We know that often as a person ages their birth date changes. Women often get younger during their adult years and then get older in their later years. Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown was just such a woman. Various records indicate that Mary was born everywhere from 1876 to 1880, but I’ve settled on 1878 as the correct year of her birth.
Social Security Death Index
of Mary’s daughter, Victoria Quelland
from Mary’s minister, Les Crider
from Mary’s daughter, Delores Pribbenow
The 1880 Census is probably the most accurate; it is the only document I have found where the data was provided by someone who was at her birth (presumably one of her parents). Her Social Security application corroborates this date. None of the records before 1966 indicate her birth year as 1876, the year in which she celebrated her 90th birthday.
Going through all of the birthdates for an individual is essential. When there is a discrepancy in dates, it is important to analyze all of the dates and determine which is likely the most accurate.
Ancestor Sketch – Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown (1878-1983)
Mary Elizabeth Manning was born on April 17, 1878, the
oldest child of John William and Elisa Jane (Fannin) Manning in rural Kentucky. One source indicates she was born in Kernsville, Carter County, however, I haven’t been able to find a Kernsville in Kentucky.
The 1880 Census shows Mary living with her parents near Pine Grove, Rowan County, Kentucky. Her sister, Phoebe, was born in January 1881.
Again, I’m not certain where, but probably either Carter County or Rowan County. Mary’s father, John, did have another child, Robert Manning, with another (name unknown) woman. Robert was 9 years older than Mary was.
I need to do much more research in this area. In December 1882, Mary’s mother, Eliza, died. Oral history indicates that she died in childbirth.
There is a lot of confusion about what happened to Robert, Mary, and Phoebe after their mother died. One storyline is that Mary & Phoebe lived with their aunt & uncle, Thomas & Mary Jones. Another storyline is that they lived for a time with their aunt & uncle, Joe & Sarah Bryant. I know for sure that they also lived with their grandparents, Enoch and Minerva Manning in Holding, Stearns County, Minnesota in 1885. We know that the three children’s father also died when they were young. Family history says he was poisoned so someone could steal money from him. One researcher indicated that John William died in 1888. If he died so much later, then it wouldn’t make as much sense as to why the three children were living with their grandparents in June 1885.
In 1888, Enoch moved to Cass County, Minnesota. It is unclear if that is when the children went to live with the Joneses, the Bryants or stayed with Enoch.
The Child Bearing Years
Family oral history says that Enoch was a harsh man, so it is easy to understand why young Mary wanted to get away from him. According to Les Crider’s records, Mary married Arthur Durwood Brown on 19 October 1892, when she was but 14 years old. Both the 1900 and 1910 Censuses confirm this marriage year. Most of the next thirty years of her life she spent pregnant or nursing.
First was Clyde Leroy who was born 1894 in Sylvan Township, Cass County, Minnesota.
Then the young couple moved to North Dakota. I recall Mary
telling me that they traveled to North Dakota by oxen and wagon. I don’t know if it was this time or one of the other times they moved as they switched between North Dakota and Minnesota several times.
Victoria Cecelia was their first child born in North Dakota;
she was born in 1896.
They moved back to Minnesota where Clarence Arthur was born
The 1900 Census indicates that Mary had had four children,
three of whom were living. That child was named Martin and was probably born in 1899 and died before 1 June 1900. Other records indicate he died of measles.
Cora Elsie was born in Pequot Lakes, Crow Wing, Minnesota,
My grandfather, Clifford Durwood Brown, was born in Robinson,
Kidder County, ND, in 1903, three days before the famous flight of the Wright Brothers.
Dorothy was born between 1905 and 1907. She also died of measles, apparently before 1910.
Edward Lewis was born in North Dakota in July 1908.
Arthur Eugene was born in North Dakota in 1909.
Charles William was the last of the children born in North
Dakota in 1914.
The family moved back to Minnesota where Delores Sarah was
born in Sylvan Township in 1917 and Nettie Mae Viola born in Pillager in 1921.
The Middle Years
In 1928, Mary’s husband of 36 years died. Mary was 50 years
old when Arthur died. Who would have guessed that Mary hadn’t lived half of her life at that point?
The 1930 Census shows Mary living with her three youngest
children in Fairview, Cass County, Minnesota. Nearby is her son Edward with his new wife Mary.
