Monday, May 8, 2017

Steam and Saloons

David Brown, the sixth child and fourth son, of John Brown and Ellen Burns Brown, was born January 2, 1866 in Columbus and was baptized on January 10th at St. Patrick’s.  He was just seven
Wedding present to
Mary Ellen Shipley Brown
years old when his father died in the train accident and twelve at the death of his mother in 1878.  The 1880 US Census shows David living with Peter and Martha Burns on the quarry property on Dublin Rd. in Columbus.  (Remember, Martha was a sister of David’s mother, Ellen.)  Nothing more is known of David’s early life; but, as is stated in the David Brown letter1, probably all of the children, “worked when they could and when the weather was such that the younger ones could not work in it [the quarry], they then went to school.” 

The first confirmed record found for David outside of Ohio is his Homestead application in Alliance, Nebraska begun March 26, 18892.  However, David was likely in the area prior to this time.  He appears to be a witness at the marriage of his cousin, James E.
Is this David Brown?
(see footnotes)
Brown, fourth son of Patrick Brown, to Jennie Phillips in August 18883.  It is possible that when David left Columbus, he first stopped at the home of his Uncle Patrick in Custer County, Nebraska; and, that James and David traveled to Box Butte County together.  Railroads were opening the area during this time; and, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy line actually reached Alliance in early 1888.  This was the same line that went through Custer County making it an easy trip.

Application for Extension
(click to enlarge)
The actual homesteading for David may not have gone exactly as planned.  David filed for an extension4 on the claim due to an “extreme drought during the summer and fall of 1890.”  Even before the drought, David worked for wages “by the month or day” to support himself.  Because of the drought, employment was not available in the area and he was “compelled to go east for the purpose of procuring work.”   The
Testimony of Claimant
(click to enlarge)
extension was granted for November 1890 to November 1891; however, the Testimony of Claimant5 document, as part of the final proof of his homestead states that although he “. . . secured a leave of absence to expire Nov 1, 1891, but [he] never took advantage of it.” He did state that he would be gone a few weeks at a time to earn a living.  David’s homestead was finalized on September 16, 1896.  (Refer to the previous post on Homesteading for information about homesteading and obtaining homestead records.)
A story has been handed down to David’s descendants that he was a locomotive engineer for the Burlington railroad.  At some point, he was “disciplined” by the railroad and his friends staged a strike to get back his job.  He was a proud man and when his job was reinstated, he told them, “ . . . he wouldn’t take the job back if it was life or death.”

 A railroad engineer was a coveted position and only given to the best men who had, usually, taken many years to work their way up from lower positions.  During the first half of 1888, the engineers and firemen for the Burlington line staged a strike shutting down operations for a time from Chicago to all points west.  Scrambling to keep the rail lines open, many less experienced men were hired.  The strike, deemed to be over in most areas, lingered in the Nebraska area6.  If, as according to the David’s testimony in finalizing his claim, he did not leave the area, the strike could have been an opportunity for David, and many others to obtain well paying jobs.  By at least 1898, David was an engineer for the Burlington line.  Several references are made to “engineer D. Brown” in the local newspaper, The Alliance Times.  Other friends and neighbors of David were also mentioned, many engineers, and, from time to time, they “laid off” the railroad for a few weeks or months to attend to their farms and ranches7

David and Mary Ellen Shipley8 were married on June 12, 1895.  Witnesses to the marriage were Hannah Brown, youngest
Marriage Record of David & Mary Ellen
(Click to enlarge)
daughter of his Uncle Patrick, and Joseph Lynch, Hannah’s future husband.  Mary Ellen, born August 13, 1876, was the daughter of Robert and Rhoda Edwards Shipley.  The Shipley family also homesteaded in Box Butte County in a neighboring township9.  The family had previously farmed in Illinois where their seven children were born.  Robert and Rhoda were originally from Kentucky.  (See marriage license left.)  David and Mary Ellen had two children, David Earl and Francis Merle, while living in Nebraska.  This David Earl Brown is the writer of the letter that has been referred to frequently in this blog.  The Brown family probably lived in the town of Alliance, a town of 2,500 in 1900.  It was not unusual for a family to have a house in town and still maintain their farm or ranch, especially after their homestead was finalized10.

The June 23, 1899 edition of The Alliance Times ran the following notice under the Shop, Wheel and Rail column.  “All train and engine men and such other employees as are concerned in the handling of trains will be examined in hearing and sight between this and the first of September.”  Was David adversely affected by the “physical,” and could this have been the cause of the threatened strike by David’s friends?   The September 22, 1899 edition of the same paper, in the same column, stated, “Engineer D. Brown has left the service of the company;” and, still later, on September 29, 1899, the paper said, “Ex-Engineer D. Brown will leave tomorrow night accompanied by Mrs. Brown and the children, for Columbus, O., where he may decide to locate.”

