally killed at Fayette, Mississippi; John, who was mentioned above; Archibald Steele, who removed to Iowa and died when about sixty-six years of age; Elizabeth and Jane, who were two of triplets, the third being Archibald Steele; Elizabeth, who became the wife of Thomas Heston and died at Fletcher, at the age of twenty-eight years; and Jane, who became the wife of Joseph Van Horn and died on the family homestead, October 8, 1893.

    Solomon Kelly Brown, having arrived at years of maturity, wedded Mary Ralston, an aunt of Andrew Ralston. He was a farmer in Lost Creek township for seven years, but after his wife's death he removed to Paulding county, Ohio, about 1844. In 1847 he went to Oregon, becoming one of the pioneers of the Willamette Valley. He established his home at Corvallis, where he remained until his death, which occurred when he was, twenty-three years of age. He had four children, two of whom died in early life, while William B. and Andrew R. went to Oregon with him. At that time a large number of emigrants crossed the plains to the Pacific coast. Their train was composed of forty-seven wagons, each drawn by from two to five yoke of oxen. The journey consumed six months and sixteen days, and William B. Brown, the subject of this review, can recall many incidents of that journey. His brother Andrew remained in Oregon, but in the spring of 1849 William Brown went with his father to the gold, diggings on Feather River in California. They spent one season there, taking out more than seven thousand dollars worth of gold. In the fall of 1851 William Brown went from his home to California, where he worked for two years in the mines, prospecting when he could and working for others when he had no stake. He made but little progress, and, in consequence, hired out on a ranch at one hundred dollars per month. He afterward returned to the mines, but was not very successful. Prices were very high, he having to pay a dollar and ten cents a pound for flour, while other products of consumption were proportionately high. After making several efforts at prospecting, his work being hindered by heavy snows and other difficulties, he finally left the diggings, where he had suffered many hardships. For two days at a time he had to live on beef alone, as no flour could be secured. On another occasion he lived for three days on dried apples and sugar. He traveled from one mining camp to another, finally reaching Scott's river, where he did an immense amount of work for very little return. However, after he had spent a few months upon a ranch, he again sought for gold, but with such poor success that he returned to Oregon, where he engaged in farm work with his father until the outbreak, of the Cayuse Indian war at Walla Walla. He there volunteered in the United States service, spending one winter in bringing the Indians into subjection. About four hundred volunteers were engaged in battle at Walla Walla against five thousand Indians, during which the chief was killed. The engagement was rather a running fight, and continued almost constantly for four days.

    During two summers Mr. Brown was connected with a government surveying party, and thus traveling saw much of the wild country of that state. The hope of finding gold, which is ever before one in the mining regions, again decided him to make his way to the camps, and he worked in the mines both of Oregon and California. In 1864 he prospected in Idaho and later became the owner of a large stock ranch there. However, he sold that and soon afterward went to Helena, Montana. In 1866 he determined to return to Ohio, and made his way home by way of the Missouri river. Since that time he has been identified with the agricultural interests of Miami county.

    On the 1st of October, 1884, Mr. Brown was united in marriage to his cousin. Meanwhile he had spent some time in Iowa, and in 1872 he took charge of the farm for his Aunt Jane. He operated it, his aunt acting as his housekeeper, and after his marriage he still carried on the farm for his aunt, who bequeathed it to him at her death. Both Mr. and Mrs. Brown are consistent and faithful members of the Presbyterian Church at Fletcher. In his political views he is a Democrat, but does not seek or desire public office, preferring to give his attention to his agricultural pursuits. He built the present home during his aunt's life time. He has two sets of buildings upon the farm, and has a very valuable and highly improved property. He has made two trips to Oregon since his return from the west, one in 1881 and the other in 1890, spending the summer on the Pacific slope. His nephew, Ralph Otis Brown, son of Andrew Brown, is operating the farm, and he and our subject and his wife are now the only living representatives of the old Brown family once so numerous in Miami county.

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