Browns Were Pioneers Of Waldens Ridge, Red Bank Sections

Thursday, April 26, 2018 - by John Wilson

John Brown Sr. was "one of the original 765 white settlers of Hamilton County,'' acquiring large tracts on Walden's Ridge and building his homeplace near Soddy. Another pioneer was James Berry Brown, who occupied a beautiful hilly section north of the present Red Bank. Two of Berry Brown's descendants - G. Russell Brown and J.B. Brown - were educational standouts. George Willis Brown was an early settler of Walden's Ridge, and his son, Jesse Monroe Brown, was a prominent fruit grower, teacher and squire.

A family researcher said John and Berry Brown were sons of Jacob Brown, an early settler of Rhea County who came from Virginia. John Brown Sr. was born about 1785 in Virginia. His wife, Elizabeth Trewhitt, was born in North Carolina about 1793, the daughter of James Madison Trewhitt and Elizabeth Mumford. Elizabeth Mumford Trewhitt was the daughter of Jesse Mumford. Her brothers were Jesse and Levi and a sister, Sarah, married Andrew McJunkins.  John Brown and Elizabeth Trewhitt were married at Rhea County in 1809.

John Brown Sr. and Major R.C. McRee in 1834 staked a claim on 2,000 acres of mostly mountain land. Brown had made several other acquisitions, including 235 acres in 1830 on "both sides of Soddy Creek opposite Brown's spring branch.'' The price was $270. John Brown Sr. died about 1845, but Elizabeth Brown lived until the first year of the Civil War. She was buried at the McRee Cemetery near Soddy.

Their children included a son, William Riley Brown, Elizabeth who married a Carr, John Brown Jr., who married Mariah Varner. William Riley Brown, who was born Dec. 27, 1915, married Rachel  about 1853. She was said to be a Trewhitt and in 1850 was living with Charles and Elizabeth Coleman near Soddy. Rachel had three young children, Minerva, Franklin and William, who bore the Coleman name, prior to her marriage to W.R. Brown. William Riley Brown served as a justice of the peace 1864-1869. He presided over a number of marriages. In 1870, William Riley Brown moved to Madison County, Ark., where he purchased 90 acres of bottomland on Kings River near Marble. He was killed by a bull Sept. 2, 1879, and buried at Lower Campground Church. Rachel died Jan. 25, 1893. Children of William Riley Brown and Rachel were John R., Elizabeth E., James Trewhitt, Henry August, Lewis Madison and Margaret Ella.

John Brown Jr. was born in 1813 and died the last year of the Civil War. His children included John, Jane, James B., William R., Thomas who died at a young age, and Mary Ann who married Rees B. Wilcoxen. Another son, Jesse Mumford Brown, was born in 1846. Jesse Mumford, a North Carolina native, lived his latter years here with the Browns. His occupation at age 70 was
"wolf trapper.'' He was an uncle of Elizabeth Trewhitt Brown. Jesse Mumford Brown died in 1907.

The Browns were of Unionist sentiment, and Jesse M. Brown went to Kentucky to join a Federal cavalry unit. This was 1863 when he was about 17. He became ill during the war and was
nursed by a Kentucky family who "could not have treated a son or a brother any kinder.''

In 1873 Jesse M. Brown married Sarah A. Yother, daughter of G.W. and Elizabeth Abercrombie Yother, near Union Fork. The family moved to Walden's Ridge, which Brown said was not a good farming country but "for a healthy place this mountain ridge cannot be surpassed. The air is cool and invigorating and chalybeate springs are numerous. Here the invalid can recuperate his lost strength and the healthy man can grow stronger.'' Jesse M. Brown died in 1907 and Sarah Yother Brown lived until 1927.

Their children were Mary Charlotte who married John Thomas Lewis, Satira Elizabeth who married John Monroe Lewis, Mariah Adelaide who died when she was 23, William Garfield who died in 1916 after becoming ill while in the military, Samuel Lafayette who married Lily Sims, John Washington who married Martha Skiles, Daniel David who died when he was 18 and George M. who died when he was two.

Ed Brown of Dunlap, a grandson of Samuel Lafayette Brown, has written a book on the
Jesse M. Brown family. His father, Ray Brown, resided at Dayton.

Berry Brown in 1830 acquired 100 acres at Mountain Creek for $300 from Robert Lauderdale, who had moved to Arkansas Territory. He made other land purchases nearby, including 131 acres bought from John Hartman in 1844 for $169.50. He once owned the Morrison's Spring property, but he sold this to John Foust. Berry Brown, who was born in 1797, lived until 1855. His wife, Christina Cummings Brown, lived from 1807 until 1872.

