Select Brown Miscellany

Here are some Brown stories and accounts over the years:

Brownes in Stamford

In the 13th century Stamford in Lincolnshire had been one of the ten largest towns in England.  However, the removal of the main wool trade to East Anglia in the 15th century forced the town into decline.  The trade that remained was concentrated in the hands of rich merchants like the Brownes. 

John Browne the Elder was a Stamford wool merchant whose wealth had been accumulated at this time as a member of the influential company of the Staple of Calais.  He and his wife Margaret have an impressive mural brass at the end of the north aisle of All Saints, Stamford’s central church. 

Around 1475 their two sons, John and William, also rich wool merchants, contributed generously towards the enlargement and embellishment of the church where their parents had been laid to rest.  The upper walls, windows, and the roof were their work.  John the Younger commissioned the tower with its beautiful spire. William founded Browne’s Hospital (the almshouses on Broad Street), an institution that is still operating today.  Both brothers have a sepulchral brass in the church

The Anglo-Norman Bruns/Brownes

The early ancestry of these Bruns/Brownes was recounted as follows:  

  • Sir Hugh le Brun was one of the Lords of the Marches of Wales.  
  • his son was Sir Stephen and he married Eva, sister of Griffith the Prince of Wales, and had three sons named Hugh, Philip and William.  Sir Stephen and his sons supported King Stephen against the Empress Maud in their conflict.   
  • Hugh, the eldest son, rendered important services to Henry II on his invasion of Wales and was permitted by the King to inherit his father's large estates.   
  • Philip of Mulrankan came to Ireland with Strongbow and was appointed the Governor of Wexford in 1172.   
  • while William, the youngest son, was also obliged to join in the invasion of Ireland at the time his brother was appointed the Governor of Wexford.  William went to Dublin, then in possession of the Danes, and settled near Clondalkin.  One of his descendants, Fromond le Brun, was Chancellor of Ireland in the mid-13th century.

The Brownes of Galway

While the name Browne does not appear in the records of Galway city until the year 1539 when Andrew Browne of Athenry was admitted as a freeman, the family was soon to reach an eminent position among the merchants. Andrew became a bailiff of the city in 1552 and in 1574 was elected Mayor.  

Thereafter a number of members of the family were to attain that office, perhaps the most notable being Domenick Browne in 1634 who was later knighted.  His eldest son Geoffrey was a member of the Supreme Council of the Confederation of Kilkenny.  In 1651 he was sent by the Marquis of Clanricarde to negotiate at Brussels a treaty with the Duc de Lorraine in order to raise money for the Royalist army. The city of Galway was to be the security. 

By the mid-17th century the Browne family owned a number of very substantial houses in Galway city

George Browne in Russia

George Browne was one of a number of Brownes who, to their misfortune, favored the ill-fated Stuart King, James II.  Following his defeat at the Boyne, the Brownes of Camus in Limerick saw no opportunity for their young son to follow the gentlemanly occupation of arms and they sent him abroad. 

George joined the Russian imperial army and began a life of high adventure. He was imprisoned three times after various battles. He was then sold as a slave to the Turks, but was eventually released.  Having shown exceptional skill and bravery, he was appointed Field Marshal to Czar Peter of Russia.  As Count George Browne, he became Governor of Livonia. He became a great favorite with the powerful Empress Catherine and she would not consider letting him go.  So he remained in Russia, dying there at the age of 94.

The Browns of Fordell

The first record of this family occurred in 1261 with Richard Brown who was an Elgin magistrate in Morayshire at that time.  Their connections with the Fordell lands in Fifeshire occurred shortly afterwards.  Adam Brown held lands there in 1298, the year he was killed at the Battle of Falkirk.  The family, however, remained extensive landowners along the east coast of Scotland for four centuries. 

They had mixed fortunes in the 14th century.  Support for the French monarchy resulted in one of these Browns being hanged for treason.  Another Brown was Sheriff of Aberdeen but lost half of his lands to the Earl of Douglas.  George Brown in the next century was appointed Bishop of Dunkeld and in 1494 was head of the Scottish Commissioners which concluded a peace treaty with the English. 

There were financial problems for these Browns by the 18th century.  But one line, the Browns of Golfhall in Edinburgh, prospered as merchants.  David Brown went to Russia in the late 1700’s and grew rich as a merchant in St. Petersburg.

The Browns of Rowan County, North Carolina

Tradition traces the Brown genealogy back to a Scotsman by the name of William Brown who was allied in marriage with a woman who was a native of Portugal.  Brown had in fact come to New England from Edinburgh in Scotland in the early 1700’s and settled in Vermont.  Mrs. Brown turned out to be an Algonquian Abenaki Native American, said to be of Portuguese ancestry.  

Their son William Brown and his wife Margret later migrated down through Pennsylvania and into Rowan County, North Carolina sometime in the 1760’s.  William signed his will there with his mark, an "X," in 1772, naming his wife Margret as executrix and also his nine children.  

The most comprehensive treatment of the William and Margret Brown family is to be found in Erold C. Wiscombe's 700 page book The Brown Family: Descendants of Daniel Brown (1804-1875), which came out in 1986 and then was updated twenty years later.

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