Sunday, July 8, 2012



Coincidence and re-appraisal plays a huge part in uncovering family history.

If you’ve come this far in the many stories about my Grandfather of the double identity and his Quaker ancestors you just might remember a certain Last Will and Testament* instructing an Executor to disperse a deceased’s estate between nine surviving nephews and nieces scattered all over the USA, and with just the one living in Australia.

Yes you guessed right, that Aussie beneficiary was my Grandpa, a man as far removed from the ideals of a Quaker as one could possibly be.

The finding of that Last Will and Testament made by Charlie Dennis Brown, Grandpa’s uncle in Indiana,  opened a number of puzzling doors, though not all, relating to my ChasBert’s almost Walter Mitty lifestyle.  But it took me a good few years to realise the hidden gem of identity that all those years had been staring me in the face.

The document popped up on the net some years ago during one of my periodic Google searches, but at the time I latched on to the names I knew and didn’t place any great importance on the names I didn’t.  Apart from Grandpa and his sister Leota I had no idea who the other recipients were.  I imagined that like me they were all descended from one or other of the Indiana Browns, but not to the family I was researching.

And that’s the way it stayed until I began putting together this story after resuming a lost correspondence with it’s catalyst Terri Porcelli... yet another treasured ‘cousin’ from long ago.


John E. Carey and his wife Ida A. Brown with their children Robert and Edna Estella.
This latest story in the life and times of my Quakers touches on Indiana in the 1860’s when  my great- great Grandfather Dennis Brown  faced the dilemma of civil conflict, upheaval of his religious and moral convictions against the need to protect his families future.

From the time of their marriage Dennis and his wife Hannah Burton  have been working a farm in Indian Creek Township on the banks of the Tippacanoe River, land given to him by his father Mercer. (There were Mercers galore in the nine generations of these Quakers)  In a sudden but brief change from farming Dennis suddenly uproots the family and moves to the larger town of Winamac to try his hand at running a business.

The  world of commerce  with its undercurrent of political discussion and economic change however is not to Dennis Brown’s liking and he soon moves the family back to the farm where he feels more at home.

But perhaps this move to urban surroundings some years earlier  in some way spawns Dennis’s enlistment a few years later in 1864, to D Company of Indiana’s 23rd Volunteer Infantry. North against South.  Cousin against cousin.

 It’s not long before the volunteers join General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army in the burning of Atlanta, and then to take part with the remainder of the General’s army in his victorious march to the sea.

When Dennis sailed off to war (literally, they were transported on river boats) he left  Hannah with a very young family to help run the farm, his daughters Eva Jane and Ida, with sons  Mercer Levi, and my great grandfather John William who was just six months short of his 14th birthday.  Younger brothers Van and Charlie wouldn’t arrive until their father returned from the war.

Dennis survived America’s  Civil War, two more sons were born, and the family resumed their everyday lives in Indiana’s Cass County.  In the goodness of time these younger sons Van and Charlie will unknowingly help me unravel my Grandfather’s dubious past, the same young nephew they grew up with and knew as Bertie Everett Brown.

But, enough of Grandpa,  we now follow his aunt, Ida Brown.
Seated in this very old photo taken about 1876 is my great grandfather John Brown’s 17 year old sister Ida. I suspect the older woman standing behind is their mother, the former Hannah Burton,  and the other young lady, her older sister Eva Jane.  Another daughter, Catherine died before the age of 2 years.

This precious photo belongs to Terri Porcelli, Ida Brown’s great grand-daughter.


 The piecing together of a family history requires constant revision.  New sources emerge, distant relations surface.  Always there is the thrill and anticipation of old photos, new cousins, a different slant to an established story... our Quaker tree is in constant flux.

My latest ‘cousin’ and the source for this chapter’s wonderful photos from the past, is Ida Brown’s great grand-daughter Terri Porcelli.  I can’t really claim Terri as a new contact, we were  briefly in touch many years ago but neither of us  at the time had reached the delving stage we are now at, and consequently lost contact.

In those intervening years librarian Terri retired from her work and moved to Connecticut, took up a new hobby, wood carving, and became a grandmother twice over.  Terri’s family history reaches back to Ida Brown Carey’s daughter Edna Estella Lembka, and on then to her daughter Harriet Grace White.

With Edna Estella’s family photos we see the same haunting beauty of her mother, Ida, the youngest in that first photo. In the beautifully posed portrait below, Ida's daughter Edna Estella was just 16 years of age and showing a great deal of self confidence.   In the absence of photos from my side of the family, John W. Brown’s, I can only hope the men were just as  handsome.


