Nathan Brown c. 1731 or 1736 – June 28, 1779

Born to Scots-Irish Presbyterian parents in Ulster, Northern Ireland in the 1730’s he was a wheelwright / cabinet maker who lived in Culleybackey, not far from the Braid River and Ballymena, County Antrim and married Grizzel Richey, whose brother was a minister in the (Associate or Reformed) Presbyterian denomination subordinate to the Synod of Ulster. Grizzel’s brother is said to have published a volume of Sermons in Ireland. They had four children at the time of leaving Ireland: Robert, Mary, James and George and two more were born in America – Nathan and Joseph (d. 1785 at age 10). Nathan was a member of one of the congregations under the influence of the Rev. William Martin who encouraged his parishonners to leave Ireland for the colonies and ultimately filled 5 shiploads including himself and other ministers, sailing to Charleston South Carolina in the fall and winter of 1772. Nathan was one of the first of the signers(the fourth name after the first signer, the Reverend Robert McClintock) of a letter sent back to Belfast after the arrival of the “James and Mary” in October 1772 at “Charles-Town” and published on December 22, 1772 in the Belfast “News Letter”, and thus was probably a young ‘elder’ of one of the Presbyterian congregations represented on that ship of 200 passengers. Their ship was quarantined off of Sullivan’s Island in Charleston harbor due to smallpox which had taken the lives of five children during the 7 week journey from Larne, Ireland to Charleston, South Carolina.

Moving to the back country of South Carolina, he settled at first on a 300 acre claim in Laurens County and then purchased 300 acres in Newberry County near the Kings Creek Presbyterian Church. This church and Cannon’s Creek Presbyterian were founded and pastored by Rev. James Renwick and the family became very active in these congregations. Four of Nathan and Grizzella’s sons would also become elders of their Presbyterian congregations in America and son Nathan would later be the Clerk of Session of the Hopewell congregation in Morning Sun, Ohio.

Nathan’s great grandson, the Rev. Mitchell Matthews Brown, wrote the basic story containing some of this information down in 1897 based on stories passed on to him by grandmother Elizabeth Beggs Brown(daughter-in-law of Nathan and Gracie). She was born in Ireland and had married Nathan’s son James Brown in South Carolina while living with widow Gracie and moved with 41 other persons to Ohio in 1805, apparently over the issue of slavery. Nathan’s son Nathan did not go to Ohio until after his mother died in 1810 and his first wife died in 1813. Those who moved north were founding families of the Hopewell Presbyterian church and became abolitionists, with several members participating in operating the Underground Railroad. James and Elizabeth’s son Nathan (sometimes called Nathan, Jr. although he is grandson of Nathan and Nephew of son Nathan — warning: there are many sons, cousins and nephews named Nathan in this family), father of Mitchell Matthews was a ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad. He also became an elder in the Hopewell church and three of his sons (Mitchell M., Nathan H. and James ) became Presbyterian ministers. All graduated from Miami University, a few miles away in Oxford, Ohio, an institution whose early founders were largely Presbyterian.

Remembering back to that first generation, Nathan’s eldest son Robert, served in the Revolutionary Army when his father became ill in the ‘snow camps’ but later married Nancy Young, a girl from a Prosperity, South Carolina family that held slaves. He remained in South Carolina when the others moved north to Ohio. His three brothers took charge of selling the property of their deceased father, who died and was buried in King’s Creek Presbyterian cemetery in 1779.

the first part of the account written by the Rev. Mitchell Matthews Brown in 1897 is transcribed below the image of the first page:

The Brown Family in the U.S. - p. 1-by MM Brown 1897
Page 1 – 1897 manuscript by Mitchell Matthews Brown

The Brown Family in the United States A 3

Nathan Brown – born probably about A.D.1736.
Parish of Braid, Cullybacky – near Ballymena, Antrim Co. Ireland.-
Grizzel Ritchie

Rev. Geo. Ritchie

The most remote ancestor of whom we have at present (1897) any knowledge was
Nathan Brown of Cullybacky Shire, near Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland. The
date of his birth can only be approximately ascertained. He was a member of the
Presbyterian Church subordinate to the Synod of Ulster & an eminently pious &
godly man. Was an excellent wheelwright and extensively employed, both in Ireland & in America.

He married Grizzel Ritchie, probably of the same neighborhood. His name & hers
have been extensively perpetuated among their descendents. She had a brother a
minister of the Presbyterian church, probably a minister of high standing as he had published a volume of Sermons in Ireland. The date of his birth is unknown. The date of their removal to America as nearly as can now be ascertained was 1772. They had at that time four children, Robert, James, George & Mary. Two others were born in America, Nathan & Joseph; the latter of whom died from an injury received by the fall of a tree & died two weeks after, giving evidence of youthful piety. – The parents came to South Carolina & settled in Newberry District in the Assoc. Reformed Congregation of Kings Cannon’s Creek.- He was a soldier in the Revolutionary army, was in camp in the “snow camps”; was taken sick & went home & his oldest son, Robert, took his place in the army. The date of his death is not certainly known. He was buried in the King’s Cr. Churchyard. The following inscription was placed on his tomb-stone – Remember man who passest by,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so you shall be,
Prepare to meet thy God and me.”
Mrs. Brown was left a respectable widow with five sons & one daughter who all
became members of the Associate Reformed Church, in King’s Creek Congregation. (?).-
The family remained in S. Carolina until the spring April of 1805 when, with other
families making in all 42 members of the Associate Reformed church with four
wagons & 20 horses, they removed to Ohio.

