Ellwood Brown – Stalwart Abolitionist, Dedicated to Freedom

November 5, 2019 0 Comments

“Am I not a Man and a Brother — Am I not a Woman and a Sister”
                               Anti-Slavery meeting poster 1863

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.

Elwood Brown was born in Hartford county, Maryland, and received an incomplete education at the Bellair academy. His parents died while he was a mere boy, and he went to the home of an uncle in Pennsylvania, from where he soon stepped out into the world to battle for himself, and in early manhood… (Source-History of Guthrie and Adair Counties, Iowa” – Springfield, Ill: Continental Hist. Co., 1884)

It is not known who the uncle was, or if the uncle was on his mother, or father’s side of the family.  However, there is a clue from a newspaper article mentioning a cousin’s visit to Ellwood’s sister, Rachel, in 1888:

Mrs. R. G. Fell is enjoying a visit from her long time friend and cousin, Mrs. P. Peirce, of Sioux City. (Source-Clarence Sun, June 29, 1888)

Mrs. P. Peirce, is Prudence (Blackburn) Peirce, she was the daughter of James and Mary (Brown) Blackburn.  Prudence was born in 1816 and her mother is most likely a sister to our Josiah Brown, Ellwood’s father.  It is quite possible that Ellwood and Rachel went to live with James and Mary, after their parents died.  The families were in contact with one another, and a letter dated January 11, 1865 mentions receiving a letter from Webster Brown, Ellwood and Hannah’s son, written to Mary (Peirce) Milner.  Webster was in Savannah, Georgia with General Sherman’s troops, at the time; he would be killed in the battle of Bentonville, within a couple of months, of sending the letter.

In 1826, at the age of 18, Ellwood joined the Society of Friends (Quakers):

Eastland report states that Elwood Brown requests to become a member of the Society of Friends, Joshua Brown & Joseph Ballance are appointed to visit him on the occasion and report to next meeting. (Source-Little Britain Monthly Meeting Minutes, 18th of 2d mo. 1826)

The committee on Elwood Brown’s request report they had a full opportunity with him & thinks favourable of his disposition that he should be received, on consideration the meeting unites therewith & he is accepted as a member.  Samuel Cole & Joseph Balance are appointed to inform him of this conclusion. (Source-Little Britain Monthly Meeting Minutes, 18th of 3d mo. 1826)

It appears that Ellwood worked on George Webster Sr.’s farm and that is where he met his future wife, George’s daughter Hannah.

Mrs. Brown, whose maiden name was Webster, belonged to the well known Quaker family of that name who formerly lived in that portion of Bart township which since its division constitutes the township of Eden.  Her father, George Webster, owned the farm now owned by J. H. Gilbert, Esq.  It was here that Hannah became acquainted with Ellwood Brown, of Little Britain, and they married at an early age and settled at Eastland, where her husband pursued the business of a tanner, on the property now owned by James Wood, Jr. (Source-The Inquirer, Lancaster Pennsylvania, February 28, 1891)

Ellwood and Hannah appeared before Sadsbury Monthly Meeting of Women Friends, February 8, 1831 and made their declaration of intent to marry:

Ellwood Brown and Hannah Webster appeared here, and declared their intentions of marriage with each other, surviving parent consenting thereto Leah Cooper, and Mary Rakestraw, are appointed to inquire into the young woman’s clearness of other like engagements, and report to our next Meeting.  (Source-Sadsbury Monthly Meeting of Women Friends, 1st Mo. 4th, 1831)

The friends appointed to inquire into Hannah Webster, clearness of marriage engagements report they found nothing to obstruct her proceeding to an orderly accomplishment thereof with Ellwood Brown; Leah Cooper, and Mary Rakestraw are appointed to join a committee of men in the oversight thereof, and report to next Monthly Meeting. (Source-Sadsbury Monthly Meeting of Women Friends, 3rd Mo. 8th, 1831)

Following is a transcript of their marriage certificate:

Marriage Certificate


Elwood Brown & Hannah Webster

Whereas Elwood Brown of Little Britain Township Lancaster County in Pennsylvania son of Josiah Brown late of Harford County in the state of Maryland and Margaret his wife (both deceased) and Hannah Webster daughter of George Webster of the County of Lancaster aforesaid and Sarah his wife (the latter deceased) having declared their intention of Marriage with each other before a Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends held at Lampeter in the County of Lancaster aforesaid according to the good order used among them, their said proposal of Marriage was allowed of by the said Meetings.  Now these are to certify to whom it may concern that for the full accomplishment of their said intentions this Seventeenth day of the Third month in The year of our Lord one Thousand eight Hundred and Thirty-one, They, the said Elwood Brown and Hannah Webster appeared in a public meeting of the said People held at Bart in the County of Lancaster aforesaid and the said Elwood Brown taking the said Hannah Webster by the hand did on this solemn occasion openly declare that he took her the said Hannah Webster to be his wife promising with Divine assistance to be unto her a kind and affectionate husband until death should separate them and then in the same assembly the said Hannah Webster did in like manner declare that she took him the said Elwood Brown to be her husband, promising with Divine assistance to be unto him a kind and affectionate wife until death should separate them, and moreover they the said Elwood Brown and Hannah Webster (she according to the custom of Marriage assuming the name of her husband) did as a further confirmation thereof then and there to these presents set their hands.

Elwood Brown

Hannah Brown

And we whose names are also hereunto subscribed being present at the solemnization of the said Marriage and subscription have as witnesses thereto set our hands the day and year above written.

Elizabeth Brown George Mooney
Rachel Brown John Bushong
John P. Harlan Joseph Speer
George Moore William Adel
Lewis Cooper Thomas Rakestraw
Jeremiah Cooper William P. Cooper
Leah Cooper Jacob Moore
Mary Rakestraw Abraham Rakestraw
Micah Whitson Leonard Rockey
Mary Rakestraw Jr Anna P. Cooper
Eliza Smoker Samuel J. Cooper
Isaac Walker Robert L. Whiteside
Rebecca Mooney John Cooper Jr.
Deborah L. Kearns Esther Cooper
Wm. Cooper Jesse Webster
Milton Cooper Naylor Webster
Isaac Walker Jr. George Webster Jr.
Jesse Cooper Allen Smith
Eliza Ann Brook Patience Smith
Evalina P. Pettet William Webster
Jesse G. Bushong Martha Webster
Asahel Walker Rachel Brown
George Webster Samuel Coale
Sarah Webster Mary Coale

(Source-Sadsbury Monthly Meeting, 3rd Mo. 17th, 1831)

Elwood and Hannah lived in Cecil County, Maryland for a short time and on April 8, 1832 their first child and only daughter, Emma Webster Brown was born.  The young family returned to Little Britain in May of 1834 and reunited with the Little Britain Monthly Meeting.

Nottingham Monthly Meeting recommending Elwood Brown Hannah his wife and their minor Daughter Emma W. Brown as members which were read and accepted. (Source-Little Britain Monthly Meeting, 5th Mo. 17th, 1834)

Shortly after returning to Little Britain, Elwood and Hannah welcomed baby number two, on July 3, 1834, Albert Webster Brown, joined the family.  Their family continued grow, Elwood and Hannah would add Howard, on July 9, 1836; George, March 2, 1838; Wilmer, April 8, 1840; Webster, March 12, 1841 and Francis, March 25 1843.

In addition to the birth of son, Francis, 1843, there are several documented accounts of Ellwood’s political activities.  Ellwood was a tanner by trade but he never shirked his civic duties. According to written accounts Ellwood participated in the politics of the day, he was not only a spokesman but also wrote about his views, regarding temperance, slavery and other matters he believed in.

