Saturday, October 15, 2016

More to come!

Just back from vacation, and, yes, it was wonderful.  I started the next installment before I left and hope to finish it soon.  Stay tuned . . .

Friday, September 23, 2016

Illinois Prairie Years

In the last post, we looked at Patrick Brown, the oldest child of Timothy and Hannah Kelly Brown while he lived in Ohio.  In this post, we will continue to follow the story of Patrick. 

The David Brown letter1, (see image below), states that Patrick and his family lived in the Chicago area for some time.  There is a
Bottom of Page 3 of the David Brown Letter
(click to enlarge)
Patrick Brown, laborer, living at the southwest corner of Barber and Jefferson Streets in the 1864 Chicago City Directory; but, a positive identification is difficult because of the common name.  I don’t know when he left Ohio, ( it was sometime after October 1863); however, by July 3, 1865, Patrick Brown, his
1865 Illinois State Census
(click to enlarge)
wife, Anne Burns, and six children, ages one to eleven, are living in McLean County, Illinois.  The Illinois State Census for Bellflower Township in McLean County for 18652, (see image right), names heads of households, and provides values of agricultural activities for each person enumerated.  All persons enumerated in the district, except Patrick, show farm activity, perhaps, indicating that Patrick was a recent arrival to the community.

Belleflower [Bellflower/Bell Flower] Township is located in the south east corner of McLean County at the end of a glacial moraine, the
Townships of McLean County
(click to enlarge)
Bloomington Moraine.3   The glacial left an unbroken prairie with a deep layer of top soil over a gravel bed with virtually no trees making it very desirable farm land.  In fact, Belleflower has been identified as the “finest township of land in the State; and perhaps, the finest in any State.”4   It is easy to see why this area was appealing to a farmer like Patrick. 

Patrick was able to acquire land in Belleflower Township, township 22.  In August of 1869, Patrick purchased the northwest quarter of Section 12 in Township 22, Range 6,5 consisting of 160 acres.  This property is shown in red on the map of Belleflower Township at
1874 Map of Belleflower Twp., McLean Co., IL
(click to enlarge)
the left
.   In May, 1878, Patrick sold this property back to Ira Colby, from whom he purchased it, and, was able to purchase a larger tract of land in Section 14 in Belleflower Township.  This property consisted of the northeast quarter of the section and one-half of the northwest section east of the railroad right of way.6  It is shown in green on the map.  In February, 1882, Patrick sold the property in Section 14 to his new son-in-law, James Cox.  At that time, he purchased a smaller piece of property of just 80 acres.  This property was located on the north one-half of the southwest quarter of Section 2, in Township 22, the blue section on the map.  Patrick held this property until 1887 when it was sold to Eli Wood.7  

This last property is interesting because the deed references a school house on the property.  (See image of Warranty Deed below
Schoolhouse Deed
(click to enlarge)
.)  The warranty deed states that part of the property is
reserved for the, “. . . present school house site on said land as long as the same shall be used for school purposes.”  This schoolhouse was referred to as Old No. 1.  In 1875, school district 1 was split and the schoolhouse was moved three-fourths mile south to the land that, in 1882, was owned by Patrick. It was described as a “cozy little house, painted white, [that] could be seen for some distance on the open prairie, which suggested the name Prairie Cottage School.” It was used until 1902.8    

 Patrick’s family continued to grow.  Three daughters were born to Patrick and Ann while they lived in Illinois: Elizabeth born July 1865; Emily/Julia born October 1868; and, Hannah born May 
1870 US Census, Belleflower Twp., McLean Co., IL
(click to enlarge)
1872.9   About 1875 Patrick’s mother, Hannah, and George and James Roach, the sons of his sister, Johanna Brown Roach, came to live with the family after the children were orphaned.  In 1878, another orphaned nephew, William H. Brown, son of Patrick’s brother
1880 US Census
(click to enlarge)
John, joined the family.  Brother John died in 1873 as the result of a train accident.  John’s wife, Ellen, a sister of Patrick’s wife, Ann, died in 1878.  (More about Johanna Brown Roach and John Brown in future posts.)  The 1870 and 1880 US Census records10 show the members of the family living with Patrick during those years. 