  • NOTES on the above transcript and original:
  • This was a ‘blank book’ with pages prepared to be an index on various subjects, indicated by pre-printed capital letters – it was passed on to MM’s wife Sarah McMichael – the first female graduate of Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA who likely passed it on to her only son, the Rev. Montrose McMichael Brown, M.D. (another MM!) and from there to my mother and then to me in the 1990’s. Sarah had the equivalent of a modern Master’s degree in classics and was also interested in genealogy, tracing her side of the family back to William the Conqueror – her records of the McMichaels and FitzRandolphs were ultimately passed on and archived at the Western Reserve Historical Society – probably now listed under the Davis name
  • In another branch of the family there is an even less accurate account of the same facts, written down in 1936 – published as an appendix to Marsha Hoffman Rising’s 2010 genealogy of Nathan Brown’s descendants – probably both manuscripts are repeating the oral history passed on by Elizabeth Beggs Brown
  • the writer, Mitchell Matthews Brown, was an educator as well as a minister, principal of several secondary academies and finally president of a small college outside Kansas City (Lincoln College, Greenwood MO) as well as Moderator of the Synod of Kansas (United Presbyterian) as well as an Assistant Clerk of the 1858 General Assembly which formed that denomination in Pittsburgh – he also likely served on the Senate of Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois – where he is buried.
  • Mitchell had never been to South Carolina nor seen the grave of his ancestor, which is why he misquotes the actual inscription on the stone and crosses out Kings (which is actually correct) and inserts Cannons. The two churches were founded at the same time, one a few miles to the northeast of Newberry, the other to the south – halfway to Prosperity
  • There are multiple ways to spell Richie, Richey, Ritchie, as well as Grissel, Grizella, Grizell and its variation ‘Gracie’ – they all show up in other branches of the family along with the many Nathans and the spellings of Cullybackey, Beggs, Baggs, Biggs and Boggs, etc. MM’s vowels are very tightly formed, but I believe (in contrast to Rising) that Beggs is correct. I also believe that George Richey Brown, M.D. was named for his uncle the Rev. George Richey of County Down, but have not yet found the book of sermons or any trace or mention of it elsewhere. I also believe that George was born in Ireland, not SC (again, contrary to Rising and to at least one person who assumes he was born on the voyage of the ship from Larne to Charleston!) Since my grandfather was an M.D. as well as a minister, and my brother an uncle, and a cousin all M.D. s there was family interest and knowledge of an ancestor having preceded them – something I remember hearing in my childhood.
Page 2 of 1897 Unpublished manuscript by the Rev. Mitchell Matthews Brown

History continued
They were six weeks & three days on the way resting every Sabbath, meeting at some one of the camps for prayer & instructing the children. The last Sabbath they were five miles South of Cincinnati. They arrived at Hamilton on Tuesday, May 7, 1805.
Robert, remained in S.C.& married Miss Nancy Young of
Prosperity Cong. “an intelligent & accomplished lady”

How many of the children of Nathan & Grizzel Brown were in this company is not now known. Robert the eldest we know remained in S.C. And married a Miss Nancy Young of Prosperity in the same county, where some of their descendants still reside – others of them reside in Coweta Co. Georgia.

James, the second son had been married some years & was the father of six children. John Hall formed a part of the company with his family.-
James Brown with his family settled first on the west side of the Miami River – just below what was then the village of Rossville – now the First Ward of the City of Hamilton – the other wards being on the east side. They lived there about 2 1⁄2 years, during which George R. was born here Feb. 13 1807.- During this time also, John Beggs the father of the wife of James Brown, (the informant of the writer – also his paternal grandmother.) died, the former near the close of October 1805 – his wife followed in January 1807. They were interred in the grave-yard at Rossville. The city has grown out beyond – the grave-yard has become
a park, and their graves cannot now be found. The park is on the east side of Boudinot Street, three squares from the river

The location on(or near)the Miami River was found to be very subject to miasma, producing Fever & Ague and a more desirable location was sought.- I have heard my grandmother say, that in the sickly season she could hardly ever awake at night without hearing some of the family moaning with the fever following the chill.
The adjoining county on the north(Preble) was then being settled and Hopewell Cong. Assoc. Reformed in Israel Township one of the southern tier of townships bordering on Butler County, had been, or was about to be organized. Land was cheap & although it was not fertile as in some other parts of the country, it was healthy, &, more than all, there was a prospect of their enjoying the ordinances of religion such as
they had been accustomed to – & thither they directed their steps. I speak now particularly of the Browns. They removed Dec. 18, 1807.

  • At this point MM is really telling the story of his Grandfather James Brown and the founding of the Hopewell Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church – which might well begin its own page

Sources consulted or useful to produce the information on these pages.

Unpublished manuscript by the Rev. Mitchell Matthews Brown, 1897.

Manual of the United Presbyterian Church, James Brown Scouller, 1909.

Manual of the United Presbyterian Church, William Melancthon Glasgow

History of the Sparta Illinois United Presbyterian Church, Hortense Hood

Centennial Catalogue of Miami University, Oxford Ohio

Preble County Ohio, Courthouse and Historical Records

The Scots-Irish in the Carolinas; Billy Kennedy; Belfast: Causeway Press, 1997. (also editor, Belfast “News Letter”)

“Descendants of Nathan Brown . . .” Marsha Hoffman Rising, Boston: Newbury Press, 2010. – lots of Brown, Caldwell, etc. Genealogies