Vol. V, No. 4, Spring 1992


Five Generations of An Ozarks Family:

The Browns of Douglas County, Missouri

By Lynne Brown Cresslaw, Cinita Davis Brown, and Logan Brown



Editor's Note: In 1981, L ynne Brown wrote a family history as part of a course she was taking in U.S. history at Southwest Missouri State University. She invited her parents to contribute; and she appended maps, a genealogical chart, and many family photographs. With her permission the whole project was xeroxed and archived in the Douglas County file of the Center for Ozarks Studies. Now, with her permission and that of her parents, it is offered to readers in edited form OzarksWatch is grateful to the Browns for their generosity in sharing their personal accounts with a new, larger, circle of friends.

Lynne Brown (daughter) writes: Fourteen of my great-great grandparents lived either in Douglas County or just over the line in Ozark County -- the Noble-Wasola area [the original Ozark County embraced all of present Douglas County - Ed.]. In the book, A Reminiscent History of Douglas County, is the following:"Among the first white settlers of whom there is any record were Tom Brown, Hiram Stout, Sam Sloan, and Samp Rippee. Most of them came from Indiana back in the early part of the eighteenth century....Mr. Brown settled across the river from the cave, and hence the name-- Brown's Cave."

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This Tom Brown was my great-great grandfather. His Civil War records indicate that he was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. But I do not know the date of his birth or his parents' names. (From the census and his Civil War records I would assume he'was bom about 1812.) Nor do I know when his family immigrated from Virginia to Indiana. They settled in Brown County, Indiana. One source reports: "The settlers came in slowly and located for the most part in the hills of Brown County, because they wanted to keep away from the chills, fever and ague ("agger") of the low lands and swamps along the streams. This caused them to choose bottom lands which bordered along the hills, so they could live on the hills and farm the fertile bottom. By 1835 a sufficient number had arrived to warrant the formation of a new county."

In another old history book we found this statement. "White settlers were in Van Buren Township (our Browns were from this township) as early as 1820, and by 1830 log cabins were scattered in all directions .... Natives of the Southern States largely predominated. Many were well bred and all were hospitable. Many left the South owing to their hatred of the institution of slavery."

My family believes that this feeling about slavery was at least partly the cause for our ancestors leaving Virginia for Indiana. My Grandfather Brown, a grandson of this early Tom Brown, said when he read this statement, "Yes, that was Grandpa for sure. He hated a Rebel -- oh, how he hated a Rebel! He hated Rebels and rattlesnakes, and probably the Rebel more."

The first term of school taught in Brown County was [attended by[ the Hamptons, Ayres, Browns, Tabers, Noblets, Hollens, and Williamsons. The old Shiloh Methodist Episcopal Church was organized before 1840, among the first members being the families of Hattons, Williamsons, Browns, Hedricks, Kenworthys, Ayres, Bailses, and others. The log church was built early in the forties, and was used not only for religious purposes, but for school purposes as well.

When I was nine years old our family visited the site of this old church and school in indiana. The old cemetery there contained about fifty graves, several of them Browns. The old Brown homestead was about a mile from the church site on Salt Creek.

So Thomas Brown had legally entered his land [i.e. he was not a squatter[, helped establish a church, and was involved in the political affairs of a young county ("Overseer of the Poor") before he married and became a family man. Thomas Brown and Sarah Floyd were married on January 26, 1839, by John Mills, Minister of the Gospel. Sarah died very soon thereafter. Early in 1840 Tom married Margaret Davis at Nashville, Brown County. We found sevral references to an illness called "fever and agger" which was very prevalent at this period. One source said most of the residents had to move from this "unhealthy, lowland region." At any rate Tom's second wife, Margaret, died soon after she gave birth to twin girls on December 25, 1844. Both babies, named Margaret E. and Julia Ann, lived.

Sometime during the year of 1845 Tom decided he'd had enough of that unhealthy area of Indiana which had claimed the lives of his two young wives, and he again headed west. He left his twin babies with one of their maternal relatives, promising to return for them as soon as he was established in a new home.

This story of Tom's removal to Missouri is the story my Grandfather Brown, who as the grandson of Tom Brown, remembered and told it. Missouri land records make us wonder now if the Davis family, the family of the twins' mother, might not have already been here when Tom arrived. Perhaps Tom brought his twins to them so their Grandmother Davis could help care for them. The Davis family land was on Fox Creek, and has always been referred to as "the best farms in Douglas County."

Tom arrived in the Ozarks in 1845. The area where he settled was then a part of Ozark County. Ozark County, organized in 1841, contained most of the area which was to become Douglas County in 1857. In 1850 the entire population of then-enormous Ozark County was only 2,294.