Just as any family grows, the members also mature and leave home to create lives of their own.  The first of the children to leave home was Patrick when he married Ann Radigan in January 1880.  The oldest daughter, Mary Ann, married James Cox in January 1882.  Two other daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth married in 1884.  Two additional sons, John B. and David O. left for Nebraska sometime around 1883.  But, probably the most devastating change for Patrick was the death of his wife, Ann, on December 24, 1878 at the age of just 47.  Ann’s sister, Ellen had died of cancer in Columbus, Ohio in April, 1878.  Patrick had gone to Columbus to assist his brother’s family and returned with one of the children, William H.  How tragic that Ann, too, would have been taken by cancer in the same year.  

The death register11 for McLean County, (see image below left), shows that Ann had been ill for approximately ten weeks.  She was treated by Dr. Hugh Ross of Gibson City in Ford County, which was just a couple of miles east of Belleflower Township, McLean
Death Register, Ann Burns Brown, McLean Co., IL
(click to enlarge)
County.  Although the death was not reported until the following January, Ann was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Bloomington, a distance of nearly 40 miles from the Belleflower farm, on December 26, just two days after she died.  It must have been very important to the
Tombstone - St. Mary's
family that she be buried in a
Catholic cemetery.  McLean County and Belleflower Township are well supplied with railroads which would have been used for transportation; but, travel at that specific time was probably very difficult.  The Pantagraph, Bloomington’s newspaper, ran an article on December 25, 1878 giving an account of snow and severe cold that was delaying rail transportation.12   

Travel to Blooomington, (Bloomington is the county seat of McLean County), in those years would have been difficult even in the best of weather and was an item of news in the local paper when a person from “out of town” was visiting.  On March 15, 1882, The Pantagraph published a note that, “Mr. Patrick Brown, a prominent citizen of Belleflower, was in town yesterday.”   Patrick was mentioned in the paper at other times, also.  In May, 1880, Patrick was named as the defendant in a lawsuit brought by Frederick Schonberger from Ford County.  (The verdict was for the plaintiff for $430.00.)  Patrick was mentioned in the paper for the real estate transactions mentioned above.  He was also mentioned when he hosted the weddings at his home for his three daughters, Mary Ann, Sarah and Elizabeth.   There was a train accident in 1876, and, finally there was post on May 23, 1883 under the heading “Belleflower” news that, “Old Mrs. Brown, Patrick Brown’s mother, is sick with dropsy, but is some better.”13

This is probably about the time Patrick left Illinois.  Patrick had lived in McLean County about twenty years.  His family was dwindling, his wife and mother were gone, the children were setting out on their own, getting married or moving to other states.  Patrick likely felt a need to do something different; and, so he subsequently moved to Nebraska with two of his sons.  That is where we will pick up the story of Patrick Brown in the next post.

1.       Brown, David, Kankakee, IL, 11 May 1943, Letter to Esther _____, Columbus, OH.  Letter contains genealogical information for the Brown Family from County Limerick.

2.       Illinois State Census, 1865, Patrick Brown, Bellflower, McLean, Illinois, p. 184, State Library, Springfield, IL, from, FHL microfilm 972.76.  available online at:

3.       Retreating glaciers left large deposits of silt and gravel at the end of the moraine creating an undulating terrain.  McLean County is situated on a prairie where there are prevailing winds from the south west in the summer and north winds from the Great Lakes in the winter.  When the winds hit the “hills” of the glacial moraine, wind speeds increase forming a wind tunnel.   Local entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this weather phenomenon and created a “wind farm” consisting of 240 wind turbines.  Twin Groves Wind Farm became operational in 2008.  A short video explains more about the operation.    

4.       History of McLean County Illinois, Wm LeBaron, Jr., & Co., Chicago, IL., 1879, p. 189.  The history also states that the ground was of such a nature that it could be “broken with a team of two horses, while in other portions of the county a team of four and even of six oxen has been required for the purpose.”  Available online at:

5.       McLean Co, IL, Deed Book, Book 85, page 215.  Ira Colby, Emma Colby, Ceiclia Roberts, Samuel Roberts to Patrick Brown for $4,680 dated 30 Aug 1869.  There was a mortgage recorded for this property.

6.        McLean Co., IL, Deed Book, Book 113, page 364.  Patrick Brown and Ann Brown to Ira Colby for $5,600 dated 11 May 1878.  The original mortgage was released.

McLean Co., IL, Deed Book, Book 108, page 480.  Lucinda G. Bent to Patrick Brown for $5,000 dated 5 Feb 1878.  A mortgage was also recorded on this property.

7.       McLean Co., IL, Deed Book, Book 123, page 601.  Patrick Brown to James Cox for $8,000 dated 10 Feb 1882.  Buyer to assume mortgage

McLean Co., IL, Deed Book, Book 126, page 364.  S.H. Jennings to Patrick Brown for $3,050 dated 16 Feb 1882.  Mortgage to Martha Smith for $1,600.