Ellwood Brown was a sturdy reformer and a man of unusual intelligence and intellectual force.  He was among the most prominent of the early abolitionists in that section.  As a public speaker he was forcible and argumentative and was reckoned a ready and able debater.  To his moral and physical courage there was scarcely a limit. (Source-The Inquirer, February 28, 1891)

His sister Rachel was one of the founders of the Eastland Lyceum, an early literary institution, which began in 1841.  The earliest document I have found of Ellwood’s writing, is an essay written and read before the Lyceum, it was published in The Lancaster Examiner on December 20, 1843, following is an excerpt, from his essay:

I conclude that there are in the constitution of man moral laws as uniform in their operation as any of the natural laws of the universe, and that no man infringes them without inflicting a positive injury to himself and society.  Now we may infringe those laws through ignorance, or to gratify the passions or cupidity of our mind.  But man never infringes the moral law without suffering the penalty…

But the science of Moral Philosophy furnishes us with a rule by which, if we will exercise it, all can seldom err, “as ye would have all men to do to you do you so to them;” it may therefore be taken as a positive rule in all political, civil and religious institutions of men, that the rule or law that works not for the mutual benefit of all must terminate in evil…

Based on this fundamental principle of the moral law is that of benevolence, which some may suppose to consist in giving freely what we possess; but Philosophers attach a higher idea to it than merely being profuse with our property.  It consists in kindness of feeling toward all mankind of every clime and country, the bonds as well as the free, no matter what may be the color… (Source-The Lancaster Examiner, December 20, 1843) (Click HERE to read the article in its entirety)

In the autumn of 1843 Ellwood was a key participant in an Anti-Slavery meeting, which has been well documented in several articles.  The meeting was part of an anti-slavery tour, whose keynote speakers were Sidney Howard Gay, James Monroe and Charles Lenox Remond.  The meeting was scheduled to be held at the Eastland Meeting House but was met with opposition by some of the locals; a gang led by Morris Reynolds “closed the house, put out the fire, and with the aid of some persons, not members, stood guard over the door,” stopping the gathering.  However, the group of Abolitionists merely changed venues and continued, with the meeting, following are two accounts of the meeting:

The meeting had been advertised for some time, and an attempt made to secure the Friends’ Meeting House at Eastland for the purpose, which in part succeeded, but when the day arrived a mob, in which some of the members of the society joined had collected to keep out the “Abolitionists.”  The meeting quietly adjourned to a large tan-house owned by Ellwood Brown… (Source-The Inquirer, April 17, 1880)


An able and very impressive address was delivered by Mr. Monroe, and a short one by Sidney Howard Gay.  Everybody, however, was looking for the colored man and inquiring his whereabouts…

Their curiosity was soon to be gratified.  About the middle of the afternoon Ellwood Brown came into the building with the colored man by his side and walking to the place occupied by the speakers said, in a voice the tone of which were defiant:  “Charles Lenox Remond will now address this meeting.”  There was silence such as is seldom felt in a public meeting and the mulatto began his address.  He had been concealed in Mr. Brown’s residence during the early part of the day to obviate violence on the part of the mob, but a council of his friends had decided that he must speak, and it was thought best that Brown and he should walk alone into the meeting. (Source-The Inquirer, March 2, 1895)

In August of 1844, Frederick Douglass, along with Charles Lenox Remond spoke at an anti-slavery meeting in Homeville, Chester county, Ellwood Griest went to the meeting with Ellwood and his sister Rachel.  Following is Mr. Griest’s account of the event:

The meeting was held in the building known then as Oxford Friends’ Meeting House.  I believe it was the regular meeting of an association known as the “Clarkson Anti-Slavery society,” an organization which met at stated periods in different places in Chester and Lancaster counties, and was usually attended by the pillars of the anti-slavery movement in Southern Chester and Eastern Lancaster county.  On this occasion the building was crowded and very many did not gain admission.  It had been published that Douglass would deliver a address there, and the anxiety to see and hear the fugitive slave (for such he was at that time) was very great.  He was then in his 27th year, and in the full prime of early manhood…

Remond had been for some time in the employ of the anti slavery society as a lecturer and was a ready speaker.  He was not a fugitive slave but had been born in a free state and received what was regarded as a liberal education, being a graduate of one of the New England colleges.  He had been in Lancaster county the year before and spoke at Eastland, in Little Britain township…

The meeting began at ten o’clock a. m. and continued through the day, with an intermission at noon…

Douglass created a profound impression.  His imposing physique and straight forward manliness contributed largely to this, while his real eloquence and thorough acquaintance with the practical workings of slavery, whose iron heel he had felt upon his own neck, made his words fall with peculiar and impressive weight.  He related many incidents that had come under his own observation while a slave, illustrating the injustice and cruelties of the system.