Tom chose to settle on Bryant Creek just across from the cave which still bears his name. On February 27, 1846, he married Tennessee-born Mary Burden (Burdan /Birden). They were married by Robert Hicks. (He would have been my great-great-great-great grandfather.) Judging from census records Mary would have been about eighteen years old. Tom built a blacksmith shop on the east side of the Bryant Creek and just north of the mouth of the cave. The cabin was across the creek. He bought other land on Bryant, but he and Mary lived out their lives on the original homestead near the cave. Here all seven of their children were born.

Their youngest son, Edward, was born there on October 8, 1865. Edward was the father of Walter, the only one of my grandparents I can remember. Grandpa Walter Brown lived with us when I was a child and I spent many hours with him. He died in our home in June 1976. He could well remember his grandparents, Thomas S. and Mary Burden, the first pioneer Browns. I remember a lot of the stories that Grandpa told, and Mom and Dad were always interested in them, and they can remember even more. Of course, we realize that some of these stories may have been colored a little or changed with the retelling, but we want to keep them alive.

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One of the tales which has always been told in our family was that Grandpa Thomas Brown had a silvermine! In fact, even today, when any one of our family is short of cash someone is likely to say --"Just hunt the map to Grandpa's silvermine." He supposedly would leave home riding a horse and leading a packhorse and would be gone for about three days. When he came home he would have the packhorse loaded -- supposedly with silver ore. He would refine this silver ore to make silver dollars and half dollars in his blacksmith shop. In the late 1930s (we are going to research this next summer and find the article which was published in the local paper) there was a flood on Bryant and the creek was up over the area where Grandpa's blacksmith shop was. A person found half of a mold which obviously had been used to make silver dollars. It was brought to the Douglas County Herald office, and a story about it was printed in the paper. None of the Browns stepped forward with an explanation, but supposedly they understood!

My great-grandparents Edward Brown and Fannie Adams were married October 14, 1886. Grandfather Walter was born January 24, 1887. They had two more sons and two daughters. They owned and operated country stores at Rippee and Caney, and had a mail route from Caney to Buckhart. At first, it was with a team and hack. Then they got a very early Model-T Ford, which was one of the first cars in the area. They tried carrying the mail in it, but it was not very successful because of all the creeks -- Brush, Fox, Bryant -- which had to be crossed. Great-grandmother Fannie was also postmaster at Caney.

My grandparents Walter Brown and Anna Hicks were married Christmas Day in 1909. Grandmother died in February of 1959, the year they would have celebrated their fiftieth year together. They reared six children, five of whom are still alive. My dad is the oldest son.

Logan Brown (father) writes: I thought I would start by saying it was a cold, dark, stormy night; but since I was born July 20, 1925 1 doubt if it was very cold down near Rockbridge, Ozark County, Missouri. It was about one mile north of the old Rockbridge Mill. When I was about two years old my folks left the Ozarks and moved near Fairfax, Atchison County, in northwest Missouri. Dad worked on a farm there for several years. This was a good farming area. The Missouri River was about twenty miles west of the place where we lived. Tarkio was about twelve miles northeast. Winters were very bad in this area -- much snow and very cold. Snow nearly always drifted badly there so there would be several days when we were snowbound.

My first school years I attended a country school named Opp. We lived about one mile from the school. There were several people in this neighborhood named Opp. My early school years were during the Depression. Times were very hard, but we seemed to get along pretty good. Jobs were very hard to find, but during winter months, after corn was harvested, Dad was able to work on a highway construction job. Many times during the winter or spring when roads were impassable Dad would take the teacher and several nearby kids to school in a bobsled pulled by horses. During muddy weather as in the spring of the year when the ground was thawing out Dad would take us in the wagon.

During the twenties and early thirties was prohibition. No legal alcohol could be bought in Missouri; so much illegal alcohol was made. Dad made quite a bit of home brew or beer. One time I remember he had several cases made up. He would keep it in the cellar where it was cool. Friends would come by and drink a few, especially on weekends. He had been notified by a friend that law officials were coming to search the house, so we carried all of the beer to a cornfield near the house. This was in late summer when corn was higher than a man's head, so it made a good hiding place. The officials did come by, and looked around a little. One deputy was a friend of Dad's so he didn't look too hard.