McLean Co., IL, Deed Book, Book 145, page 107.  Patrick Brown, widower, to Eli Woodfor $3,200 dated 7 Feb 1887.

8.       Brigham, William B., The Story of McLean County And Its Schools, Bloomington, IL, p 119.  Available online at:

9.       Birth information was taken from the 1900 US Census for all three girls.  Church records are not available for baptisms of Elizabeth, Emily and Hannah in Illinois.  Holy Trinity, Bloomington, does not have records for these girls.   Records in other parishes do not start early enough.  The History of St. Patrick’s Parish, Merna, Illinois in 1929, by Margaret Larkin Kinsella states that masses were often said in the homes of area parishioners during the 1860s and early 1870s until a church could be built in 1876; and, even then, it did not have a resident priest until 1883.  Merna is located east of Bloomington and about 20 miles west of Belleflower.   The history is available online at: 

10.   1870 U.S. Census, Bellflower, McLean, Illinois; Roll: M593_258; Page 29A; Family History Library Film: 545758. Indexed as Patrick “Brower.”

1880 U.S. Census, Bell Flower, McLean, Illinois; roll: 231; Family History Film: 1254231; Page 626B; Enumeration District: 184; image: 0136

Both available online through

11.   Death Register, Ann Brown, died 24 Dec 1878, County Cerk’s Office, McLean County, IL, accessed 17 Sep 2009, Bloomington, McLean, IL.  Death notification for McLean County, Illinois was not mandatory until 1916.  Some random death certificates do exist before that time.

Image of tombstone
      Photo from Find-A-Grave.  The tombstone is quite large, over five feet tall.   

12.   “Rough on Railroads, The Polar Wave  - How its Breakers Affected the People and the Lines.”  The Pantagraph, Bloomington, IL.  Available online through 

13.   The Pantagraph, the local Bloomington newspaper, carried news of not only Bloomington, but, the surrounding communities and, indeed, around the world.  Notices of the information given above were from various editions dating from 1876 to 1883.  In September 1881, a news items from Dublin, Ireland was included telling a story about the Brown’s home place in County Limerick.  “DUBLIN, September 14 – In a railway accident at Patrick’s Well, County Limerick, fifty persons were injured.”  I can only imagine their reaction to that information. The following story was printed on page three of the February 10, 1876 copy.  “A man named Patrick Brown was struck by the pilot [what we call a ‘cow catcher’] of an engine on a train bound south, on Tuesday morning, on the Gilman, Clinton & Springfield road, near Belleflower, as he sat on the ties.  He was probably drunk.  His skull was fractured and he was injured internally, and will doubtless die.”  The track runs directly through Patrick’s property in section 12 (the red section of the map).  Obviously, Patrick did not die, but, after the death of his brother, John, in 1873 from a train accident, he really should have known better than to sit on the track.  The paper made no further mention of the accident, his injuries, or his recovery.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

It looked like home!

Patrick Brown, the oldest son of Honora Kelly and Timothy Brown was baptized on November 26, 1830 in the Catholic Church of Patrickswell, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland.  Nothing is known of his early life in Fanningstown, the townland where the family lived.   The property they occupied consisted of about 25 acres.  In addition to a garden patch, they would likely have raised wheat and had pasturage for livestock – cattle and pigs.  Patrick grew up helping with chores and learning local farming methods.  It is interesting to note that Patrick was the only child of Hannah and
A portion of Page 3 of the David Brown Letter
(click to enlarge)
Timothy who farmed after they arrived in America.  Patrick was age 15 when the potato blight first hit Ireland.  The family continued on the property for the first couple of years of the famine; but, by 1848 things had gotten much worse and they left Ireland for Boston.  Patrick would have just turned 18.  Because of the death of his father, Timothy, before they left Ireland, Patrick likely felt an immense sense of responsibility for the survival of the family.  That is certainly indicated by the narrative of the David Brown letter shown above left.1  Earlier blog posts describe the journey to America, (The Voyage of the John Murray) their brief time in Boston (Boston) and their time in Vermont (Vermont).  It appears that the family split up when they left Vermont.  Most of them went to the Chicago area.  Patrick, and his younger brother, John, went to Ohio.