David, his wife, and two sons are shown in the 1900 US Census for Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio.  It must have been very difficult for Mary Ellen to move to Columbus.  She left her family and friends behind in Nebraska and knew no one in Columbus except
David Earl Brown,
Oldest son of David Brown 
her husband.  Even David’s brothers and sisters would have been strangers.  Mary Ellen had always lived in a rural area, and Columbus with a population of over 125,000 in 1900, must have been very different for her.  David’s occupation is given as a “saloon keeper.”  The 1910 US Census shows his occupation as “retail dealer of liquors.”  The 1900 Columbus City Directory shows David in business with John Murnane11 as “Brown & Murnane.”  From 1901 to 1915, he is shown in the saloon business with his brother, James, as the “Brown Bros” at various locations on West Broad Street in Columbus12.

James is the fourth child and second son of John and Ellen Brown.  He was born in Franklin County on February 22, 1862 and baptized at St. Patrick’s on March 12, 1862.  He, too, was living with Peter and Martha Burns in the 1880 census.  On January 4, 1883, James married Hettie Fleming13, the daughter of John and Martha Fleming, neighbors in Franklin Township in Franklin County, Ohio.  James, unlike some of his brothers, never left the Columbus area.  Before he joined David in the saloon business, James and Hettie were living on North Central Avenue and James was a fireman.

In August 1902, James purchased a lot at 2510 West Broad Street, where the saloon was located for one year, 1904.  In 1911, a one-
Baist map of Columbus, 1899-see footnotes
Saloon in red circle in upper right
David's home in blue circle in lower left
Mt. Carmel hospital is located on State St between
David and Souder. just out of the image.
(click to enlarge)
half interest in this property was transferred to David Brown.  During 1907 the Brown Bros. saloon was moved to 741 West Broad Street; and, in June 1911 David and James purchased the property14.  It was a one story frame building with a basement and a backyard and was located at the southwest corner of West Broad Street and Green Street, sometimes called Doyle Alley, across from The Good Shepherd School and Convent15.  There had been a saloon at this address since before 1897.   (See the map left from the 1899 Baist Real Estate Atlas. The saloon is shown in the red circle.)

David died from pneumonia on July 14, 191416 leaving his wife and sons, ages 15 and 16.   No will was recorded.  Initial papers were filed with the Franklin County Probate Court to establish an estate record.  The estate was in probate for nearly six years and was not finalized until the real estate was transferred to the widow on April 9, 1920.  Perhaps the delay was caused by a disagreement concerning the liquor license.  On September 10, 1914, the same day the initial papers were submitted, James, as the surviving partner, filed his election to take the interest of the deceased partner, David Brown.  At the same time, an inventory was
Inventory of Brown Bros.
submitted17.  (see right) The next day, September 11th, David’s widow, Mary, applied for and was granted David’s one-half interest in the liquor license held for the Brown Bros paying $100 to the administrator of the estate18.    From 1915 to 1918, the Columbus City Directory shows another saloon proprietor, Benj Biete, at 741 W Broad.  Was the liquor license sold to Mr. Biete or did he have a license in his own name?  If the license was transferred, who did the transfer, or was it done jointly?   The questions could be answered by reviewing the liquor licenses. However, the records are not available19, so it is uncertain what happened to the license.  It could be that actually nothing happened because the Prohibition era began in Ohio in May 1919, nearly six months before the 18th Amendment was passed by Congress20.    

Both properties held by David and James Brown were sold during 1920; the property at 741 W. Broad on October 1, 1920, and the property at 2510 W. Broad on April 10, 1920 which had a $4,500 mortgage at the time. Both properties sold for $1.00 and “other valuable considerations.”  Whether it is of significance or not, James sold his personal residence at 47 S. Warren on March 4, 1920.21

The saloon was located in an area called “The Bottoms,” on lower ground and surrounded on three sides by the Scioto River.  On March 24, 1913, a major storm hit much of the eastern Midwest, including Columbus, causing flooding, destruction, and death over widespread areas.  Columbus received over five inches of rain in a
Map of flood area showing breaks in levees and flow of
flood waters.  Red "X" is location of Brown Bros.
(click to enlarge)
24 hour period.  The local rain plus runoff from areas north of town caused the Scioto to first overflow then breech the levees protecting the low-lying areas of Franklinton, including the bottoms22. (See map of flooded section left.)The saloon was located just a block west of Sandusky and a block east
West Broad St. at Davis looking toward Mt. Carmel Hospital
Mt. Carmel is the taller building in the upper right
of Davis.  (See photo of flood damage at Davis and Broad.)  There is not any visual or written record of the damage done to the saloon, but, it would have had water in the building at the least and, perhaps, structural damage which may have been a contributing factor in the mortgage on one of the properties and
Martin Ave. after the flood
the low level of spirits in the inventory at the time of David’s death.   David’s house, at 90 Martin Ave., was also in the flood area and may have sustained damage as well.  (See image of Martin Ave. after the flood.)  James’ residence was located further west on higher ground and was out of the flood area.