Cora, Nettie, Delores, Arthur, and Clarence were all married
in the ensuing ten years and began having many children, Grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were being born frequently. Her son, Clifford had a child out of wedlock. He illegally took custody of the child and brought her to Minnesota to be raised by his mother and himself. He was arrested and went to prison in Illinois for child-napping. When he got out of prison, he changed his name to Richard Earl Durand. Some years later Richard would return to Minnesota and change his name once again, this time to Richard (Dick) Earl Brown.
The 1940 Census shows Mary living as hired help in May
Township with Isaac Reynolds. Isaac was the local postmaster.
The Motley Years
Shortly afterward (before 1943), Mary moved to Motley and
lived a very quiet life. Apparently, also in the 1940s her son Dick came to live in the same house. In September 1961, she became a great-great-grandmother with the birth of Yvonne Marie [living].
I remember visiting Grandpa Dick and “Ma Brown” many times in the late 1950s and 1960s. On one occasion, Grandpa Dick had just bought a new $50 clunker automobile. Mary was upset with him spending money on the car and admonished the universe with a quote I will forever remember. “Those crazy kids and their motor cars – cars, cars, cars, that all they think about.” She was calling my grandfather a “crazy kid.” He was about 58 at the time and still a kid. It is all about perspective. He may have been in his late 50s but she was in her mid-80s at the time, and from her perspective, he was a kid.
Ma Brown was a fantastic cook. She had separate cast iron pans for fowl, beef, and venison. She made an amazing rhubarb sauce. We just called it “sauce” and everyone knew which sauce we meant. I always think of her when I see strawberry rhubarb pie because none I’ve ever eaten since compare to her pies. I have a pencil sharpener on my desk that looks like a hand water pump. It reminds me every day about Ma Brown and her life in Motley. In her kitchen was a hand pump, their only source of water until into the mid-1960s. They had an outhouse that was a cool visit in November and December. We never visited in January, so I can only imagine – an outhouse – January – Minnesota – Burrrr. Alongside the Motley house Mary kept a huge garden – probably most of a house lot in size. She maintained it well into her late 80s, perhaps into her 90s.
Mary’s later years
Sadly, I think the last time I saw Mary was in 1965 or so. As a teenager, I didn’t have the inclination to visit “up north.” I went into the service in 1969 and didn’t see Mary at all during the ensuing years, although I did visit Grandpa Dick a few times in the 1970s, but he was in Motley and Mary was at the Bethany Good Samaritan Center in Brainerd. Not visiting her in Brainerd is something I regret not having done.
In 1976, Mary Elizabeth Brown celebrated her 100th birthday. I believe it was a couple of years premature, but that is okay. Her celebrations continued for another seven years. She died on 8 May 1983 at the
age of 105 at the Bethany Home in Brainerd, Minnesota.
She is buried at Gull River Cemetery, Pillager, Minnesota,
near her husband Arthur who died fifty-five years earlier.
Mary had an amazing life. She was orphaned young; she was married young. She had 13 children and raised 10 of them to adulthood. She lived a life without conveniences, not getting indoor plumbing until the 1960s.
She was very active in her church. In her Motley years, she cooked and canned from her garden and prepared the game her son brought home.
There are many of Mary’s grandchildren still alive. I would love it if they, their children, or anyone with first-hand memories of Mary, would use the comments below to add to the stories of their experiences with Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown.
List of Greats
1. Mary Elizabeth Manning [Brown] (1878-1983)
2. John William Manning (1846-c.1888)
3. Enoch Mannin (1823-1907)
4. Meridith Mannin (1802-1885)
5. John Bosel Mannin Sr. (b. 1776 in Virginia)
6. Samuel Mannin (b. abt 1756)
7. Meredith Mannin (b. Abt. 1720)
ENDNOTES  1885 Minnesota, Territorial, and State Census, Ancestry.com, 1885 – Holding, Stearns County, Minn – Page 3 (Post Office: Saint Anna).
 The United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626,), Year: 1930; Census Place: Fairview, Cass, Minnesota.
 1940 Census, Ancestry.com, Year: 1940; Census Place: May, Cass, Minnesota; Roll: T627_1912; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 11-33.