The first confirmed reference to Patrick in Ohio is a record for his oldest son, Patrick, who was baptized at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, on March 17, 1854.  The twins, John and Mary, were also baptized at St. Patrick’s on April 3, 1856.2   St Patrick’s is located at the corner of Naghten Street,
St. Patrick's, Columbus, OH
known as “Irish Broadway,” and Seventh Street, now Grant Avenue.3   I have consulted early city directories for Columbus and, although I found a listing for John in the 1858 edition living near St. Pat’s, I have not been able to find an entry for Patrick.4  By the beginning of 1859, Patrick was living in Delaware County, north of Columbus  where the next two children were baptized at St. Mary Catholic Church, Delaware, Ohio - David on January 1, 1859 and, Sarah on May 21, 1861.5   According to the 1870 US Census, another child, James, was also born in Ohio about 1863-4, but a baptismal record could not be located for him.

The 1860 US Census shows Patrick living in Concord Township, Delaware County, Ohio with his wife, Ann, and four children,
1860 US Census, Concord Twp, Delaware County, OH
(click to enlarge)
Patrick, (age six), John and Mary, (age four), and David, (age 1).  He is identified as a “farm laborer” with a personal estate worth $180.
6  Based on close neighbors listed in the census, I believe Patrick was living on the east side of the Scioto River across from the small settlement of Bellepoint in the north eastern section of the township. 

 Concord Township is located in the south west corner of Delaware County bordering Franklin County.   The Scioto River passes through the township.  The Post Office in the 1860 census is given as “Dublin” in Franklin County, quite a distance
Early map of Delaware County, OH from Perrin's History of Delaware County
Bellepoint identified on map (click to enlarge)
south of Bellepoint.  Early settlers in Concord Township describe the area as “picturesque” with, “primeval forests, rolling rivers, winding creeks, babbling brooks,  . . . green hills and fertile valley[s].”   It is also said that Concord Township was noted for an “almost impassable swamp,” “woods . . . full of wolves,” and numerous rattlesnakes, “often covering the driftwood in the river so completely that their mottled skins gave it the appearance of calico.” 7  

I remember driving through southern Delaware County as a young girl and visiting relatives in the Dublin area.  At that time, Dublin was a sleepy little village of streets lined with small limestone buildings.8  Dry stacked limestone fences also lined the fields in the surrounding area; and, while the fields and pastures lining the Scioto River were rolling terrain, land away from the river leveled out and was relatively flat.   I mention this because the first time I visited Ireland and drove through County Limerick, I felt rather let
Fanningstown area, from Google Earth
down.  I guess I was expecting something exotic.  I had just gotten off of an overnight flight to Shannon airport and jumped in a car to drive to Tralee by way of Patrickswell.  Needless to say I was exhausted and probably not very alert, but, I thought Patrickswell and the surrounding countryside looked rather common.  It didn’t dawn on me until later when we were driving in another part of the Ireland, (County Mayo), that the land there also resembled an area I was familiar with around Lancaster, Ohio where a different ancestor’s family settled.  Then it hit me - it looked like home.  There was a river, trees, stone fences, green fields, stone houses – it looked like home! 

Now I don’t know for sure, but, I suspect that had something to do with Patrick settling in Delaware County.  Whatever it was that drew him to the area, Patrick did not stay long -maybe it was the snakes.  By 1865, Patrick and his family were living in Belle Flower Township, McLean County, Illinois. Before we go there with the story, there is another document from Ohio that we need to examine.

In his letter, David Brown speculates on the possibility that Patrick was married in Boston.  We know this was not the case since Patrick is listed as “single” in the 1850 United States Census from Brandon, Vermont.  (See an image of that census in the “Vermont” post above.)  While he could have been married in Vermont9, there is some evidence that he was married in Ohio.  See the
Columbiana County marriage record, Volume 4, page 103
(click to enlarge)
marriage record on the right for Patrick Brown and Ann Burns dated August 16, 1851.10  James Monaghan, a Catholic priest at St.  Philip Neri, in Dungannon, Columbiana County, Ohio, performed the marriage.  Could this be the correct couple, and, what were they doing in Columbiana County, a very long way away from other locations known to the family?   

Columbiana County today is somewhat of a backwater; but, that wasn’t always so.  The southern border is along the Ohio River, a major transportation source in the mid 1800s.  Fertile farm land
Ohio counties: Columbiana is blue,
Delaware is green, Franklin is red
covers most of the area and there were rich deposits of coal and salt providing employment opportunities.  Railroads were being constructed in the 1850s. The Sandy and Beaver Canal, which connected the Ohio River to the Ohio and Erie Canal, operated from about 1848 to 1854.  A breach in one of the feeder lakes in 1852 lowered the water level in the canal making it completely impassable by 1854.  The canal passed through the towns of Hanover and Dungannon where there was a moderate sized Irish community that built and worked on the canal.11  Seven of the Irish families in the township had children that were born in Vermont. 