Dad and a partner made a whiskey still from a copper wash boiler, which was easy to come by in those days since many women used these to boil laundry in. It had a lid made of sheet copper soldered to the boiler with a sort of funnel in the center which tapered down to about a three-eights inch copper tubing. This funnel affair was removable so the boiler could be filled with beer, from which whiskey was distilled. This beer was made in an oak fifty-five gallon barrel. The ingredients were water, sugar, ground corn, and yeast, which were allowed to work for about three weeks. Then it was strained and put in the boiler on a low fire -- usually on the wood range in the kitchen. The vapor condensed to raw whiskey, which went into a container of charcoal which acted as a filter. Finally it was put in quart and half-gallon fruit jars. As I remember a half-gallon would bring about $4.50, which was good money in those days. Mom never approved of Dad's bootlegging. In fact she nearly worried herself to death over it. She was sure he'd wind up in the pen [peniten tiary] over it, but Dad felt it was a way he could feed and clothe his family. As I said, times were hard. We lived on a farm and had our own chickens, eggs, pork, vegetables, etc. but very little cash. The whiskey was cash sale. After all, the Ozarks hills he'd gr6wn up on had a still in every hollow --many of them belonging to Browns. One of Dad's best customers for his whiskey was our mail carrier. He would take three or four gallons at a time. He and Dad had a system worked out. On days that Dad had some for sale he notified the carrier by raising the flag on the mailbox. The carrier would check to see that everything was clear before the transaction was made. This was a rural area so there was hardly any traffic on the road except the mailman.

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Once we got quite a scare, Dad was cooking off a batch on the cook stove. It was late at night and the rest of the family was in bed. Dad had covered the windows so the kerosene lamp didn't show. We heard a knock at the door. Of course there was nothing to do but to see who was there. Instead of law officers, it was only a friend, but needless to say, it was frightening.

I lived in northwest Missouri until about 1950. Then my folks bought a farm on Hunter Creek back in Douglas County, eight miles east of Ava. In April 1952 I met my wife to be, Cinita Davis. We were married in October 22 of that year. Two years later we moved to Kansas where I began learning the carpenter trade. Cinita was teaching school when we were married and has continued her teaching. We spent five years in Kansas before moving back to Ava in 1959. Keith, our oldest child was born May 20, 1959 in Kansas. We moved back to Ava in September of 1959 where we still are. Lynne, our oldest daughter was born February 1, 1961. Jane, youngest child, was born January 15, 1963.

Cinita Davis Brown (mother) writes: You asked me to write you a short account of my life as I've lived it here in the hill country of Douglas County, Missouri. I celebrated my fiftieth birthday this year (1981). You kids called it "Mom's biggie," and perhaps it was. That's half a century of living so it was sort of a milestone. Perhaps I can write of some of the changes in the way of life that I've lived through in our Ozarks hill country which has been the home of our ancestors for generations.

I was born on June 22, 1931 at the farm home of my parents five miles south of Ava. Dr. Marvin Gentry delivered me. My mother was forty years old.

I was her first baby to survive. She had lost twins the year before I was bom. The house in which I was born was typical of the average farm house in this area--four rooms with no running water.

The well was a big old hand dug one which served as our "refrigerator" in the summer. My father always thought the coldest, best-tasting, purest water in the world came from that well. Just a few months before his death in 1963 1 took him back to the old home place for a drink of that pure water which was uncontaminated with chlorine or additives and was cooled by nature instead of with ice. But-- alas, an electric pump had been put in the old well and its water came out of a faucet instead of out of the old well bucket. Daddy drank water from the faucet but swore it was not cold and had an impure taste from the pipes.

We lived in that house until 1939. As well as no running water, there was no electricity either. Food was cooked on a wood cook stove. My, how I wish you could have known your grandmother! She was one of the best cooks I have ever known. I can still see in my imagination the big loaves of bread coming from that old oven. They were baked to perfection! Mama and Aunt Rosa kept a "bread starter" going all the time. Aunt Rosa and Uncle Elmer lived just across the yard from us. Both families used the well I told you about. Mama baked fresh bread one day and took two or three loaves to Aunt Rosa for her family. The next day Aunt Rosa baked the bread and shared with us. We always had fresh bread.

My Grandpa Davis had owned part of this place until his death in 1926, and Daddy and Uncle Elmer bought out the other heirs so they owned it jointly. Some seventy-five years ago Grandpa sold fruit trees for Stark Brothers' Nursery, and did so for many years. There were two men named John Davis in this area, and Grandpa was known as "Whole-root John." He acquired the name from his sales pitch about his trees having "whole roots." He would go from here to Louisiana, Mo. by wagon and team and bring back his load of fruit trees for sale. He helped plant the trees, and came back as needed to prune and care for various orchards. He taught the farmers to care for them properly.

