Clifford Brown (aka Richard Earl Durand, aka Richard Earl Brown) (1903-1990)

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 38
Clifford Brown (1903-1990)
(aka Richard Earl Durand)
(aka Richard Earl Brown)

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 (1903-1990)
(aka Richard Earl Durand
(aka Richard Earl Brown)

Richard Earl Brown always carried a hunting knife.
Photo: ca. 1953

Clifford Brown was born on 14 September 1903, in Robinson, Kidder County, North Dakota. He was the sixth child of thirteen born to Arthur
Durwood 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, Range 72 West of the 5th Principal Meridian. Today, 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[1]. Merkel, the other town mentioned in some of the records regarding the family indicates a population of 39 people[2]. The entire county only has a population of 2,435 and the total area is about 1,351 square miles[3], 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[4].
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. Oral history says 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 Dick pursued Madonna more.

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[5]. 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 sullied.

Apparently, Clifford 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[6]. 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, Brainerd, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of 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
Photo 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.

Further Actions:

  • 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

  1. Arthur Durrwood Brown
  2. Henry Brown
  3. Benjamin Brown
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.
———- DISCLAIMER ———- 


[4] Minnesota, Death Certificate, Arthur D Brown.; Don Taylor, Maine.
[5] Brainerd Daily Dispatch – 1932-10-18, Manslaughter filed against Clifford Brown. Manslaughter charge is filed against Brown in Thompson Death.
[6] Brainerd Daily 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.
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4 Responses to Clifford Brown (aka Richard Earl Durand, aka Richard Earl Brown) (1903-1990)

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