One of the families listed in the 1850 US Census for Franklin Township in Columbiana County was for a “Burns” family headed by “M.”  The wife’s name is given as Julia.  Two of the eight
1850 US Census for Franklin Twp, Columbiana Co., OH
showing the M Burns family (click to enlarge)
children listed were “Ann” and “Ellen.” 12   We know from family lore that Ann, Patrick’s wife, had at least two sisters, Ellen and Martha, and that her parents were Julia and Michael Burns.13    Ages given for Ann and Ellen in the 1850 census are consistent with later known records for the family.  Martha is not shown, but, could have been married by this time to a man who may have traveled through Vermont.  I have not been able to trace additional children shown on the census record.

I did contact the Youngstown Diocese (where St. Philip Neri is located), to see if records were available for marriages and baptisms for 1850 to 1854.  I specifically asked for information about a marriage of Patrick Brown to Ann Burns giving the information about the marriage from the county records, and a possible baptism and/or death record for a child named Ellen.14  The Chancellor of the Diocese responded that the records from St. Philip’s are “very hard to read and I have found nothing with the names provided.”  

Is the 1851 marriage record in Columbiana County for our Patrick and Ann?  The date and information for the couple is consistent with other records for the family and would provide validity to the story that their first child was named Ellen born, probably, sometime in 1852.  There is a US Census record for a family fitting the description of Ann’s family.  There is also even a possible connection to Vermont.  Jobs would have been lost about the time Patrick and Ann moved to Franklin County because of the collapse of canal business.  The information does seem to point to this being the correct record.  But, I would feel a lot more comfortable if there was information containing names of witnesses to the marriage and a baptismal record for Ellen.

The next post will be about Patrick’s time in Illinois.


1.       Brown, David, Kankakee, IL, 11 May 1943.  Letter to Esther _______, Columbus, OH.  Letter contains genealogical information for the Brown Family from County Limerick.

2.       Wolf, Donna M., The Irish in Central Ohio: Baptisms and Marriages, 1852-1861, St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church, Columbus, Ohio, 1991

Also verified through the Catholic Record Society, Diocese of Columbus, Columbus, Ohio.

3.       Ibid.  “St Pat’s” separated from the German community church of Holy Cross in 1852 and formed their own parish in the Irish area of Columbus around the railroad station and yards at the northern edge of the city.  It is now surrounded by businesses and a state college, but still boasts a large attendance at masses and other church functions.  It is truly the church of the “Irish” in Columbus!

4.       Williams, C.S., 1858-1859 Williams Columbus City Directory, City Guide and Business Mirror, J.H. Riley & Co., 1859. Directories for Columbus begin as early as 1843, but, there is not a complete collection with several years missing. 

5.       St. Mary Catholic Church, Delaware, Ohio is in the Diocese of Columbus.  Baptismal records were also verified through the Catholic Record Society, Diocese of Columbus, Columbus, Ohio.  The church is located roughly six miles from where the family was located in Concord Township and would have been easily reached by someone with access to a horse and wagon, such as a farm laborer.

6.       1860 United States Federal Census, Concord, Delaware, Ohio; Roll: M653-957, available online at  The record is indexed under “Paterick” Brown.  There were several large farms in the area where Patrick could have found employment.

7.       Perrin, William Henry, History of Delaware County and Ohio, O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers, Chicago, IL, 1880, pp 491-493, available online through Google books.

8.       Dublin is no longer a sleepy village.  Today it is a bustling community of nearly 42,000, and one of the fastest growing areas in central Ohio.  There are still stone fences lining pastures of more rural areas.

9.       The Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society, Baptism Repertoire, St. Mary, Our Lady of Good Help, Brandon, VT; including the Old St. Monica, Forestdale, VT Mission, Vermont Catholic Diocese, Burlington, Vermont, 2014.  Records for Old St. Monica, Forestdale, Vermont, where the Brown family lived in 1850, do not begin until 1856 – after records were found in Columbus, Ohio. 

10.   Columbiana County, Ohio, Marriage Records, Volume 4, Page 103, Columbiana County, Ohio.  Also available online at database, “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013.”

