Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Full Circle

Old Soldiers and Sailors Home - Sandusky, Ohio

The last and youngest immigrant member of the Browne family was Thomas.  As stated in one of the earliest blog posts, (see Where in County Limerick) Thomas was the key to finding the
Death Certificate - Thomas Brown - 1926 Ohio
(click to enlarge)
family in County Limerick.  His death certificate1 gave the names of both of his parents – Timothy Brown and Hannah Kelly - crucial data for tracing the family in Ireland.  (See Death Certificate left)  Thomas died February 21, 1926, at the Old Soldiers and Sailors Home in Sandusky, Ohio of chronic cystitis2.  The informant, JC

Lee, of the home, gave Thomas’ date of birth as May 3, 1849 and his place of birth as Boston, Massachusetts. Thomas is buried in the cemetery on the grounds of the Veterans Home in Sandusky3.  (See tombstone right)

The Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky4 supplied additional information about Thomas.  When he was admitted to the home on December 19, 1920, Thomas was single giving his niece, Mrs. Mary Cox5, of Bloomington, Illinois, as his next of kin.  Thomas was admitted to the Home from Cincinnati, Ohio for “general disability” but was transferred to the hospital section of the home on March 21, 1924, two years before his death.  His date of birth was given as May 3, 1846, (different than that shown on the death certificate), and he had lived in Ohio for twenty-two years.  Although Thomas gave his occupation as a farmer, he did not own property and had no living family.   Records at the home (and in the death notice in the local newspaper – see footnotes6) identify several pieces of conflicting information including the year and place of his birth and his residence over the years.  In varying records, Thomas gave his year of birth as anywhere between 1845 and 1849.  In some records he stated that he was born in Boston while in other records he was born in Ireland.  We know from baptismal records in County Limerick, that Thomas was baptized May 6, 1847 at Patrickswell RC Church7 confirming his year of birth as 1847 in Ireland.  (See copy below).  Other conflicts will be addressed throughout the blog post.
Baptismal Record from Patrickswell RC Church (Luriga)   (Click to enlarge)

The records at the Home also included information about Thomas’ military service.  He enlisted in the Navy at Cincinnati on December 1, 1846 during the Civil War and was discharged February 2, 1865 in Cicero, Illinois (more conflicting information) as a “Captain in the Navy After Guard”8 when his enlistment term expired.  He received $50.00 a month from his government pension listed under number 1163678.  Using the pension number, I requested Thomas’ pension record from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.   It could not be located at NARA and they suggested that I contact the Veterans Administration – which I did.  It could not be located there either.  I have made many attempts to locate this record, but it remains “lost.”  However disappointing that is, there are a couple of records associated with Thomas’ service that are available – an Enlistment Record and a Service Card – which provide clues to his life.

The Enlistment Record9 (see copy below) shows that Thomas did indeed enlist in the U.S. Navy at Cincinnati, Ohio on January 28, 1864.  Thomas, described as 5 feet 7 inches tall with fair complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair, gave his occupation as tobacconist, (remember his older brother, James, was also associated with the tobacco business), and he listed his current residence as Illinois.  He also stated that he was born in Ireland and that he was 18 years old.  Since Thomas was baptized in 1847 (see Baptismal record above), he was actually 16 years old at the time of his enlistment.  This provides a plausible explanation of why he enlisted in Cincinnati rather than Chicago where he had been living with his mother and other family members.  Like many other young men who wanted to participate in the war, he likely ran away from home and lied about his age!  I would guess that his mother, Hannah, strongly objected to his underage enlistment.  Remember that Chicago was a railroad hub and there were trains going everywhere.  It would have been very easy to hop a train - Cincinnati was only a few hours away. 
Enlistment Record for Thomas Brown

