Austin H. Brown

Submitted by
Valerie Crook
September 12, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 228-229
Hancock County

AUSTIN H. BROWN resides in the fine old family home-
stead, a stone and brick structure on one of the well-im-
proved farms of Hancock County, and in this dwelling he
was born July 17, 1875, his father likewise having been
born in this house, which is situated 4-1/2 miles north of
New Cumberland, the county seat. The stone part of the
building was erected in 1821 by Jacob Nessly, who came
here as a pioneer of the year 1785 and who here became
the owner of 5,000 acres of land, which he obtained by
trading a rifle to an Indian. The historic old house faces
the Ohio River. The brick addition to the original struc-
ture was erected in 1865, and the entire building, of most
substantial order, is well preserved. The original tract
of land continued along the shore of the Ohio River and
extended as far as Georgetown, Pennsylvania, there hav-
ing been about forty miles of shore line and the tract hav-
ing been comparatively narrow. By the payment of 100
English pounds sterling Mr. Nessly later extended the
width of his holdings by the purchase of an additional
tract of 1,500 acres. Nessly came to this section from
Eastern Pennsylvania, in accord with the advice of his
father-in-law, who was a man of wealth. This young pio-
neer first erected a log cabin at the month of Yellow Creek,
but soon removed two miles further south, to the site of
the present house. Mr. Nessly developed a productive farm
and continued his general supervision of the same until his
death, at an advanced age, the closing years of his life
having been passed in the home of one of his daughters,
on the opposite side of the river, at Port Homer, Ohio.
It is related that on one occasion, when he was on a trip
on the Ohio side of the river he was pursued by Indians,
but saved his life by taking refuge in a rocky cave, across
the river from his own dwelling, he later having chiseled
on a rock at this cave his name and the date of this inci-
dent. Barbara, daughter of this sterling pioneer, became
the wife of Col. Richard Brown, who was of Holland Dutch
ancestry and who served as a patriot soldier and officer in a
Maryland regiment in the War of the Revolution, his wife
having inherited the old homestead and both having there
passed the remainder of their lives. Colonel Brown had
local renown as a fighter in personal contests, and many
tales are told of his prowess along this line. Adam Poe,
was at one time a dinner guest at the Nessly home, and
the two subsequently diverted themselves by engaging in
a spirited fight, the result of which was that Poe had to
be put to bed. A brother of Poe later appeared on the
scene, while Adam was still at the Nessly home, and when
he learned of the recent conflict and its result he boasted
of his own ability as a fighter, with the sequel that he
endured worse punishment at the hands of the doughty
colonel than had his brother, he likewise having been
cared for in the Nessly home after having thus failed to
best his antagonist. On another occasion Colonel Brown,
while on a trip back from Philadelphia, was followed and
challenged by a man, and in the ensuing fight the colonel
broke this man’s neck with a blow. The eldest of the
sons of Col. Richard Brown was Jacob Nessly Brown;
John, the second son, settled at the mouth of Tomlinson’s
Run and was a young man at the time of his death; George
continued his residence near the old homestead until his
death, when past eighty years of age; and James likewise
attained to venerable age, he having owned and occupied
a part of the ancestral farm estate.

Jacob Nessly Brown married Ann Myler, and they re-
sided on the old home farm. He owned and operated a
flour mill at Wellsburg, twenty miles distant from his
home, and on the farm he operated a distillery, besides
developing a clay bed on the place and supplying clay for
the manufacturing of jugs at Wellsburg, this having been
the initiation of the clay industry and the original jugs
having been used for the whiskey containers. On his farm
Mr. Brown originated and developed the “Willow Twig”
apple, he having planted a large orchard, having main-
tained his own nursery and being credited with the origina-
tion of the above mentioned variety of apples, which be-
came the standard in this section, his orchard having pro-
duced an average of 20,000 bushels of apples annually.
The old home farm of Mr. Brown now comprises only sev-
enty-two acres. Mr. Brown died in 1879, after having
passed the eightieth milestone on the journey of life, his
wife having passed away in 1865. Their daughter Barbara
became the wife of Archibald Hendrie; Virginia never
married, and she had charge of the old home farm for
thirty years, she having been seventy-five years of age at
death; Richard H. is more specifically mentioned in a later
paragraph; Ann became the wife of William L. Brown,
they purchased a part of the old homestead and there they
passed the remainder of their lives, a nephew, Charles M.
Brenneman, having succeeded to the ownership of the
farm; Alice was a young woman at the time of her death;
George, who became a representative lawyer in the City
of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, died a bachelor, as did also
Jacob, who remained with his sister Virginia on the old
home farm; and Edward removed to Bloomfield, Ohio,
in which state he passed the remainder of his life.

