Tuesday, June 10, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - #23 Henry Washington Brown

Twenty-one out of 22 of my 52 Ancestors posts have been about my foremothers. In honor of Father's Day coming up, I thought I'd write about one of my forefathers. I've been avoiding writing about my paternal great grandfather Henry Washington Brown, because of the tragedy he caused, but his blood runs through my veins, too, and it's time I tried to get to know more about him.

One of ten children, Henry was born on March 4, 1863, in Covington County, Alabama, to William Jackson Brown and Sarah Adams. By the time he was born, the American Civil War had been raging nearly two years.

Henry grew up on the 120-acre family farm in Covington County where they grew wheat, corn, rice, tobacco, cotton, peas, and barley; raised pigs and cows; churned butter; and made molasses from sugar cane.[1] His siblings were Thomas Jefferson (b. 1847), William Franklin (b. 1849), Elizabeth (b. 1851), James Andrew (b. 1852), Mary (b. 1855), Sarah Cecille (b. 1858), John Berry (b. 1862), Willis Jackson (b. 1864), and Robert Joseph (b. 1867). Henry's mother died about a month after her last child Robert was born when Henry was just four years old.

By the time Henry was 17, he had moved out of his father's house, but I don't know where he went or why he moved out at such a young age. Probably to find work. He's not listed with his father in the 1880 census and I haven't found him elsewhere.

Where's Henry? The James Brown and Franklin Brown in the above 1880 Covington County, Alabama, U. S. census are Henry's older brothers. W. J. Brown is Henry's father. Henry is also not listed with his brother Thomas Jefferson Brown. (Click the image for a larger view.)

Henry married Hattie Finney on April 16, 1884, in Escambia County, Alabama.[2] Their children were Lucy Belle (b. 1887), Lavada (b. 1890), Elliott Medric (b. 1893), Helen Larue (b. 1896, my grandmother), and Hoyt Henry (b. 1896, my grandmother's twin). My dad wrote in his memoirs that their children were named after Henry's friends.

Henry seemed to have held a variety of jobs over the years, but most might be the same job or within the same field--lumbering. At the time of the 1885 Florida state census, he was working as a cooper. By 1900, he was a log driver. The 1910 Federal census index on ancestry.com does not match the digitized original record that comes up, but the 1910 Pensacola, Florida, city directory says he was a laborer. Here are a few more:

  • 1911 Pensacola city directory: contractor
  • 1913 Pensacola city directory: lumber
  • 1916 Pensacola city directory: laborer
  • 1919 Pensacola city directory: carpenter
  • 1920 Escambia County, FL, census: foreman in a shipyard
  • 1921 Pensacola city directory: carpenter
  • 1924 Pensacola city directory: carpenter

By the 1930 census, Henry had a truck garden business. By this time, he was 67 years old and probably retired. According to my dad, Henry also had a moonshine still.

In my post Fearless Females: The Tragic Death of Hattie Finney Brown I wrote about the tragedy that I mentioned above, so I won't recount it here. I also wrote about Henry's death two years later in that same post. I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of this family.

My dad wrote in his memoirs,

My mother was Helen LaRue Brown (Thomas) Pendleton (1896-1972).  Her parents were Henry Washington Brown and Hattie Finney Brown of Pensacola, Florida, formerly of Alabama. Mama said one parent was Scotch [sic] and the other was Irish—and that was an unpredictable combination. 


This post is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge by genealogist Amy Crow at No Story Too Small.


[1] 1860 U. S. census, Covington County, Alabama, nonpopulation schedule, p. 21, line 20, William J. Brown, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 April 2014), citing NARA microfilm publication M279.

[2] Ancestry.com Alabama Marriages, 1809-1920 (Selected Counties), for Henry Brown and Hattie Finney.


  1. Scotch and Irish - an unpredictable combination. I love that, Catherine!