The original copy I received of Thomas’ Service Card10 was so dark that it was barely readable.  (See copy below.)  I could make out the pension application and certificate numbers which helped confirm later records associated with Thomas.   I could also decipher the names of the ships that Thomas served on during the Civil War.  (I could not make out his additional service information and did not find that out until much later.)  Thomas served on the Avenger, the Clara Dolsen, the Grampus, and the Great Western – all side-wheel steamers either stationed on or patrolling the Ohio
Service Card - General Indexes to Pensions
and Mississippi Rivers11.   Without Thomas’ service records, it is difficult to identify specific dates when Thomas served on each ship.  When he enlisted, the Grampus was being used as a receiving ship located in Cincinnati.  It is also likely that he was on the Great Western when he was discharged.  Most of Thomas’ subsequent records show only his service on the Great Western.   (One other record shows both the Avenger and the Great Western.)  The Great Western was retired in March, 1865 at Cairo, Illinois. That is also the location and approximate date when Thomas’ enlistment expired.  (The records at the Veterans Home in Sandusky, Ohio state that he was discharged at Cicero, Illinois.  Other records identified later confirm Cairo as the correct location.)  

After the Civil War, Thomas returned to Chicago from 1867 to at least 187112 where he is shown in the Chicago Directories with the family.  After that, it was difficult to locate his whereabouts; so, I turned once again to the narrative of David Brown13.   (See clip of the David Brown letter below.)  David must have seen Thomas’ service and pension records since he identified various places that Thomas lived.  However, the next record that I could positively identify was information from a Veterans home in Washington State14.  The state of Washington maintains four homes for veterans.  Over a twelve year period, from 1903 to 1915, Thomas resided in two of them – Washington Soldiers’ Home and Colony and the Washington Veterans Home. 
David Brown Letter - (Click to enlarge)

The Washington Soldiers’ Home and Colony (Soldier’s Home in Orting) was dedicated in June 1891.  After reviewing many proposed sites, the home was located in the Puyallup Valley in Orting largely because of the transportation system and pleasant
Map of northwest Washington State showing
locations where Thomas lived
(click to enlarge)
atmosphere of the surrounding property; but, mostly because of the quantity and quality of available water.  The original plans 
called for a main building and ten cottages to house the men.  Residents began to occupy the home shortly after the dedication.  One of the disappointments for married men was that they had to leave their families behind.  To counteract this, a “Colony” was established where the veteran, with his family, would live within

the City of Orting but would be serviced by the Soldier’s Home.  Certain restrictions applied and the entire family needed to comply with all of the rules and regulations of the Home.  In 1892 there were 37 residents; by 1895 there were 99 residents; in 1897 there were 110 residents and by 1907 there were 385 men residing in a community planned for less than half that number.   Clearly an additional facility was needed15.  

In order to deal with the overcrowding and lack of provision for families, a second home, the Washington Veterans Home, was built near Port Orchard (Retsil) at Annapolis on Sinclair Inlet overlooking Puget Sound.  Besides the ease of access and proximity to large populations, and clean water, this site had the added advantage of “magnificent scenic views of mountains and water.”  The first two structures were cottages designed to accommodate eight couples each.  The next building completed was the “Washington Barracks” designed to house single men.  More cottages and barracks were soon added.  The Home was dedicated February 22, 1910.  At the end of the first day, 127 men and women were registered as residents; that number grew to 187 by the end of the year16.

Thomas first applied for admission17 to the home in Orting on November 19, 1903 where he was admitted on December 3.  At that time he stated that he had been living in Olympia, Washington for two years, was single, born in Boston on May 3, 1849 and that he was a “tobacconist.”  He did not know of any living relative and was suffering from “lumbago.”  Sometime before 1907, (no date
Discharge from Washington Soldiers Home
was given on the document), Thomas was asked to leave the home for infringement of house rules18.  (See copy of document left).  He gave his future address as Camp Douglas, Utah (known as Fort Douglas).  Fort Douglas is located near Salt Lake City where George Roach, a son of Thomas’ sister, Johanna Brown Roach, was living with his family.  (See previous blog post Children of Johanna and Thomas.)  Even though Thomas did not list living relatives in his application to the home, this does infer that he chose Utah because he knew George Roach was living there.  He certainly would have known George from his years in Chicago; however, there is no further indication that Thomas actually went to Utah.

Sometime during 1907, Thomas applied for a military pension.  A letter, from the Department of the Interior, dated September 27, 1907 addressed to Thomas at Three Lakes, Washington, stated that he was not eligible for a pension since he was not yet “sixty-two years of age.”  On December 9, 1907, Thomas applied for readmission to the home in Orting, now giving his year of birth as
1845 making him just sixty-two.  The application included a letter of apology for his misconduct where he promised to abide by the rules in the future.  Thomas was readmitted with a $12.00 pension on January 1, 190819.    