As it turned out great-uncle Charlie Brown in one way and another was to have a great influence on both Terri Porcelli and myself.   For me, his death provided the clues to chart my grandfather’s identity deception, though it was his brother Van Brown that I suspect my grandfather hero worshipped to such an extent he claimed his uncle’s war time experience in Mexico and the Philippines as his own.

While for Terri, Charlie and his wife Sibbie’s only child, their daughter Allie, was her grandmother Edna Estella’s close childhood companion.

 This photo shows Edna Estella, 3rd from right,  with her cousin Allie Brown, far right, on a camping trip in Montana with the Lembka family..

Just as their daughters were close friends, so too might have been their fathers, John Carey and Charlie Brown.  In the above photo, Terri’s great grand-father John E. Carey is standing on the right of the slightly smaller unnamed man sporting a neat moustache. Comparing this man with the later photo of a gentleman with his bicycle, I’m wondering if they are one and the same person...John Carey’s brother in law Charlie Brown.

Coming from a Quaker background its not  surprising that school teaching and education cropped up a number of times in connection with various male members of the Brown family.  For instance my ChasBert’s father John William at one time taught in the tiny Indian Creek School. 

His uncle,  William R. Brown, following his marriage to Azuba Washburn built Indian Creek’s first school house before taking off on a short unsuccessful mining expedition to California.

And much later, following in their footsteps, Terri Porcelli’s grandmother Edna Estella Carey, a slip of a girl,  taught mixed age groups in the tiny one roomed schoolhouse shown in the next two photos. 

Her mother Ida passed away when Ella was 17, not long after the portrait photographs were taken.  Edna Estella, called Lulabet by a loving grandchild, then supported herself with teaching jobs, working her way westward from town to town.  And no doubt met her husband, Louis August Lembka along the way.

Later Edna Estella travelled to California, received her Masters in Education and for many years taught English and History in the South Pasadena school system.  In 1944 her retirement from the South Pasadena Junior High School was marked by the installation of a work of art by Merrell Gage, Los Angeles sculptor, entitled ‘St Francis of Assisi’. Terri’s grandmother Lulabet had taught at the school from 1927, a period of seventeen years.

In yet another snap taken on the Montana camping trip, Terri isn’t sure who the three people are.   The woman on the left definitely featured in the earlier shot where both Edna and Allie were identified, and I would hazard a guess that the young woman on horseback to the right in this photo is Edna Estella.

Still enjoying the holiday in Montana, the lady holding the small baby is unknown, but the trio in the background is identified as Allie Brown, Lou Lembka, and his sweetheart Edna Estella, the school teacher; Terri Porcelli’s grandmother.


Back in the days of our earlier correspondence I knew nothing about the Lembka family that young Edna married into.   I knew only that her mother Ida had married into the Carey family.  Re-uniting with Terri the surname  cropped up for the first time.  Lembka.  Suddenly I knew I had seen that name before, and of course I had. 

Terri’s grandmother Edna Lembka, the beautiful young woman in the photo below, was one of the surviving nephews and nieces named as beneficiaries along with my grandfather ChasBert in their Uncle Charlie Dennis Brown’s last Will and Testament.

It’s curious how these hidden clues lay dormant for so many years, then suddenly emerge into the modern world with the speed of a Google g-mail.

Now it's time to introduce the gentleman whose Last Will and Testament connected, on paper at least,  the offspring of two of his siblings...

Be-whiskered and  proudly displaying his splendid bicycle is Edna Estella’s  uncle Charlie Dennis Brown, also my grandfather ChasBert’s uncle.   

When Charlie died in Indiana in the depression years  of the 1930’s he left behind his Will with legacies to be distributed by his only surviving brother Van; over $1300 to be dispersed to his only known surviving nieces and nephews....a welcome windfall in those days.

The names were...
·      Edna Carey Lembka,          niece living in California.
·      John Carey                         nephew living in Los Angeles
·      Edwin D. Brown                nephew living in Illinois
·      Milo Brown                       nephew living unknown
·      William R. Brown              nephew living Chicago
·      May Brown                        niece living Chicago
·      Pluma Brown                     niece living Indiana
·      Leota Brown                           niece living in Peru
·      Bert Brown alias Charles Brown Parker ..nephew living in Australia

The last two beneficiaries were my Grandfather ChasBert and  his sister Leota.

And there standing out so clearly at the top of the list, Edna Carey Lembka, living at the time in California and a name I failed then to recognise.

What a marvellous way to both prove and celebrate our family connection, Terri Porcelli,  Ida Brown’s great grand daughter,  and Robyn Mortimer, John W. Brown’s great grand daughter... bringing alive the memories of a brother and sister who lived through the years of America’s Civil War.

And all due to the chance cyber meeting so many years later of  their great grand-children living on opposite sides  of the world.

Robyn Mortimer ©2012