Pike County Republican
Pike County, Ohio
November 20, 1873
LIFE AMONG THE LOWLY
Some months ago we gave a sketch of the life of Madison Hemming, who claimed to be a natural son of Thomas Jefferson. We intended, then, to have continued sketches of different colored citizens of our county and vicinity under the above heading.
We are Just now prepared to give the second one, and that will be an account of the life of
A resident of Jackson township, in Pike county.
Mr. Brown’s father’s name was Elias. He (Christopher Brown) knows but very little of his father’s ancestors beyond the fact that his grandfather was a colored man, who was born somewhere in the vicinity of our National Capital and his grandmother was a white woman. Hence, his father, Elias was born free, for the enactments of Maryland, as well as all the slave States, followed the Mosiac law, that is, the child followed the mother. If she was free, her child was free; if she was a slave, her child was a slave, no matter who was its father. But our informant knows something of his ancestry on his mother’s side. His mother’s name was Honor Mundel. She was born in Maryland, not far from Cumberland. Her father’s name was Robert Mundel; her mother’s Judy. There were slaves of James Dawson, whose wife’s name was Betty. They had no children of their own, and made pets of their slaves, who, consequently, led a very easy, happy life. James Dawson had two brothers and they had an abundance of children, and as their uncle, James Dawson, was waxing in age, these nephews and nieces began to set apart, in their own imaginations, which of their uncles’ slaves would fall to their portion. This fact coming to honest James Dawson’s knowledge, he declared that none of his servants should come under the absolute control of his greedy nephews and nieces. So he made them all free, which happened when his mother (Honor) was thirteen years of age. Of course, as Christopher’s grandparents were slaves, not much of interest in known, except that they were slaves and probably, not more than a generation or two back, natives of Africa and possibly July was a native of that country. But his grandfather, Robert Mundel was born in Maryland near Anteiteum, a place since made famous in the late internicene war, which eventuated in giving freedom to all slaves born under our nation’s flag. Robert Mundel, after he was set free by his master, Jas. Dawson, chose to add Mundel to his name, which was the surname of a former master. Elias Brown married Honor Mundel in 1800. James Dawson and wife would have them joined in holy wedlock the same as white folks, which was performed on their own premises. In 1801, James was born to them, who was succeeded by John in 1803, Enoch, in 1805, Christopher, in 1810, David, in 1813, Elias, in 1810, Elizabeth in 1817, Charles in 1819 and Madison, in 1821.
In 1813, Elias Brown, Senior, left Maryland with his wife and five children, David then being a babe, with the intention of coming to the Scioto bottoms, where the Fosters, Lucases, Bowmans, Vanmeters, Dawsons, Moores, and other Maryland and Virginia families, their friends and acquaintances, had come on before. But when he arrived at Redstone Old Fort, (now known as Brownsville, in Fayette county, Pennsylvania) winter was coming on and he found himself not in a condition to proceed. So he crossed the Monongahela river, into Washington county, where he continued to reside eight years, and where Elizabeth, Elias and Charles were born. He (Elias, Senior) was an expert fiddler, and found ready employment and good pay at that art. When fiddling was not in demand he worked for the farmers. He was as good a harvester as he was a fiddler. At the end of eight years (February 1820) he left Washington county, and came to Pigeon Roost, in Jackson county, Ohio, accompanied by his son Christopher.
Pigeon Roost, in Jackson township, Jackson county, our informant says, took its name from the fact that immense numbers of pigeons used to flock there to roost. They came in such masses as to darken the sun, and broke large limbs off the trees on alighting. The people used to take pine knots, set them on fire, and use them to light the way to Pigeon Roost, where they would knock the pigeons off of the frees, catch, kill and fill bags and baskets with them, on which to feast to satiety.
