William Wesley Brown
[The first paragraph of this article can be found under Robert Brown. -PMF]
William Wesley Brown, only survivor of his father's large family, was born in Union township, Shelby County, Indiana, December 12, 1827. The chances for schooling in those days were slim, all pioneer boys being compelled to help with the farm work as soon as they were able to handle a hoe, or lift an axe. William, therefore, made a full hand from his fifteenth year, until he completed his twenty-third year of his age. At this time he began to think of doing something for himself, and was soon engaged in farming on his own account. The strokes were steady and continuous, after he once got started and he spent all of his adult life in the exacting duties of cultivating the soil. As the result of his lifetime of toil, and the exercise of economy and good judgment, he finally found himself well fixed, with a good farm, nicely improved and possessing all the modern conveniences. A few years ago, concluding that he had done his share, Mr. Brown retired from active business and left to the younger generation the care of his estate. In 1849 he married Nancy, daughter of Moses Linville, who was born in Shelby county in 1831, and belonged to one of the first and strongest of the county's early families. By this union there were five children: William J., the oldest, was born August 30, 1850, married Missouri Hume, and is a resident of Milroy; Franklin, who was born November 28, 1852, married Isabelle Ash and lives with his father and looks after the farm; he has three children, Scott, Gracie and Clifford. David E., who was born December 16, 1856, married Maria Fisher, and lives in Union township. Thomas L., who was born November 3, 1861, married Letta Briley and died some years ago. Electa C., who was born January 8, 1866, married John Linville, and is a resident of Union township. For many years the Brown family have been members of the Little Blue River Baptist church in Union township, and two of William Wesley's sisters helped to organize it when the surrounding population was scant and the congregation small. Mr. Brown's wife died August 19, 1900, after living with him for fifty-one years.
Chadwick's History of Shelby County, Indiana, by Edward H. Chadwick, B.A., assisted by well
known local talent, B.F. Bowen & Co, Publishers: Indianapolis, IN, 1909, pages 566-567.
Copied by Phyllis Miller Fleming.
THE SHELBY DEMOCRAT
Shelbyville, Ind., December 13, 1909
OLDEST NATIVE-BORN SHELBY COUNTIAN- ALIVE
WILLIAM WESLEY BROWN, WHO WAS BORN AND
HAS ALWAYS LIVED IN UNION TOWNSHIP,
YESTERDAY CELEBRATED HIS EIGHTY-SECOND BIRTHDAY----
IS ONE OF THE COUNTY'S PROMINENT AND RESPECTED RESIDENTS
eighty-two years in the same township and county in which he was born, and always residing within a mile of his
birthplace certainly constitutes a record. Such, however, are the facts in the life of William Wesley Brown, one of Union Township's most prominent and respected citizens, who yesterday quietly
celebrated his eighty-second anniversary in the journey of life.
Mr Brown, from the best information obtainable by the Democrat, is the oldest native-born Shelby Countian alive. Shelby County was indeed in its primitive state, when William Wesley Brown first saw the light of day, December 12, 1827. The county had been carved into a political division less than five years before, by the legislature of Indiana. The land was covered with forests and impenetrable thickets, while the site that is now a thriving city of Shelbyville, was a dismal swamp, and, for a goodly portion of each year, was entirely under water.
William Wesley Brown was born December 12, 1827, in a little log-cabin, at the "Old Bob Brown Ford", on Blue River, in Union township. His parents, Robert and Catherine (Cotton) Brown were natives of South Carolina, but had lived in Ohio previous to moving to Shelby county, in 1824. William Wesley was the youngest of eight children, and the only one still living. On October 30, 1849, his marriage with Nancy Linville, daughter of Moses Linville, one of Shelby county's pioneers, was solemnized and after a happy and ideal married life of nearly fifty-one years, she passed away August 19,1900. To this union five children were born, four of whom survive: William Brown, of Milroy; Franklin P.; and David E. Brown of Union Township; and Mrs John Linville, also of Union township. Mr Brown makes his home with his son, Franklin P. Brown, where everything is done to make the eventide of life comfortable and happy.
When he was married, Mr Brown went to housekeeping on a farm within a mile of his birthplace. He now lives on the farm adjoining the one on which he was born, and these three places are the only places he ever called home.
Despite his advanced age, Mr Brown is now in good health and his mind is as active and acute as a man in the prime of life. Unlike the old, he not only remembers incidents of the pioneer life, but takes a lively interest in the current events of the day. The editor of this paper recently wrote him concerning information regarding his life and the answer is as legible as any communication the office has received. He enjoys young folks and is a prime favorite with the younger circles as well as the older men and women of this neighborhood.
Mr Brown is a most entertaining talker of the days when Shelby county was an infant. He remembers when his father and the older boys would bring in deer meat, when the larder needed replenishing, but by the time he had arrived at the age when his parents permitted him to handle firearms, the deer had vanished, with the advance of civilization. Mr Brown's father was a man of prominence in the early pioneer life and aided in building the first cabin constructed in Shelbyville. He also helped to build the road between Shelbyville and Rushville. Mr Brown aided in building the first Blue River Baptist church, a non-pretentious log cabin.
William Wesley Brown's grandfather, Matthew Brown, came to Shelby county shortly after the arrival of the Robert Brown family. The elder Brown was a native of Ireland and very eccentric. A few of the older residents of the county may possibly remember the furore it created when the story leaked out, of Mat Brown having his own coffin constructed while he was alive and in good health. But Matthew Brown was not noted for his eccentricities altogether for he built and operated one of the first grist-mills in the county. Not the least of the hardships of the sturdy pioneers was the procuring of bread. Even if the crops were abundant, but few grist-mills were in existence.
"Going to mill", reminiscently said Mr Brown, "was quite an undertaking with the pioneers. It was perhaps a two or three days journey. Sometimes a pair of oxen attached to a two-wheel cart carried the farmer and his grain on his journey. But more frequently he went on horseback, seated on a bag of grain. This was a tedious journey and his return was anxiously awaited by mother and children". The Democrat extends hearty congratulations to Mr Brown upon his entry into the eighty-third lap of life, and wishes him as many happy returns of the day as he desires. May his health remain good and his mind remain as acute as it is now, until the Great Father calls him to his eternal reward.
Biographical sketch of William Wesley Brown, published 13 Dec 1909 in The Shelby Democrat and included a picture of William Wesley Brown. A copy of the article was received from Mrs Ruth Ann Monroe, a great grand-daughter, in 1991.
Submitted by Richard Weightman