Thursday, September 14, 2023

HENRY "NEW HAMPSHIRE" HNH BROWN 1825-1897: A New England-Born Pioneer of California

 My great great grandfather HENRY "NEW HAMPSHIRE" BROWN--who signed his name "HNH Brown"--was born  21 Sep 1825 in Sanbornton, Strafford County (later Belknap County) New Hampshire.   His family tree flows  back more than 10 generations in Massachusetts to the very first Puritan and Pilgrim settlers there;  his pedigree includes Mayflower passengers JOHN HOWLAND & ELIZABETH TILLEY;  THOMAS DUDLEY, the 2nd governor of the Colony of Massachusetts and his daughter ANNE DUDLEY BRADSTREET, the first published poet in the Colony of Massachusetts;  the Reverend BENJAMIN BUTLER, a Harvard graduate,  who later settled in Nottingham, New Hampshire, plus several ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary War (as per DAR Patriot Index).

HENRY HNH BROWN was the son of BENJAMIN BUTLER BROWN born 19 April 1800 in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, and PHEBE GALE born 24 Jan 1802, Sanbornton, Strafford County, New Hampshire. He had five siblings:

-STEPHEN GALE BROWN b 1827 d 1849 Sutter's Fort, California


-MARY ANN BROWN b 1833 (never married)

-CHARLES GALE BROWN b 1835 (never married)


Little is known about HENRY's early education.  However, in 1848, as a young man age 23, he was sent to Hartford, Vermont, to study medicine with his uncle Dr HENRY BUTLER BROWN.  He did not stay with that profession, however, because the lure and adventure of the California Gold Rush captured both his imagination and that of  his brother STEPHEN GALE BROWN.  In 1849 they embarked together on the long and perilous voyage to California, sailing around Cape Horn, and made their way to Sutter's Fort. STEPHEN GALE BROWN died there, shortly after their arrival.

Between 1849 and 1855 there are few records for HENRY HNH BROWN.  It is entirely likely that he tried his hand at panning for gold. It was during these years that he picked up the nickname "New Hampshire", which stuck with him for the rest of his life.   It has been rumored that HENRY worked for LELAND STANFORD, who set up a general store in Michigan Bluff, Placer County, California around 1852, but I have not been able to verify this.  What is known, however, is that with a partner named C.A. PECK, HENRY purchased a mercantile business in about 1852 from CHARLES CROCKER  & DEWITT STANFORD, located in what was known as "Negro Hill" in Sacramento.   

Negro Hill Mining Camp

It was here, in the Negro Hill Mining Camp,  that HENRY first met the woman who was to become his wife, CORDELIA RICKARD MYERS.  

Cordelia H Rickard (Myers) Brown bef 1870

Her brother RICHARD RICKARD also owned a mercantile business at the Negro Hill Mining Camp. CORDELIA and RICHARD were immigrants from Kenwyn Parish, Cornwall, England, the children of CORDELIA HICKS and RICHARD RICKARD Sr.  CORDELIA RICKARD MYERS emigrated with her widowed mother & younger siblings in 1845, on the ship "Henry Clay"; RICHARD  with his brother WILLIAM arrived in 1846 on the ship "Oxford". The family lived first in Platteville, Grant County, Wisconsin, where many other relatives from Cornwall had settled, to work in the lead mines there. WILLIAM RICKARD returned to England before 1851.

CORDELIA married a German immigrant HENRY WILLIAM F MYERS 29 Jan 1850 in Platteville. Their only child, EMMA J MYERS was born in Dec 1850.  Sometime before 1852, the couple decided to make the journey overland to California.  It is highly likely that her brother RICHARD RICKARD accompanied them.  HENRY WILLIAM F MYERS either died on the way overland, or once they reached California. CORDELIA was a widow with an infant daughter when she met HENRY HNH BROWN. They were married 1 Jun 1857 in Sacramento, California. 

By 1858 the BROWN family had moved to Salmon Falls, on Lake Folsom, where HENRY joined the Natoma Freemason's Lodge. That year, HNH BROWN and C.A. PECK agreed to dissolve their partnership in their mercantile business  at Negro Hill Mining Camp, and settled their affairs. According to the 1860 US census, HENRY was working for a cattle rancher in Salmon Falls. 

