Tuesday, May 31, 2011


This saga about our Quaker Browns has  reached the 1830’s: We’ve seen Mercer 5th and Nancy usher their children from Ohio to Indiana on this their final trek into the northwest. But they are relative latecomers in the steady migration across the undefined boundaries that separate Ohio from it’s neighbouring Indiana.

Such was the fast growing Quaker population in this new Northwest State of Indiana that by 1821 Friends were granted permission to build a central Yearly Meeting House in Richmond, a huge building described by a journalist in 1840 as a wonder of construction.

It’s hard to guess why Mercer and Nancy finally decided to leave their farm near the small township of Gratis in Ohio.  Perhaps he feared the civil unrest in the southern states might infiltrate into Ohio...

...or he may have been inspired by the words of a neighbour’s son that he had "…found the country we had been in search of...spring water, timber and building-rock appear to be abundant, and the face of the country looks delightful."

Perhaps this description echoed in later memoirs by a then much older David Hoover stayed in Mercer’s mind to be rekindled later with reports reaching Gratis that there was cheap, fertile land for the taking along the banks of the Tippecanoe.

Up to then the far flung Quaker settlements in the Carolina’s and in Ohio just didn’t have the same promising future that young David had seen evolving across the border.  With hindsight he wrote in his memoirs "…I never had the opportunity of reading a newspaper …until after I was a grown man...”

David Hoover never regretted his move to Indiana.  With hard work he prospered, planned and laid out the Indiana city of Richmond, and later became the judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court.



Tippecanoe River Park
Pulaski County:  When Mercer and his sons claimed their land along the banks of the Tippecanoe River they may not have been aware of its already rich history.  For centuries it had been the life blood of the Potawatomi Indians;  these Native Americans had fished its waters, canoed from village to village, knew intimately its every twist and turn.  Later pioneer hunters and trappers had taken freely of the country’s plentiful wildlife. 

Now white man settlers were harnessing the river’s flowing waters to run saw and grist mills.  Forests were being cleared to provide farming land.  The Native Americans were being further separated from their homes.

Part of the pioneer Quakers success story  lay with their close attachment to kin.  When they travelled from one settlement to another they moved in company with other families, nearly always linked to them by close or even distant kinship.  The Brown’s were no exception. 

On arrival the top job on a settler's ‘must do’ list was to erect a dwelling, usually a rough hewn log affair  with wood taken from surrounding forest.   While the men gathered to assist each other, their families lived in the wagons they had arrived in.   Then corn and vegetables were sown, and before long where once had been prairie or forest was transformed into flourishing farmland.

Farming was a community affair where neighbours and kin came together for barn raising or building, harvesting of crops. Often these events were the only social intermingling these early pioneers enjoyed apart from shared worship.

A Brown Family Barn’ - Painting by Indiana Artist Gwen Gutwein
Much of this new land was occupied prior to the sale of officially public land; their occupants, including our Browns were called squatters.  Some newcomers, described as unscrupulous speculators, deliberately set out to rob these hard working farmers of their untitled land.   The Quaker families weren’t unaware of this and set out to ensure they had proven title.

In 1838 among the first men to officially lay claim were Joseph Smith, Moses Washburn, Isaac Coppock and Mercer Brown, all fellow pioneers from the great trek west that started initially in the Carolinas.



You will find several Pulaski Counties throughout the various States of America, all named in honour of the Polish Count Kazimierz Pulaski who became a brigadier general during the revolutionary war and died during the Siege of Savannah in 1771.


When Indiana’s Pulaski County was formally established in 1839 a Board  of Commissioners was formed that saw  several local men appointed to office, among them were many related in one way or another to the Browns;  Peter Demoss and Jesse Coppock, George Smith, and  Moses Washburn who was appointed as one of the Inspectors for White Post Township.

By 1840 not less than 40 families lived in the small community of Indian Creek and already a number of timber frame dwellings were in evidence.  Within another five years dirt roads and rough bridges were put into place with a road running alongside the bank of the Tippecanoe River.

In 1842 Peter Hoover, a relation of the young man whose praise of the new country convinced many to migrate to Indiana, erected a dam across Indian Creek and built a timber mill.

Photograph of a deserted Indiana schoolhouse by Suzan Hayden

For a while the schooling of youngsters was conducted in back rooms of small homes, Peter Hoover’s cabin being one site with a young Quaker boy, a member of the  Brown family  a temporary teacher.  Later still one of the Washburn homes became a school house when the Washburn’s moved on to another farm. 