Elias and our informant crossed the Ohio river, driving two cows and a heifer before them, because the people where they had resided would not give what the owner thought an__cient for them. Soon after entering Ohio, Elias purchased a bushel of bran for the cows and gave it to them dry, and after they had eaten all they wanted induced them to cram themselves with more by putting salt in it. After eating all they would, they drank water heartily, which swelled the bran and the consequence was the cows died, while the heifer survived and proved to be a valuable cow. She met her death, however, from drinking water impregnated with salt petre. One Jacob Halterman mad gun-powder near Pigeon Roost, and as there was immense quantities of salt petre in the caves or the rocks, the dirt was put into leeches, drained as we leech ashes and the salt-petre was then used in the manufacture of powder. Halterman was a hunter, made his own powder and some to sell. If he had confined his business to the manufacture of powder, our informant thinks he might have grown rich, but he did not. But we have digressed, somewhat. The cows came to the troughs into which the salt-petre was drained, which had filled with rain water, and drank so much that it killed them.
Arrived at Pigeon Roost, in March, 1820, Christopher was left with his grandfather Mundel, who had settled on Big run, in Jackson township, Pike county, while Elias returned to Pennsylvania for the other members of the family, who arrived the following June. They settled on Congress land, near Pigeon Roost. The male members obtained food for the family by hunting, as game was plenty then.
In 1821, a crop was put in and gathered. From this time, the family scattered. Christopher continued to live with his father till 1827, when the old man died, from consumption. About one year after his father’s death, Christopher left home to seek employment. His grandfather Mundel had come out to Ohio before Elias Brown left Cumberland and worked for Joseph Foster.
And now, a few words about these Fosters. There were five brothers-Thomas, John, Joseph, Richard and Benjamin. The latter removed to Illinois. The others settled on the rich bottoms of the Scioto river in Ross and Pike counties. They were from Swan Pond bottom on the South branch of the Potomac river in Virginia. John Foster was an exceptionally fine man, while all of them were of the first respectability. They lived many years where they first settled in these counties and died respected by their fellow citizens, leaving many children alike respectable and respected. They were true friends to the colored people.
In 1828, Mr. Mundel got a situation for Christopher with Joseph Foster aforesaid, then an old man, where he remained several months at $6 per month feeding cattle and $7.50 during the crop raising season. After the corn crop was laid by Christopher was not particularly wanted any longer, so Mr. Foster paid him his wages and he returned to his mother’s. Up to this time he had only been to school three weeks, so when about 21 years of age, he went to school in that township in which he now lives to John Switzer about six weeks. His school-fellows were the Houks, Rhodeses, Lucases, Leeks, and other. It was a subscription school, and any one who paid his tuition fee was allowed to attend, whether white or black. The white people, in those simple times had not learned, as some of them have since, the deep disgrace they brought upon themselves by going to school with a “nigger”! In 1832 he went to school to Rev. Joseph Panly, who lived near where Samuel Brown now lived, on the Joseph Foster place, about one and a half miles from Sharonville. And this constitued the sum and substance of his schooling, with the exception, that when about ten years of age he was instructed on Sundays only by a woman with whom he was put to do chores. She was the wife of John C. Calhoun. They lived in Washington county, ten miles from Elias Brown’s. He was a cousin to John C. Calhoun of South Carolina and a very clever, kind-hearted man, a merchant while, in some respects, his wife was a very virago. They were ex-slaveholders. She would ship Christopher half a dozen times a day, some days during the week, while on Sunday she was all kindness and instructed her young protégé out of the spelling and Sunday School books of her own children.
From 1828 to 1838 Christopher Brown followed farming and the rivers – principally the latter. He found boating a degrading business and desired to get away from it. Having laid by some money, in 1837, he purchased 40 acres on the Scioto river, it being Congress land, for which he paid the government $50. This land lies in Jackson township. The late John Pancake owned a fraction of about 25 acres adjoining, which he (Christopher) leased and cleared. This gave him about 35 acres of bottom land. He erected on his own land a cabin, took him to wife Nancy Jane Lucas, early in the year 1838 and settled down for life. He furnished us much matter of the highest interest pertaining to himself and neighbors. But we are compelled to forego the pleasure of writing it out in detail and printing. He lived on that little farm 17 years, when he sold it to John Pancake and purchased on Straight creek 113 acres, to which he has since made additions by purchase.
Christopher and Nancy Jane Brown had born to them James Wesly, 1834; Rebecca Ann, 1840; Elias, 1841; Sarah Jane, 1844; Enoch and Charles Henry, twins, 1846; Hannah Frances, 1850’ Christopher, 1852; John C., 1855; Phillip, 1857; and infant son died without having been named, 1859; Ezra, 1862. Of the 13 children, four are dead, three married and six are living under the parental roof.
