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Almond Brown


Almond Brown was born in Lewis Co., New York, July 20, 1836. Almond "went west" as a young man, apparently on foot, with only his pack, his dog, and his trusty muzzle loader. He was of the hardy pioneer type who could, and did, live off the land. He spent at least one winter in north western Iowa at what is now Sioux City. He has told of how he hauled the brick for the first bank in Sioux City from the River Steamboat on the Missouri River to the building site with his oxen and dray.

He was on the raw American frontier among the people of the buffalo, the Sioux Indians, whose way of life was soon to disappear. While he lived in Sioux City, a band of Indians was camped near his cabin. It was early winter and the Indians found fresh buffalo tracks in the snow. A group of young braves followed the tracks and got caught in the blizzard and severe cold which followed. They made their way back to their camp, but one of them had badly frozen feet. When the band moved on shortly after that, the young man with the frozen feet could not travel so he spent the winter with Almond Brown in his cabin, Almond learned the Sioux tongue from this young brave.

Later, Almond apparently went back to eastern Iowa, in the Dubuque area, and, on May 20, 1858 married SUSANNAH ROEMIG in Clayton County. Its seems likely that they must have had a grand honeymoon trip, longer in distance and time that most of us can afford or have the time for today, because they returned to New York by covered wagon behind their trusty, if not speedy, oxen soon after they married.

Their first child, STILES EASTON BROWN was born in New York State on November 14, 1859. This was shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War. Four more sons were born to Almond and Susannah while they lived in New York.

CHARLES JESSE BROWN June 1, 1861
ALMOND LEWIS BROWN May 24, 1863
JOEL HENRY BROWN Sept. 4 1865
MARTIN ELMER BROWN Sept 4, 1867

Joel Henry died April 29, 1869 at about 3 1/3 years of age, and Almond Lewis died 2 days later, May 1, 1869 at 6 years of age. These two boys are buried in New York State. Little is known about the deaths of these 2 boys but one "word of mouth" report says that the 2 boys were buried in one grave and that they died from "Spotted Fever."

The family must have started another trip west, again by covered wagon drawn by oxen, in the summer of 1869 shortly after the deaths of the 2 boys. Another "word of mouth" says Susannah suffered greatly at the time from grief over the loss of the boys and wanted to leave New York and return west, which sounds plausible. Another factor which may have influenced the move was the economic conditions in the East at the time. The economic depression which followed the Civil War brought some very hard times, especially to the eastern part of the country.

So, it appears that the 1869 trip was made by Almond and Susannah and their three Sons, Stiles, Charles and Martin. Martin (who is now deceased) always claimed he could remember going through Chicago on that trip, which is possible since he would have been between 2 and 3 years of age.

A daughter, MARGARET ANN BROWN was born in Clayton County Iowa, April 25, 1870, and Stiles, their oldest, died March 25, 1870 at the age of 10 and is buried in Little Port Iowa. Almond and Susannah, and the remaining 3 children, Charles 9, Martin nearly 4 and the baby, Margaret Ann then traveled by river boat up the Mississippi and Chippewa Rivers in the summer of 1870 as far as "Frenchtown" on the Chippewa River, now known as Chippewa Falls. There, Almond operated a ferry across the river for some time. But, in 1871 they must have started what was to be their last trip, and located near what is now Stanley Wisconsin.

While the Browns lived in the cabin on the Wolf River in what is now Stanley, an Indian was murdered and Almond Brown was under suspicion as the possible murderer. The band of Indians moved on but the widow of the murdered man and her boy stayed on to search for her husband. She frequently slept in the Brown cabin during this search in early winter. When she finally located the body and discovered the identity of the murderer (who was, as it turned out, another Indian) some of the Indians returned with gifts for Almond Brown as a token of apology for having been suspicious of him in the case.

It appears that the first white child born in Stanley was a girl born to Almond and Susannah Brown on February 8, 1872. She was delivered by an Indian woman who asked if she could name the new baby. The Indian woman named the baby TALULA ALFERATTA BROWN, who grew up being know by the family as "Ret."

While the family lived in what is now Stanley, Almond Brown discovered a large cedar swamp farther up the Wolf River, but when he discovered that a friend of his had filed a claim on the same land he had claimed in what is now Stanley, he told the friend to take the land and the Brown family moved to the property that was to become the Brown Farm (Brown family members live there to this day). There he built a substantial two story house, a barn and other buildings, and the Family grew to maturity there. (Most of the grandchildren of the Almond Brown's still living played around these buildings as children) Both Almond and his wife and many other deceased members of the family are buried on this property. No other property in the area has been owned by one family as long as this property.

