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    A Haven of Rest   Table of Contents    Illustration

Brown, Hallie Q.
Homespun heroines

- FRANCES JANE BROWN -- April 15, 1819--April 16, 1914
- Failing Health

Failing Health

Mrs. Brown's health became greatly impaired and the family removed to Chatham, Ontario, remaining in that city a year, then went to the farm purchased by Mr. Brown

on the 9th Concession, County of Kent, four miles away; well stocked and with a modern and commodious house, well constructed barn and out buildings. Mrs. Brown gained in health and strength and prosperity seemed to wait on the inmates. This, however, was not to last.

Early one Sabbath morning in June that home was destroyed by fire and the fairest of the family, pretty little Mary, with her winning ways, soft black curls and large dark eyes was burned to death. The house had fallen in before she was missed. When the cry came--"Where is Mary?" frantic screams from women and children were heard, terrified men ran here and there seeking the child. Mr. Brown, the father, lost his mind and was restrained by kindly hands from leaping into the flames. Again that quiet, little mother went from one to the other comforting, consoling and during that ordeal--for weeks when the father's mind was a blank--hers was the strong arm upon which the family leaned. Friends by the score came to their relief and through their aid a five-room cottage was built. Here the mother found herself--stripped of all material wealth--no fine furniture or polished mirrors; no rich carpets or silverware; no instruments of music or costly pictures; only plain deal tables and bare floors.

Soon flowers and vines bloomed and clung outside that cottage door, muslin curtains draped the windows and homemade carpets covered the floor. The mother was teaching her children how to be frugal and content. She was Mary and Martha in one. "Homewood Cottage" became a beauty spot on the 9th Concession.

Mr. Brown still plied the river for a livelihood. It was during the Civil War. One day as the boat lay in port at St. Louis, Mo., two men came aboard and asked the porter, Mr. Brown, to take charge of two large carpet bags until they had finished their shopping, taking note of the boat's departure. Always courteous and obliging, Mr. Brown readily consented. The boat left without the two men appearing. At Memphis, Tenn., officers came aboard

searching for contraband goods. The carpet bags were seized. The porter could give no other account than that two men in St. Louis left them in his care until their return. The carpet bags contained percussion caps sent to the rebel army. The porter was returned to St. Louis in irons and imprisoned.

It was early autumn when Mrs. Brown learned of her husband's imprisonment. Not knowing how long he would be detained, she began with that calm, quiet spirit, full of determination and action, together with the help of the older children and one hired man to plan for the comfort of her family. It proved to be a most severe winter but there was plenty of meat in the smoke-house, canned and dried fruit, with jellies and pickles on the pantry shelves. The apples and vegetables were stored away; grists of flour and meal were brought from the mills; cords of wood stacked near the cottage door; the cattle were well housed with corn and fodder in crib and barn. Well, could the inmates smile at the great snow drifts that blocked the highways and piled in fantastic heaps about the cottage? All that was missing was the father far away. Words of sorrow and grief came from the helpless, imprisoned one but letters of cheer and happiness were sent to him from Homewood Cottage to brighten the gloomy cell.

Four books adorned the little center table in the home, the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, Jane Porter's Scottish Heroes, and Spurgeon's Sermons. Each Sabbath, the children gathered around the family altar, passages from the Bible were read and then a sermon from the collection of Charles Spurgeon, the noted English preacher. During the week tales from Jane Porter's Scottish Heroes were read by a member of the family. Every evening after the milking and the chores were done, as twilight approached, a huge back log was rolled into the wide fire-place and soon warmth radiated cheer through the big living room.

The frugal meal of milk and mush was over the dishes tidied, then each would take her task. The wool would be

carded by one, another would be at the spinning wheel and the yarn reeled into banks by the mother.

Deprived of the music of former years, the children sang without accompaniment making melody in their hearts.

During the short winter days there would be an occasional wood chopping bee for the boys and a quilting party for the girls. Again on the moonlight nights a sleigh ride party when several wagon beds, placed on bob-sleds, filled with soft clean hay and merry boys and girls covered with buffalo robes skimmed over miles of road while gay, happy laughter rang out on the frost-laden air.

One day in late spring when the snow had gone and the ice had melted in the nearby streams the father, emaciated and pale came home. It was a season of rejoicing in that happy re-united family. He told them how he had prayed until some one said he not only shook the jail but all St. Louis and as nothing was found against him, he was liberated. "Yes," said Mrs. Brown, "and we prayed too."

One by one the older children left the home to make nests for themselves. Two remained with the mother.

After a few years Mrs. Brown concluded to rent the farm and move to the United States, which she did taking her two youngest children Hallie Q. and John G. to Wilberforce, Ohio, where they could obtain an education at Wilberforce University. Shortly afterward a residence was purchased and the name of the Canadian abode was transferred to the Ohio one. Here in the new "Homewood Cottage" she was permitted to spend in quietude and comfort her declining years. She entered heartily into the spirit of college life and placed her children under the tutelage and training of that master instructor, President Daniel A. Payne. She befriended scores of poor, worthy students and for thirty years brought into her home young men and women to "work for their board" but treated as members of the family, many of whom are today of sterling character and worth in the arena of life.


Mrs. Brown was an active worker in the Holy Trinity Church and one of the first members of the College Aid Society, an organization formed to assist indigent students. She saw borne from the cottage door to peaceful Massie's Creek Cemetery three children and her faithful husband and companion who with her had trod the path of life together for fifty years. Two devoted daughters were left to minister to her declining years. Her influence for good was felt by student body and community while little children loved to lisp the name of "Ma" Brown, the pretty old lady.

Her gentle life and gracious presence fell as a benediction upon that home. A visiting friend remarked that it was worth a trip across the Atlantic to see her. Trained by long schooling and patient labor, possessed by great social timidity and extreme shyness, the writer often gazed on her placid face and wished that hers might grow so fair and pure. She was ninety-five years and a day when silence came to that clear voice, "Thou shall come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in His season."

A tribute to Mrs. Frances J. Brown on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1909, by Mrs. B. F. Lee, Sr.:

With glad and reverent hearts we come
Our high esteem to prove,
To bring the lady of this home
Some token of our love.
This lady fair, this mother queen,
With eyes serene and bright,
(Upon whose brow no scowl is seen)
Is ninety-one tonight.

But she is young in heart and soul,
For years have never aged
A heart so warm, with love its goal;
Nor gloom her spirit caged.
What sphere or what position high
Does our sweet lady fill?
With no ambition did she try
To gain fame's shining hill.

But hers was highest of them all
And hallowed most of heaven
Her children do arise and call
Her blest. To her is given
A calm and ripened womanhood,
Nobel type of mother;
And all that's gentle, pure and good
In her has come together.

The secret of endurance long,
By love and duty bound,
She learned and in her task grew strong
And true contentment found
We thank you for the life you live
Of labor, peace and love;
For sure the creed which you believe
Was handed from above.

The Lord bless thee and keep thee still,
O mother true and dear;
His loving grace thy cup o'erfill,
His presence be thy cheer;
His smiling countenance ne'er cease
To shield thee from all fear
And give thee everlasting peace
O mother true and dear.

    A Haven of Rest   Table of Contents    Illustration