11.   1850 United States Federal Census, Franklin, Columbiana, Ohio; Roll M432_669, available online at  A total of 1,164 persons were listed in the township with 224 giving their place of birth as “Ireland.”

12.   Ibid.  Marion located this information!

13.   US Census records, death records and tombstones do corroborate that the Burns family consisted of, at least, Michael, Julia, Ann, Martha, and Ellen.  It seems more appropriate to discuss the Burns family later when we look at John, the second surviving son of Hannah and Timothy Brown.  Additional information will be provided then.

14.   The David Brown letter states that there may have been a child named Ellen born shortly after the marriage of Patrick Brown and Ann Burns in 1851.  The first recorded child, Patrick, was born in 1854. If Patrick and Ann were married in 1851, it is very possible there could have been a child born earlier than Patrick.  It would also make sense that the child would have been named Ellen since Patrick’s younger sister, Ellen, died in Boston in 1849.

Monday, August 1, 2016


Ruins of the fire looking north from Congress and Wabash
(click to enlarge)

News of the fire spread rapidly.  Stories were being distributed to all parts of the country from the earliest alarms.  After midnight on Monday morning, Chicago Mayor, Roswell Mason, telegraphed officials in other cities requesting help.1   Railroads, responsible for the phenomenal growth of the city, were also critical to its relief.  By mid-morning, fire fighters and equipment were received from Milwaukee.  A crew from Janesville, Wisconsin arrived by mid-afternoon.  More equipment and manpower followed quickly from Cincinnati, Detroit, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Bloomington and Springfield, Illinois, and other cities.  Springfield sent three carloads of provisions by Monday evening.  Another fifty carloads of food and clothing was received from various cities by late Tuesday afternoon.2

Monday afternoon, many hours before the fire was out, plans were being made for the relief of the victims.  The First Congregational Church, at Washington and Ann Streets, away from the fire in the West District, was appropriated as a temporary
West Side Rink in use as a Depot for supplies
(click to enlarge)
city hall and relief headquarters.   Volunteers toured the city seeking refugees to let them know that food and shelter was available.  Others helped organize storage and distribution of food and clothing shipped in from across the United States, and indeed, around the world.   (See picture of the West Side Rink used for storage and distribution of food and clothing in the aftermath of the Chicago fire.3)  Before the fire was out, plans were also being made by many business owners to set up temporary facilities in unburned sections of the city, and to replace buildings lost in the fire.4  

Large scale losses required a more permanent solution.   By October 15th, the Chicago Relief and Aid Society assumed responsibility for a long term response to the needs created by the fire, and continued assisting victims through 1873.  Over 100,000 people were left homeless.  Food and shelter were an immediate concern, but jobs and the health of the homeless were also issues.   Several committees were identified to address each cause.  Initially, churches and school buildings were used for shelter and distribution points for food and clothing before depots could be established.  Free rail transportation out of the city was arranged for roughly 20,000 of the homeless.  Others sought shelter with friends, and sometimes strangers, more fortunate to still have a home.  Tents were erected and barracks were built to house others.  Building materials were made available to qualified
Shanties built in Chicago after the fire
(click to enlarge)
families to fabricate small shanties where they could shelter from the approaching winter season.5  (See example on the right.)  Many jobs were lost because of the extent of the damage to businesses and factories.  The Aid Society matched men with jobs as rebuilding progressed.  Sewing machines were sold or given to women so they could support themselves and their families.  Fresh drinking water was not available for some time following the fire, and, to avoid a major outbreak of smallpox, thousands were vaccinated.6 

So, just how did Hannah Brown and the Brown family fare in the months and years after the fire?  Initially, the family likely escaped by going east to the shore of Lake Michigan to wait out the fire as did many other residents of the South Division.7   Some of the family may have left Chicago in the days following the fire.  The David Brown letter states that, “After the fire . . . she [Hannah] lived with her son, Patrick and his wife and family on a farm at Saybrook, Illinois, until her death.”8   However, while on a research trip to Dublin a few years ago, I talked to one of the professional genealogists at the National Library.  She stated that the Irish custom was for a widowed woman to live with a daughter as long as one was alive.  So, did Hannah stay in Chicago or go to Saybrook?

The family could have stayed with friends in the South Division.  Beyond the business district and the surrounding residential area, the South Division was largely untouched by the fire.  Likewise, most of the West District was unaffected.  Many Irish lived in these areas including people with surnames like Brown, Kelly, Hogan, Moloney, Walsh, and Toomey (spelled Twomey in the directory) that are also found in the area of Fanningstown in County Limerick.  There are other clues in City Directories after 1871 and the list of “Burial Permits”9 for Chicago.