Shortly after their marriage, HENRY appears to have adopted EMMA J MYERS. The couple had two more children: FRANK RICARD BROWN born 5 Feb 1858, and PHEBE CORDELIA BROWN born 12 April 1868.

During the next few years 1860-1867, HENRY NH BROWN and family lived at Granite Bay on Lake Folsom. He was listed in the local newspapers as a part owner of the Grace Copper mine (location?), and, with three other men, received a mineral rights land patent  for the Pioneer Lode in Mount Diablo, Elko County, Nevada. In 1867 HENRY, who was now secretary of the Natoma Masonic Lodge in Folsom,  wrote a reconciliatory letter to a fellow Masonic Lodge in South Carolina, which included a donation to help with reconstruction after the Civil War.

By the 1870 census, HENRY and his family were living back in Sacramento, where he was working as a clerk for the American Seed Store, owned by W.R. STRONG.  In 1872, he joined his old partner C. A. PECK, and established a building materials and plastering business.  This endeavor appeared to short-lived--despite a large number of advertisements in the local papers! 

In 1873, HENRY NH BROWN was hired as postmaster and Wells Fargo agent for the towns of Cornucopia and Brownsville in Elko County, Nevada.  Leaving his family back in Sacramento, he fulfilled his duties as a Wells Fargo Express Agent, and no doubt sought to profit from the short-lived gold and silver mining boom in the area. (Both Cornucopia and Brownsville are now ghost towns).

While HENRY was living and working in Nevada, tragedy struck. On the 23 of January 1875, his wife CORDELIA died of pneumonia at the age of 45.  Shortly thereafter, HENRY's son FRANK joined him in Nevada, leaving daughter PHEBE CORDELIA BROWN age 6 in the care of her half sister, EMMA J MYERS BROWN and her husband WALTER P EMERY.   HENRY would not return to Sacramento until 1885.

By 1877,  HENRY's son FRANK R BROWN was living in the gold mining town of Bodie. FRANK was working as an assayer, a skill he probably picked up while living with his father in Cornucopia, Nevada.  He was united in marriage to another resident of Bodie, MARY ETTA KENNEDY, whose family had also recently arrived in California from Maine. They were married 2 July 1878 in the town ofAurora, Esmerelda County, Nevada, about 15 miles north east of Bodie (There was no Justice of the Peace in the town at that time). By all accounts, the gold mines in Bodie was booming in the late 1870s, and the town was quite wild and lawless. The elevation at Bodie is 8365 feet, and the winters could be brutal.  FRANK and his wife MARY ETTA would live there until 1887, when FRANK was hired by the Alaska Commercial Company to run their gold and silver mines on Unga Island in Alaska.

Bodie State Historic Park

In March of 1880, it was announced in the Bodie Chronicle newspaper that H N H BROWN, Wells Fargo Agent of Cornucopia, Nevada, had  been appointed Wells Fargo Agent for the Mill Creek mines, in the town of Lundy, about 30 miles south of Bodie, near the town of Lee Vining.  He was 54 years old.

Lundy, California Western Mining History

According to tax records 1880-1884, HENRY NH BROWN owned two properties in the town of Lundy:  his main residence being on N. side of Main Street, bounded by J.H. Page's house and a vacant lot, with the Well's Fargo office within;  and a lot in town of Lundy, bounded S. by Chicago Ave, E. by A. Mill's lot and house, and W. by the Montrose Ox Corral. 

