An item from the Digby Family File, Lafayette, Tippecanoe Co., IN
The Sunday Leader, Lafayette, Indiana
March 10, 1878
"Uncle Jimmie Brown"
A relic of bye-gone days-his early history and settlement in Tippecanoe County - He pays for the Leader and then reads it.
Mr. James F. Brown, familiarly known as "Uncle Jimmy Brown" called upon me Thursday and subscribed for the Leader, paying for one year in advance. "Uncle Jimmy" though now closely grazing four score years, is as a lively a specimen of a granger as we have met in a long time, and give fair promise of celebrating his centennial birthday. In the course of a few moments conversation we elicited from him a few facts relative to his early history, which are as follows:
Born in Butler County, Ohio, in the year 1799, and in his early manhood he came to where Lafayette now stands, with WILLIAM DIGBY, the founder of our city who was his cousin. Remaining a short time, he left, but returned again in 1826 and permanently settled in this vicinity. He entered 160 acres of land near Taylor's Station on the farm later owned by SYLVESTER TAYLOR, remaining there about five years. He then removed to Clinton County, near the forks of the Wild Cat, where he purchased a tract of land of 600 acres, partly from the government at $1.25 per acre. He continued to reside there 5 or 6 years and then came to Lafayette. At that time he possessed cash in hand $1,600 in silver (the kind later known as "the dollar of the daddies"). He then bought a tract of land 160 acres from MARTIN WORTHY, located two miles west of Lafayette, paying him $8 per acre, half cash, half in a year. Remaining there a few years, he next rented a hundred acres of bottom land adjoining Lafayette of MR. ELLSWORTH and was authorized by him to fence the tract as an equivalent for rent and stayed there for two years.
MR. BROWN was chosen to sit on the first jury ever impaneled in Lafayette, on the trial of one Mops and Munger for stealing a bolt of calico and an Indian pony, Judges EGGLESTON and NAYLOR presiding on the bench. After hearing the testimony and argument, the jury retired to a corn house, standing on the bank of the river near the foot of Main street, to deliberate on a verdict. A decision was gained by placing twelve grains of corn in a hat and drawing there from as a significance of "guilty." As the entire twelve grains were drawn out a unanimous verdict of guilty was rendered and the prisoner was sent to the states prison accordingly.
"Uncle" JIMMY was something of a mariner making a river trip to New Orleans for four successive seasons, with cargoes of beef and pork. Messrs. JOSEPH HANNA, NAT STOCKWELL and JOHN PURDUE being the consignors. In the earliest history of Lafayette he hauled freight from Cincinnati, the motive power being four yoke of oxen. The freight would weigh about four thousand pounds, requiring about one month to make the trip. The oxen were fed by foraging by the road side and in the woods. There was no sign of a settlement between here and the Ohio State line, and the first trip he took he never saw but one house from the time he left Lafayette until he reached Ohio. He carried his own provender and did his own cooking.
"UNCLE JIMMIE" had the honor of attending the first wedding ever celebrated in Tippecanoe County, solemnized by Esq. JENNERS at his home on the Wea Plains. The bride was MISS HUFF, name of the groom not remembered. The Squire with due pomp and solemnity adjured the groom in the following impressive manner, "You take the lady you hold by the right hand to be your true and lawfully wedded wife, to stick to and stand by in sickness and in health, in adversity and prosperity, till it shall please God to separate you?" to which the groom replied, "I will." When the same words were applied to the bride, she declined to answer, whereupon the Justice refused to pronounce them man and wife and instructed the groom to "take her out and court her over again" which he did and they soon returned. This time the bride nodded her head in token of assent and though the Squire vexed at her for not saying I do, pronounced them man and wife. Six months after they separated, the wife claiming that the husband had married her, but that she had never married him.
MR. BROWN was engaged by HENRY ELLSWORTH for one year as his general manager, then he purchased a farm on the Wea, lying on the Wabash River about eight miles from Lafayette.
MR. BROWN has had the experience of married life with three wives, the first ELIZABETH RICHARDS of Butler County, Ohio, by whom he had eight children, the second, HANNAH WEST of Urbana, Ohio, by whom he had two children and the third lady of Lafayette, who has borne him three children. MR. BROWN is in his 79th year, in remarkably good health and still retains his faith in the great God above."
[Transcriber's note: The parents of James Brown were not mentioned, but were Robert and Rachel Bailey Brown.]