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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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This article was contributed by Kay Reitberger

Source: Sheboygan Press - 1907

Mrs. Brown Celebrates 98th Birthday

Is Without Doubt Oldest Inhabitant of County

One Of The First Settlers

Her Memory Is Wonderful, and She Recalls Names and Dates With Accuracy

With only two years more to live before she reaches the century mark, Mrs. Daniel BROWN, 1028 North Sixth street, widow of Deacon BROWN, is today celebrating her ninety-eighth birthday anniversary. Mrs. BROWN is without a doubt the oldest inhabitant of the county. She has resided here since 1846.

Although Mrs. BROWN has reached this advance age, her memory is wonderful and she recalls names and dates with remarkable accuracy. She is now residing with her daughter Mrs. Lucy JONES and her granddaughter Mrs. Frances TALLMADGE.

Born in Charlemont, Franklin county, Mass., August 22, 1809, Mrs. BROWN early acquired the desire to move to the west. She spent her girlhood days in the little city, where Williams college is now located, picking up her education after her fourteenth year from books loaned to her by friends.

On November 7, 1832, she was married to Daniel BROWN and immediately they started for the west, but the breaking out of the Black Hawk war at this time, prevented travel westward and they made their home at Troy, N. Y., and in 1835 took a steamer to Albany. Here they were transferred to a small car drawn by two horses, which took them to a train drawn by locomotive, which was not allowed in the city limits. They were anxious to ride on this little railroad for they were going West and never expected to see another railroad. The cars were not allowed to come into the city for fear of frightening horses. Mr. and Mrs. BROWN took their first train ride going to Schnectady, the only railroad in the United States. They took the Erie Canal to Buffalo.

Here a steamer was secured with much difficulty, owing to the many people who were on their way west. The cabins were occupied and Mrs. BROWN and her husband had to lie on the deck, under the open sky. It was in the month of May and the weather was far from comfortable on the lake. They arrived in Detroit, none the worse for their rough voyage, and immediately set sail for Chicago in a vessel which was crowded with twenty people. But eight days were spent in Chicago. There were but 1000 people living in Chicago then.

Samuel BROWN, brother of Daniel BROWN, was also in Chicago with the young couple, and as he had hired a sailboat to go to Milwaukee, they waited and made the journey with him. Samuel BROWN was to build a store for Mr. JUNEAU of Milwaukee, probably Solomon JUNEAU, founder of that city, on the ground now occupied by the PABST building. He had purchased a sail boat that would hold ten to fifteen men, and they had arrived at Milwaukee in advance of the BROWN party. Mrs. BROWN with her husband left Chicago with Mr. BROWN's brother on Monday night at 10 o'clock and reached Milwaukee at daylight Wednesday morning. The little boat was filled with goods and groceries, and there was nothing but a board seat for Mrs. BROWN near the front of the boat, while the men lay on the deck wrapped in blankets. Mrs. BROWN was the only woman on board the little craft, going up the river at Milwaukee she assisted the sailors by steering the boat while the men kept it off the shore with pike poles. Milwaukee was reached June 10, 1835. Here they lived for 11 years, in a little log cabin, fourteen by eleven feet in size. In this little cabin they lived until material could be procured to build a house. This was necessary to hold their claim. The beds were so high, says Mrs. BROWN, that they had to step on chairs to get into them. They were built in this manner to permit others to sleep under them.

In 1846, Mr. and Mrs. BROWN sailed for Sheboygan. They had difficulty in securing a vessel captain who would land them at Sheboygan, as a great deal depended upon the wind in those days, and no captain wanted to take a chance losing a good breeze by stopping unless it was absolutely necessary. They finally secured passage however and landed at Sheboygan a day later. What is now the harbor was then a small stream, scarcely deep enough to permit the passage of a vessel.

The first thing done after reaching Sheboygan was to build a home. A house was erected by Mr. BROWN near the present site of the courthouse. Pennsylvania avenue was the main street at the time and there weren't more than a dozen families residing there. Mrs. BROWN clearly remembers Warren SMITH, FAIRWEATHER, JENKINS, Dr. BRAINARD, George and Joseph FARNSWORTH and a Mr. HARVEY and family who resided where the Nathan COLE residence now stands. There was also an Episcopal minister here at the time by the name of DAVIS, and a few years later a Catholic church was built where Mrs. CALLAHAN's home now is at Virginia and Ninth street, but this was blown down in a hurricane and was never rebuilt there, but where the present church now stands.

