By Sue Curry Jones
Researching and documenting a thorough and accurate family history is quite an awesome task, and during the past few years, that mission is precisely what Ava residents Cinita and Logan Brown have skillfully achieved in a recently published book.
The book is entitled, Bryant Creek Pioneers, and the Browns have created a noteworthy read for those interested in learning more about the pioneer lifestyle and early history of Douglas County. The book also serves as a grand gift to their family, as the details are richly supported with documents and photographs –– it is a treasure chest of information.
The book begins with a section entitled, Our Browns, and tells about the life and trials of Thomas S. Brown, and why as a single father of twin girls he traveled to the Ozark Hills to settle near Bryant Creek. In selecting his homestead, Brown not only chose an area on Bryant Creek, but also opted for a site that housed a large cave. Today, the property is still known as “Brown’s Cave”.
As the adventure continues, the focus of the script turns to the early settlements of the Borden / Burden family history. In these chapters, the authors pull information from several expert historians, including Glain Martin and his book entitled, A Journey Through Time.” Martin, an avid genealogist and great-great grandson of Elizabeth (Burden) Martin, spent most of his life on Bryant Creek in Ozark County, and as a historian, he researched the Burden name quite extensively. According to Cinita and Logan’s book, Glain Martin spent over 30 years of his life studying, researching, gathering and compiling history. However, Martin did not believe the names Burden and Borden were the same family, and his research on the topic dates back to the 1600s.
In the Bryant Creek Pioneers, the Burden family lineage and history is disclosed through old maps, family memories and stories, census reports and photos. This section of the book encompasses 95 pages of interesting and historical details.
The largest and most extensive section of the book is Book Three, which is entitled Descendants of Thomas S. Brown. This section outlines the lineage of the Brown family tree, as well as the history of descendants of Thomas S. Brown. And, the first chapter starts off with a slightly humorous but sad notation about record keeping in the early pioneer days. It reads as follows:
“Thomas S. Brown was the father of John Wesley Brown, born 21 August 1839 in Brown County, Indiana. The name of John’s mother is unknown. In fact, his death certificate shows the name of his mother and her birthplace as: Don’t Know.”
As the search for the birth mother continues, it is noted in the book:
“The 1850 Census of Indiana sheds no light on the question, “Who was John Brown’s mother?” There were a number of “John W. Browns” age 11 and born in Indiana on this census, but with no connection to “our” John. So, the questions remain. Not only do we ask, “Who was John’s mother?” But, “Who reared John?”
The authors admit no documents have been found to answer these questions and even family stories are in conflict about John’s birth mother and her identity. There is also a question as to whether or not “Grandpa Tom” was ever married to John’s mother. But, family stories indicate Tom was married twice, first to Sarah Floyd and later to Katie Davis, and it is well-documented Katie gave birth to twins.
It is surmised that the prospect of caring for newborn twins is what brought “Grandpa Tom” to Douglas County. And, while revisiting the family story, the authors also impart some difficulties and challenges of rural pioneer life. The chapter begins with their birth:
“Twin babies, girls, Margaret Emily and Julia Anna Brown, were born in a little log cabin in Brown County, Indiana on 25 December 1844. Let your mind go back and your heart feel as you, in your imagination, wander back over the many years and try to envision that night in that little log cabin. First, one can be assured, there was a constant spirit of prayer, probably unspoken, for Thomas S. Brown, the father of the twins, was a preacher. The heat and light came from the fireplace –– the fireplace that also heated the water needed in the birthing process. No doctor was present for doctors were not to be found in remote areas such as Brown County, Indiana. Perchance a neighbor, a midwife, was there to help Katie with her pain –– to aid Tom with his fear and feeling of inadequacy. Our imaginative minds and perceptive hearts tell us that Tom must have been gripped, totally consumed with fear as his Katie struggled to deliver those tiny babies. The delivery was successful. Both babies were born, cleaned with the warm water heated in the fireplace, clothed, and diapered in diapers Katie had ready –– wrapped in warm blankets. Before morning, Katie gave up –– She could not fight off death. Tom became a young widower, a widower with twin baby girls to care for –– to rear. He named his twins Julia Anna and Margaret Emily. They soon became known as “The Brown Twins” a title they would carry for the rest of their lives.
“…We have no way of knowing how Thomas S. Brown, our Grandpa Tom, actually made it through this period of his life –– No way of knowing how many times he must have asked, ‘Can I do it?’
“…We can only imagine. We have no way of knowing exactly what Thomas S. Brown was thinking when he made the decision to move his twin baby girls, his Bible and his blacksmithing tools and relocate to a new home in south west Missouri. Common sense tells us that Tom knew the twins needed to be near their grandmother.”
Katie’s mother, Catherine Davis, and several other family members had moved to Missouri a few years earlier. So, in the spring or summer of 1845, Thomas Brown loaded his wagon with domestic necessities, blacksmith tools and books, tied a cow to the back of the wagon so the twins would have fresh milk, and set out for a new home in Missouri, nearly 500 miles away. And, for “Grandpa Tom” and family, a brand new adventure and heritage awaited in Douglas County.
Logan and Cinita Brown’s book Bryant Creek Pioneers –– Thomas S. Brown, John Burden, Early Settlers in the Southern Missouri Ozarks is a record account of their family lineage and heritage. It also offers an interesting photo album about the lives of early settlers in Douglas County, and the challenges and heartaches they faced.
At first glance, the book appears to be a serious accounting of family history –– a documented and well-researched family tree. And, that it is. However, the hardback book also extols a voluminous 678 pages of researched text, photographs and documents, all of which were scanned and placed for publication by Dr. Kenneth Brown. Dr. Brown, also known as The Ozark Uncle, lives in Springfield, Mo., and due to his care for details, readers have an exclusive opportunity to share in the history of two local families, and experience their unique stories and legacy.
The book truly inspires an interest in the “good old days” and for some, it may nurture a personal family journey through time. Nonetheless, Bryant Creek Pioneers –– Thomas S. Brown / John Burden is an entertaining read, as it provides an outstanding map for revisiting and remembering the significance of family heritage, and taking note of an era gone by.
Authors Cinita and Logan Brown of Ava, were married on October 22, 1952, and together, they have held a lifelong interest in preserving family stories, and the history of Douglas County. Throughout the past few years, finishing this book has been a long-standing project for the couple, but today, with the book in print, it is a special realization.