Thursday, December 27, 2007

Henry Brown

Henry Brown was born 1849 in Niles, Berrien County, Michigan, the son of Robert (b. 1820) and Ellen (b. 1820).

Canadian-born Robert married Ireland native Ellen (she was unable to read or write in 1860) and by 1844 they were living in Canada. Between 1844 and 1849 the family settled in Michigan and by 1850 Henry was living with his family in Division 10 of Berrien County. By the late 1850s Robert had settled his family in Grand Rapids, Kent County, where he worked as a railroad contractor.

By 1860 Henry was attending school with his younger sister Sarah and living with his family in Grand Rapids’ Fifth Ward. Sometime in the latter half of 1860 Robert left home on business and was never seen again. According to Charles Ellet, who knew the Brown family before the war (and who would join Company B, Third Michigan infantry in the spring of 1861), “on or about the year 1859 or 1860 Robert Brown left [Grand Rapids] on business. He being a railroad contractor at times he was away for several months. At the time he left the last time in year 1859 or 1860 he never returned. I do know that he was a good, kind and affectionate husband. . . .”

Henry stood 5’2” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion, and was an 18-year-old painter probably living in Grand Rapids (or perhaps in Muskegon, Muskegon County) when he enlisted with his mother’s consent as a Musician in Company F on February 5, 1864, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Muskegon, and was mustered the same day. (He might have been related to Hiram Brown of Sparta, Kent County, who would enlist in Company F on February 17, 1864.)

Henry joined the Regiment February 18 at Camp Bullock, Virginia, and that winter he tented with Asa Daniels, who was from Clinton County. Asa wrote home to his father, Andrew Daniels, sometime in early Spring of 1864 saying that “There is a young fellow here and he is in the same tent and he says that he wants you to write to him. His name is Henry Brown. He is the one that wrote my letters last winter.”

Henry was absent sick from May until he was transferred to Company F, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. (His mother claimed that he contracted dysentery at Boydton Plank road on September 24, 1864.) Henry remained absent sick through December. Henry was mustered out of service on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.

After the war Henry returned to Michigan and was working as a painter and living with his mother and two younger siblings in Grand Rapids’ Fourth Ward. He was still living in Grand Rapids when he married Mrs. Lydia Barga or Bargy (b. 1845), also of Grand Rapids, on April 13, 1875, in Grand Rapids. By 1880 Henry was working as a house painter and living on Spring Street in Grand Rapids with his wife Lydia (several doors away lived another former member of the Old Third, Orin Huntley).

However, this marriage was reportedly rendered void when it was discovered that Lydia married Henry prior to her divorce from her first husband. Lydia claimed in early 1887 that she had indeed been married before, in 1855, to one Henry Bargy, in New York, but that they separated in 1867 and she never heard from him again “either directly or indirectly excepting that immediately after her separation . . . Bargy was sentenced to imprisonment for a criminal offence and she was advised that a divorce was unnecessary and consequently never applied for a divorce, and up to the time of her remarriage [to Henry Brown] and subsequently to the [1887] she has never heard directly or indirectly whether [Bargy] was living or dead, but on the contrary presumed him to have been dead.” It is not known what became of all this.

Henry was possibly a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, but the association records remain unclear about this.

Henry died of chronic diarrhea on November 3, 1886, in Big Rapids, Mecosta County and was presumably buried there (or he may be buried in Gratiot County).

Henry's mother was living in Grand Rapids in 1890 and in Big Rapids in 1891; she was granted a dependent mother’s pension no. 569099. Lydia was living in Big Rapids (box 305) when she applied for a pension (claim no. 349,473)

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