52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 38 – Clifford
Brown (aka Richard Earl Durand, aka Richard Earl Brown (1903-1990)
By – Don Taylor
|No Story too Small
We all have someone in our tree that is confusing. It is
that person that the more you learn about them; the more you know you do not
know. My grandfather was such a person. It wasn’t until I began doing genealogy
that I learned his birth name. I also knew he went by another name but didn’t
have a clue why. Back in the late 1990s, I asked his sister, Delores, about the
name changes and again I asked her about it in the 2000s, and she avoided
answering. She said she didn’t want to speak ill of the dead and that “Dick”
was her “favorite brother.” I so wish I hadn’t let her take that stand. In the
following years, thanks to Genealogy Bank
, I learned much about my grandpa Dick, things that I would
have never imagined. Through that research I think I know why the changes in
Bio – Clifford Brown (aka Richard Earl
Durand, aka Richard Earl Brown (1903-1990)
|Richard Earl Brown always
carried a hunting knife.
Photo: about 1953 source unknown
Clifford Brown was born on 14 September 1903, in Robinson,
Kidder County, North Dakota. He was the sixth child of thirteen born to Arthur
Durrwood and Mary Elizabeth Manning Brown.
He spent much of his childhood in the rugged and very
isolated homestead at the N1/2-NW1/4&SW1/4-NW1/4
– Section 34, Township 144 North Rang 72 West of the 5th Principal Meridian.
it is a land devoid of buildings or evidence the family ever homesteaded there.
Wikipedia indicates that Robinson had a population of 37 people in the 2010 Census. Merkel, the other town mentioned in some of the
records regarding the family indicates a population of 39 people. The entire county only has a population of 2,435
and the total area is about 1,351 square miles, which means that there are less than two people
per square mile today. Talk about isolated.
In 1917 (aged 14) his
family moved back to the “civilized lands” of Minnesota. His father received a
land patent, in township 138N (now Sylvan Township), Range 029W, Section
7, NE1/4-Nw1/4, N1/2-NE1/4, SE1/4-NE1/4.
(Modern GPS: 46.7911918, -94.4073918 – NW Corner of L shaped property.)
In 1928, his father died
of liver cancer
Here is where things get
complicated. His daughter believes that he went into the service sometime
before 1931 as Richard Earl Durand. I don’t think so. There are stories that he might have been a
spy and had that name as a spy. Other stories indicate he was in show business
while in the military and Richard Earl Durand was his stage name. In either event,
it is understood that Clifford and Madonna Mae Montran met in Panama City, Panama
in 1931 while he was in the service. They had a liaison, which produced a daughter, Sylvia. Madonna was
married to Samson Amsterdam at the time. The story there is that Samson
remained married to Madonna until the child was born, “to give it a name” then
quietly divorced. After the divorce, the oral history says that he pursued Madonna more.
|The Brainerd Daily Dispatch
18 October 1932
The dates here get quite
confusing. Sylvia was born in January of 1932, so she must have been conceived
in Panama in April 1931. By October of 1932, Clifford returned to Minnesota and
was apparently out of the service and was going by the name of Clifford Brown (again?). We
know this because Clifford Brown got into a fight in the parking lot of a dance
hall with Irwin Thompson. Irwin died and Clifford was charged with Manslaughter. Clifford was held in the Walker jail until a
grand jury could consider the case. I have been unable to find a disposition of
the grand jury’s decision and haven’t found where Clifford was tried or
sentenced so I believe he wasn’t indicted. However, I’m sure his reputation was
|The Brainerd Daily Dispatch
10 April 1935
didn’t like how Madonna (Donna) was raising his daughter, the three year-old
Sylvia, and on March 10th, 1935 he abducted his
daughter from Chicago and brought her back to Minnesota. We would probably not know anything
of this except Chicago police officers came to Minnesota and arrested Clifford
and brought him back to Illinois without going through extradition. The
Minnesota governor was upset to have a Minnesotan taken without due process. There
were many articles in the Brainerd Daily Dispatch regarding Governor Olson
protesting to Governor Horner (of Illinois) regarding the abduction of a
Minnesota citizen by Illinois law enforcement. I am still searching for case files of that case
and how long he served in prison in Chicago. Family legend says that when
Clifford was released from prison he contacted Donna one more time to see if
she would marry him. She wouldn’t and the two went their separate ways. I believe that Clifford’s name was so tarnished from the manslaughter and the child abduction that he took on the name of Richard Earl Durand upon his release from prison.