Without an income after David’s death, Mary Ellen rented rooms in her home to nurses from Mt. Carmel Hospital located just a couple of blocks away.  She also helped raise her three small grandsons, David Earl’s children, after their mother, Helen Neubeck, passed away at age 30 in 1928.  And, as a resourceful woman, she ran a numbers racket out of her kitchen based on the last three digits of the volume of trading on the stock market23.   She must have been quite a gal.  Mary Ellen passed away July 27, 1946.  Mary Ellen and David are buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.

James’ occupation, after the Brown Bros. saloon was closed, was shown as a fireman or a watchman in the Columbus City Directories.  James died of chronic nephritis on October 3, 183825.  His wife, Hettie Fleming, had predeceased him on December 12, 1927.  They are buried in St. Joseph Cemetery in Lockbourne, Ohio.  James and Hettie had five children, John, Arthur, Agnes, Lee, Walter, and Hettie.

Special thanks to Marion for her help with this post.

In the next blog, we will look at other children of John and Ellen Burns Brown.

IMAGE - The teapot and creamer shown in the first image was given to Mary Ellen Shipley Brown at her marriage to David Brown on June 12, 1895 in Alliance Nebraska.  Items are in possession of a descendent.

1.       Brown, David, Kewanee, IL, 11 May 1943, Letter to Esther _____, Columbus, Ohio, page 6.

2.       The Original Entry application in Section 30, Township 25N, Range 50W of the 6th prime meridian was completed on September 16, 1896 and is available online at Fold3.    There are likely two other claims made by David.  These are not available online to compare signatures.  One is a cash sale in Section 24, Township 25N, Range 51W in April 1891 adjoining the above property.  The other is a Timber Claim completed September 7, 1899 in Section 20, Township 25N, Range 50W.  It is not known how long these properties were held.

3.       Box Butte County Clerk of the District Court, Alliance, NE, Nebraska, Box Butte County Marriages, 1887-2005, volume A, page 51, The witnesses at this marriage are David Brown and John Phillips.  Remember, James had a brother named David, but, by this time he was going by the name of D.O. and had settled in Custer County.  The likely witness then is David Brown, the son of John and Ellen Burns Brown, the subject of this post.  We looked at James earlier in the post for . . . and he leaves a large family to mourn his death.  At that time it was determined that James had married Jenny Barney about 1894, and, was living in northeast Nebraska in 1900.  Also, remember that James was living in Adrian, Minnesota in 1891 at the time of his father’s, death.  It is assumed that this was a first marriage for James and that he left the area after the presumed death of his first wife.     

IMAGE - Is this a photo of David Brown?  It was found in a box of photos from Margaret Shrum, a granddaughter of John and Ellen Burns Brown.  The back of the photo gives the name of the Photographer, F.J. Buckmyer, and his address, 69 S. High St., Columbus, Ohio.  City Directories for Columbus show the photographer at this address from 1881 to 1887.  David would have been age 15 to 20 during this time frame.  Based on the physical appearance of the subject, I believe this to be “a Brown” of about 20 years of age.  The backdrop is a “western scene.”  Could this be a clue that he was heading west?

4.       Op. cit., Original Entry application, Application for Extension. When the extension was filed, David had built a 16 x 18 house, a cave that was 12 x 12 and had broken twelve acres of ground.  He had only a pony with which to do the work.   

5.       Op. cit., Original Entry application, Homestead Proof – Testimony of Claimant.  Part of the final process of a homestead claim was for the claimant, and two people who could vouch for him, to complete a questionnaire about improvements made to the property and his tenure on the land.

6.       Salmons, C. H., The Burlington Strike: its motives and methods including The Causes of the Strike, Press of Bunnell and Ward, Aurora, IL, 1889.

7.       Nebraska State Historical Society, The Alliance Times, Alliance, NE.  The Alliance Times is available through interlibrary loan on a limited basis.  I reviewed two reels of microfilm (071-Al5t, 006 and 007) for the period of May 13, 1898 to April 5, 1891.  The newspaper gives a lot of detail about the lives of the people in the area.  One regular column in the paper, “Shop, Wheel, and Rail,” specifically lists men, and their families, associated with the railroad. Perhaps additional information about David, when he started for the railroad, his assignments, and more could be located in earlier editions.   Thanks to the Wilmington Public Library in Wilmington, Ohio who managed to obtain the microfilm of the newspaper.