And later still, in 1870, my Grandfather’s grandfather, John William Brown aged 19 will become the teacher at the Indian Creek School.


Not only was Indian Creek thriving, so too was the adjacent Cass County where Mercer had bought another block of land, leaving his eldest son William R. Brown to work the Indian Creek property.



Many hands make light work...

While there was no slavery in Indiana there was the legally sanctioned custom of indenture, the binding of children, usually boys or girls from poor or destitute families, for a certain period of their lives to a farming family. For a number of years this was a common practice in Indiana.

There were strict rules attached to these indentures or as we could describe them, apprenticeships: In one case a researcher going through the Delaware County Archives found an 1838 contract of indenture stated... 
...the master must provide wholesome provisions in health and in sickness with good common clothing and must agree to give the child two years schooling between the ages of eight and eighteen.  Furthermore the child must be given a good freedom suit and a mare or gelding when the said lad is of lawful age...

and then presumably free to lead his own life. 

All such indentures were listed in an official book of “Indentures”, some of which still exist in  Delaware County archives.  There is for instance another 1838 record of the binding of 13 year old Charlotte Thornburgh to a Henry Taylor and a lad, probably her brother, Lot, to William Brown.

In Brown’s case he is obligated to send the boy to school for nine months and “the said Brown doth bind himself to learn said Thornburgh to mold and lay up brick as far as the said Brown’s own knowledge.”

This had been common practice in England for many years and properly governed would in many cases have saved a needy child from starvation or worse, or provided a sound grounding in a trade for others.  And it may have been practiced by our particular Indiana Browns in instances where I found young children with differing surnames included in their family census entries.

In the 1860 census for Noble Township in Cass County, both Levi and his father Mercer have young children not of their immediate family living with them.  In both instances the Brown’s are shown to be relatively wealthy.  Were the ten and 12 year old youngsters distant kin:  or, as a charitable gesture were they indentured servants?

In the case where William Brown indentured young Lot Thornburgh, it’s interesting to note that nearly half a century earlier in 1782  a young Quaker girl, Rachel Brown married a Joseph Thornburgh in a  North Carolina ceremony that marked the first instance of the name Thornborough being contracted to Thornburgh.



But times were changing.  No longer could I rely on Quaker Meetings to supply the everyday bits and pieces of our Brown’s lives.  More and more it seemed the Brown family through preference or marriage was being absorbed into other religions.  Perhaps by this stage too they had moved away from the sombre dress code of The Friends, maybe by now they had even dropped the quaint speech of their forebears. The Brown’s proud tag of Quakerism was being relegated to their past.

More often the talk on the streets and in the newspapers of the day was about the Underground Railway secreting slaves away from the plantations of the south to freedom in Indiana. In this the Quaker community was constantly active.

In the southern states cotton has become their economic mainstay and the cheap and degrading use of slave labour continues. The rift between north and south widens.

But while it is early days yet, Indiana and the States of the Union are moving slowly but ever closer to open conflict with the south.


Soon after Pulaski County was officially recognized in 1839 Mercer and Nancy  with their youngest children Levi, Phoebe and Hester moved to  a new farm on the Michigan Road closer to Logansport. The older boys were either working the farms their father left behind in Indian Creek or had struck out on their own.

Travelling between settlements and towns in Indiana was becoming increasingly difficult. As settlers moved further into the interior they were faced with a constant problem in getting their stock and produce to coastal markets or even of travelling themselves to distant towns.

Rivers like the Tennessee and the Cumberland that fed into the broad Ohio River, which in turn merged with the Mississippi and flowed on to the Port of New Orleans, became  major thoroughfares.

Rafts were the cheapest and simplest method of flotation but became dangerous when some parts of the river flowed through rapids.  Flatboats were popular for a while, but then the Keelboat evolved where a small crew could control its swift  down river progress with long poles. 

This provided a fast journey and its reckoned as many as a thousand such boats a year headed down the various tributaries to New Orleans in the early 1800's alone..

But using the flat boats created a major problem; one that was however surprisingly overcome.  The Keelboats could be easily and swiftly handled downstream, but making the return journey upriver against the flow proved slow and costly.

As a result Keelboats made one way trips; once the craft arrived at journey’s end and the cargo unloaded, the flatboat was simply broken up and sold for wood with the crew making the trip home by land.

Two way transport by river arrived with the advent of the steamboat in 1807, an addition to American life that provided countless authors and movie makers with colourful and romantic grist for their creative mills.

