Tale of a Tenacious Brown Family Historian
Retirement has been generous to me, affording me the opportunity to sort through 50+ years of family history research enabling me to, hopefully, publish.
It has also given me the opportunity to work closely with relatives far and wide, scattered all over the United States. One in particular, Karen, the wife of my third cousin, David Brown, lives in Wallingford, Connecticut. Karen is as addicted to family history as I am, and we have been e-mailing on a daily basis for several months trying to solve the many hurdles we’ve encountered.
We fondly refer to each other as “Agatha” and “Sherlock”!
The most recent brick wall we have been working on is to locate the homestead and grave of my 2nd Great Granduncle Nathaniel Brown (1780-1831). Nathaniel is an older brother by 31 years of Parley Brown, my 2nd Great Grandfather.
Parley lived in Summit, New York and we figured Nathaniel lived in a nearby village, Jefferson, from the 1820 Jefferson Federal Census of a “Nathaniel Brown” whose age would have fit but it was not proof positive.
Through handwriting analysis we also connected Nathaniel to the area by comparison of his signature in a sworn affidavit in the 1816 estate record of his father, Perley Brown, with his signature in the 1845 estate records of his brother, Parley Brown’s, father-in-law, Enoch White.
Thanks to the Schoharie County Historical Society’s 2009 edition of Schoharie County Cemeteries, we discovered there was a Nathaniel Brown buried in the Town of Jefferson, but it did not give any details as to his dates of his birth or death.
Mr. Albert Peraglia, a previous owner of the property upon which the Nathaniel Brown grave was located, related in March of 2005 that the lore surrounding the location of Nathaniel’s grave was that Nathaniel had always stated he wanted to be buried there so he could “look down upon his farm.”
On Saturday, April 24, “Agatha” and her husband David drove to the Town of Jefferson for the specific purpose of attempting to locate this grave for Nathaniel Brown. Time permitting, they planned to visit the small White cemetery plot, as well.
Whilst they were in their detective mode, I was at home in San Diego doing further ancestry.com research on our Brown line, which I e-mailed to “Agatha” as I located documentation of interest.
[Nathaniel Brown (28 Apr 1780 - 7 Nov 1831)]
What follows is the e-mail I received from “Agatha” upon her return to Connecticut.
Good job Holmes, good job!!
I did good, too.
Let me start at the beginning. We left at 6:15 in the morning and drove three hours to Ruth’s home in Cobleskill. [Ruth (Brown Guernsey) is Karen’s husband, David’s, paternal first cousin.] Then went to Bramanville Cemetery where her husband was buried recently.
Next, to Cobleskill Cemetery for her parents, then past Richmondville Cemetery where Enoch Brown is buried; past the Old Summit Cemetery where Parlia is buried. She loved the views.
I had printed out a chart for her of the Brown ancestors and she could follow along nicely. My husband had a great time, too.
We met Ingrid Zeman (Town Historian for the Town of Jefferson) at the Jefferson Town Hall. She has lots of files to put in order and more boxes in the basement of that building. She had at least two boxes of old pictures with no names. I looked quickly, but just didn’t have time, with Ruth and my husband waiting.
Next we drove to the Peraglia Farm. Donald Palmer wasn’t back yet. He was supposed to show us the grave up the mountain. Well, Ingrid talked to his son but he hasn’t seen the grave in 30 years and she thinks she can find it, but she has never seen it.
He gives her directions, you know how farmers talk, “follow the stone wall, over the creek, until you see a field (all woods) over on the right a bit, in a grove of trees!”
She said it was 1/4 mile and I know you said 1/2 mile. Well, I wasn’t there when all this conversation was going on as I was giving Ruth water, the big Brown binder to read, with pictures, and snacks for her long wait in the truck, which turned out to be two hours.
So Ingrid, my husband and I start up the mountain on the Palmer’s side and half way up over tons of little streams, woodchuck holes and high and low areas of land. I stepped on a snake!
We get separated and I get spotted by a big group of deer. Thank goodness they ran away from me! If I saw a bear, I honestly could not have run as the terrain was so bad, steep, wet, and slippery with lots of shale and rocks, pricker bushes bigger than me. Sometimes I got stuck and needed my husband to get me out.
We all got cuts, tons of black flies (I hate those more than spiders) and gnats! I am not a city girl. I love country, but I guess not climbing a mountain.
So when Ingrid told me that Don was supposed to take us and she was doing this for the Historical Society I almost killed her. I said I never go to cemeteries unless the sexton can meet me as it is a waste of my time to ‘walk’ all over the place and drive back to Connecticut the same day and not find what I drove out for. I plan ahead.
I said I would have waited until Don showed up as he knew we were waiting for him. Then she agrees with me!
Anyway, my husband was nowhere in sight. Ingrid and I started back down the mountain and spotted Don in a blue shirt. Thank goodness all the leaves were not out on the trees yet. Apparently when he got home he asked how long we were gone and came looking for us. What a nice man.