In February, 1840, Christopher Brown experienced religion and joined the African Methodist Episcopal church under Rev. Thos. Woodson. Since that time he has endeavored to and we believe has succeeded as nearly as falls to the lot of poor, weak mortals, in following his Saviour, and set an example to those around him worthy to be followed.
In 1840 he was appointed a leader in the church, in 1841 licensed as an exhorter, and in 1843 licensed as a local preacher, and has adorned the profession ever since.
As it is our purpose, in these sketches, to bring out the novel and startling, if you please, bits of history pertaining to these lowly people, we will narrate an event of thrilling interest to the family of whom we have given this sketch.
Elias Brown, now a resident in Jackson township, Pike county was the sixth son of Elias Brown, Senior. In 1829, when Elias was about 14 years of age, (his father being dead) a man giving his name as Ballard care to his mother’s house and represented himself as a contractor on the Ohio and Erie canal, which was then being built. He stated that he has a young wife, and was compelled to be away from home, greatly to the distress of his lonesome bride. So he wanted to hire Elias to go with him, live with his wife, and do chores for which he offered liberal wages for a boy of his age at that time. He was allowed to accompany the man. Ballard, who took him down the Ohio river to Vicksburg. The boy was quite ignorant of geography and topography, and Ballard quieted him with the kindest attentions and indulgence in candies and other delicacies, which are always winning to young stomachs, till he found himself sold to and in the possession of a planter back of Vicksburg. Soon after Ballard’s departure the gentleman began to inquire of his purchase how he liked his new master. It then flashed upon Elias’ mind that he had been sold into slavery and he began to cry. He gave the gentleman a history of his young life, who saw at once that both had been wickedly imposed upon, and they immediately started off in pursuit of Ballard, who was overtaken on the boat in which he was returning to Ohio. He was arrested, placed in jail in Louisville to wait his trial for kidnapping and word was sent on to Judge Hampton as to the whereabouts of Elias, who was eventually returned to his mother. But alas not till her mind had been so wrecked by intense anxiety concerning the fate of her darling son that reason had become unbalanced. She became incurably insane and died at the resident of her daughter, Elizabeth in Circleville in or about 1843. The rascal, Ballard obtained his liberty and escaped a just punishment for his crime, by bribing his jailor.
We will relate another incident of interest which occurred in 1841. Seven slaves came to Jackson township on their way from Virginia to a land of freedom beyond the tyranny of a government whose people boasted that it was “the land of the free and home of the brave.” They were hidden in the forests on the hills and in the caves of Jackson and Pike counties several days. But two of the slave masters were soon on their track accompanied by a pack of two-legged Ohio hounds who gloried in the appellation of “nigger hunters.” They scoured the vallies and hills, determined to secure their trembling prey. As they cam through Jackson county, they caught and whipped Rev. John Woodson, to compel him to tell where the fugitives were secreted. But he did not know, nor would he have told had he known. When the fugitives reached this county, Christopher Brown was informed of the fact. He was closely watched some of the hunters standing guard over his canoe all one night, so that he might not help any one or more of the fugitives across the Scioto river. But nonetheless, he did pilot one across the river that night, and passed him along the underground railroad toward Canada, to which happy land he escaped. Four of the seven were caught supposed to have been betrayed by a man of their own color. The other two also escaped. This was only one of a great many similar scenes enacted on the soil of Ohio before and since that day.
Christopher says of his mother, that she was early taught to read, probably when in slavery, and was a great searcher of the scriptures. She could readily refer to almost any text in the bible. She was a most industrious woman, and possessed the happy faculty of making friends. She was thus enabled to keep her children while young mostly around her. She was a good calculator, economical in her expenditures and never afraid to put her hands to any job of work that offered. Consequently she was enabled to bring up her children tolerably well, for which she had the gratitude of her children, all of whom venerated her memory while they lived as the three survivors _ Christopher, Elias, and Elizabeth- do.
Submitted 18 May 2000 by Linda Artis, the ggggranddaughter of Christopher Brown