Mrs. ANNABEL was the village grocer and erected the first store in Sheboygan, near Eighth street. A hotel called the Sheboygan house, owned by Mr. HARRIMAN, stood where the post office is now located.

Mrs. BROWN does not remember seeing many Indians about Sheboygan, as the majority of the red men passed through here on their way from Green Bay to Milwaukee.

Gold pieces of various denominations were the principal money used, although some paper was in circulation, but the villagers called this "shinplaster" and often refused to take it.

"I remember," said Mrs. BROWN, "when CLINTON built the Erie Canal the people all said he would ruin New York by building that big ditch. My early days in the east were before matches had been invented and we had to keep the fire going continuously. Of course it very often went out, in which case we would either have to strike a spark with flint stones, or go to to a neighbor, which wasn't very close sometimes, or get live coals.

Mrs. BROWN's grandfather served in the revolutionary war, and she is still able to recall stories of the revolution handed down to her by her father.

No Date

Speaks Well Of Mrs. Brown

Extracts From the Attorney Dennison's Column in the Sheboygan County News

The death of Mrs. Daniel BROWN at the advanced age of 98 years, 8 months and 17 days, marks an epoch in Sheboygan's history. Of those sturdy pioneers who settled on our shores Mrs. BROWN was among the first. Every phase of our beautiful city's growth and development from primeval forest to metropolitan stability has passed under her watchful appreciative eye. While she failed in her soul's ambition to round out the century, her long life and exhaustless fund of reminiscences made her an entertaining and instructive conversationalist almost to her last hour. Twenty years ago there was an occasional gathering of pioneers. Today such a gathering would be a sad affair. Their ranks are broken almost to extinction and the horde of absent faces would leave nothing but a slender and feeble representation of what was once a powerful body of men and women.

(There is a picture labeled "The Original Four." Milwaukee No Year Listed. In this picture is Horace Chase Dec. 1834; Mrs. Samuel BROWN May 1, 1835; Charles Milwaukee SIVYER May 14, 1836; and Mrs. R. W. PIERCE May 10, 1835)

Evening Wisconsin January 14, No Year

A Milwaukee Pioneer Of 1835

Mrs. Cordelia Brown, Hale and Hearty at Ninety Years

From the Evening Wisconsin of Jan. 14th - If a traveler, from an older and less progressive country, unacquainted with the history of this newer land, were to visit Milwaukee, learn its extent, see its parks, massive buildings, beautiful residences, and luxuries; and some friends should tell him that all had been accomplished within the life of one of its earliest settlers, he would probably be speechless. Having recovered the use of his tongue, would answer:

"You must be drawing upon your imagination and telling me a story, which would do credit to MUNCHAUSEN."

Nevertheless, his friend would be telling the truth. Two or three of the pioneers of the memorable year of 1835 are still living - the oldest of whom is the subject of my present sketch.

Mrs. Cordelia BROWN, widow of the late Deacon Daniel BROWN, was born on the 22nd day of August, A. D. 1809, in the village of Charlemont, Franklin county, Mass. She was married at her home on the 7th day of November, 1832. Thus, it may be seen, she has passed the eighty-ninth anniversary of her birthday and the sixty-sixth of her marriage. Her first entrance to "Ousconsin" territory, as it was then called, was on the 10th day of June, 1835, at the age of 26 years, since which Milwaukee has grown from an Indian village; and at best a simple fur-trading post, without white women, to its present magnificent proportions, and with a population of, probably, 300,000 people.

Perhaps we can give no clearer evidence of her descent from the old Puritan fathers, than to state that at her wedding feast she was determined to ignore the then universal custom of using wine and intoxicating drinks. One of her brothers was sheriff of the county, and learning of Miss Cordelia's determination, left in disgust, fearing his office would be compromised. All through her life she has strictly adhered to her temperance principles as well as Sabbatarian observance, under all circumstances, and also to the religion of her family - Congregationalism.

In referring to New England customs in those early days, she gives vivid pictures of social customs, of hardships and even superstition in the life of the Puritans. To show their early desire for evangelizing the heathen she states that on the morning of her own wedding a farewell meeting of quite 200 persons was held in their village church, to bid farewell to one Jonas BROWN, a Baptist minister who had married the youngest daughter of Capt. BALLARD, and were leaving the country to pursue mission work in China.

The meeting had detained her own wedding, because her father invited them all in; thus her desire for a private wedding failed, after all her planning.

Daniel BROWN was a builder by trade, and returning to his home - Adams, Mass, - they remained but a short time, moving thence to Troy, N. Y., where he followed his calling for two years.