While river travel was fine for those with access to the rivers or canals that evolved in later years, the rest of America was growing at a fast pace. With new inland territories opening up, hamlets and towns needed to be connected. 

In Indiana a major road was needed to speed up the movement of people and goods from the Great Lakes ports of the north to the river ports on the Ohio River.

In those early days travel within the new State  of Indiana was far from easy.  Roads were no more than rough tracks and more often in poor condition.  If you didn’t have a sturdy wagon you rode on a horse, if you didn’t have a horse then you used ‘shanks pony’ – you went on foot.

In 1822 a contract was issued for a road from Richmond to Indianapolis, to be built in one mile sections, ‘48 feet wide, cleared of trees though allowing stumps to project 12 inches above the ground.’

This olden style freeway became the Michigan Road, named not after the State, but for the Lake of the same name, resulted from the 1826 treaty with the Potawatomi Indians and was the first major road in Indiana. Once completed it would run from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River and was touted as the future principal route of travel for westward migrants...

However with delays and financial problems the road wasn’t completed until 1840, just in time to be superseded by a fast growing network of railways.



Not long after the move to Cass County  Nancy, now in her mid forties had borne another son, Israel, who died in infancy.  His death is documented in the 1813 History of Cass County by Dr Jehu Z Powell...

 "About the year 1840 Mercer Brown owned land north of Logansport, two miles on the Michigan road and like most pioneers, when the visiting angel claimed a loved one, he interred the remains on a knoll upon his own lands. So Mercer Brown buried his infant son Israel in an improvised box in a secluded spot on the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 18, Clay township, about eighty rods west of the Michigan road opposite the home of Robt. Barnett, where he has slept the sleep that knows no waking for the past seventy-five years." 


Mercer’s son William virtually married the girl next door, Azuba Washburn and for a while they lived on the farm his father had first settled at Indian Creek.   William built the first schoolhouse in Indian Creek and for many years filled the office of Trustee.

In 1860 Levi and his wife Mary with their one year old daughter Ida were living on a farm in Cass County adjacent to his parents Mercer and Nancy Brown.  Their unmarried daughter Phoebe Ann was still living at home. And with them were living three youngsters aged 10 to 12, Patrick Burns, Daniel Welsh and Ellen Murphy. Kin or indentured workers?

Phebe wouldn’t marry until the age of 42 becoming the second wife of Abraham McDonald and step mother to his six children.

Mercer and Nancy’s daughter Mary married Wesley Demoss in 1836, and the couple would no doubt serve as catalysts in later bringing together her brother Dennis’s son John William with his future bride Laura Welch.

 John A., Anson and Hester Brown proved impossible to reliably trace;  there were numerous people of that name floating about Indiana at that time, but none I could safely tie in to Mercer and Nancy Brown.

And of course that left only the one other child to account for, Dennis William Brown who had married his childhood sweetheart from Ohio, Hannah Burton.



The year is 1860, Queen Victoria sits on the throne of England, unaware this is the last year she will spend with her consort Prince Albert;  the Maori Wars begin in New Zealand; Abraham Lincoln is elected President of the United States of America, and on December 20th South Carolina votes to secede from the Union.


But the affairs of the world are far distant from the everyday life of our Indiana Browns.

On their farm in Cass County, just off the Michigan Road,  Mercer and Nancy live a life of semi retirement, their son Levi lives close by to help them with the farm’s daily chores.   Within five years though Mercer will have died, his name carved on the imposing tombstone that will in time list both his wife, Nancy and his son, Levi.

Mercer, Nancy and Levi Brown - Mt Hope Cemetery
Meanwhile Dennis and Hannah have being tending a farm in Indian Creek Township on land given to him by his father Mercer.  In 1856, with their then three children, Levi, John W. and Eva Jane they moved to the town of Royal Centre in Cass County. 

In a complete change from farming, Dennis suddenly uproots the family and moves to the larger town of Winamac to try his hand at running a business.

Is Hannah surprised?  Apprehensive?  Worried?


She does indeed have a great deal to be worried about though at this stage it has nothing to do with moving to town.  The Browns, and indeed the entire American population is about to be swept into a nightmare that no one could have envisaged.  Civil War – Cousin against Cousin. 


Next Quakers 8 – Civil War- Cousin against Cousin.

Robyn Mortimer ©2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011



1800:  Our Quaker Brown’s American footprints have grown ever larger:  the family has multiplied many times over, their various branches spreading throughout the country.

