Summary of Current Research on
Benjamin Brown, born 1807 in Greene Co TN,


Part Two

This is the first in a series of articles related to family of BENJAMIN BROWN, together with information on collateral families of HULL, LINGENFELTER, TROBAUGH.  If you find this information useful, please take the time to thank Jim Patrick for his great work!

John Brown's Will has been previously published on this mailing list, but we'll show it again, for those who might not have been on the list at that time: Last Will and Testament of John Brown, Crawford County Indiana. Transcribed by James W. Patrick

Page 148 of Crawford County, Indiana Will book Two
John Brown’s Last Will and Testament

I, John Brown, of Crawford County, State of Indiana, being in good bodily health and of sound mind & memory and capable of disposing of my property, calling to mind the frailty and uncertainty of human life, and being desirous of settling my worldly affairs and directing how my Estate that I possess shall be disposed of after my death while I have Strength and Capacity so, do make and publish this, my last will and Testament, hereby Envoking my disposal of my property that I have heretofore made, and first I commend my immortal being to Him who gave it and my body to the Earth, to be buried with little expense or ostentation by my Executor hereafter named.

And my worldly estate and all the property, Real and personal of which I shall die possessor of at the time of my decease, my will is that my just debts, be if any, and my funeral expenses hereafter named by him as shall be found shall be paid by Executor, hereafter named by him, as shall be found convenient by him. I then give devise and bequeath to my wife Elizabeth Brown, all my household furniture, my dwelling to have and to hold the same during her natural life, also give to her the use and income or rental of my home and appurtenances, to have and to hold the same during her natural life. Said land tenements situate in the County of Crawford State of Indiana.

2nd I give to my son Benjamin Brown the sum of one dollar to be paid in one year after my death by my Executor hereafter to be named.

3rd I give devise and bequeath to my son John H. Brown the Reverson
[reversion?] or the Remainder of my dwelling house lands, situate in the County of Crawford State of Indiana described as follows: the south west qt of the S.W. qt of Sec No. 17. Also the south East of the South East qt of Sec. No. 18 all in Tp [?] 3 South of Range one east and all of my personal property at the death of my wife Elizabeth Brown to have and to hold the same, him his heirs and assigns forever, from and after the death of my wife Elizabeth Brown, to him, John H. Brown to his and their use … [behoof ??] forever.

4th I give to my son, Alfred Brown, the sum of one dollar, to be paid by my executor, hereafter named, in one year after my death.

5th I give to the heirs of Geo A. Brown, the sum of one dollar to be paid to them or their order within one year after my death, by my Executor hereinafter named.

6th I give to my son Samuel Brown, the sum of one dollar to be paid him in one year after my death, by my Executor herein after named.

7th I hereby appoint George W. Riddle, of Crawford County and State of
Indiana, my Executor of this my last will and Testament.
And lastly my express will and meaning is and I do hereby order and appoint that if any difference, dispute, question, or controversy shall be moored, arise, or happen concerning any gift, matter, or thing in this my will, given and bequeathed, expressed, or court arise that then no suit or suits in law or equity or otherwise shall be brought, commenced, or prosecuted for and concerning the same

Page 149 of Will Book Two
determination of my friends Hamilton Martin & John S. Wright, both of
Crawford County and State of Indiana, and what they shall order, direct, or determine therein shall be binding and conclusive to all and every person therein concerned.

In testimony whereof, I, the said John Brown, have to this my last will and testament, contained on one where thereof subscribed my name and affixed my seal this 2 day of September, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and seventy three ~~~
John (his X mark) Brown (L.S.)
The above instrument consisting of one sheet was now here subscribed by John Brown, the testator in the presence of each of us, and was, at the same time, declared by him to be his last will and Testament, and we, at his request, sign our names hereto as attesting witnesses
Hamilton Martin
John S. Wright