His brother, Samuel BROWN, also a builder, had taken his family to St. Joe - then a rival to Chicago - but moved thence to the latter place. He invited Daniel to follow him and on the first day of May, 1855, they left Troy, and after a month's severe trials mostly by water, they arrived in Chicago, and found a muddy lake front, with a stretch of desolate prairie in the rear. A few hundreds of people occupied some very poor houses along the muddy river, where mosquitos and lake flies were almost equal to an Egyptian plague. But every house was so crowded that people had to sleep in the most wretched places. Carpenters were in such demand that her husband was urged to settle there; but they would not accept a gift of 100 acres to remain, and be subjected to such pests, and the prevalent fever and ague.

Solomon JUNEAU, the French Canadian Indian trader, who had been settled on the banks of the Milwaukee river since 1818, and had married a squaw, or half-breed, had made an application for a large tract of land - then came into the market in "Ousconsin" - invited Samuel to go there and he would give him a choice of forty acres. He had accepted the invitation, and in May, with his family, a span of horses attached to a Hosiere (sic) covered wagon and some of his men, went by land and from Racine had to cut their way through the woods to the JUNEAU settlement on the banks of the Milwaukee river. He erected a shanty a mile farther up the river, and moved his family thereto. When his brother Daniel arrived in Chicago he (Samuel) chartered a small boat of twenty tons, and loading it full of their goods, and such merchandise as he needed, they left the Chicago river on Monday evening, and at daylight Wednesday morning arrived at the mouth of the Milwaukee river. It was then so crooked that the sails were empty half the way up; when the men had to pull her by ropes, and Mrs. BROWN guide the helm.

It was about two miles to JUNEAU's quarters, and a mile farther to where their own home was to be - at a point where KERN's mill was afterwards built Here a shanty 11 x 14 had been erected for Mrs. BROWN, and after erecting a loghouse for himself it was given up for Daniel and his wife.

Paul BURDICK had moved his family thereto a short time after Samuel BROWN. Thus the subject of our sketch was the fourth white woman who baked a loaf of bread in the settlement, and of course, it was done in an iron bake-kettle, covered with hot coals, this being the only method then. The land office was located at Green Bay, and having purchased the Indian title, the government offered, at the sale in 1835, all such lands in Wisconsin. By an agreement Solomon JUNEAU bid on all the land on the east side of the Milwaukee river, Byron KILBOURN all on the west side, north of the Menominee river, and George H. WALKER the land south of the Menominee (what is now known as the south side.) The three men mentioned were all energetic, well-informed men, and much of the sudden prominence given to the city was due to them.

Mr. JUNEAU had great influence with the aborigines, partly through his wife, who, being one of them, favored and fed them very generously. She usually dressed in cloth trousers and skirts, but was often seen wearing a blanket, and seldom cared for white society. Mr. JUNEAU had a little trading store in a loghouse, but he brought Samuel BROWN from Chicago to erect a large frame building for that purpose, where the PABST thirteen-story building now stands. Mrs. BROWN's husband joined in the erection of this building, and so soon as the floor could be swept clean, they held a public religious service therein on the Sabbath day, and every building erected by the firm thereafter was used for the same purpose in the same way. Thus, their New England habits were established, and became a feature in the settlement. Both the BROWN brothers set up an alter on their own hearthstone, and all the men in their employ were invited to be present at family worship. If there was not room in the house they listened respectfully from the outside. During that summer a frame building was erected on the east side, which was called the Cottage inn, and here Sunday worship was established. As the land was somewhat broken and treacherous, the settlers nearly all went there in boats; and in winter the men drew the women on handsleds. A young man, a Methodist named WORTHINGTON, kept the first school there and assisted the BROWNs in the Sunday services. On one occasion a stranger attended and at Mr. BROWN's request addressed the meeting acceptably, and subsequently informed them that he was an Episcopalian minister on his way to Green Bay, his name begin KEMPER (who afterwards became a bishop of eminence.)

At the request of the meeting - hungering for the Word of Life - he consented to preach to them after he had dined. Everybody remained during his absence, without food. He returned, bringing his prayer book, and held a delightful service, preaching a good practical sermon. They had a number of WATTS' hymn books, brought from New England, and they sang the gospel a great part of the time. The BROWNs were officials and active church workers in the first Congregational church, and enjoyed the distinction of holding the first cottage prayer meeting in the settlement. Samuel BROWN erected a loghouse for himself, and on moving thereto, invited his neighbors and workmen to visit him on the first Sunday, and while they were present he held a religious service, and offered the first prayer in public. There were others from New England, besides the BROWNs, who were Congregationalists, and they should have organized the first church, but Presbyterians came in rapidly soon after, and they joined then in the organization of the first Presbyterian church, but shortly after withdrew and organized the Plymouth Congregational church, of which Samuel and Daniel BROWN were charter members and deacons, and their wives were [also] members.