|414 Pine Street
Courtesy: Aunt Barbara
On 22 Feb 1936 Clifford
Brown, now Richard Earl Durand, married Dorothy Louise Wilhelm in Chicago. The
couple located to 414 Pine Street, Brainerd, Minnesota sometime before July, 1937, which is where they lived when
their first daughter was born. They moved back to Chicago within the year after their first child’s birth to be
there when their second daughter, Mary Lou Durand was born. The 1940 Census finds the
Durand family at 3621 Belmont (which is now a new construction building).
Not much is known about
Richard during the 1940s and 1950s. We are not sure where he was or what he was
doing. Family history indicates that he returned to Minnesota and located with
his mother in Motley. Photos that appear to be from the late 1940’s and early
1950’s show him with his mother, Mary Brown. Certainly, during this time he
became known as Dick Brown.
|Dick’s daughter Barbara outside
Hanson Minnow Tackle Worm shop
Motley, Minnesota circa. 1960
Courtesy: Aunt Barbara
I remember going up to
Grandpa Brown and Ma Brown’s house from the early 1950s. There is a photo of me
and one of my Great Aunt Deloris’ kids sitting on Ma Brown’s lap about 1953 or
so. For me, Grandpa Brown was the major male role model in my life. Dick was an
avid hunter and fisher. He worked at the Hanson Minnow Tackle Worm shop with his cousin Meretta.
(I’m not sure who owned it Meretta or her husband Fred or if Dick was a part owner or not.) In any event several years later, he ran his own minnow shop next to the El Ray Truck Stop. It was with Grandpa Brown that I tagged along when he
went deer hunting and saw my first deer kill. I went duck hunting, partridge
hunting, and was privy to his special place for fishing out on Lake Shamineau
where he could always catch fish. I went wild ricing with him and gained an
appreciation for the great outdoors. Hunting and fishing were Grandpa’s primary
source for protein.
I have so many stories
about Grandpa Dick and his mother, Ma Brown.
One story that comes to mind occurred sometime in the mid 1960s. Dick’s
old beater of a car broke down and wasn’t worth repairing, so he bought a “new”
$50 clunker. His mother saw the “new” car and started ragging on him and “Those
crazy kids and their motor cars — that’s all they think about is cars, cars,
cars!” The exchange pointed out that even my grandfather, who was in his 60s,
was just a kid to his mother. I will forever be a kid to all my ancestors.
|Sylvia, Matt, Don, & Grandpa Dick – Circa 1977
Source: Don Taylor Photo Collection
I went into the service in
1969 and didn’t see Grandpa Brown but a couple of times during the 1970s. He
married Cecelia Ann Squires in 1975. Sometime after he married Cecelia, I visited them with my mother and my son and had a “four generation” photograph taken. Not
very good quality, but we were all there.
I am not sure when he went into the United District Nursing Home in Staples, MN, which is where he died on 19 Jan 1990. He was buried at Gull River Cemetery in Sylvan Township, Cass County near his mother and many other family members.
I remember Grandpa Dick fondly. My appreciation for the
outdoors comes from Grandpa Dick. Grandpa Dick instilled the importance of
eating what you kill into me. In remembrance of his birth 111 years ago, I will
raise a toast to him.
· Make a concerted effort to network with other
descendants of the Brown Family.
· Develop a closer relationship with my half aunt and
her children, my half first cousins.
List of Greats
Please comment below if you have anything you would like to add to the story of
Clifford Brown, Richard Earl Durand, or Richard Earl Brown.
Certificate, Arthur D Brown.; Don Taylor, Maine.
Dispatch – 1932-10-18, Manslaughter filed against Clifford Brown.
Manslaughter charge is filed
against Brown in Thompson Death
Dispatch – 1935-04-10, Appeal to Illinois Governor Illegal Removal of Brown. — Minnesota
Governor Olson protested to Governor Horner be wouldn’t fight
to have Clifford Brown returned.