Monday, September 19, 2011

Backward Glance - James Orson Brownell

 One of my most elusive ancestors, James Orson Brownell continues to intrigue me as I search to learn more about him and his life. The initial source of information was his granddaughter, (Myrtle) Pearl Brownell Schick, who shared what she knew with my mother. She did not know that his first name was James.

According to Aunt Pearl, 'Orson' was born in New York; married to Frances Jackson, who was born in Canada; and died sometime before the birth of their son, James Orson Brownell, in a railroad accident in Canada, presumably about 1868 as James was born in May of 1869. This basic data became my starting place.

Orson's parents were William and Parmelia (Freeman) Brownell. His earliest Brownell ancestor in America was Thomas Brownell, who was born in England in about 1608 and died in Rhode Island in 1664. Orson had one brother and three sisters, all of whom were born in New York. In 1850, William's family was living in Napoli Township, Cattaraugus County, New York. Orson was living at home and was reported to be 21 years old.

In 1860, Orson and Frances were enumerated in Cold Spring Township, Cattaraugus County. Their first child, Stella, or Ella, was one year old. This leads to the speculation that Orson and Frances were married in about 1857. According to Ella's death and burial information, her birthdate was November 13, 1858. 

Cold Spring Township, Cattaraugus County, New York. 1860.

Apparently, Orson did die in about 1868 as Aunt Pearl stated, because Frances married a man named Mortimer Clark on February 13, 1869, in Colesburg, Iowa, just a few months before James Orson was born on May 20th in that same town. Orson's parents and brother, Preserved, had moved there as early as 1856.

There are still many questions to be answered concerning Orson Brownell. Thankfully, we had a starting place!

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