I gave him a BIG hug for finding me and then we yelled for my husband and guided him to us. Then the four of us started back up the mountain on the left side of the stone wall and walked for 200 yards (felt like 200 years) and he showed us the groves of trees and the one gravestone standing up in the center.
We would never, ever have found that by ourselves, even with better directions. It is so overgrown. I believe the two huge trees are the only original ones there when Nathaniel was buried. I think the fields must have been worked on or grazed until 20-30 years ago. Lots of young trees.
There was a circle of slate all around the grave and the grave was held up by flat rocks that, Don says, is a turkey stand.
There were many tree stands in the woods along with shotgun shells. I was hoping to meet a hunter to get me out of there. At one point I said, “I am going to charge Sherlock a million dollars for this picture!
We all tried to dig to see if any other graves were there, but nothing but more slate of small pieces and holes and leaves, etc. Nathaniel’s stone is made of something really solid.
On our way back, Don showed us the Brown barn, very old, very big barn boards, slate foundation and someone has replaced some other rafters. He knew where the Brown house foundation was and showed me the stairs going down into the basement and the wooden window sills. The walls were still very straight, but with trees growing up in it.
Lots of old slate walls around the barn and hop area (Don said) and out building foundations. I saw a big area of daffodils blooming and he said they have been blooming before he has owned the property. It was near the Brown yard. So I was rewarded, at least.
I walk every day and never got out of breath. I did good.
Next we drove to Breakabeen and drove by the cemetery to show Ruth where Draper was buried and then to Route 36 to Keyserkill Road to see Draper Brown’s house and barn and the Fred Brown home.
Your sister’s house was closed up, so she must have been out.
Some lawyers from Schenectady have bought Draper’s house and have started to fix it up for a summer home. Nothing was done on the outside except the chimney was repaired and some lawn work. The outside is awful and the owners did not come out as we drove up their driveway.
Next we drove to the White farm and asked the people if we could see the White Cemetery. It was great to have my big strong, husband along, as there were just dogs barking everywhere. He got out of his truck and asked for me.
The woman of the house said lots of people stop by to see it and she doesn’t mind. She said an elderly couple used to come by every year and leave flowers, but they haven’t come by for a couple of years.
Apparently a neighbor brings his cattle through her property around the White Cemetery. We had to climb over a cattle gate that would not open, and the fields were wet. My first step sunk my foot into water up to the top of my sneakers. Again, lots of high and low spots with water everywhere and big holes.
We made it to the deplorable grave site. Someone built a wooden fence around the iron fence. The iron gate was left open for years and so many vines had grown through it, it was impossible to cut them. Pricker bushes got me good this time and I left some of my blood there.
All the stones were on the ground, the pedestals were great and in good condition, but all the stones were buried under these massive vines and dirt. The vines look dead, but when I got mad and broke one, water came out of it. I used that and a brush to clean the few stones leaning up against the fence.
It wouldn’t take too much manpower to fix that cemetery, even if the stones were not put back on their stands. They were too heavy to lift and I left my pry bar in the truck. Some were face down and we had to leave them that way.
On our way back to the car, I fell in a hole and twisted the heck out of my ankle. I won’t be walking with my girlfriend for a while.
Well, we got Ruth back five minutes late for her ride to a ham and fritters dinner in Ames, NY, so we drove her there and she met her friends who drove her back to Cobleskill.
We all had a great dinner at the firehouse. We had not eaten all day. It was all-you-can-eat for $8; ham, scalloped potatoes, beans, yummy coleslaw, fritters (never had them before) with maple syrup from their trees, and wonderful pies, too many choices to describe.
So it was a wonderful day and my husband really enjoyed it, as did Ruth.
Attached are some of the pictures. I will send more, but I have to make dinner.
This is certainly Nathaniel Brown, son of Perley Brown, as it gives his age. That was priceless!I didn’t get to the graves of William and Betsey Brown as Ingrid showed me graves of other Browns on her cemetery map. She had promised to find them for me and she is really nice.
These Milks graves are next to Nathaniel’s farm and on the census you just sent me. The Milks graves are in an open field right next to Albert’s land.
Don said the Vaughns owned the land before the Peraglias.
I met Al but, like Ingrid said, he is not well anymore.
I guess the last Town Historian didn’t file anything and she has people’s genealogies and it is just lying around, so I hope she can fix up her office and get those boxes out of the basement. Who knows what we might find.
I will go out again and look for the deed of Nathaniel’s farm as I have a burning desire to see it now. If he died and his wife had to sell the land, she would be buried somewhere else.
Who knew we would turn into detectives in our old age.
Please be sure to give me credit for my pictures; I would really, really appreciate it,
P.S. to Agatha … The check is in the mail! – Sherlock
© 2010 Copyright, Norman R. Brown