Townsite of Lundy, on Lundy Lake, looking west. Source: Mono County Tourism

Lundy Main Street 1900, looking east across Lundy Lake

Here is an newspaper account  likely from the Bodie Chronicle, describing an incident that occurred at the Wells Fargo office in Lundy on 5 August 1880:

"Last Thursday afternoon WILLIAM SMITH, a prospector, went into Wells Fargo & Co's express office, in an intoxicated condition, and began using very vile and offensive language concerning a man named Crane. Mr BROWN, the agent, who is an old man, requested him to stop talking in that way, as it disturbed his writing, and was disagreeable besides, but SMITH only became more violent. Mr BROWN then informed him that he must either hush or go out doors, but SMITH would do neither, whereupon he was ordered out peremptorily. On again refusing, Mr BROWN caught hold of his shoulder and gave him a slight push out the door. Whirling around, SMITH drew a self-cocking revolver, and shoved the muzzle through the glass in the door, but Mr BROWN was too quick for him, getting into the assay office, which is in the next room of the same building, before his assailant could shoot, closing the door behind him. ELLIS CORINSON, who was in the assay office with FRANK BROWN (HENRY's son), opened the door to see where SMITH was at. The latter had gone around to the opposite end of the housed broken two panes out of the window, and when CORINSON opened the door, raised his pistol and fired, the ball striking the window sash and glancing into the ceiling. CORINSON shut the door, but reopened it immediately, asking SMITH at the same time what he wanted to shoot him (Corinson) for. SMITH raised his weapon to fire again, when the door was closed. Having nothing to defend themselves with, the occupants of the room ran out by the back way up the hillside. After waiting around the office, peeping about to get a shot at someone, SMITH went away, returning , however in a short time, with his hand on his pistol, to say he should not forget the manner in which he had been treated. Mr BROWN, who is one of the most quiet and urbane of gentlemen, was greatly shocked at the attempt on his life, and says he will hereafter take measures to protect his person from the attacks of ruffians..."

In 1884, HENRY NH BROWN left his Wells Fargo post in Lundy, and returned to his family in Sacramento.  He lived at 826 L Street  with his daughter PHEBE, step-daughter EMMA and her husband WALTER P EMERY.  

From 1884 until his death in 1897, HENRY remained active in the Freemason's Lodge in Folsom, and was involved in many civic projects in Sacramento. He appears to have been on the board of directors for several businesses, including the Gurney Cab Company, the Del Norte Mining Company in Mexico, the Hartford Mining Company, and Crown Point Mining Company, to name a few. 

He was a Federal Election Supervisor for 7th precinct in Sacramento in 1892. Later in life, he volunteered as an usher in the Sacramento State Legislature, and wrote many letters, some of which were published in the local newspapers.  This 1890 letter from ex-US Senator from California JOHN CONNESS suggests that HENRY may have been a member of the Society of New England Pioneers of California:

In June 1894, HENRY's stepdaughter EMMA J MYERS BROWN EMERY died suddenly.  Her husband WALTER P EMERY passed away the following year.  

                                              Walter P Emery                                                 Emma J Myers Brown Emery                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

His son FRANK RICARD BROWN and family were living on Unga Island, Alaska, where FRANK managed the Apollo Silver and Gold Mine.  They would not return to California until 1904. Descendants live in  Nevada, Arizona, Missouri, Washington State, and Australia.

Frank Ricard Brown

In Jan 1896, HENRY'S daughter PHEBE CORDELIA BROWN married a Canadian, CHARLES WALLACE RHODES, and moved to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada where she lived all of her adult life. She had two children ETHEL RHODES DOVEY born 22 Oct 1896, died 1981;  and MABEL RHODES STERRY born 18 Jan 1901, died 1930. MABEL had two children ANN LOUISE STERRY and PETER WASEY STERRY,  who were raised in England by their father FRANK MIDDLETON STERRY and his family after their mother's death.  Descendants live in Canada, the US, the UK and New Zealand.

Phebe Cordelia Brown abt 1885 Sacramento, CA            Charles Wallace Rhodes 

HENRY "New Hampshire" HNH BROWN died 18 March 1897, alone,  at his residence at 1116 7th St in Sacramento (only one block from his previous residence 826 L St). His death certificate indicates that the cause of death was pneumonia. There were several different obituaries and death notices in the Sacramento local papers. 

HENRY "NEW HAMPSHIRE" HNH BROWN was buried in the Masonic Lawn Cemetery, Sacramento, California, alongside his wife, CORDELIA RICKARD

Henry New Hampshire Brown

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2023

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