"During the summer of 1835," says Mrs. BROWN, "a very large number of settlers came to Milwaukee, and many had to live in tents or in shanties built in a day, made of inch boards. It was in such a one the first white child was born - now known as Mrs. Milwaukee SMITH HOCKELBURG. It occurred on a Sunday in October, when we and our friends were over the river to church service, in the Cottage inn; and on our return the news had spread, and all the women in the settlement visited the shanty to congratulate Mrs. SMITH and offer our services and any delicacies we had. Dr. CHASE had become a resident during the summer, and seemed glad for an opportunity to advertise his presence. In the following May Charles Milwaukee SIVYER was added to the little community."

Mrs. Samuel BROWN had several children (one of whom subsequently held the position of mayor of the city,) but Mrs. Daniel BROWN had none. The first architect and a friend of theirs, Mr. GUILD - one of the early settlers - was left with a family of five, the youngest being a helpless infant. Mrs. BROWN prevailed on their friend to give the baby to her, which he did, and they have been a mutual blessing to each other to this day; seldom separated but a few days at a time. The adopted daughter in due time, married a Mr. JONES; but both are now widows, and are living with a married daughter of Mrs. JONES in the beautiful city of Sheboygan. Mrs. BROWN has her own rooms where she reads and writes a good deal.

She takes long walks on fine days, visits her friends, sees and hears distinctly, and can converse on the current topics of the day; but it is in old time history she manifests such a marvelous faculty of portraying events - from the War of 1812 down.

At the beginning of the winter of 1835 it was computed that there were 500 people in the settlement, but the speculators left, as food was scarce and high-priced. In the following summer the influx of immigrants was immense and a land boom followed. Lots sold at fabulous prices and a cheap class of frame buildings were rushed up and rented at unheard of charges. Every third person was a land agent, and lots sold on margins, and, as is always the case, when there was no agriculture or manufacturing resources to back it, a collapse came and many lost their all.

To add to the collapse in property values, food was so high that many settlers suffered form hunger. Flour was cornered and could not be bought for less than $20 per barrel and pork $30. To relieve the situation, a lake captain was induced to proceed to Cleveland in the stormy month of November for a cargo of food products, and having succeeded in his trip, prices were reduced half and the cornerer was cornered.

Mr. JUNEAU, in his endeavor to make Milwaukee a great lake port, subscribed $10,000 towards a steamboat named for the city; but it was unsuccessful and this, with other matters of a similar character, was the beginning of the financial failure of that over-generous man. Enormous stocks of goods had been brought in and placed in shells of buildings erected in a day or two, but the sudden collapse of everything, and the stoppage of outside funds, rendered then unsalable.

Daniel BROWN, like others, feeling that there must be an agricultural country at the back of it to make a city, selected a beautiful lot of 160 acres on the Fond du Lac road, made a payment on it and erected buildings for his little family. Having borrowed money to pay his workmen, when he failed to collect what was due himself, was pressed for payment at a time when he could not meet it, and lost what afterwards became a valuable farm and subsequently a part of the city. So many had taken advantage of the bankrupt act, but Mr. BROWN preferred losing his financial prospects to Christian character; and returning [????] began anew in his occupation, and times beginning to mend, succeeded. The Plymouth (Congregational) church was erected, and as before stated the BROWNS were leaders in the movement and permanent officials therein. Very many of the early buildings of Milwaukee were erected by the BROWN brothers, but in the spring of 1846 Daniel took a contract for the erection of a building in the village of Sheboygan, then beginning to attract immigrants, and finding a favorable opening concluded to settle there. He returned for his wife and adopted daughter, and thus the pleasing church and social relations of Milwaukee were broken, but Mrs. BROWN has always retained a deep interest in its magnificent growth and history, by frequent visits and through its newspapers. She prizes very highly the beautiful medal awarded to her as one of the very earliest pioneers of the JUNEAU settlement.

R. W. Sawtell

The HERALD supplement contains two pictures of two of Sheboygan's old pioneers in the persons of Mr. and Mrs. (Deacon) Daniel BROWN. Mr. BROWN was born in Hampshire Co., Mass., May 31st, 1809, and died in this city March 23rd, 1892, aged nearly 83 years. Mrs. BROWN still lives in this city, and should she live until Aug. 22nd next, she will be 90 years old. She was born in Charlesmont, Mass. in 1809.