Probably because of the overcrowding at the Washington Soldiers
Thomas is likely shown in this photo as one of the
first residents of the Washington Veterans Home
Home in Orting, and in anticipation of the new Washington

Veterans Home (WVH – Port Orchard/Retsil) being opened, Thomas applied for admission to the new home on February 11, 1910 and was admitted on
1911 Apology letter from Thomas to
Board members of WVH
March 4 making him one of the first members of Washington Barracks.  (See picture above right.)  Tom must have gotten into trouble again because there was a second application for admission to the WVH in July, 1911 which included another letter of apology promising to comply with the rules20. (See copy left)  

Thomas bounced between the two homes in 1914 and again in 1915 not being able to "settle," and trying to find help for his alcohol addiction21.    He appears to have left the state in 1916.  We will follow him to his next destination; however, there is documentation in his initial application to the Washington Soldiers Home (Orting) that gives access to details of Tom’s life after his discharge from the Navy in 1865.  That is where we will go with the next blog post.

Court View South, Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator. Ohio Soldiers' & Sailors' Home, U.S. Route 250 at DeWitt Avenue, Sandusky, Erie County, OH. Erie County Ohio Sandusky, 1933. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/oh1745/.

1.       Thomas Brown, Sandusky, Ohio, death certificate 8771 (1926), “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1X6ZK-89Q, FHL microfilm 1,984,193

2.       The death register for the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home shows that Thomas died of “nephritis.”  Both chronic cystitis and nephritis indicate kidney disease.  Veterans Home records, 1889-1995, Death records 1889-1995 Case histories (no. 21501-21741, Family Search, Film #2026852/007849168, Image 167 of 700.  Available online at FamilySearch.org.  https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-P93J-Y?i=167&cat=475358

3.       Tombstone of Thomas Brown, Ohio Veterans Home Cemetery, Section E, Row 1, Marker 35.

4.       Personal email received February 19, 2008 from Ronald J. Beverick, MBA, Chief Information Officer, Ohio Veterans Home Agency.

5.       Mary Ann Cox is the oldest daughter of Patrick Brown and Ann Burns – Patrick being Thomas’ oldest brother.  She married James Cox in Illinois on January 13, 1881.  See blog post ". . . and he leaves a large family to mourn his death."  Not all information in the David Brown letter (see copy in text of the blog post) agrees with information that was uncovered while researching Thomas.  David Brown says that Thomas gave the name of a nephew, Patrick, from Cleveland, as his next of kin while residing at the Ohio Veterans Home.  That conflicts with information from the Home.  I have not found a Patrick Brown in Cleveland.  As we saw in the last blog post on Thomas’ older brother, James (" . . . to Cleveland"), the only immediate family members found living in Cleveland in 1920, were George and Raymond Brown, sons of James.

6.       The death notice for Thomas (see below) was found in a regular column about the Old Soldiers and Sailors Home (O.S. & S.) in The Register, Sandusky, Ohio, under news about neighboring communities.  The column contains information concerning what was happening at the home – about the inmates and their activities, the staff, and who was visiting.  The column appears to be quite “chatty,” and, hopefully, indicates a pleasant atmosphere.  “DEATH CLAIMS THOMAS BROWN,” The Register, Sandusky, Ohio, February 23, 1926, page 9 and February 24, 1926, page 9.

7.       Thomas Browne, Baptism, Lurriga: County of Limerick; Diocese of Limerick, Baptisms, March 1847 to Dec. 1847. National Library of Ireland, microfilm 02409/06, page 13.  Lurriga is also known as Patrickswell.  The record is very difficult to read.  The record is on line 637 for May 7, 1847 and reads, Thomas son of Thady Browne and Hannah Kelly.  Sponsors were Thomas Browne and Johanna Looney.

8.       The ranking of “Captain of the After Guard” is generally associated with sailing ships and was the leader of a group of sailors responsible for raising and lowering the aft sail.  Thomas served only on steamships, so it is difficult to understand the duties of Thomas on the steamship.  Other records show that he was an “ordinary seaman.” Remember that Thomas was quite young when he was in the Navy during the Civil War.   