The State of Indiana }
Crawford County } SS
Be it Remembered that on the 21st day of November, 1884, Hamilton Martin, one of the subscribing witnesses to the within and foregoing last will and Testament of John Brown, late of said county deceased, personally appeared before the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Crawford County in the State of Indiana, and being duly sworn by the Clerk of said Court upon his oath declared and testified as follows, that is to say that on the 2nd day of September A.D 1873, he saw the said John Brown sign his name to said instrument in writing, as and for his last will and Testament, and that this deponent, at the same time heard the said John Brown declare the said instrument in writing to be his last will and Testament, and that the said instrument in writing was at the
same time at the request of the said John Brown, and, with his consent, attested and subscribed the said Hamilton Martin & John S. Wright in the presence of said testator and in the presence of each other, as subscribing witnesses thereto, and that the said John Brown, was at the time of signing and subscribing of said instrument in writing, as aforesaid, of full age, that is more than twenty on years of age, and of sound and disposing mind and memory and not under any coercion or restraint as the said deponent verily believes, and further and sayeth not.
Hamilton Martin
Sworn to and subscribed to by the said Hamilton Martin

before me, W. S. Ross, Clerk of said Court, at Leavenworth this 21 day of November 1884, in attestation whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed the seal of said Court.
W. S. Ross, Clerk, Circuit Court
State of Indiana Crawford County} SS

Page 150 of Will Book Two
I, W. S. Ross, Clerk of the Crawford Circuit Court, do hereby certify that the within annexed Will and Testament of John Brown has been duly admitted to probate and duly proved by the testimony of Hamilton Martin, one of the subscribing witnesses thereto, that a complete record of said will and of the testimony of the said John Brown in proof thereof has been by me duly made and recorded in Book 2, at Page 148 of the Records and Wills of said County.
In attestation whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed the Seal; of said Court at Leavenworth this 21st day of November A.D. 1884

W. S. Ross, Clerk (L.S.) Of the Crawford Circuit Court


Since we felt we had finally pinned down Ben's parents, we wanted a more personal connection with this generation of Browns:

On Thursday, May 29, 2008, Phyllis, Tom and Mark Groutage and I drove from Carterville Illinois to English Indiana, in Crawford County, to look at some of the historical documents at the old courthouse on the hill in English.  The town of English was moved several years ago, from its original location in a valley, to a nearby hill, after a series of floods which devastated the town.  It’s a little bit spooky to come down out of the hills into this location and see the streets and sidewalks all in place, but no buildings.  The old courthouse is a concrete block building, apparently in good condition, but empty except for the historical documents.  The present caretakers of the documents told us that, when the new courthouse was to be constructed, they were assured that special rooms would be provided for the historical documents, but, when the courthouse was dedicated and opened, no such provision had been made.  What a surprise!  Now, everything is still in the old courthouse, safe on a hill on the opposite side of the valley from “New English”.  Although we spent most of our time at the Historical Society facility in the old courthouse, we also visited the new library, up in New English, where we were able to view the newspaper microfilms.

Since we had called ahead earlier in the week, Larry Burmeister, Vice-President of the Crawford County Historical and Genealogical Society, was awaiting our arrival with the County Historian, Richard Eastridge. 

We explained that we have a copy of the will of John Brown, which we’ve transcribed, but we wanted to find the record of distribution of the bequests, which would most likely note the residence of the beneficiaries.  The will was submitted on November 21, 1884, and  was approved on December 23, 1884, so we, and all other researchers have reckoned that Old John Brown had died in 1884, although the original will had been written on September 2, 1873.  As usually happens with genealogy research, we found that our notions were a bit incorrect.

Despite our best efforts, we couldn’t find any distribution records, although we think they are still buried somewhere in those old books.  In the will, the major beneficiaries were John H. Brown and Old John Brown’s widow, Elizabeth. After burial and payment of debts ...

“I then give devise and bequeath to my wife Elizabeth Brown, all my household furniture, my dwelling to have and to hold the same during her natural life, also give to her the use and income or rental of my home and appurtenances, to have and to hold the same during her natural life.  Said land tenements situate in the County of Crawford State of Indiana.”

A dollar to son, Benjamin Brown, then .....

“I give devise and bequeath to my son John H. Brown the Reverson [reversion?] or the Remainder of my dwelling house lands, situate in the County of Crawford State of Indiana described as follows:  the south west qt of the S.W. qt of Sec No. 17.  Also the south East of the South East qt of Sec. No. 18 all in Tp [?] 3 South of Range one east and all of my personal property at the death of my wife Elizabeth Brown to have and to hold the same, him his heirs and assigns forever, from and after the death of my wife Elizabeth Brown, to him, John H. Brown to his and their use …[behoof ??] forever.”