As before the fire, again, it is helpful to look for the family as a whole rather than as individuals.  The 1872 Chicago City Directory
Enlarged section of map of Chicago where the Browns lived
(click to enlarge)
shows Thomas Roach, son-in-law of Hannah, in the West District on Ewing between Jefferson and Desplaines.  The directory also shows Michael Brown in the same location, perhaps at the same address at 124 Ewing.10   W. H. Gray, the husband of Mary Brown, eldest daughter of Hannah, is on 22nd Street.  All of these addresses are outside of the burn area.   The two youngest boys, James and Thomas, are shown at 116 Sherman, which, although was burned, could have had some “temporary” structure at the address.  Hannah could have been living with any of these family members and it appears that the family kept close ties throughout the adversity.  (See the above enlarged map of the area.11) 

Johanna Brown Roach, youngest daughter of Hannah and wife of Thomas, is shown in the “burial permits” index for 1872.  Her address is given as 361 S. Jefferson which is on the west side of the street at the intersection of Ewing.  This building was not burned.  (See location “A” on the map.)  Ellen Brown died in 1874 and is shown at 79 Ewing, within the burn zone.12  (See location “B” on the map.)  Ellen is living at the same address as Michael at the time of her death, but was living at the corner of Jackson and Franklin in 1871 along with the rest of the Brown family at the time of the fire.  Location “C” is the Sherman Street address where James and Thomas were living until 1874.

Because it would agree with Irish customs, I believe that Hannah was living with Johanna Brown Roach in the years immediately after the fire.  She probably remained there, caring for her
1880 Census-Saybrook, IL
(click to enlarge)
grandsons, until 1875 when the two small Roach boys were orphaned.  This is likely when she moved to Saybrook, Illinois to live with her oldest son, Patrick.  Hannah is definitely shown in the 1880 US Census with Patrick, his family, the two Roach children, and William Brown,13  another nephew of Patrick.  (See image of the 1880 census at the right.14)

Patrick’s wife, Anne, died in 1878.  (More about Patrick in future posts.)  Although there is no evidence, I agree with the David Brown letter in that, “. . . It seems that after the death of his wife, Patrick Brown, carried on with the help of his Mother [Hannah] until she too, was taken about the year 1884 or 1885.  After her death the home was broken up . . .”15   Patrick did break up his home about that time; however, there is one additional listing of Hannah in the Chicago City Directory.  In 1885 Hannah is living at 175 S. Jefferson, (the corner of Jefferson and Jackson), with her oldest daughter, Mary Gray and Mary’s son Lyman.16   Mary Gray and her son are also listed in the 1886 city directory.  Mary Gray died in Chicago in 1886; Lyman died in 1889.  Both are buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Chicago. 

Hannah is not listed in the 1886 Chicago City Directory.  I have not located a death or burial record for her.  I also checked several cemeteries in the Chicago area and have not found her in any of them.  So, like David Brown, I do not know Hannah’s date of death,
Top of page 3 of the David Brown letter (click to enlarge)
nor, do I know her place of death.  The David Brown letter states that she, “. . . is buried in St. Mary’s cemetery in Bloomington, Illinois.”  (See image of page 3 of the David Brown letter above left.)  Several years ago, I checked with the county offices in McLean County, Illinois and there was no record of Hannah’s death.  I have also checked with St. Mary’s cemetery and have not found her there.17   It could be that Hannah died in Chicago and was taken to Bloomington for burial.  Hannah could also have moved from Chicago to Bloomington after the death of her daughter, Mary.  Several children of Patrick, grandchildren of Hannah, were still living in the area at the time and she may have lived with them.   Since David Brown obtained his information from grandchildren who would have known Hannah, and definitely, in some instances, lived with her, it seems likely they would have remembered some of the details of her life and death.  Because of this, I also believe Hannah’s final resting place is St. Mary’s Cemetery in Bloomington, with her son, Patrick, and Patrick’s wife, Anne.

I will continue to search for more specific information, and, will post it if anything is found.  However, I think it is now time to move on to other members of this immigrant family.  We will next look at Patrick, the oldest son of Hannah Kelly and Timothy Brown, who also arrived in Boston in January 1849.



Image - Sweeney, Thomas S., Ruins of the South Division, Harper’s Weekly, Harper & Bros., New York, N.Y., November 4, 1871, p. 1033.  Originals accessed July 23, 2016, Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio.  The image shows the South Division looking north from Wabash and Congress, the very south east edge of the burned area.  The Brown residence, at Jackson and Franklin, would be in the fuzzy area directly behind the First Presbyterian Church in the foreground.

