David Franklin Brown v Sarah J. Church Brown
Jane Richard Barber Brown v David Franklin Brown
A Connecticut Yankee in the Williams County, Ohio Courts
Two Divorces, 1864 and 1883
By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 2010)
This Connecticut native appeared in court requesting not one but two divorces and was sued numerous times for other legal matters. Our subject brought the first planting machine to this county c.1860 and spent over forty years here as a leading citizen even though he was found guilty of embezzlement.
David Franklin Brown, the eldest of ten children of CT natives, Elijah and Mary Ann Saunders Brown, was born in Stonington, New London Co, CT on 3 June 1826. By 1843 David was 16 years old and having learned the carpentry trade in RI, he eventually moved to New Hartford, CT by 1848, making sashes and doors. David married CT native Sarah Frances Church on 10 Oct 1848 in Mystic, New London, CT; Revrend Nehemiah B. Cooke officiated. Sarah, parentage unknown, was born on 4 Mar 1831 in East Glastonbury, CT. David was enumerated with his parents who ran a boarding house in the 1850 Westerly, Washington Co, RI federal census p416 as David 23 CT carpenter, but his wife was not listed.
From Mystic the couple moved to Delaware City in 1853 and then traveled to parts west including stays in Minnesota, Iowa, and Norwalk, OH. In 1860 they moved to Stryker, Springfield Twp, Wms Co, OH where David brought his planting machine. Three children were born to the couple but only one survived through childhood, Frances Wilhelmina, b. 19 Aug 1852, Ansonia, CT; the other two were Frances (27 Mar 1850 – 4 July 1850, East Hartford, CT) and Franklin Fremont (10 Sept 1857 – 15 Mar 1858, Ansonia, CT). David appeared in the 1864 Wms Co Atlas as resident of Stryker.
From Journal 6 p357 (20 Feb 1864), p390-391 and p428 (11 Nov 1864) and Roll 16 case number 65 (May 1864) and Roll 18 case number 95 (17 June 1867), one learns that David F. Brown sued wife Sarah for a divorce citing her with adultery, and Sarah, not to be outdone, sued him for the same grounds. Sarah, allegedly living with a Nathan Heath at the Grand Haven Hotel in Ottawa Co, MI, was arrested with Heath on a complaint set by Mrs. Heath. The couple was jailed there for ten days c. Nov 1863. As early as 30 June 1862 Sarah claimed that David committed adultery with a Susan Hiles/Hill at the Brown home in Stryker. David brought suit in Feb 1864 and in Mar 1864 Sarah appeared in court stating that she had been in Lucas Co, OH for several months, was destitute, suffered poor health, could not perform manual labor, and was unaware until then that her husband had filed this action. The only money she had received from her husband was $5 a year ago. The court listened to a long list of witnesses including Susan Yeager, Timothy Lucas, Alice Babcock, Mary Lyons, Nathaniel Reynolds, and AW Grice. The Michigan hotelkeeper, James A. Rice, testified that the couple (Sarah Brown and Nathan Heath) was looking for a house to buy. Heath presented himself as a cooper and Mrs. Brown did needlework. They were arrested because their articles of clothing were in the same trunk. The hotel proprietor boasted that after the arrest the couple was treated to a fine oyster supper.
Sarah Brown wanted and received immediate alimony of $50, twice during the long proceedings, and eventually would receive a $40 yearly allowance of separation and an interest in David's real estate. Later she brought an injunction against David to keep him in this court's jurisdiction. He received custody of daughter Frances who was 12 years old at that time; furthermore, he stated that his daughter would live with her grandmother, Mary Ann Brown, presumably residing in CT, but Sarah did receive visitation rights. Sarah stated that when Frances turned 15 she could live with Sarah or anyone of her choice. Frances would later marry Charles Thompson Downs on 17 Nov 1870 in CT and as of 1902 lived in NY City.
Again on 17 Jan 1867 David appeared in court and asked for a divorce, citing that Sarah had committed adultery in Toledo with an Andrew York. Sarah countersued citing that David had committed adultery in Stryker with a Jane Barber on 4 July 1866. At this time the couple was formally granted a divorce due to the separation of the parties for more than three years; apparently there was no hope of reconciliation.