A dollar to son, Alfred Brown

A dollar to the heirs of his son, George A. Brown

A dollar to son, Samuel Brown

George W. Riddle is appointed as Executor of the will.

We already knew all of the above information, but Richard Eastridge began to dig elsewhere.

He found a page that showed the fees paid to file the will in 1884, all paid for by Squire Brown (b. abt 1846 IN), Old John’s grandson, son of John H. Brown (b. abt 1812 TN).

Then, he found a notation in the transcribed Crawford County Tract book 3, Land Records, that the land described in the will was transferred from John H. Brown to Squire V. Brown on January 10, 1885.  Although we don’t know his date of death, John H. Brown is buried in Mt. Sterling Cemetery, south of English Indiana.  Our conclusion is that John H. Brown was in ill health and unable to travel to the county seat for filing of the will and payment of fees.

Richard Eastridge subsequently found an entry wherein Squire V. Brown had committed an Elizabeth Brown to the Poor Farm in 1885.  We have no further information.  We can’t find Elizabeth in the census of 1880.  She would have been about 85 years old at that time.  We can’t be sure that the person committed to the Poor Farm was the second wife of Old John Brown, but it seems a considerable coincidence if it refers to other people.  Our assumption would have been that she had died before 1885, when the property was transferred to Squire, but would the property have been tied to the household goods?  It was my opinion that the house, lands, and personal properties were all tied to Elizabeth Brown until her death.  If Squire or his father (John H. Brown) had Elizabeth declared incompetent, they might have been able to transfer the property prior to her death.  On the other hand, Richard Eastridge, the County Historian, believes that only the household goods were tied to Elizabeth.  In Squire’s defense, if Elizabeth was aged and perhaps senile, Squire might have thought it best to place his step-grandmother into the only institution available to them.  Who knows?  It’s a subject for further research.

Further questions evolve.  An article in the Crawford County Democrat of Thursday, December 20, 1877 (published at Leavenworth, Indiana), says: “Died at 100 Years Old.  Old Uncle John Brown, one of the oldest citizens of this county, died Friday last, of old age.  His birth day would have been next May, and which time he would have been one hundred years old.  His remains were interred at the Riddle schoolhouse cemetery, being followed by a large courtege [sic] of citizens.”

All previous census entries record an age for Old John Brown that would place his birth at 1783-1784, instead of the May of 1778 date indicated in the newspaper.  There’s little question that all these items:  the will of 1873 (filed 1884), the census records of 1850, 1860 and 1870, the 1877 newspaper article, the land transfer from John H. Brown (son of Old John Brown) to Squire Brown (son of John H. Brown) all apply to the same John Brown. One could only guess why Old John Brown might have shaved six years off his actual age all those years, if that’s the case.  Did it happen at the time of his second marriage, to Elizabeth Snowden on 26 Dec 1833 in Harrison County Indiana?  Or was his impending 100th birthday a fabrication by an editor, something not unknown in newspapers of the time?  For the moment, we have chosen to believe that the newspaper was wrong about his age, either because the 100-year-old story was more interesting, or because the editors received flawed information.  From the article, we place the date of John’s death at 14 Dec 1877.  For our purposes, we continue to estimate John’s date of birth to be May of 1784.

We had decided before our trip to Indiana that we would visit the property owned by old John Brown, on Riddle Church Road, near Riddle Indiana, in Crawford County.  However, the obituary gave us the graveyard location and provided us with another point of reference.  We drove some twelve miles southeast, from English to RiddleChurch Road, where we had expected at least a little store or something to indicate that a town had existed there.  We knew we had arrived because we were following a map, and when we turned to the right, we saw the old schoolhouse and the graveyard.  Other than those landmarks, the only other feature was one house.  Riddle is no longer on most highway maps.  We realized that the locus of the former town of Riddle is about a quarter mile to the north of Riddle Church Road, on Carnes Mill Road.  Google Map: 8&q=riddle+indiana&um=1&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&resnum=1&ct=image 

 The schoolhouse is now a Methodist Church, said to have been founded in 1836, which might have been shortly before Old John Brown arrived on the scene.  It’s not clear if the church had originally been Methodist.  If Old John Brown had anything to do with the founding, it probably would have been some sort of Reformed German Church of the Brethren, since two of his brothers were pastors in that church tradition.  The present building is resting on a foundation of rough-hewn limestone blocks, and we suspected that they might have supported the original school when Old John Brown arrived on the scene.  Of course, the schoolhouse might have also served as church in the earliest days in Riddle. The building is laid out very much like old schoolhouses, but the two such organizations often used to use the same buildings.  We like to say that we saw John Brown’s grave, because we looked at every grave on the property and examined every gravestone that might have been in place in 1877, although we found no gravestone with his name.  There were at least a dozen stones that had weathered enough to be unreadable, any one of which might have been John’s.  We chose one particular stone, near the site of the original building, near another Brown headstone and decided, arbitrarily, that it would be John Brown’s.  That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it until proven otherwise.