Mr. and Mrs. BROWN came to Milwaukee in the year 1835 and moved to this city in 1846. Considerable has appeared in these columns at different times concerning these early settlers, and the following was clipped from the Sentinel of Thursday which gives some idea of their early residence in Milwaukee. This was read at the Old Settlers' Club held there on Wednesday and was written by Mrs. BROWN.

"Your paper, as well as the other Milwaukee newspapers, persist in saying that Mr. U. B. SMITH is the only earliest settler now living. You are mistaken. My husband, Mr. Daniel BROWN, arrived in Milwaukee, June 10th, 1835; Mr. SMITH came July 17th, 1835. I knew the family well. Mrs. Samuel BROWN made the first coat that Narcisse JUNEAU ever wore. She had worked at tailoring in the East, and Mrs. JUNEAU begged her to make her son some kind of a coat, so that Mrs. JUNEAU could take the boy to school in the East. Mrs. BROWN fitted the garment over a brother who was living with her - a lad about the size of Narcisse. I took the coat to Mrs. JUNEAU. She called in her son to see how it would fit him. He twisted and jerked himself around - it was a closer fit than the blanket he had worn - But Mrs. JUNEAU straightened him up. She could do it easily. Mrs. JUNEAU was a large and well proportioned woman, he a boy of 16 or 17.

Narcisse then went East with his father and some four years later, returned greatly improved in appearance. I often saw him walking with the young ladies, dressed in a neatly-fitted, tailor-made suit, silk hat, fine boots, and with all the carriage and ease of a gentleman. I used to wonder whether the clothes or the education had worked this remarkable change, as he had only associated with Indians before.

Samuel BROWN and his brother lived on the bluff above the slope on which the old LaCrosse railroad shops were built some years later. Before January, 1836, Daniel BROWN built a frame house just north of Chestnut street, where I. A. LAPHAM lived many years after.

The fall of 1835 was warm and delightful until Thanksgiving, when the weather became very cold and continued so until the middle of January, 1836. Then it grew so mild that Daniel BROWN, my husband, put the siding on the Bellevue hotel in his shirt sleeves. On the first day of February cold weather again set in. There was not enough snow to cover the grass, and the river was so clear that I could see the fish darting around under it. The following winter - 1837 - was a very mild one, with from twelve to fourteen inches of snow all through the season.

In the early spring of 1846 we moved to Sheboygan to renew the same pioneer work of building churches and helping form society. Mr. BROWN died in 1892. I am now in my 90th year, and in fair health for one my age. I often think of those early days and of the people I became acquainted with while we lived in Milwaukee."

Mr. and Mrs. BROWN conducted the Temperance House in this city for seven years, it being located on Center ave. near the court house and will be remembered by many of the old pioneers of the county. Some time after the house was sold they opened a similar house on Penn. ave. near 5th street, which they conducted for two years. Mr. and Mrs. BROWN then moved to Waupun where Mr. BROWN filled a position at the prison under the management of Mr. McGRAW, a Plymouth resident. Later they again moved to this city where Mr. BROWN followed the occupation of a carpenter. He built the first Congregational Ch. of this city in '47 and it was located in the rear where now stands the MALLMANN building at the corner of Center ave. and 7th street and it was afterwards moved to the present location of the new Congregational Church. The church now stands at the rear of the WOLF foundry, (formerly JENKINS'). Mr. BROWN was the first deacon in the church and at the time of his death was on the retired list of deacons. Mr. and Mrs. BROWN did much for the upbuilding of the church and were workers in all good causes in this then comparatively new country. They were among the fifteen original members of the Congregational Church at the time of their coming here. Mrs. BROWN resides with her adopted daughter, Mrs. L. H. JONES, at the corner of 6th street and Erie ave, and is a very interesting old lady. One would hardly judge her to be nearly ninety years old, and she makes you feel welcome to her house in a most cheery manner. Her memory is extremely good, and she is always glad to meet with those who used to know her in the early days, when your neighbor was as good as yourself, and pride did not interfere with your having a good chat with those with whom you came in contact. Those were days when there was real enjoyment in doing your neighbor a kindness and while everybody stood on equal financial basis they were more ready to neighbor with each other and dwell in brotherly love, one with another. Of those good old days, many of the old settlers will tell you that the happiest part of their lives were spent while making their home in the wilderness right in the good old state of Wisconsin, and particularly in Sheboygan County.

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