Miss Virginia Brown showed marked ability in the man-
agement of the old homestead farm, as foreman of which
she retained a colored man, William Wilson, who came
from Albemarle County, Virginia, and who served as a
youthful soldier in the Twelfth West Virginia Infantry
in the Civil war, then commanded by Col. R. Hooker
Brown, father of him whose name initiates this review.
Wilson was about sixteen years old when, after the close of
the war, he accompanied Colonel Brown to Hancock County
and entered the employ of the latter’s sister, Miss Vir-
ginia, with whom he remained until her death. He then
purchased a part of the old Brown farm, and he is today
one of the highly respected and very substantial citizens
of Hancock County, his fidelity to the Brown family hav-
ing never wavered and his service to the family having
been of most conscientious and appreciative order.

Col. Richard Hooker Brown was graduated in the Duff
Business College in the City of Pittsburgh, and he dis-
tinguished himself as a gallant soldier of the Union in
the Civil war, in which he became colonel of the Twelfth
West Virginia Volunteer Infantry, his service having con-
tinued until the close of the war. In 1867 Colonel Brown
married Miss Elizabeth Pugh, daughter of David and Nancy
(Allison) Pugh, Mrs. Brown having been reared at Pugh-
town, Hancock County, a place named in honor of the family
of which she was a representative. Colonel Brown added
the brick portion to the old stone house in which he was
born, and he served as county commissioner prior to the
creation of Hancock County as did he also after the
organization of the new county. He served one term as
county sheriff, but in the meanwhile continued his resi-
dence on the old home farm. Here his death occurred on the
19th of March, 1910, and his widow passed away on the
20th of January, 1917. Of their twelve children all but
one attained to maturity: Walter died in young man-
hood; Anna is the wife of A. H. Bowker, of Rochester,
New York; King resides at Chester, West Virginia; J.
Campbell is a merchant at East Liverpool, Ohio; Austin
Hooker is the immediate subject of this sketch; Alice died
within a short time after her marriage to Frederick Por-
ter; Margaret is the widow of Joseph Hough and resides
at Chester, Hancock County; Frank is a mill man at War-
ren, Ohio, and his twin brother, Edward, died in child-
hood; Barbara is the wife of Harry Darrington, an oil
refiner, and they reside in the City of Chicago, Illinois;
Richard is a railroad man at Wellsville, Ohio; Benjamin is
a merchant at Toronto, Ohio.

Austin Hooker Brown was reared in his native county,
and after the discipline of the rural schools he received
that of the high school at Wellsville, Ohio, and was for
two years a student in the West Virginia State Normal
Schools at West Liberty and Fairmont, and attended the
University of West Virginia one year. He gained youth-
ful experience in the produce trade at Pittsburgh and
Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and from 1905 to 1913 was en-
gaged in the wholesale produce business at Steubenville,
Ohio. Since the latter year he has resided on and given
his attention to the management of the old homestead farm
on which he was born and where he has precedence as one
of the leading horticulturists in this section of the state,
his fruit orchards producing an average of nearly 1,000
barrels annually. He has excellent storage provisions and
has developed an appreciable business as a dealer in apples.
He is one of the liberal and progressive citizens of his
native county, was for nine years president of the school
board of his district, is secretary of the Farm Bureau of
Hancock County, and is a stalwart republican in politics,
as was also his father. He and his wife are active mem-
bers of the Methodist Protestant Church, and attend the
Nessly Chapel, which was named in honor of the pioneer,
Jacob Nessly, who donated the ground on which the chapel
is situated. He is affiliated with the Masonic fraternity,
including the Commandery of Knights Templars at Steu-
benville, Ohio.

In 1902 Mr. Brown wedded Miss Eleanor Gallagher,
of West Newton, Pennsylvania, she having been educated
in the Pennsylvania State Normal School at California
and having been a popular teacher prior to her marriage.
Mr. and Mrs. Brown have one son, William James, who
was graduated in high school and who is, in 1922, a student
in the University of West Virginia.