We left the graveyard and headed west about a quarter-mile to the property which had been John Brown’s.  The unpaved road going westward out of Riddle makes a sharp turn to the left, and Old John Brown’s property is on the right, just at the corner.  One of us got out of the truck and asked the people in the yard if we might take some photos of the house and property, because one of the ancestors of the lady sitting in the car had lived there 150 years ago.  One of the men standing around on the property indicated that he saw no problem in our photographs, so I took a couple of snapshots.  The man explained that they were renting the property, and that the present owner had recently purchased the property.  He said that locals place the construction of the house at more than 100 years ago, but it would be difficult to date it on outward appearance.  However, the back part of the house was resting on some stones that appeared to be exactly the same size and general appearance as those under the schoolhouse/church.  Shortly, a younger man came outside and said that his mother was upset at our photographing the place, since the owner was a bit difficult about such things.  Of course, we had a legal right to photograph anything we wanted to, but we had no interest in riling up the local citizenry, who were not very happy with us.  We snapped a couple of photos yet from the car and fled the wrong direction, around the corner, on a dead-end road.  We turned around and headed home, having not really found the kind of information we were looking for, but having found different, more interesting stuff.


Another article noted in the great index of old newspapers at the Historical Society in Crawford County Indiana, was for the death of John W. Brown (son of George A. Brown), a grandson of Old John Brown.  Although the cemetery listings note a John W. Brown buried in Crawford County, it is not this particular John W. Brown, who is buried in Trilla (Coles Co) Illinois.  We think that George A. Brown died 1850-1855 in Sullivan County Indiana, and his wife, Sophia Williams, remarried three times, as noted below, migrating with her kids to Coles Co IL.

Looking at the local newspapers on microfilm was interesting.  We found that these small-town newspapers published mostly articles lifted from magazines or other newspapers, even as late as 1913 --

From "The English News", March 14, 1913 (published at English Indiana):

Trilla Loses One of its Old Residents

John W. Brown, Civil War Veteran Passed Away -- Funeral Services on Sunday Morning.

            Trilla, Ill, March 1. -- John W. Brown, aged seventy-two years and nine months one of the founders of the town of Trilla died at the family resident here Friday night at 10:40 o'clock.  Death is attributed to pneumonia.

            Funeral services will be conducted on Sunday morning at the Presbyterian church at ten o'clock.  Burial will be made in the Beals cemetery.  Rev. Harris who has been conducting revival service at the church for two weeks, will officiate. [It’s interesting to note that Sophia Williams’ mother was Azuba Beals, so the contact with the Beals family was maintained after migration.]

            John W. Brown was born in Crawford County, Ind., on May 17, 1840, and came to Trilla shortly after the civil war.  He served in the war for four years and a half as a member of the thirty-first Indiana Volunteers, having enlisted as a -private and was promoted from time to time until he attained the rank of lieutenan[t].

            John W. Brown was postmaster of Trilla for four years.  For twenty years he was engaged in mercantile business under the firm name of Brown & McPherson.

            He was an active church worker having been an elder for fifteen years in the Presbyterian Church.  he was also interested in lodge work, and held membership with Post 503 of the Grand Army of the Republic, Lodge, No. 393 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Mason, chapter 254 of the Eastern Star, and the Charleston branch of the Masonic Protective association.

            Mr. Brown was married on September 25, 1887 to Miss Mary Hays.  Surviving him are two brothers, L. W. Brown of Trilla and Levi Brown of English; one son, O. C. Brown, of Trilla; one daughter, Mrs. Laura Jones of Trilla, nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren.  mr. W. A. O'Day, who resides at 1016 South Fifteenth Street, Mattoon, is a granddaughter.


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