Raising Our Food - As you might imagine, the farm that was my childhood home had a beautiful big orchard, with every kind of fruit and nut tree which would grow in this area. Mama canned hundreds and hundreds of quarts of fruit each summer. She also dried lots of fruit. She had never heard of a dehydrator as we use today. She put cloth on top of a low shed which had metal roofing and spread the fruit there to dry. When it was completely dry she put it in twenty-five pound meal or flour sacks and hung them in the attic for winter's use.

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On a south hill slope below the house there was a place where a hole about four feet deep and six or eight feet square had been dug out. In late fall before the ground began freezing, Daddy lined this with straw. Bushels of apples which were the best keepers, along with the late cabbage and turnips, were placed in this. We referred to these as being "holed up." The garden had been in full production all summer and Mama always canned, pickled, and preserved enough of all this for winter's use. She also always had an abundance to share with those whom she called "less fortunate." (Now I realize most of these "less fortunate" were like many of our welfare cases today -- they preferred to not work as Mama did to raise all this produce.)

Daddy butchered several hogs each fall -- one for every member of the family plus one for company use. During the 1930s this meant six or seven hogs. Paul, my little brother, was born July 21, 1935. Your Uncle Marion and Aunt Geneva, Daddy's youngest children by his first wife who had died in 1922, were still at home too. And as far as company was concerned -- certainly there was always plenty of that! You know that there were also five older children by Daddy's first marriage besides the two I've mentioned. They often came to visit. Then too, Daddy and Mama were each from a family of twelve brothers and sisters and -- as I remember it -- no excuse was missed for the family to get together. Our house was often full of uncles, aunts, and cousins by the dozen, literally. There was no bathroom to stand in line for and pallets could be spread anywhere on floors it seemed. Food seemed to be no problem and little expense thanks to Mama's well stocked larder.

Molasses - We always had plenty of honey from our bee hives and molasses. Daddy grew a patch of sorghum cane on a sandy spot. He said cane grown on sandy soil made lighter colored, better tasting molasses than if it were grown on richer, blacker soil. Then in the early fall when the juice was just right -- he determined this by taste test--he cut the cane with a cane knife and stripped it -- pulled off the leaves and cut off the seed heads. These seed heads were fed to a few choice hens which were to grace the table that fall. Then the cane stalks were loaded in the wagon and taken to Joe Huffman's molasses mill. Daddy always helped make the molasses, and oh how I loved going along! I believe it took five gallons of cane juice to boil down to one gallon of molasses. By starting at daylight and working till dark thirty-five to thirty-seven gallons of molasses could be made in a day. While molasses were fresh we always had plenty of molasses cookies. The recipe you use today is a family recipe from this period. We also had lots of good spicy gingerread and often made pop- corn balls with molasses. So you can see, molasses making time is another treasure in my memory bank.

Faith - We attended church at the Black Oak General Baptist Church. There was no church building at that time so services were held on Saturday nights and Sundays in the school house. We were closer to Robertson but the church services in the Robertson School House were held by people of the Holiness faith. They believed in a "second definite work of grace" which they called "being sanctified." After a person was sanctified the carnal nature was dead and that person did not sin - or so believed our Holiness neighbors. They did not believe in using tobacco in any form and my "sinful" old Dad smoked a pipe! We were Baptist all the way. In fact Daddy's great-great grandparents had organized the first General Baptist Church west of the Mississippi River. I'm still proud of my General Baptist background and have been a member of a General Baptist Church since I was thirteen years old.

Daddy was deacon in the Black Oak Church. As a deacon's wife Mama always provided the grape juice (wine) for communion services. She canned this of course. She also made the "unleavened" bread for this service. I remember how even the day she made this bread was a "holy time" for her. I knew to tip-toe through the kitchen and not engage in small talk with her.

Schooling - I started school at Robertson in 1937. This was a two-teacher rural school and had from fifty to sixty students. I walked the two miles to and from school each day. I remember during my first grade year my teacher went home with me to stay all night. She was young and so pretty and lived in town so I was horribly embarrassed at the thought of her having to take the common old lunch I had in my little round bucket each day. I explained to Mama that Miss Aileen always had boughten light bread and good bologna or peanut butter for sandwiches. So the day she was to come home with me Mama took a basket of eggs to Ranse Ferrell's country store. With the money from these she bought a loaf of bread and some dainty little cookies with marshmallows on top. The next morning Mama took these rare storebought goodies from the cabinet. Imagine my surprise when my teacher asked if she could have that common old homemade bread and a slice of ham left over from breakfast for her lunch. She said "Cinita's lunch always makes me hungry." So from that day on through the year we swapped lunches and I enjoyed her store bought goodies.