David later married Mrs. Jane E. Barber on 11 Apr 1867, Wms Co (Marriages, V3 p673). Jane, the daughter of Joseph and Rose Didier Richard, was born in May 1835, Robertsville, Stark Co, OH, and was formerly married to Bradford Albert Barber, 3 Oct 1852, Wms Co (Marriages, V2 p128). Bradford was enumerated in 1850 Springfield Twp federal census, p100B, as 18 NY farmer. Together Bradford and Jane had the following children: Mary Adaline (2 Aug 1853 OH – bef 1917, m. Franklin Lloyd, 21 Sept 1871), John Charles (9 Nov 1855 OH – aft 1917), Isaac James (1 Jan 1858 OH - bef 1917 ), Laura L. (27 Apr 1860 – bet 1880-1917), Catherine Ann (20 June 1862 – aft 1917; m __ Elliott). The Barbers were enumerated in the 1860 Springfield Twp, Wms Co, OH federal census, PO Stryker, p70B, as Bradford 27 NY, Jane 24 OH, Mary A 6 OH, John 4 OH, Isaac 2 OH, and Laura 1/12 OH; they lived next door to Jane’s father, Joseph Richard 66 FR.
Bradford Barber, b. 1832 Saratoga Co, NY, the son of Thomas and Mercy Ann Keech Barber, died on 9 Nov 1864 in Andersonville Prison, GA. He enlisted on 11 Oct 1862 in Co D 10th Reg. OVC and was later wounded in the left forearm at the Battle of Claiburn. He was transported to a hospital and was soon taken prisoner where he died of chronic diarrhea and starvation. The Barber children were granted guardians on 25 Feb 1863 (Probate #1197), a full year and nine months before their father's death.
The Brown-Barber family was listed in the 1870 Springfield Twp federal census, p40, as David Brown 43 CT carpenter, Jane 35 OH, Adaline Barber 17 OH, John Barber 14 OH, Isaac Barber 12 OH, Laura Barber 10 OH, Kattie Barber 8 OH, and Birtuh Brown 2 OH. The last named child was Myrtie Eloise Brown, b. 17 May 1868, the daughter of David and Jane. On 18 May 187* Mrs. Mary A. Barber Lloyd, one of these children, now married, filed a lawsuit charging David F. Brown, her stepfather, with embezzlement of pension funds of her deceased father and was granted a return of the money. On 14 Dec 1878 Laura L and Catherine A. Barber petitioned the Williams County Probate Court to remove David F. Brown as their guardian and the court appointed their uncle John E. Meek for the duty.
By the 1880 Stryker, Springfield Twp federal census one learns that David ran a sawmill as Frank Brown 53 CT, Jane 44 OH, daughter Myrtie 12 OH, step-daughter Laura Barber 20 OH, step-daughter Katie Barber 18 OH, and father-in-law Joseph Richard 84 FR. Goodspeed's History of Williams County, Ohio, 1882, p711-712, gave an account of David's early life and did mention his two wives, but did not hint at any divorce. The reader would be led to believe that Sarah had died and David, as a widower, would marry the Widow Barber.
From Journal 12 p168-167, 20 Dec 1883, Jane Barber sued husband David F. Brown for a divorce charging him with gross neglect and habitual drunkenness. David owned Lot #1 in Stryker containing a little more than 2 acres, which Jane wanted, plus a bushel of wheat and substantial alimony. Jane stated that David was indebted to many people and she wanted to secure her financial interests in his property. The interesting thing about this suit was that she appeared in court twice during the same day, once to complain and the second time to ask for the proceedings to be dismissed. Searching later journals, one may find a final divorce action because David's obituary ("Bryan Democrat", 18 Dec 1902, p3) stated that David died on 29 Nov 1902 @76Y 5M 26D in Defiance Co, OH, and his wife, Nancy Corwin, had died on 18 Feb of the same year. Two daughters survived him, Frances W. Downs (Charles Thompson) of NY City, and Myrtie Ogle (Loren L) of Rugby, ND. Family records stated David was buried in the Evansport Cemetery but no stone exists now.
Third wife, Nancy A. Justus/Justice, b. 1842 OH, daughter of Michael and Margaret Justice, was first married to John E. Purtee, 12 July 1857, Defiance Co (Marriage V1 p144). The couple was enumerated in the 1860 Tiffin Twp, Defiance Co federal census with their two children, William b. 1858 and Jane b. 1859. Nancy next married Benjamin F. Corwin, and together they had at least two children, who both died young; sometime after 1883, she married "the Connecticut Yankee", David F. Brown.
What happened to his first two wives? Sarah Church Brown died 24 Mar 1903, Wms Co, OH (Probate #4450 - 11 Apr 1903). Jane E. Richard Barber Brown died prior to 6 Mar 1917 (Probate #6212). Jane was buried in St. Peter's Cemetery, German Twp, Fulton Co, OH, close to her father. By family records Jane was petite, had dark eyes and hair, and was a meticulous housekeeper. She served as a midwife for the Styker-Archbold area often riding a horse to perform the birthing duties in severe weather.