1.       Holden, Charles C. P., Rescue and Relief, The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory, website of the Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University.  Available online at: 

2.       Cromie, Robert, The Great Chicago Fire, McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, 1958, pp. 177-195

3.        Davis, R.R., The West Side Rink, Harper’s Weekly, Harper & Bros.. New York, N.Y., November 11, 1871, p. 1052, original accessed July 23, 2016, Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio.

4.       Cromie, op. cit., “The last building burned early Tuesday morning.  The first load of lumber was delivered to the South side Tuesday afternoon.”  P. 197

5.       Cromie, op. cit., “By year’s end 6,000 small shanties . . .” [were built]. P. 206

Image – David, Theodore R., Improvised Shanties on the North Side, Harper’s Weekly, Harper & Bros., New York, N.Y., November 4, 1871, original accessed July 23, 2016, Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio.

6.       Chicago Relief and Aid Society, Report of the Chicago Relief and Aid Society of Disbursement of Contributions for the Sufferers by the Chicago Fire, Riverside Press, Riverside, Cambridge, 1874.  The publication contains detail information about the relief efforts, including many tables and charts showing statistics of the relief provided.  It is available online at Hathi Trust Digital Library at:;view=1up;seq=7  

7.       Helmer, Bessie Bradwell, The Great Conglagration, The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory, website of the Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University.  Available online at: 

8.       Brown, David, Kankakee, IL, 11 May 1943, Letter to Esther ______, Columbus, OH, p.3.  The letter written in 1943 contains detailed information about the Brown family as known by the author at that time.  Saybrook, Illinois is located just a few miles east of Bloomington.  Bloomington supplied Chicago with firefighting equipment and provisions even before the fire was extinguished.   Rail transportation between the two cities was well established.

9.       Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871-1933: showing name, address and date of death.  Commonly called “Burial Permits” since the indexes also identify people from outside the Chicago area.  The indexes are available on microfilm at Family Search.  I used film numbers 1295944 (Deaths, Bou-Cul 1871-1933), 1295946 (Deaths, Gol-Haw3 1871-1933), and 1295973 (Deaths, Rep-Sik 1871-1933) to research family deaths in Chicago.

10.   Recall that Michael Brown was living at 219 Jackson Street in 1871.  This is the same address for Hannah Brown and her family.  Also, recall that Ellen Brown, widow of John Brown, was also living at this address suggesting that Ellen was married to the brother of our Timothy Brown.  The 1870 census shows Ellen as a “Kelly” further suggesting she may, in fact, be a sister of our Hannah.   

11.   Map is a section of the J.H. Colton & Co. 1855 map of Chicago.  The burned area is shown in pink.

12.   Michael Brown moved from the time the 1872 city directory was published and 1874.  The 1874 city directory shows Michael Brown at 79 Ewing, the same address shown on Ellen’s “burial permit.”  Since 79 Ewing was in the burned area, perhaps they were living in one of the "shanties" provided by the Aid Society.  From a combination of census records and city directories, it appears that Ellen and Michael are related, likely mother and son.

13.   William Brown is the son of John Brown.  John Brown is a brother of Patrick being the third child of Hannah Kelly and Timothy Brown.

14.   Year: 1880; Census Place: Bell Flower, McLean, Illinois; Roll: 231; Family History Film: 1254231; Page: 626B; Enumeration District: 184; Image: 0136

15.   Brown, David, op. cit., p. 4.

16.   We will look at Mary Brown Gray in future posts.  Common names are difficult to affirm; however, this is the correct Mary Gray.  I have been able to follow her through from the 1850 US census to her death in 1886.  She is listed in the 1885 Chicago City Directory as the widow of William, and in the 1886 census as the widow of Henry.  Her husband is alternately listed as William, Henry, William Henry, or W.H. is various records.  He was always shown as a baker or confectioner.  Mary’s son, Lyman, is listed as a confectioner in the 1885 directory and candy maker in the 1886 directory.

17.   Because of a fire in the 1930s at Holy Trinity Church in Bloomington, Illinois, no early information survives for St. Mary’s Cemetery.   The records they have are from a 1985 survey done by members of the community that recorded the tombstones in the cemetery at that time.  There is a record, and an inscribed tombstone for Anne Brown, the wife of Patrick Brown; but, no other inscription is available.