8.       Box Butte County Clerk of the District Court, Alliance, NE, Nebraska, Box Butte County Marriages, 1887-2005, volume A, page 431,

9.       Bureau of Land Records, Land Patents, Nebraska.  Records are available online at:; Images from the Alliance Land Office are available from Fold3 at:  Robert Shipley homesteaded in section 25 in township 026N, range 051W.  Robert Shipley’s sons, William T. and Archie L., homesteaded in section 26 in township 026N, range 051W.   Robert’s son-in-law, John Keeffe originally homesteaded in section 1, township 025N, range 050W.

10.   A review of many homestead applications and local news articles for friends and neighbors of the Brown’s find several notations that homesteads were maintained while the wife and children lived in town citing the harsh environment for women and children.  

11.   Remember from the post on John and Peter that Julia, the daughter of Peter Burns, was married to John Murnane.  Is this the same man?

12. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line], Columbus City Directory, 1884 to 1946.

13.   “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2012,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 8 December 2014), James and Hattie Fleming. 04 Jan 1883; citing Franklin, Ohio, United States, reference 17; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 285,149.

14.   Franklin County Recorder’s Office, Public Records Search, online database of property sales in Franklin County, Ohio. .  Records of purchases and sales: 2510 W Broad St (lot 6 in the Terrace Addition) purchase by James Brown, v. 360 p. 183 Aug 15, 1902; transfer ½ interest in 2510 W Broad St to David Brown, v. 483 p.607 Jun 11, 1911; 741 W Broad St (lot 1 in Samuel Doyle’s Western Addition) purchased by David and James Brown, v. 513 p. 438 Jun 6, 1911.  The description of the property where the saloon was located was derived from the Sanborn Fire Insurance map located at the Columbus Metropolitan Library and the purchase deed.  “This deed is made subject to a certain lease made by grantor August 3, 1910 for a term of three years (3) from September 1, 1910, to August [Uihleen sp??] on that portion of the premises herein conveyed known as no. 741 W. Broad St. being storeroom basement and backyard of same.”


15.   The Good Shepherd School, Columbus.  Good Shepherd School was a house of refuge for troubled females of all ages.  It was located on the Sullivant estate on West Broad Street and Sandusky and consisted of several buildings including, a church, school, convent and several other buildings.  The grounds were extensive and covered several acres.   

IMAGE – Section of Plate 9 of the 1899 Real Estate Atlas for Columbus, Ohio, G. Wm Baist - Map used with permission of The Columbus Metropolitan Library Image Collections.

16.   Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1914>image 1579 of 3301.

17.   Franklin County, Ohio probate case files, estate no. 29919, David Brown (1914), Inventory dated September 10, 1914.  Inventory consists of furniture and fixtures and one-half barrel spirits.  Was there other inventory that was moved prior to probate; or, was the inventory small because of the 1913 flood?

18.   Ibid., David Brown (1914), “Entry” dated September 11, 1914, “. . . administrator is ordered to transfer and assign the interest of said David Brown in said Liquor License, to said applicant [Mary E. Brown],; and it is therefore ordered and directed that upon the payment by said Mary E. Brown to said administrator, for the use and benefit of the estate of said David Brown, of the sum of $100.00, said administrator is hereby directed to assign and transfer to said Mary E. Brown, all the right, title and interest of the estate of said David Brown, deceased, in and to said Liquor License.” 

19.   The licensing division of the Franklin County Liquor Control holds records for licenses and transfers.  They do not have records before Prohibition, nor, are early records held at local repositories in Franklin County.

20.   Ohio Memory, The Prohibition Era Begins . . .,

21.   Op. cit., Franklin County Recorder’s Office, Public Records Search, sale of 741 W. Broad recorded in volume 691, page 246; sale of 2510 W. Broad recorded in volume 672, page 580; sale of 47 S. Warren recorded in volume 678, page 286.

22.   Section of map from the Ohio State Board of Health of March 1913 showing areas of Columbus, Ohio affected by the flood.  For more information on the flood in Columbus, see  and 

IMAGES of 1913 flood used with the permission of The Columbus Metropolitan Library Image Collections

23.   This information from descendents of David and Mary Ellen Brown.

24.   Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1914>image 1579 of 3301.


  1. I am always amazed at the diverse documents you find to make your case. And, as you know, I'm jealous of your citations skills. Great story.