This was during the heat of the memorable presidential campaign of 1844, when the question of the annexation of Texas entered largely into the presidential canvass.  Many sincere Abolitionists favored the election of Clay, on account of his supposed opposition to annexation, while the majority of them steadfastly adhered to the candidate of the Liberty party, James G. Birney.  Douglass attacked this topic with a great deal of vigor and eloquently appealed to anti-slavery men not to cast their votes for a slaveholder who had no real sympathy with the party of freedom, and was violating the most sacred laws of God by holding his fellow man in bondage…

I was at that time a resident of Little Britain township, Lancaster county, and went to the meeting in company with Ellwood Brown, a very able and intelligent anti-slavery man, his sister Mrs. Rachel G. Fell, and Mrs. Anna Evans.  We went in a two horse carriage, taking dinner and horse feed with us, and picnicking on the grounds during the noon hour.  On our way home I asked Mr. Brown, who had been a member of the Whig party and had been wrestling with the question of voting for Clay for sometime, what he thought of Douglass’ remarks on that subject.  I remember his reply very distinctly; “It seems clearer to me now than ever before that it would be lowering the moral standard to vote for a slaveholder.”  Poor fellow! he removed to a western state a few years afterward and for many years has moldered beneath its sod.  A truer or better hearted man never lived, nor one more devoted to the good of his fellow men.  He voted for Birney at the election, but his mind was never clear as to the wisdom of his course.  It was a question hard-to solve, as many others testified.

At the conclusion of the meeting the company I was with accepted an invitation from Mahlon Brosius, grandfather of our present Congressman, Marriott Brosius, Esq., to stop as his residence and take supper.  He lived on the Octoraro creek, some distance below Andrew’s bridge, on the Chester county side. There we met  several friends and among the rest I recollect Clarkson Brosius, father of Marriott and Charles Dingee, now of the Dingee & Conard nurseries at West Grove.  Both these, Clarkson Brosius and Charles Dingee, were young men, near my own age, and thoroughly imbued with anti-slavery enthusiasm.  Their admiration for Douglass and his address was simply unbounded…

I shall never forget our ride home that Saturday evening.  The moon was at its full.

“The hill range stood,

Transfigured in the silver flood.”

The evening air was cool and inspiring.  We had a delightful entertainment and one that inspired the noblest emotions.  There was abundant food for reflection and discussion and Mr. Brown and Mrs. Fell, his sister, were both able and willing to improve it.  I listened and was delighted with their remarks and discussions, for they did not nearly always have similar views, but examined every aspect of a question with a view of arriving at correct results.  The horses took their time and walked leisurely home, as if they, too, felt loth to disturb the beautiful silence of the moonlit night with unseemly haste… (Source-The Inquirer, March 2, 1895)  (Click HERE to read the article in its entirety)

Women’s Rights Convention in Chester County – The Pennsylvania Freeman June 5, 1852

Ellwood remained involved with both local and national politics and was called upon to draft several documents, supporting the organizations, he was a member of, including anti-slavery, anti-war and women’s rights.  On October 24, 1846, during an Anti-War meeting, Ellwood was appointed Secretary to a committee to draft resolutions in opposition of the Mexican War and compose a petition to Congress requesting a full withdrawal of troops from Mexico.  Ellwood, being a Quaker and according to doctrine, would automatically mean an opposition to war, there was deeper meaning in the opposition of the Mexican War. The fight was an effort to stop the expansion of slavery into  new territories of the United States.  Ellwood would also author a Memorial, requesting the Constitution be changed to abolish slavery. The Memorial was presented to the 29th Congress of the United States, which was conveyed to Congress by Rep. Joseph R. Ingersoll, during the 2nd Session on January 23, 1847:

By Mr. J. R. INGERSOLL: The memorial of Thomas S. Taylor and 46 others, of Jacob Way and 37 others, and of Ellwood Brown and 21 other, inhabitants of Pennsylvania, asking Congress to take measures for effecting such changes of the Constitution and laws as shall abolish slavery throughout the Union in the manner that may be most consistent with justice and the rights and interests of every section of the country. (Source-The Congressional Globe, 1847)

Their only daughter Emma, married George W. Harlan on April 26, 1849.  On July 16, 1850, Ellwood and Hannah would become grandparents, with the birth of granddaughter Florence.  Another granddaughter, Evangeline, would join the family on April 8, 1852.  In 1854 Elwood and Hannah would complete their family with the birth of their son, Elwood Channing on January 28, 1854.  Ellwood Sr. remained deeply involved with the political unrest of the times and was often called upon to author resolutions, as well as speak on topics concerning the citizens, including the following article concerning the arrest and imprisonment of fellow abolitionist, Passmore Williamson:

The Kane Outrage.–The Reform meeting of citizens of Little Britain and vicinity was held in Eastland Hall on Saturday the 8th inst.  John P. Harlan was called to the Chair and Elwood Brown appointed Secretary.  A committee on Resolutions was appointed, consisting of Henry Carter, Oliver Furniss, John Russell and Elwood Brown, who reported the following:

RESOLVED, That it is with feeling of the deepest indignation and regret that we view the recent conduct of Judge Kane toward Passmore Williamson, and we regard his abuse of judicial authority as almost as atrocious as that of Judge Jeffrys, and as evincing the same spirit that has consigned his name to eternal reproach.

RESOLVED, That we feel ourselves called upon, by every principle of Law, Justice, and Christianity, to express our indignation at the unjust imprisonment of Passmore Williamson, and that we hereby call upon all good citizens to take some proper measures for his speedy release. (Source-The Saturday Express, September 15, 1855)

Westward Bound

Map of Valley Township, Guthrie County, Iowa ca. 1872 – Harlan Place (Circled)

In 1855, Ellwood’s sons Albert and Howard were in Santa Cruz, California.  Albert would remain in California the remainder of his life.  Howard relocated to Iowa and according to a letter written to Slater Brown Russell, in October of 1856, the family had moved West.  In the letter, Howard mentions Ellwood “cut down by a slow lingering typhoid fever.”  Ellwood recovered from his illness.

Apparently Hannah longed to return to Pennsylvania to be with her family. Howard’s letter mentions Hannah’s sister, Martha (Webster) Moore would be visiting, in the Spring.  The letter also mentions daughter Emma would be arriving soon and another sister, Patience (Webster) Smith was planning a visit, should the family decide to settle, in Waterloo.  It was Howard’s hope the sisters visits and daughter Emma’s arrival would help his mother adjust to life, in her new home.  Howard goes on to say they did not succeed in the boot and shoe store but would be sold out soon. Also, Ellwood and Howard were planning to purchase 320 acres, in Kossuth County.

The land purchase in Kossuth County apparently was scuttled in favor of purchasing property in Guthrie County, the property was adjacent to Ellwood’s son-in-law, George W. Harlan.  George and Emma arrived in the Spring of 1857.  According to Emma’s published account Ellwood’s land was along the Brushy Fork and George’s was along the Raccoon River, “down past where the two streams meet.”

