Background – I have spent the last several years seeking information on my GGG-Grandfather Ellwood Brown and his involvement in the Underground Railroad, after reading his biography and discovering my GGG-Grandmother’s obituary, which mentioned them helping to run the movement, my interest was piqued and the research began. After reaching out to historians and scavenging the Internet, I have been able to piece together, via old newspapers and books, his life’s story. Ellwood is mentioned, on page 77, of the book “History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania.”
John Russell, Micah Whitson, Henry Carter, and Ellwood Brown are also mentioned as friends of the fugitive, whose assistance was always freely given.
Please keep in mind, the bulk of this information was published in the mid to late 19th century and the language and nomenclatures are of that time. (Note: He apparently spelled his name both as Ellwood and Elwood) Following is his story:
Ellwood Brown was born December 27, 1808, in Harford County, Maryland to Josiah and Margaret Brown. He was either the fourth, or fifth son born to them. His father died in 1812, leaving his widow Margaret and six children. Josiah Brown’s accounts were entered into probate on June 9, 1812. The probate documents state that Margaret, was a Quaker. Margaret’s last appearance in probate court, concerning Josiah’s estate occurred on June 27, 1820. The death of Josiah caused great hardship to his family, as this excerpt from Maryland Chancery Court shows:
342: Thomas W. Bond vs. Margaret Brown, Joseph Brown, John Brown, Absalom Brown, Josiah Brown, Ellwood Brown, and Rachel Brown, HA. Mortgage foreclosure on Knaves Misfortune, Harris Trust, Gibsons Ridge, Prestons Chance, Abotts Lot. Recorded (Chancery Record) 114, p. 705. (Note: The description in another Chancery record reads Abell’s Lot, not Abotts.)
It is assumed Margaret passed shortly after her last appearance in probate court. However, she did instill within her children the beliefs of her faith and social justice, as the biography of Elwood’s older brother shows:
ABSALOM BROWN (deceased), died at his residence in Springvale, Columbia Co., Wis., March 23, 1880, 77 years old. He was born in Cecil Co., Md., Nov. 5, 1803, being the third son of Josiah and Margaret BROWN; six years after this, his father and finally crossed the Susquehanna River into Harford Co., Md., where he bought a large tract of land lying between Bellair and Abingdon, on the Baltimore road; his father sickened and died in a few days after he went there, leaving his mother and six children in a part of the country poisoned with slavery; care and hard work soon wore on his mother, and seven years after his father’s death, his mother died; Absalom was then put to the hatter’s trade, and being misused, he left there and went to Brown Co., Ohio, where he had relatives…(Source–The History of Columbia County Wisconsin, 1880)
The relatives in Ohio are not known and no information has been found on Josiah Jr., Joseph, or John Brown and there are some discrepancies in dates. According to the obituaries of their sister Rachel, she was born in Cecil County, not Harford and she was born in 1811, which would mean Absalom was approximately eight years old and Ellwood would have been about three, when they arrived in Harford County.
According the his biography Ellwood was schooled at the Bel Air Academy, in Harford County but his time there was cut short, most likely due to the family financial problems, following the death of his father. It appears that the family was forced to split and the children were sent to various relatives. Ellwood was sent to live with an uncle, it is likely his sister Rachel was sent to the same family, in Little Britain, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.