10.   A Service Record of Thomas Brown, Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934, Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration T288, Reel 57.  Available online at Ancestry.com.  https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/4654/32959_032722-00005?backurl=https%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2fsearch%2fdb.aspx%3fdbid%3d4654%26path%3d&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnBrowsing#?imageId=32959_032722-02049

11.   All four ships listed on Thomas’ Service Card were side-wheel steamships that worked the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  Although the Clara Dolsen supported the recapture of Henderson, Kentucky in July 1862, of the four, only the Avenger saw enemy action on the Red River in April and May, 1864.  The Great Western was used to supply ammunition to various combat units.  She supported the Vicksburg campaign (1862-1863) in this capacity, but, this was before the dates that Thomas was in the Navy.  In July, 1864, she was sent to Cairo, Illinois to act as a receiving ship. The Avenger and the Great Western were roughly the same size at around 200 feet long and 400 tons.  The Clara Dolsen was by far the largest ship at nearly 270 feet long and 940 tons.  The Grampus was the smallest at 180 feet long and 230 tons.  Information on all four ships was retrieved using Wikipedia.

12.   The Chicago Directory for years 1872 through 1877 show a sailor named Thomas Brown living in close proximity to other family members.  Because of the common name, it is difficult to determine definitively whether this is the correct Thomas Brown or not.  Chicago City Directories are available online through Ancestry.com

13.   Brown, David, Kewanee, IL., 11 May 1943.  Letter to Esther _______, Columbus, OH, page 9 and 10.   Information in the letter has been used to further research the Brown family.

14.   There is a record in the 1900 U.S. Census for Port Crescent, Clallam County, Washington for a Thomas Brown, day laborer, born May 1849 in Boston with parents born in Ireland who had been unemployed for five months.  At the same address is Charles S Morey, blacksmith, born June 1877 in Pennsylvania who had also been unemployed two months.  This may or may not be the same Thomas Brown.  This area is roughly 150 miles from Orting, Washington where the Orting Soldiers’ Home is located.  Census information is available online at Ancestry.com.  Year: 1900; Census Place: Port Crescent, Clallam, Washington; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0015; FHL microfilm: 1241742

15.   A Comprehensive History of the Washington Soldiers’ Home and Colony 1891-1991; compiled in 1971 by Mrs. Murial Furney; edited in 1991 by Miriam Young and Donna Bogumill; Washington Veterans Home print shop.  Available online at: https://www.dva.wa.gov/sites/default/files/Orting%20History.pdf.

16.   Washington Veterans Home 1910-1980, 70th Anniversary Historical Summary; edited and published by Donna Bogumill, 1980; Revised Edition 2005.  Available online at:  https://www.dva.wa.gov/sites/default/files/History%20Retsil_0.pdf.

17.   Records for the Washington Soldiers’ Home and Colony and the Washington Veterans Home for the years 1903 to 1916 were obtained online from the Washington State Archives at https://digitalarchives.wa.gov/ in the “Military Category.”  Six folders are associated with Thomas’ tenure at the Washington Veteran Homes – numbers 43, 192, 525, 743, 982, and 2607.

18.   Op. cit., A Comprehensive History of the Washington Soldiers’ Home and Colony, page 10.  One of the problems associated with the home in Orting was its proximity to five licensed saloons within walking distance of the home.  “. . . these places were being frequented by the Home residents, with the proprietors not discouraging them.  Consequently the men very often returned back to the Home intoxicated and proceeded to disrupt the discipline already so difficult to sustain under the Home’s overcrowded condition.”

19.   Folder 982 containing two applications for admission to the home and various other documents, Veterans Affairs, Department of, Orting Soldiers Home, Member Files, 1891-1987, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives,  http://digitalarchives.wa.gov, accessed 28 March 2019.

20.   Folder 192 containing various documents, Veterans Affairs, Department of, Retsil Veterans Home, Member Files, 1910-1977, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://digitalarchives.wa.gov, accessed 28 March 2019.

21.   Op. cit. Folders 2607 from Orting and 743 from Retsil containing various documents.


  1. I absolutely love your blog. It is so thorough and so well-documented. I hope your family appreciates you research over time.