MsC 381

Manuscript Register



Collection dates: 1822 to 1944
(Bulk dates: 1860s)
30 items

This document describes a collection of materials held by the
Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1420
Phone: 319-335-5921
Fax: 319-335-5900

Posted to Internet April 2002

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Biographical Note

The earliest letters in this collection were written by Hugh Brown (1776 -- 1847), a native of Ayr, Scotland. Brown immigrated to the United States about 1820 and settled on a farm in New York. Subsequently, he was employed as an overseer by the Delaware & Hudson Canal and Railroad Company. His wife Mary Gibson (1798 -- 1877), in Iowa, joined him in New York in 1823.

Several of this couple's children were born in Scotland; several were born in the United States. The best-known son was Major Hugh G. Brown (1835 -- 1901), born in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and died at Keosauqua, Iowa. With his brothers and widowed mother, he settled in Iowa in the late 1840's. He was a member of Company E, 15th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, rose through the ranks to a commission, and became an aide on the staff of Major General E.O.C. Ord. Major Brown's brothers include James A. Brown of Vinton, Iowa, and Alex Brown (also a major) of Keosauqua. Both of these men were in service with Iowa regiments during the Civil War, and both were still living at the towns mentioned above when their brother Hugh died in 1901.

(Most of the information in the two preceeding paragraphs comes from the correspondence offered here. Some facts were gained from the booklet cited below.)

Scope and Contents

This is a collection of 23 letters, 3 documents, 1 printed item, and 3 miscellaneous pieces by Hugh Brown, his wife Mary Gibson Brown, their children and family, written from New York, Iowa, and other places in the United States, and from Scotland.


Box List:


Box 1


1. [Hugh Brown], Palatine, [New York], December 19, 1822, to Mary Brown (his wife), care of John Gibson, "Farmer in Crawfordston by Ayr, Scotland." 3pp.
Brown writes concerning plans to work a farm in New York on shares; describes its situation near the Mohawk River, his arrangements with the family of a Major Fry, and his plans for his wife and children to join him. With an additional 3pp. of additional material overwritten in very light brown ink.

2. Robert Brown, Kirkhill, [Scotland], April 24, 1823, to (his brother) Hugh Brown, "America." 3pp.
There is economic distress at home, Robert writes. Family is unable to send Hugh a bull as promised. "You appear to have a very favorable oppinion of America, that land in which I would like to dwell, altho' I am of the notion I will never see it...." Hugh's creditors may follow him to the United States, Robert warns.

3. James Brown, Ayr, September 6, 1825, to Hugh Brown, Albany, New York. 3+pp. Mentions his interest in immigrating to the United States; discusses neighborhood affairs.

4. Mary Dunsmore, Pungannon Park, [Northern Ireland], March 13, 1826, to Mary Gibson Brown, Albany, New York. 3pp.
Mary writes her sister various family news, including an account of their trip to Pungannon Park and their attractive situation there.

5. Eben. Wilsonson, North Sherbrooke by Perth, Upper Canada, January 6, 1829, to Hugh Brown, Delaware Canal, New York. 2pp.
Wilsonson recalls their earlier acquaintanceship at Albany and complains that derogatory remarks on his character are being circulated by "a worthless vagabond" named G. Henderson.

6. Jno. B. Jervis and James Archbald, Clarkstown, [New York?], December 20, 1830. 1p.
These men, engineers, certify that Hugh Brown "has been the last three years employed on the Delaware & Hudson Canal and Railroad as an overseer for the Company." They praise his character and the work done by him and recommend him highly.

7. M. A. Archbald, Auresville, [New York], June 21, 1831, to Mrs. Hugh Brown (Mary Gibson), Albany. 1p.
Returns shoes sent by Mrs. Brown and sends family news.

8. Hugh Brown, Canaan, [New York?], March 24, 1833, to wife at Albany. 3pp. Describes his work as overseer of railroad construction; trouble with other foremen. Gives his opinion of his wife's desire to rent a house in Albany; comments on his plans for the education of his children.

9. John Gibson, Black Rock, New York, January 12, 1836, to Hugh Brown, c/o James Archbald, Carbondale, PA. 3pp.
Concerning health, visitors, and news from Scotland.