Crossing the Ohio River

It is becoming increasingly difficult to separate the familial strands.  The progeny of the original brothers Browne, James and William, have married and moved in varying directions both geographically and in lifestyle. 

Some have stayed on in the general area of Virginia and Maryland, others have gradually moved away until now we find Mercer Brown, the fifth in our particular line to bear that name, surviving his childhood in what will become known as Preble County, Ohio.

The steady growth of the slave trade has meant that more and more Quakers, mindful of the persecution their forebears suffered in the old country, have made the move into the great North West where slavery is not practiced..

But now they are faced with the evidence that this great land spreading before them is not uninhabited, there are others living here whose history goes back in time long before the Quakers, long before the first European settlement by the Puritans.

The peace loving Quakers come in friendship but there are others intent only on domination.  A bitter struggle is about to begin and it can only end in the tears of a defeated nation.



In the beginning there were many individual Indian tribes roaming the great plain lands of the Northwest.  They had no defining barriers, most enjoyed a nomadic life chasing the seasons, some remained close to their homelands, banded together and were at peace with their nearest neighbours; others maintained a continuing war like stance over hunting grounds.

In this way they had lived for centuries, considering and believing they possessed an eternal bonding, an ownership of their tribal lands.

But then came the white man, and for the great Indian Nations nothing would ever again be the same...


Whole Indian Nations have melted away like snowballs in the sun before the white man’s advance. They leave scarcely a name of our people except those wrongly recorded by their destroyers. Where are the Delaware’s? They have been reduced to a mere shadow of their former greatness. We had hoped that the white men would not be willing to travel beyond the mountains. Now that hope is gone. They have passed the mountains, and have settled upon Tsalagi (Cherokee) land.

The Shawnee had made their home in the rich and  verdant lands in the Ohio Valley as early as the 1600’s until the stronger Iroquois drove them away.  But as was the way with the white man in their own home lands back in Europe, the usurpers themselves became weaker and the Shawnee moved back to reclaim their home ground.

The Shawnee were fierce warriors and became allies of the French, fighting with them against the British. But then as the traders and fur trappers gave way to British colonialism followed then by open American rebellion  the Shawnee began attacking encroaching forts and settlements. An uneasy peace had again been shattered.

Into this upheaval moved the Quakers.  They arrived in ever increasing numbers intent on living as peaceful a life as possible.



The Browns settled in a small encampment that eventually became the town of Gratis.

Perhaps like other adventurous settlers their men folk too had first scouted ahead searching for suitable sites to settle their families. And once they had found their Eldorado they journeyed back to Georgia and South Carolina to hook up their wagons, collect their wives, sweethearts and children, to then make the slow trek back to the Great Miami Valley.

The Quakers settled together, dependent on each other for comfort and safety.  One of their first chores was to quickly set up a Friends Meeting place at West Elkton in Preble County.

One of the earliest arrivals at Gratis was a kinsman to the great hunter Daniel Boone, this one also a Daniel.  Perhaps like others he had first set out alone or with small groups to scout ahead for suitable land.  Later our Richard Brown arrived from Georgia, his selection was registered on section 20.

Between 1803 and 1805 over fifty families from Georgia and South Carolina settled in southern Preble and Northern Butler counties.  Nearly all were Quakers.  Apart from the Browns were their kinsfolk, the Stubbs, numbering eleven brothers, the Maddock’s and the Gifford’s.

Mercer the Headstrong, our next young Mercer’s grandfather, who eloped with his non Quaker bride Sarah Piggott in Virginia made the arduous journey with his son Richard and his wife Mary Embree and their children. He died in 1802 and was buried in Preble County.   His wife Sarah outlived him by 28 years.

Their lives were simple and not easy for our modern day family to comprehend. Luckily though, an old man who grew up in the same era, in the same raw beginnings of Ohio, put pen to paper lending us his eyes to see for ourselves the life our young Mercer and his siblings experienced.



By 1800 more than 800 Quakers had moved to Ohio. The early settlement at Gratis in Preble County was predominately Quaker and for some time, an early settler wrote, ‘none of us had a house at our command to meet in, to worship the Almighty Being’.  This early resident went on to say...’we met in the woods until houses were built.’. ..
In 1814, the year this current Mercer Brown married Nancy Thompson, a central place of worship to service all the Friends was erected  at Mount Pleasant.  A site central to all of Ohio, but still a fairly long journey to travel for those from Gratis; which is why this major Meeting House was designated as a yearly one.  No doubt the many Friends who travelled these long distances camped in the grounds and stayed there for many days.