I had a different teacher each year until I was in fourth grade. I guess they probably weren't the greatest teachers or they would have stayed more than one year. I liked school -- loved to read and really looked forward to Friday afternoons when we ciphered or had spelling matches.

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I was in fourth grade when World War II began in 1'941. That year two young men were teaching our school. By January both of them had enlisted in the Army. My teacher, Selbia Brooks, passed his physical and soon was on the European battle front. The other teacher, Bernie Lewis, was classified 4-F because of a physical condition. He continued to teach on through my fifth and sixth grade years. He was never in the active army but he made each of us feel as if we were soldiers on the battlefield. We followed the moves of the Allies on both fronts. The maps on the walls and in our geography books came alive. We also had all types of patriotic drives (bonds and stamps, Red Cross, etc.) which seemed would help the American cause. He took his pickup and we gathered scrap iron from the entire area for "scrap iron drives." I wonder if the feeling of true love for our country and such patriotism could possibly be generated in a classroom today.

Teaching - I graduated from this little rural school in 1945. That fall I began riding the bus to Ava High School. I shall never forget how large and frightening that place was in September of 1945 ! As you know I graduated from high school in 1949. I had never heard of or seen an aptitude test but I always planned to be a teacher. In the summer of 1949 I borrowed $200 from the bank and went to summer school at S.M.S. Daddy could not afford to send me and no financial aid was available then. When summer term was over I went back home. (Mama had died in 1944 and we moved to Ava in early 1949.) When school started in 1949 I was hired as Ava High School librarian. I got $70 a month for this job. But in 1950 Missouri began to require school librarians to have sixty college hours, i had gotten the twenty-lbur hours which were necessary for county certification and so I began teaching at Walnut Grove rural school for $1520 for an eight months term of school. At Walnut Grove I was one of those "one year only" teachers. I learned an awfully lot, but my forty students didn't or if they did, it was in spite of the teaching I fear. In 1951 I began teaching at Mt. Tabor and taught there for three years. I was teaching there when your father and I were married in 1952. Each summer I also attended the summer session at S.M.S. In 1954 1 had accumulated sixty-eight hours and was eligible for a state certificate.

Up From the Farm: Transitions - Logan ran a milk route and we farmed two farms, one which Grandpa and Grandma Brown owned, and an adjoining place which we rented. The drought of 1954 did in our farming. Your father knew he could get a job in Kansas, so we sold what livestock and farming machinery we had accumulated and went to Eureka, Kansas. I began teaching at a rural school near Eureka for the stupendous sum of $300 a month for nine months. I taught there one year, and then another district (Oilfield District) offered me $350 a month. I taught at Oilfield for three years. During the summers I went to the summer sessions at Emporia State Teacher's College. By 19581 had accumulated 120 college hours and began teaching seventh grade in Burlington, Kansas. I became pregnant in 1958 and Keith was born May 20, 1959. Then, as you know, I decided to become full time mother and you were born February 1, 1961; Jane, January 15, 1963.

Family Abundance - As I described my life through the Depression, I do not want you to think I felt deprived in any way. There was plenty to eat, and love and laughter in my childhood home - and what more does a child need? I have told you about the food situation. Certainly it left little to be desired! Of course there was not the junk foods, candy, and gum which you three offspring of mine had too much of in the 60s and 70s. I'd never had junk food so I did not miss it.

We did not have a bathroom, as I told you; but we kept clean using a wash basin and the old wash tub. (Saturday night's baths in the old wash tub behind the old heating stove in winter were a ritual.)

Mama sewed all my clothes - she used Lavonne's (cousin in California) outgrown things and made them over for me. I had no stigma concerning "hand-me-downs."

You will never know your grandparents -- my Daddy and Mama--except as I keep them alive in my memory and tell you of them. Mama was such a good, hard-working, compassionate woman. She accepted each of the various roles in her life-- wife, step-mother, mother, sister, and neighbor seriously. She worked so hard at being just what she should have been. She had very deep religious convictions and measured her steps by asking herself-- "What would my Lord have me do?"

Republican Politics - Among the things which Mama believed most strongly in was always voting a STRAIGHT Republican ticket. I'm sure she was influenced by whether the man was Republican or Democrat when she voted for him in the local school board election. Daddy had Democrat leanings but said on a local or even state level that you should vote for the man. My parents had some very lively discussions about election time. Mama never really forgave Daddy for voting for F.D.R.! One way she could show her non-acceptance of F.D.R. and the Democrats was to refuse to celebrate Roosevelt's Birthday.

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