10. John Gibson, Canajoharie, [New York], April 4, 1838, to Hugh Brown, Carbondale. 2pp. Writes on financial matters.

11. same, Medina, New York, June 16, 1840, to Hugh Brown, Carbondale. 1 1/2pp. Concerning family news; has not heard from Scotland in two years, but has not written during that time, either. Hard times are everywhere. "I am not in a fit state at present to discuss your project of going to the west...."

12. same, Medina, April 14, 1841, to Hugh Brown. 1 1/2p.
News from Scotland of rents, political attitudes there; importation of grain from Ireland.

13. Annie Brown, Keosauqua, Iowa, June 10, 1849, to (her brother) Hugh G. Brown, Fairfield, IA. 2p.
Family news content; glad to hear that brother likes his new home.

14. James A. Brown, Council Grove, Kansas Territory, June 17, 1857, to Hugh G. Brown. 1 p.
He is this far on his trip [a surveying trip in northern and western Kansas]. Mentions several others in his party and remarks on the condition of his horse.

15. Alex Brown, Savannah, Tennessee, April 10, 1862, to mother at Keosauqua. Exciting letter describing his participation in the battle of Shiloh. "...We immediately formed in line of battle where the bullets were flying like Hail and advanced upon the enemy who fell back behind some fallen timber. We held them back for about 2 hours in the most galling fire that has ever been known. The force opposing us was about 15 or 20 thousand. Our force was the 15th & 16 Iowa and the Illinois Regiment. Our Regt. was in the hottest of the fire and was the last to yield, but we had to retreat or all be taken prisoners. Hugh & Ben escaped uninjured...I am wounded in the hip slightly, I was wounded just as we started to retreat. I had loaded my gun and turned to fire when a ball struck me. It was a spurt [?] ball, or I presume I would have been killed. It just went in and lodged on my hip bone...."

17. Alex Brown to John Brown, Corinth, Mississippi, July 20, 1862. 3pp.
Alex condemns the war policy of the government as too soft and ineffective. Demands the "niggers" be armed and trained. Sends news of various Iowans in service.

18. Alex Brown to John Brown, Camp near Bolivar, Tennessee, September 6, 1862. 2p.
His mail has been cut off by the Rebel's destruction of the railroad between Bolivar and Jackson. Skirmishing in the area; Rebels suffered badly at Jackson. Expectation of an attack by General Price and 30,000 men.

19. Hugh Brown to mother, Corinth, Miss., September 26, 1862. 3 1/2pp.
Describes his activities since the battle of Shiloh. He is now on the staff of Major General Ord and likes it very much. High opinion of Ord. Ord's staff members identified. Brother Alex is sick and in poor condition, forced to sleep on the ground without a tent in the rain.

20. Alex Brown to John Brown, Corinth, October 6, 1862. lp.
Account of the battle of Corinth, October 3-4. Wounded in the shoulder; doctor describes it as a bad wound. "The Iowa troops covered themselves with glory"' in the battle, he writes.

21. Sarah [Johnston], Keosauqua, February 8, 1878, to (her brother) Hugh Brown. 2 1/2pp. Writes concerning the death of their mother; sends other family news.

22. James A. Brown, Vinton, March 28, 1876 to Hugh Brown. 2pp. Concerning news of his family.

23. Copy of a letter from Montgomery Jameson, Ayr, Scotland, to (his cousin) Craig, Keosauqua, December 8, 1902. 10pp., torn.
A letter filled with genealogical detail on the generation of Hugh Brown the immigrant, his wife, and their parents.


1) Joseph Foster, ADS, as Judge of Probate, Keosauqua, February 7, 1848. Appoints Mary Brown guardian of the minor heirs of her late husband, who died April 12, 1847. (Children named.) 1p.


2) Hugh Brown, certificate of naturalization, Bethany, PA, September 3, 1841, signed for L. Graves, prothonotary, by J. K. Woodward. Partly printed form, accomplished in manuscript.

3) Printed "General Orders No. 83," Headquarters, District of West Tennessee, Corinth, Miss., September 24, 1862. In part, appoints General Ord to command the 2nd Division of the District and gives its boundaries. Ink markings; trimmed.

Additional Items

1) Booklet, MAJ. HUGH G. BROWN, U.S.A. (n.p., n.d. [1901]). 13pp. pamphlet of biographical and personal information on Major Brown. Pages are loose, but present.

2)Two miscellaneous pieces and 1 fragment of a letter.