After becoming established on this property, Almond Brown logged the cedar trees that grew there and floated them down the Wolf River to the Eau Claire River and thence to Eau Claire where they were cut into blocks and were used to make the first paved streets on the main street of Eau Claire. Cedar blocks, set on end and held in place with asphalt was the most desirable paving material at the time.

It is uncertain whether the next 2 children were born in what is now Stanley, or at Brownsville but they were ULYSSES S. GRANT BROWN born March 20, 1874 and ROSA MAY BROWN born October 28, 1875. Rosa May died April 18, 1876 at about 6 months of age. Ulysses died on March 30, 1884 at about 10 years of age. Both are buried at the family burial plot on the farm at Brownsville. The following children were born on the farm at Brownsville and grew to maturity:

MARY DEMARIS BROWN born May 7, 1877 (my Gr. Grandmother)
MARION ALMOND BROWN born May 24, 1879
JAMES A GARFIELD BROWN born April 9, 1881
WARREN BUEL BROWN born April 4, 1883
WALTER HARRISON BROWN born January 23, 1888

In 1893 a School was established for the 5 youngest Brown Children. Since there were no other children in the area, the town hired a teacher and a school was established upstairs in the Brown house. Mary Damaris, then 16, Marion 14, Garfield 12, warren 10 and Walter 5, attended school there. Martin Brown later married the teacher and learned to read and write from her.

There was already a settlement of German immigrants south of Boyd in the Edson area when the Browns came. Some of these people had settled before the Civil War. But, it seems that most of the playmates of the older Brown children were Indians. White settlers began to arrive in the area and one of the early white friends of the Almond Brown family was MIKE McCAFFERY who settled a mile or so southeast of Stanley. Mike was a woodsman much like Almond Brown so they had much in common and remained life long friends.

It is difficult now to visualize the extreme isolation of the early pioneer family. The only roads were the "tote roads" on trails cut through the wilderness wide enough for oxen to pull a "pung" with a small load. The Browns could travel over the "tote roads" to the northeast some 10 miles to their nearest neighbors in that direction, BILL HORTON on Otter Creek on what is now the FRANCE Farm, and farther upstream, The HOBBS family. About the same distance south beyond what is now Stanley lived that grand old pioneer MIKE MsCAFFERY. Later the LEES and the HATFIELDS settled to the north of the Brown house. To the West a group of German and Dutch families from Milwaukee settled, and the newly opened area became known as the German Settlement. The rigors of pioneer life soon drove many of these people back to the cities and only the ALBRECHTS, a Dutch family, remained. The SHARPS settled on the property adjoining the Brown property on the West. Various members of the Brown family intermarried with the Hatfields, Lees, Albechts and Sharps. Later came the big influx of Polish families, mostly to the east of the Browns.

Most of the pioneer families found it necessary to get all their sustenance from the land around them, so Almond Brown and his boys soon cleared some of his land to grow crops. However, the Almond Brown family was not typical of the many later settlers who came to clear the wilderness and make farms. The Browns were primarily woodsmen, and while they, of necessity cleared some land and kept some cattle, their living came primarily from the forest and the wild land. Their principal source of meat was venison supplemented by bear and small wild animals and birds in the area. Home grown beef and pork were secondary to meat from the wild animals. Wild berries were an important item in their food supply.

Since the county where they settled was an "untouched wilderness" when they came, they lived through the days of the logging of virgin timber. It was only natural that Almond and his boys would become loggers and lumberjacks. Most of their income was earned working in the logging camps, and selling ginseng and wild game. A very small percentage of their income came from farming. Much like the Indians who lived here before them, they were "people of deer," or people whose principal source of food was the deer herds around them.

It may be of interest at this time to mention why oxen were used on the covered wagons and in the earliest logging that was done here. Oxen apparently were no stronger than horses, and maybe not as strong, and of course they were much slower than horses. But, it was much cheaper to feed oxen. They could live and work much better than horses could on the "wild hay" and other natural feeds from the woods. Another factor was that oxen, with their cleft hoofs could work better than horses in the swamps. It was commonly said by established settlers, like the Browns, that the newcomers would "go broke" feeding horses.