Their children included Absalom who married Clarissy Adams, John, Eizabeth who married Marion Brock, Isabella who married John L. Moss, William Riley who married Isabel Rogers, James B., Russell M. who married Cynthia Ann Moore, Rhoda Ann who was unmarried, Return Meigs and Milo Smith who married Elizabeth Pile of Sullivan County. Isabella Brown Moss had an only child, Christina Moss. Isabella died in April 1864.

John Brown married Margaret Hixson and their children included Ephraim, Allison who married Laura Daniel, and John Daley. John Daley Brown, who was born during the Civil War in 1864, married Idella Lusk in 1884. Their children included Leslie, Frank, J. Willias and Douglas. John Daley Brown ran a dairy along with his son, Douglas. John Brown died in 1882. Robert D. Brown, the only grandchild of John Daley Brown, lived at Oak Harbor, Wash.

James B. Brown married Rhoda Jane Sutton in 1859, and they resided in a log house down the road from his parents' log home. James B. Brown died in 1920. There was a small community chapel here and the section on Browntown Road became known as Brown's Chapel. Brown's Cemetery is near the church site.

James B. Brown acquired a large holding, which he distributed to his children. These included Melvin who married Molly Connor, Alonzo who married Mary Mabry, Fletcher, Cornelia who married Lawrence Heard, Mary who married John Gadd, Laura who married G. Russell Brown, and Jessie who married Ed Mabry. Edward Brown, son of Melvin Brown, lived at Red Bank. Zona Mabry, daughter-in-law of Ed and Jessie Brown Mabry, lived on a hill near the old Brown homeplace.

Return Meigs Brown was with the Union Army's Sixth Mounted Infantry that was formed at Chattanooga. The 6'4'' soldier rose to the rank of sergeant. William Riley Brown was also in this
unit.

Return M. Brown was on the Quarterly Court for many years and was a school director. He married Nancy Ann Varner. Their first child, George Russell Brown, was born May 26, 1867. John Berry Brown was born in 1873. They both studied at the "one-teacher school on their father's farm.'' Other sons included Albert H. and Silas James who married Carrie Barker. G. Russell Brown went into teaching when he was just 17, and in 1884 he was sent to oversee the one-room Sawyer School. For 29 years (1912-1939) he was principal of the school on Manning Street in North Chattanooga and it later was given his name. He came out of retirement to head the Falling Water School for two years. He believed that "to spare the rod was to spoil the child," and "he gained a wide reputation as a principal of force and leadership." G. Russell Brown had gone to Quarterly Court meetings as a boy with his father, and he won election as a squire.  He represented the people of the Third Civil District for 28 years. He became a close friend of Judge Wilkes Thrasher, though he was a Republican and Judge Thrasher a Democrat. He took part in many community singings and was president of the Hamilton County Singing Convention. He was a longtime member of the Red Bank Cumberland Church. G. Russell Brown married Laura A. Brown. A son, Cyrus Brown, married Laura Hogue. A daughter, Hazel Brown Phifer, lived in the Brown schoolhouse at one time.

J.B. Brown began teaching in 1892 at Red Bank at a salary of $10 a month. After being chosen county school superintendent in 1902, he installed home economics and shop in the schools.
He became state education superintendentin 1921 and was a trustee for the University of Tennessee. When the high schools at Soddy and Daisy were united, he was sent to head the new
school. J.B. Brown married Jessie Lee Martin, daughter of J.C. Martin of Red Bank. A son, Robert Brown, lived in Hixson. Other children included John B. and Sarah Elizabeth. Both Brown brothers had terms on the Quarterly Court. Rhoda Brown, sister of G. Russell and J.B. Brown, married John H. Price.

The Berry Brown cabin was where the Ledford home later stood at 5403 Browntown Road. It burned and the James B. Brown log home was taken down to make way for a new house by the
Ed Mabrys.

JESSE MONROE BROWN was a schoolteacher and justice of the peace, who knew which apples thrived the best at the top of Walden's Ridge. His family bought land at Fairmount when it could be acquired for as little as 20 cents an acre.

This Brown family traces back to William Brown, a native of England who married Mary Steward, who was of Scotch-Irish background. Their children were Annie who married George Renegar, Bennie who married a Dickson, Mary who married Hampton Simms, William who married Jamie Ashley, Archiles who married Clara Pruett, Elijah who married Nancy McAfee and Elisha who married Jane Adams. Another son, Samuel, married Patience Deavers, who was from Holland.

The children of Samuel Brown included William who married Caroline Warden, Samuel who married Frankie Ashley, James Stewart who married Sallie Aurix, Elijah who married Elizabeth Smith, David who married Elizabeth Hudson and then Emily Prince, Martin Van Buren who married Martha Beasley, Hilary who married Martha Jolly, and Franklin who married Betty Warden and then Tabitha Dyer. A daughter, Emmeriah, did not marry after her sweetheart was killed in the Civil War. Another daughter, Polly Ann, died in her teens.

