Rowan County, NC to Union County, IL.
In the late fall of 1816 my thoughts were
not on working at my father’s mill. My Pa owns and runs a grist
mill on Persimmon Branch just upstream from Crane Creek. That’s
where I live but all the rumors are about the beautiful land next to
the mighty Mississippi River. Several wagon trains left last week
heading that way. Many of my friends have already gone and I just
can’t stand it any longer. I think I am going to tell my Pa in the
morning that I will be on the next wagon train. By the way my Pa is
Well it has been a week since I
told Pa I was leaving and he has had a sad heart but I can see an
excitement in him thinking about the adventures just ahead of me.
He remembers vividly his trip from his homeland in Germany; the
tough time he and his brothers had coming over the ocean. I am a
bit excited myself and I also have a kind’a fear deep inside me. I
hear it takes about two months to make our way there.
Yesterday Pa came
to me and gave me this big gourd. He said I could carry my seeds in
it. When I get to Union County, Illinois territory I will have to
start my farm with seeds from here in Rowan County. Several groups
from St. John’s Church left a few weeks ago and the rest of us want
to get there as soon as we can. We have letters that tell us where
to stop each night and where to find good water and provisions while
on the way.
Well it is now spring of 1818
and since my arrival in Jonesboro I was able to purchase two tracts
of land (about 80 acres) in the Mill Creek area. Mr. Lyerle and
Mr. Kohler each purchased 40 acres just down the road. I’ll let my
3rd. great grand nephew Danny finish telling my story.
Ever since reading the
Abraham/Jacob Brown book written by John Fisher of Salisbury, I have
been interested in my family’s history. My 3rd. great
grandmother was a Brown and this is about where the story begins.
My wife and I made a
week long trip to Union County a few months ago to do some genealogy
We spent days walking through old cemeteries
and church yards throughout Union & Alexander Counties. We were
also fortunate to find a headstone with “born in Rowan County, North
Towns with names like Thebes, Dongola, Anna,
Jonesboro and Mill Creek were on our mind. These were the home
villages of hundreds of old Rowan and Cabarrus Countians in the
early 1800s. Hundreds of our cousins still live there. Names like
Brown, Lingle, Lyerla, Lemly, Eddleman, Dillow, Hartline, Cruse,
Treece, Miller, Hileman, Lentz, Rinehart, Corezine & Fisher are
evident in most of the cemeteries there. It was like walking
through the Salisbury and Concord phone book. We visited the
library in Anna and the Deeds office in Jonesboro many times and
scanned through many of the old records. In the oldest deed book in
Jonesboro, we found the fourth entry was none other than our Abraham
Brown and his purchase of property dated 1818. We also found the
location of his nearly 200 year old farm and a Brown family is still
living on the farm. Low and behold the owner of this farm is an
Abraham Brown descendant. We met and had a great time. While I was
there I viewed and held in my own two hands the original deed for
the land signed by President Buchanan. I saw with my own two eyes
Abraham’s signature. What a thrill!
Legend tells about
Abraham Brown from old Rowan County, NC who arrived in Union County,
Illinois with a large gourd full of seeds and somehow or other the
gourd has endured the test of time (since 1814) and is located in
the Cobden Museum in Cobden, Illinois. After several days
researching and sight-seeing, we decided to travel to Cobden and see
the old museum. The owner allowed me to hold the old Rowan County
gourd in my two hands.
This was another great thrill of my life. This
old gourd was probably raised in the river bottoms of the Yadkin
River and carried nearly a thousand miles to the river bottoms of
the Mississippi River nearly 200 years ago. The museum owner told
me I was the first family member of Abraham Brown to inquire about
the gourd since he put it on display in 1961.
It is amazing to me
that our forefathers could pack up everything they owned in a couple
of wagons and say goodbye to their parents knowing they would
probably never see them again and head westward to parts unknown and
survive. Their trip was made in a sturdy wagon like the one in
the Rowan Museum and probably took them two or three months to make the 800 mile
trip. Abraham Brown’s uncle, Jacob the Wagonmaker, settled in
Telford, Tennessee and practiced blacksmithing till his death. I am
sure he repaired many of these wagons.
We loaded up our 20,000 pound fifth wheel RV
and Dodge truck and it took us a day and a half to get there and
after a week of fun, a day and a half back and we were worn out.
Think of our ancestors who did not have a comfortable safe place to
lay down their weary heads but did it anyway.
Men and women from both Rowan and
Cabarrus counties were some of the first settlers in the region of
southern Illinois. Indians still inhabited the area and it was not
a friendly place. The Jacob Lingle family in 1807 and Henry Cruse,
John Fink, George Brown and Abraham Brown, Jacob Dillow, John
Fisher, Joseph and Adam Eddleman in 1816. “The early Union County
settlers were deeply religious and were mostly of the Lutheran
faith. Some had come to this new land because of being opposed to
slavery. They were attracted to Union County because the hilly land
resembled their Native North Carolina, and because of the water
supply in the springs and streams, even enough in places for their
water mills.” This statement was taken from a website about St.
John’s Lutheran Church in Dongola, ILL. (http://www.iltrails.org/union/ucstjon.htm)
After seeing the area myself I can attest to the truth of that
statement. The area does indeed resemble the land in Rowan and
St. John’s Church in
Dongola was the first Lutheran church in the Illinois territory and
most assuredly named after their home church in Cabarrus County.
For more info on Rowan and Cabarrus families, please visit
One final thought
that has intrigued me, this article was not about the rights or
wrongs of slavery. Imagine these men that settled this new area of
the country in just a few years would be raising children that would
be of the age to be drafted into the Union Army. Wouldn’t it have
been ironic for them to have been on the opposite side of their
North Carolina brothers in battle and maybe captured and moved to
the notorious civil war prison at Salisbury? www.rowancounty.info/salisburyprison
Rowan County, NC