Probably all the living grandsons of Almond Brown can remember vividly how the hay was made in those early days since they all had the experience of making hay by that method when they were young lads. The "wild hay" was cut by hand with scythes mostly in the natural meadows along the streams. The biggest meadows were along Otter Creek in the area now flooded by the new Otter Lake flowage, The ground was usually marshy and wet where the hay grew so the men who swung the scythes would usually be wading in water. In a day or two each swath cut by the scythes would have to be turned over with a pitch fork by hand. When the hay was dry it was "cocked" by hand with pitch forks with the cocks sitting above the water on the high "stubble." When enough hay for a stack was cut, dried and cocked, two men with two long poles would carry the cocks on the poles to high ground where the stack was made. The hay was hauled home on sleighs in the winter when the swamps were frozen.

The drinking water for the Brown family came from a large spring nearly half a mile from the cabin. The water was carried with two wooden buckets hanging at the ends of a home made "yoke" which fit across the shoulders. The spring is located on what is now the FRANK BURZYNSKI property and excellent drinking water still flows from it. Water for the cattle, for washing and other uses came from the Wolf River which flowed near the cabin.

Another word of mouth report which may be of interest is that Almond Brown named many of the streams and lakes in the area. Since he trapped extensively for a living for his family, the areas which yielded the various fur bearing animals were important in their lives. So, the stream just north of Stanley he named "Little Otter" because it yielded many otter pelts. A few miles to the north was "Big Otter Creek" because it was larger than "Little Otter." The area along the stream on which they lived produced more wolf pelts so it was called the "Wolf River." Why it was a "river" while the other two streams were creeks is not explained. The small lake a mile to the north of the Brown home was named Otter Lake because it drained into the "Big Otter Creek," although it was always known locally as "Browns Lake." While the springs and streams still exist in their old locations, "Browns Lake" and the little, unnamed lake, west of it have now disappeared into the Otter Lake flowage.

Susannah Brown is remembered as a cheerful, extremely hard working woman who was very proud of her family. She must have possessed great stamina to survive the rigors of the many long trips by covered wagon and the extreme hardships of pioneer life. The work of bearing 14 children and raising 9 of them to maturity is probably beyond out powers of comprehension today. She must have been a marvel at gathering and preserving the berries from the woods, as well as preserving the wild meat brought in by the men and boys. Her supply of sugar for the year was kept in a "hollowed out" basswood log behind the kitchen door. In the spring at "maple syrup time" this log was filled with "soft sugar" thicker than maple syrup but not as hard as maple sugar cakes. The sugar, or syrup, would not spoil or mold when in this stage, and she could dip it out with a homemade wooden spoon to use in her cooking. Martin has said that he was pretty big when he could remember seeing "white" sugar for the first time. Susannah probably had to make most of the clothes by hand for 11 people and knit all the socks and mittens. Hers must have been an extremely busy life. Susannah Brown died on April 20, 1904, when her youngest child Walter, was 16 years of age, and was buried in the family burial plot on the farm.

Almond Brown wore his hair long most of his life. In his old age his wavy white hair hung past his shoulders. Almond had a reason it is said, to wear his hair always long. The Indians he lived amongst more readily accepted a white man with long hair than did they a white man with short hair. Since Almond spent so much of his life on the frontier among the Indians his long hair was an asset to him. He smoked a pipe most of his life but in his later years he decided the pipe was not doing him any good, so one day he gave it and his tobacco to a neighbor, GEORGE SHARP, and never smoked again. Almond was a fiddler and in his old age spent much time making violins. Some of his Sons, especially Walter, played the fiddle also, and Garfield played the mandolin. In his old age Almond also kept bees, and some chickens, and he was very fond of his guines fowls. He was bothered by a sore tongue in his last years so he chewed slippery elm most of his waking hours. He also developed a prominent growth on his cheek in his last months or years on earth, which looked like it might be malignant so this perhaps was what was wrong with his tongue also. "Word of mouth" reports indicate the immediate cause of death was "dropsy." It was 10 minuets to three in the afternoon of January 11, 1917 that the great hunter, Almond Brown, departed this life. His last trip, some fifty or sixty rods from his new house on his farm, to the family burial plot was made on a wide path shoveled in the snow by the neighbors. He rode in his casket carried by his 6 sons. A new law, prohibited the continues use of the burial plot in the future so all of the 9 children of Almond and Susannah Brown were buried in the Stanley City Cemetery.

This information was origianally writen by a Brown family member in 1970 for a Brown family reunion. New and more extensive material is due to be published in the near future. Contributed by Cindy

 

Last Update Monday, 30-Aug-2010 19:02:33 EDT


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