Valley Township was organized in 1872, and lies west of Jackson, embracing Tp. 79–north of Range 31, west…

Elwood Brown, an old settler in this part of the county, came, I believe, in 1856.  He was a native of Pennsylvania; was a “veteran wheel horse” in the Whig, Free Soil, and Republican parties.  He was an original thinker and writer; was kind, generous, and charitable; unobtrusive, yet firm in his convictions and steadfast in principle… (Source–Centennial History of Guthrie County, Iowa, 1876)

After the family settled in Guthrie County, Elwood held several local offices, including County Superintendent of Schools, in 1866.  According to daughter Emma’s account their lives were typical of early settlers, in the area:

Our tables were not graced with luxuries. Sugar and coffee was not an every-day fare. Our pumpkin pie for the first winter or two, was made out of dried squashes, without sugar. Our pumpkin sauce was made by boiling down in water melon juice. But our greatest support was our cow, which really kept the “wolf” away…

Somehow in those old days, our appetites accorded with the times, and everything tasted palatable. When we commenced to cultivate sorghum we stepped into quite a luxury. What good plum and pumpkin butter we old settlers used to make of it. It was several years before we could use coffee as an every-day luxury, even on through war times. My father’s family were our nearest neighbors, and we used to pass away the winter evenings very pleasantly in each other’s cabins – playing chess, reading history or stories…

Friends from the East sent us the “Atlantic” and “Harper’s” for several years. And one of our nearest neighbors, Derwin Willey, used to lend us the New York Tribune, until we were able to renew our subscription. In those days we thought we could not live without the Tribune and the’ other periodicals…

I well remember one of our first winters, when we made a quarter of beef last us all through the winter by cutting it in small pieces, pickling it a few days, then hanging the pieces on joists.  Once, in the middle of the week, we boiled a piece with beans.  On Sunday we would have biscuit, by this way making a hundred weight of flour last as long as the meat. (Source–Past and Present of Guthrie County, Iowa, By Mrs. G. W. Harlan, 1907)

According to one account the family was still involved with the Underground Railroad, while in Iowa.  There were several well known abolitionists in Iowa, during Ellwood’s time, including his sister Rachel.  I have been unable to find concrete evidence of the family’s participation in Iowa’s abolition movement.

Ellwood did travel throughout the country as a letter his daughter Emma wrote to Ann and Mary Russell, in July of 1859 shows.  She updated her friends with  information on Ellwood and the rest of the family’s travels.

You may judge we are all well or I should have mentioned it before am getting along slowly and perhaps surely, trying to be contented and hoping for the best- our crops look well as far as they go George and the boys finished harvesting the wheat last week which is going to yield well.  I have two very good cows and make plenty of butter Mother has also a good one, she often feels lonely without Father but submits to her fate with patience and fortitude, she and I are a great comfort to each other situated as we are; our family is scattered very much this summer, Father and Albert in California, Howard in Decatur County Iowa and Wilmer at Pike’s Peak, we have not received a letter from him yet but heard that they had arrived there.  I received a letter from Father las week he spoke of attending a large camp meeting held in a beautiful grove not far from Santa Cruz and listened to some good sermons.

Ellwood would return to Guthrie County and his family, it is not known exactly when he returned, he was not counted in the 1860 census, which was enumerated on July 17, 1860.

A Nation Divided

Ellwood’s political activities were centered around Human Rights and he was witness to the new country’s expansion, while it struggled with profound chasms in ideology, in forging this new nation’s path forward. On January 9, 1861 the first shots were fired from Fort Sumter, marking the onset of the American Civil War. The end result would be the southern states succeeding and forming their own government, in February of 1861.  Iowa would begin raising and equipping volunteer troops, for Federal service. The 1st Iowa Infantry was raised in May of 1861.

Ellwood’s family would join in the fight, to save the Union, the first being son Howard, who enlisted on July 6, 1861, followed by Webster, December 16, 1861 and Francis, August 26, 1862, all three serving for Iowa. Elwood’s son-in-law, George W. Harlan, also enlisted to serve Iowa, June 26, 1861. Ellwood’s sons Albert and Wilmer were in California and both enlisted to serve their country on September 11, 1861.  The women of Guthrie County also did their part to support the war effort, including Ellwood’s daughter, Emma:

Soon the war times came, ushering in new and all-engrossing topics. Never, can any of us forget those thrilling days when our country called for our loved ones to go. The first company of men was soon organized from all parts of the county. . Company C, of the 4th Iowa was destined to perform a brilliant part in the history of the war. When this company was organized, the ladies of Guthrie Center sent forth an invitation to other ladies from other parts of the county to meet at the county seat and prepare a uniform for our boys. The mothers, wives, daughters, and sweethearts Hocked from all parts of the county, and a uniform was soon improvised of grey flannel shirts, white pants with blue stripes, and black glazed caps. How proud we were of our white-panted heroes, so soon to meet the bloody realities of terrible battles…

Never will we forget our flag presentations to our two companies, Company C, at Guthrie Center, and Company G, at Panora, and our young ladies, beauteously arrayed in the national colors. The writer had the honor of reading the address and presenting the Flag to Company C. Though we all, soldiers and friends, were but a small part in integral numbers, yet that grand old hymn, ”America,” sounded just as sweet to us as in more pretentious places, and we felt just as deeply the terrible realities so soon to come upon us, and our adieus were just as heartfelt. We worked just as hard in our sanitary meetings, where we interchanged sociality and devised ways and means for the comfort of “our boys.” If what we sent did not get to them, somebody else’s dear ones might get the articles ; anyhow, like bread cast upon the waters, we would send them. Our heroes we had dedicated were, like every place else, the flower of our youth ; we knew they either had to die for their country, or come back crowned with honor. (Source–History of Guthrie and Adair counties, Iowa, A Reminiscence, By Mrs. G. W. Harlan, 1884)

Emma was also appointed the Guthrie County agent for the Soldiers Orphans Home, which was located in Davenport.

Ellwood and Hannah most likely made many sacrifices to support the war effort but none compared to the loss of two of their children, Francis and Webster.   Francis due to illness and Webster, in one of the last battles of the conflict.

Although born in a slave state, he early imbibed a hatred to the peculiar institution that clung to him in his later days. During the late civil war, he gave his five boys to his country, that her safety might be assured. Webster was killed by a rebel bullet, while in the discharge of his duty, on the 21st of March, 1865. Frank died from disease contracted in the service, while on his way home. (Source–History of Guthrie and Adair counties, Iowa,1884)

Ellwood’s son, Howard, resigned his commission on March 8, 1863 and returned to Iowa and was elected County Judge, in October of 1865. Daughter Emma’s husband, George returned in June of 1862 and elected County Treasurer, in October of 1867.

Final Years

Ellwood was born when our Nation was young and he witnessed promise, change and turbulence, during its building and growth.  He played an active role in the events, of his time and was able to realize the fruits of his life’s work.

The 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution were ratified, outlawing slavery and ensuring citizenship to slaves and former slaves, during Ellwood’s lifetime.

In the early fall of 1869, Ellwood contracted typhoid fever and passed away on September 2nd.

Elwood Brown quietly passed away to that “home not made with hands, eternal in the Heaven…” (Source–History of Guthrie and Adair counties, Iowa,1884)

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  1. Very cool, interesting too. My great great great grandfather Levi Townsend was an abolitionist Quaker who worked the Underground Railroad. He for a time was married to Rachel (Brown) Fell in Cedar County, Iowa. They apparently divorced and Levi moved to Des Moines. The next station on the UGRR route from Levi’s house was the house of David Wood. two of Levi’s children married two of David Wood’s children; Eli Townsend married Abigail Mosher Wood (my great great Grandparents) and Joseph Mosher Wood married Elizabeth Townsend. Joseph and Elizabeth’s daughter Mary Wood married Francis Benjamin Fell who was Rachel (Brown) Fell’s son. Joseph and Elizabeth also taught at a school for freedmen in Virginia after the Civil War. David Wood’s wife, Esther (Mosher) Wood was a President of a Women’s Suffrage Convention in 1851. And David Wood’s other son Samuel Newitt Wood is famous for his free state work in Lawrence Kansas during the Bleeding Kansas days.

    It’s interesting the circles these families were in, some of them knew the abolitionist John Brown, some knew Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Olympia brown and Lucretia Mott…

    If you stumble on any Townsend or Wood family connections in your research please let me know.

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