The three story brick building was the first yearly Quaker Meeting House to be built west of the Allegheny Mountains.

A truly huge building for its time it was capable of holding 2,000 people and contained an auditorium with a balcony. The auditorium could be divided into rooms by the lowering of a wooden partition,  one room for the men’s meeting, the other for the women.

"Last Sunday was a great day in town. The shops and everything was open and the Street full of Melon and Gingerbread Wagons.... If you know what a fair is like in Ireland, you know very near what it was like here last Sunday... You would never see the like of before. Tell Bill about it I wish you were here."
-- Jesse Spencer of Mt. Pleasant,
Describing the annual meeting time, 1846

These yearly meetings held in the new hall were immensely popular and held in a fair like atmosphere where farmers could exchange their wares.  Used extensively until 1909 the building has now been restored by the Ohio Historical Society and is open to the public.


“My father’s family was small and he took us all with him to the Miami wilderness.

The Indian meal which he brought was expended six weeks too soon, so for that time we had to live without bread.  The lean venison and the breast of the wild turkey we were taught to call bread.

I remember how narrowly we children watched the growth of the potato tops, pumpkin and squash vines, hoping from day to day to get something in place of bread.

How delicious was the taste of the young potatoes when we got them! What a jubilee when we were permitted to pull the young corn for roasting ears!  Still more when it acquired hardness to be made into Johnny-cakes by the aid of a tin grater.

The furniture of the table consisted of a few pewter dishes, plates and spoons, but mostly of water bowls, trenchers and noggins.  If these last were scarce, gourds and hard shell squashes made up the deficiency.

I well remember the first time I ever saw a tea cup and saucer.  After the death of my mother which sad event took place when I was seven or eight years of age, my father sent me away to school.  I stopped at a tavern which was plastered on the inside both as to the walls and ceiling.
I had no idea there was a house in the whole world that was not built of logs – the tavern was a stone affair – but I looked around and could see no joists. 

Whether such a house had been built by the hands of man or had grown up by itself I could not conjecture. I had not the courage to inquire anything about it.

When supper came my confusion was worse confounded.  A little cup stood in a bigger one with some brownish stuff in it which was neither milk, hominy or broth.  What to do with these little cups and the spoons belonging to them I did not know and I was afraid to ask anything concerning them.

(I remember) In the winter evenings around the fire blazing on the hearth would congregate the family with mother engaged in making or mending the clothes of the household while father was shaping an axe handle, a hickory broom or perhaps repairing the moccasins for himself and us boys.

The children cracking nuts or studying their lessons, while at our feet stretched out upon the hearth quietly slept the faithful watch dog, the guardian of the place, an indispensable acquisition to the pioneer home.....”

I can see Richard and Mary’s small children in that same rough cabin, dressed in their homespun clothing, the light from their fire flickering on the walls; around them busy at their chores, mother, father, brothers and sisters; outside the darkness of night, the strange, piercing sounds of the forest.

And I can imagine a small boy’s wonder at the very novelty of a delicate teacup on a saucer.

Our heartfelt thanks go to the unknown author who left his memories for posterity, and to the historians who have compiled and made public the History of Miami County.



When a white army battles Indians and wins, it
is called a great victory, but if they lose it
is called a massacre.
Chiksika, Shawnee

 The Northwest Territory during the last decades of the 1700’s was a violent place to live as Native Americans fought to retain what land they could still call their own. Treaties between the new American States and the various tribes, the Wyandot, Delaware, Ottowa, Chippewa, Potawatomi and Sauk were signed and broken.

Fearing massacres and Indian raids the Government tried to hold back the trickle of settlers moving north of the Ohio River but failed.  The trickle became a flood. 

A new Treaty of Fort Harmar was signed in 1789 confining the Native American tribes to a defined area roughly bordered by the Cuyahoga River, the Tuscarawas River and the St Mary’s River near what is now known as Fort Wayne.  But many refused to honour the treaty, including the mighty Shawnee.

Newcomers settling in isolated areas were easy picking for marauding tribesmen.  Families were slaughtered, and often surviving children were absorbed into Indian families, some of these emerging in later life curious about their white heritage.

In 1811 two Shawnee brothers were prominent in the affairs of their nation; Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa, who was also known as The Prophet.  These brothers had very different ideas on how to stem the tide of white encroachment on their land.

Tecumseh attempted to gather all the various tribes into one allied group believing that if they all put aside their traditional nomadic way of life and worked with the white men they would find a way to share and co-exist together.

