52 Ancestors # 13 – William Henry Brown (1842-c. 1888)
Henry Brown is one of the most challenging of my ancestors to follow and figure out. Through the years I have confused him with others on several cases, establishing lines that weren’t correct. There are many researchers that have linked him as the son of Benjamin Brown and Eliza Fowler. I agreed with that assessment for a long time, however, recently I’ve begun to think he was the son of Barney and Mary Brown. I am hoping that by writing this biography I will be able to solidify in my mind key relationships and provide the mechanism to provide proof for some of my assumptions.
Biography – William Henry Brown (c. 1843- c. 1888)
With a name as common as Henry Brown, finding the right Henry Brown has always been a challenge.
W. H. Brown (Henry) and his wife Marion are in the 1885 Census in Jamestown, Stutsman county, Dakota Territories. Their youngest son, Edward, was born in Dakota Territory about 1884 and their youngest daughter, Ada, was born in Michigan about 1882, so it appears they located to Dakota Territory about 1883. I have been unsuccessful finding anything about Henry or Marion after 1885. By 1900 their children appear to be scattered throughout the upper midwest with Arthur in Crow Wing county Minnesota, Charles in Montana, Clifford in Wisconsin, Clyde in Wells, ND, and Edward in Kidder county, ND. Tracking their other children may yield further results. Henry & Marion don’t seem to appear in Find-a-Grave or any of the ND newspapers I’ve been able to search. They just sort of vanish.
|Property that Henry Brown probably rented.
Map courtesy of University of Michigan,
Digital Library Production Services
The 1880 census shows Henry in Saline, Washtenaw county, Michigan. He was a 37 year-old farmer. With him is Marian and eight of his children, Arthur, Charles, Mary, Ahmond, Clifford, William, Clyde, & Addison. Of interest, his oldest, Nettie, does not appear with them in the 1880 Census, however, she does in the 1885 Dakota Census. Frederick who shows in the 1885 census shows in the 1880 census as Addison. The 1880 census also indicates that his parents were both from New York. Also, based upon the 1880 census and the neighbors and the 1870 census and his neighbors then, it appears that he was farming land owned by either Ezra Sanford (uncle of Marion) or possibly property of J. Perry (unknown relationship) as shown in an 1874 map of the Saline Village and area. You can also see that Chester Parson, Marian’s grandfather, owns a lot of the land in the area.
The 1870 census shows Henry in Saline with wife Marian and children Nettie and Arthur, as we would expect. Henry is 25 years old and his wife is 23. Son Arthur is 7 months old, which confirms the December 1869 birth (Census was taken 2 Aug 1870). Neighbors included William Sanford (Marian’s father) and Peter Trim (P.E. Trim’s Est on the map).
The 1860 census has long been problematic for me. For a long time I had believed that Henry was with his father Benjamin and mother Eliza (Fowler) in Vernon, Shiawassee county about 60 miles away from Saline. I often wondered how Henry and Marian could have met — 60 miles is a long ways – but not impossible.
After more research, I found another candidate for Henry in the 1860 Census in Saline. 17 year-old Henry W Brown shows up in the 1860 census living with Daney and Mary E Brown. The age and place are right but the parents were born in the wrong states. As I mentioned before the 1880 census indicates his parents were born in New York. This 1860 census indicates his father born in New Hampshire and mother in New Jersey. Hummm — Not good. I had initially dismissed this family unit out of hand. The conflict is mitigated in the 1850 census and find “Daney” as “Barney” and mother Mary born in New York instead of New Jersey. Also, the name of the child Henry W. changes to William H., which puts Henry’s name into the proper order and the W. H. Brown of the 1885 census makes sense. The 1870 Census doen’t show Barney/Daney, however, there is a Mary Brown (born in New York) of the right age living alone. So I think Barney/Daney passed between 1860 and 1970.
If Henry was the child of Barney/Daney and Marion he would have several siblings, apparently a brother Myron O, sister Alice C, and brother David V. His paternal grandmother would have been Jane.
If Henry’s parentage was Barney/Daney and Mary instead of Benjamin and Eliza, he would have been born between July 5th and September 6th, 1842 (He was 8 on 6 Sep 1850 and 17 on 5 Jul 1960.) In 1870 he was 25 and in 1880 census he was 37 in 1885 and those dates I’m sure of.
Returning to the previously assumed Benjamin & Eliza parentage, we would find Henry as 7 years old in 1850 and 16 years old in 1860. Again this doesn’t reconcile itself with his being 25 and 35 in 1870 and 1880. If correct that would put his birthdate between 15 June and 8 August 1843.
Now the 1870 enumeration date was 2 August says Henry was 25 and the 1880 enumeration was 9 June and finds Henry as 37.
So, If I consider the 1870 census incorrect, then the Henry whose childhood was in Saline fits and is the most likely.
I’d love to hear from anyone who has more information or can otherwise can help me untangle these conflicts. Please feel free to comment below.
Short Bio – William Henry Brown (1842- c 1888)
William Henry Brown (Henry) was born between July 5th and September 6th, 1842 of Barney/Daney and Mary Brown in Saline, Washtenaw county, Michigan; He was the oldest of at least four children.
|By First Presbyterian Church (Saline, Mich.),
Nehemiah P. Stanton [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
He married Marian Sanford about 1866. They lived in Saline, having at least 10 children there.
About 1883 they moved to North Dakota and had one more child there. Both he and his wife probably died before 1900. It is unknown where they are buried.
Switch William Henry Brown to indicate different/parents in all my records.
Flesh out the Barney/Daney Brown family unit.
Do a “deep dive” into William Henry Brown.
1850 Census – Barney Brown.
1850 Census – Benjamin Brown.
1860 Census – Daney Brown.
1860 Census – Benjamin Brown.
1870 Census – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan – Henry Brown.
1880 Census – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan – Henry Brown.
1885 Census – Dakota Territory, NDSU Archives, Page 44-018. Brown, W. H., et al.
Minnesota, Death Certificate #2215, Arthur D Brown.
University of Michigan’s Digital Library Production Services. – Pictorial History of Ann Arbor – Map of Saline Township. T.P. No. 4 S. Range No. 5 E [plat]; 1874