Another son of Samuel Brown was George Willis Brown, who brought his family to Fairmount in the spring of 1870 in hopes of improving his health. His wife was Kiziah Ann George. The family came in wagons, and 17-year-old Jesse M. Brown was in charge of the hunting dogs. When several foxes went across the trail, the hounds gave chase and there was a delay of several hours before they were rounded up. Jesse Brown had been born in 1853 when the family was in Lincoln County, Tn. Walden's Ridge was then a hunter's paradise - with abundant bear, deer, foxes, wild boars, wildcats and turkeys. The Browns killed 105 foxes their first year on the mountain, and they sometimes shot five deer in a day.

In December of 1870, the Browns donated some of their property for the Fairmount Methodist Episcopal Church. George Willis Brown used a wagon and team of oxen to haul logs to the site of the one-room structure. By the time of the opening service, a small carpenter bill was still unpaid. Two carpenters showed up in the church door at the opening service and threatened to nail the door shut unless they were paid. Kiziah Brown promised the debt would be paid "if I have to sell my best milk cow.''

The other Brown children were Patience who married Monroe Lusk, George W. who married
Fannie Conner, Margaret Ann who married Thomas Lusk, and Gorda who married Henry Estill. Another son was Green A. who married Araminta Conner. He was a carpenter who died at a young age when he fell off a house.

Jesse M. Brown in 1876 began teaching at the Fairmount Academy, which drew boarding students from as far away as Sale Creek and Tyner. He taught there until 1887 and also had stints at other schools, including the Mackie School in East Brainerd. He was elected as a member of the County Court, serving from 1890 to 1908. As a justice of the peace, he officiated at many of the mountain weddings. "Squire'' Brown had a large collection of books, and he was frequently called upon as a public speaker. When the residents of Fairmount held a July 4 barbecue, fireworks and dance in 1924, Jesse Brown "gave an historical sketch of the area since the Civil War.'' Jesse M. Brown got into fruit-raising in 1880, and he later took William McGuffey as a partner. He was a relative of the author of the McGuffey Reader. It was said that Brown over 44 years "has shipped hundreds of thousands of trees and plants to every county in the state, and if many old bearing fruit trees from Ohio to Texas had a memory and could speak, they would tell of their interesting childhood days spent in his small nursery on Walden's Ridge.'' Asked the best varieties for the mountain soil, he
named Jonathan, Winesap, Grimes Golden, Roxbury Russet, Delicious, Northern Spy, Buckingham and York Imperial. He felt no mountain farm was complete without the Limbertwig apple.

Jesse Brown was first married to Caroline Elizabeth Smith, and their children were Daisy, Ora, Paul and Silas. Caroline Elizabeth died when the youngest was about four months old. Jesse Brown took Sarah Ann Taylor, daughter of James and Mary Jane Boyd Taylor, as his second wife in 1894. Their children were James Taylor, Lyda, Hilary, Mark, Mary Ruth and Sarah Kathleen.

Daisy married Clint Elkins. Ora married Joseph M. Howard, bookkeeper for the Chattanooga Times. Paul married Alma Haskell. Silas married Nora Blackwell. Taylor married Edna McDonald. Hilary married Anita Riseman. Mary Ruth married John L. Wilhoit, and Sarah Kathleen married James H. Willhoit. They were cousins, but spelled their names differently. Lyda was unmarried, and Mark died in his twenties. Paul, Taylor and Hilary served on the police force. Taylor Brown was working as a guard at the Silverdale workhouse when he was killed in an auto wreck three miles north of Harrison in 1933. His car skidded and overturned several times. Taylor Brown had been one of the first soldiers from Hamilton County to go across the ocean to fight in World War I, and he served throughout the war. He spent 11 months in Belgium and aided in breaking the Hindenburg line.

Sarah Ann Taylor Brown died in 1921 after she swallowed a small brass safety pin that had
fallen into a dish of greens. The pin pierced her throat and stomach, and she died after an operation. Squire Jesse M. Brown breathed his last in October of 1924 - just three months after his
Fourth of July oration. He was "a pioneer citizen with a genial disposition and made scores of
friends.'' Jesse and Sarah Ann Brown were buried at Concord Cemetery.

The frame Jesse Brown home was taken down and replaced with a marble-stone home by the
Joseph M. Howards. It was across from where the Fairmount Hotel once stood. Fairmount
School operated until 1911 when it was consolidated with Oakwood School. The school building burned in 1946. Fairmount Methodist Church is today's Signal Mountain United Methodist Church. The original log cabin sanctuary later served as a summer home.

Sue Willhoit Monroe researched the family history. Her mother, Sarah Kathleen Brown Willhoit, lived on Elinor Street in North Chattanooga.

 


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