His brother, The Prophet, however claimed he had been told by the all powerful ‘Master of Life’ that the only way he would reward his followers was if they rejected the white man and his dependence on alcohol and trade goods and ultimately drove them all from the Indian’s land.

In 1808 the brothers moved their tribesmen to a place known as Prophetstown near the Tippecanoe River in Indiana Territory, just across the border from Ohio and there they lived and prospered. The Indian population swelled to such an extent settlers in the area feared for their safety and were forced to seek protection from the Government.

In 1811 the Governor of the time, William Henry Harrison responding to the settler’s demands led an army to Prophetstown halting his forces a short distance from the Indian village.

Tecumseh was away meeting with other tribes far distant and his brother, The Prophet decided to attack the American army.  He told his braves the ‘Master of Life’ had spoken to him saying the Indians could defeat the white men because the ‘white man’s bullets could not harm them’.

Harrison’s army comprised roughly one thousand troops, including cavalry and infantry, and while both sides suffered heavy casualties, the Americans defeated The Prophet’s braves and burned the Indian village to the ground.   The encounter became known as The Battle of Tippecanoe.

Tecumseh returned to find his nation in ruins, his dreams for a confederacy of Indian Tribes dashed.  Ahead for these Native Americans would be even more years of desperate struggle.

But for General William Henry Harrison the Battle of Tippecanoe became his stepping stone to the eventual Presidency of the United States and to this day he is known in history as ‘Old Tippecanoe’.

In time some of our Mercer’s extended family will settle on the banks of the Tippecanoe.



Mercer Brown and Nancy Thompson grew up together in the early formative years of Preble County.  I couldn’t find a great deal about Nancy’s parents other than their names, Richard and Susannah and the hint that either one or both were of Irish stock.

Their early years probably echoed the experiences of the unknown youngster who remembered his life in a log cabin.  They were frugal years for everyone with each successive day a challenge.

Surrounded by kin; parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins the two young people set up their own home, started their own family.  They reared nine children, Anson, Mary, John A., William R., Hester, Israel, Levi and Phoebe A.

With his marriage to Azuba, William followed his cousin Susannah Brown by marrying into the  Washburn family.  He would later be responsible for building the first school house in Indian Creek, Indiana.

Phoebe, the last born child would in time become Abraham McDonald’s second wife, while her sister Mary married David Moss in 1840 and died in 1854 following the birth of their sixth child.

The following record in the  History of Cass Council, Indiana accounts for Mercer and Nancy’s son Israel...

About the year 1840 Mercer Brown owned land north of Logansport, two miles on the Michigan road and like most pioneers, when the visiting angel claimed a loved one, he interred the remains on a knoll upon his own lands. So Mercer Brown buried his son Israel in an improvised box in a secluded spot on the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 18, Clay township, about eighty rods west of the Michigan road opposite the home of Robt. Barnett, where he has slept the sleep that knows no waking for the past seventy-five years."

Of the others, their ongoing history is yet to emerge, perhaps they stayed on in Preble County, their names merging with the countless sons and daughters  descended from others of the Brown family.  If one belongs to you please let me know.



 Ohio and Indiana shared a common border, and for the Brown family of Mercer and Nancy it seemed Preble County served merely as a stepping stone in their search for a final place to call home.  

 Mercer 5th’s mother, Sarah Piggott who won the heart of Mercer the Headstrong and shared his long trek from Virginia to the virtually unknown Northwest, died in 1830 and not long after her death her children and grandchildren set their sights on Indiana.

This extraordinary woman had survived through 90 years of America’s bloodiest history; invoked the criticism of her peers; challenged the beliefs of her husband’s family and safely nurtured her children to adulthood.  She had seen enormous changes in the way the world was perceived.  

War, revolution, slavery, interaction with Native Americans and the dangers of the west, all faced and endured  amid the high death rate of pioneer mothers during childbirth.

We have only to recall the letters and diaries left behind by others from her time to understand the anxious and exhausting life of a pioneering woman.

I wonder did Sarah ever think back to that early Quaker wife and mother, Ann Mercer, William Browne's second wife, whose name was passed on to countless Brown sons, including her own husband, Mercer 5th. 


The next Brown we follow will be Dennis, Sarah’s great-Grandson, the lad perhaps given an Irish name by his mother Nancy Thompson and his father Mercer 6th.

For this next generation there will be a great war, an upheaval that will see cousin pitched against cousin.  A war that had it’s beginnings in the previous century when slavery became for many the means to attain riches, but for others was a despised way of life.



Robyn Mortimer©2011