1997-2008, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
DeWitt Colony Captains:  Henry S. Brown


Captain Henry S. Brown, Pioneer
By Mrs. C.A. Westbrook, vol. 2, June 1925, The Frontier Times

Capt. Henry S. Brown[Illustration in James T. DeShields Border Wars of Texas]  The ancestors of this early pioneer and patriot of Texas came across the ocean and settled in Maryland in the early days of that colony. Tradition represents them having been men of sterling worth, well-to-do farmers, Richard Brown, of the first or second generation, was born in Maryland about 1695. His son, Col. Edward Brown, (an officer in the Maryland line in the Revolutionary War) was born on Pipe Creek, Carroll county, Maryland, on the 16th of September, 1734; married Margaret Durbin, a maiden; of rare beauty and intellectual gifts, and a woman beloved for her uniform kindness of heart. In 1780 he moved to Ohio. After the death of his wife which occurred in 1795, he moved to Madison county, Kentucky, where he died in 1823. His third child, Caleb Brown, was born in Carroll county Maryland, March 27th 1759. He married a daughter of Colonel Henry Stevenson, a Revolutionary soldier of Maryland and then moved to Madison county, Kentucky. His wife's maiden was Jemima Stevenson, born January 18th, 1761, and died August 14th 1807. Henry Stevenson Brown, the third child of Caleb and Jemima Brown and the subject of their memoir, was born in Madison county, Kentucky, March 8th, 1793. Capt. Brown had the noble examples of both his parental and maternal ancestors, to act as incentive for future greatness, as both his grand-fathers were officers in the Revolution of 1776. The school facilities of 1793 were limited, yet, he improved them to the best of his ability and obtained a good education for the day. When only fifteen, he lost his mother and when he kissed her pallid brow, he felt that home could never be the same dear spot again and in 1810 resolved to seek the wilds of Missouri. He located in St. Charles county, where he was actively engaged as a ranger against the Indians in the war from 1812 to 1815; and was at one time sheriff of that county. In 1813, during the siege of Fort Clark on the Illinois river where Peoria stands, his gallant conduct was so conspicuous as to call forth the encomiums both from Col. Musick and Governor Howard, of Missouri, the latter gentleman being also an eye witness. In making their report to the Secretary of War Capt. Brown's name was mentioned as the bravest among the brave. And then he was only twenty years of age. In St. Charles county he married Mrs. Margaret Kerr Jones, in 1814. (Mrs. Jones was the daughter of Rev. James Kerr, a Baptist minister, from near Danville, Kentucky, in 1808). She had three children, to reach maturity by her first husband. Of these, Maryland Jones in his 86th year, (1886) lived in Medina county, Texas; Mrs. Sarah Jordon died in Lavaca county in 1869; Mrs. Mary Kerr Draper lived in Oswego, Kansas. Of her four children by Captain Brown, Rufus E. Brown an old citizen of Southwest Texas, lived in the Pecos country; Thomas J. Brown was supposed to have been murdered by robbers in New Orleans in October 1839 and sunk in the Mississippi River; John Henry Brown, once mayor of Dallas; and Margaret A. Brown, the wife of Russell Jones, died in Gonzales county in 1859. The mother esteemed through life as a living example of those mental and moral attributes which exalt her sex among the just and pure died in Lavaca county, April 30th, 1861, in her seventy-ninth year.

Margaret Kerr Jones Brown[Margaret Kerr Jones Brown.   Photocopy of a daguerrotype in the Brown Collection, University of Texas Archives, provided by Herbert Reay Jr.]  All hostilities ceased in 1815, and Capt. Brown began the life of a trader to the lower country in live stock, meat and grain. The only means of transportation was the keel and flat boats, which rendered it extremely hazardous and he often suffered severely from wrecks, yet he continued in this business for ten years, trading in New Orleans and on the lower Mississippi. During his sojourn in St. Charles county, Rufus E. and Thomas J. Brown were born. In the winter of 1819, he moved to Pike county, where his third son, John Henry and his only daughter, Margaret A. Brown were born.

In the fall of 1824 he made his last trip as a trader to New Orleans where he met his brother John, afterwards known as Waco Brown, on his way to Cuba for his health. Capt. Brown told him that he expected to enter the Mexican and Indian trade, through the then Mexican provinces of Texas. His brother, being devotedly attached to him concluded to accompany him and in December 1824, they landed at the mouth of the Brazos with a large stock of goods and from thenceforth the name of each was inseparably connected and identified with Texas until their death. In 1825 Capt. Brown sent his brother with a cargo of goods to trade with the Comanches of the upper country. James Musick and Andrew Scott went with him. They succeeded in reaching the Clear Fork of the Brazos river, without being molested and found the Indians very friendly and anxious to trade. And soon they were winding their way homeward with eleven hundred horses and mules and as many buffalo robes as they could manage on their pack mules. The Indians assisted them a day or two on their way, and on the fourth night they camped on the Bosque about where the present town of Meridian stands. All retired, congratulating themselves on the success of the expedition and what must have been their surprise, when midnight yells and the firing of guns awakened their quiet slumbers. All sprang to their feet. Mr. Brown being a cripple from white swelling fell over on one of his companions. The others thinking that he was dead fled into the bottoms. Mr. Brown secreted himself in some brush near by, where he remained until daylight, naturally thinking that his companions would do likewise. But to his dismay, he found himself all alone, lame and without food; yet with a brave resolution he started limping homeward. After traveling three days, with blistered feet and aching heart, and almost famishing, he was suddenly surrounded by a band of Waco Indians. Most of them seemed anxious to kill him, but some plead for his life, which was spared on account of his lameness. He was then mounted and carried to their principal village, where the present city of Waco is located. His companions, supposing that he fell dead, traveled all the first night and concealed themselves until they reached the settlements, where they reported the death of Mr. Brown and their great loss of property.

Simultaneously was Capt. Brown's first trip to Mexico, but fortunately with much better success, as he returned in a few months with a large number of horses and mules for the Louisiana and Mississippi trade and a considerable amount of Mexican coin. On reaching San Felipe, on the Brazos, he heard of the sad fate of his brother, but had a presentiment that he still lived and resolved upon his rescue. In a short time after his arrival, he started with 41 volunteers in search of his much beloved brother. On arriving at the Waco Village, he found them hostile and attacked them. After some resistance and killing several of their number they fled and nine of their number were shot while crossing the river. Heavy rain commenced falling which continued most of the time for seventeen days which prevented further pursuit and it was with great difficulty he reached home, owing to the boggy condition of the country through which they passed now embracing the counties of Milam, Burleson and Lee. With a sad heart he resumed his business and sold his stock on the Mississippi and made a second and similar trip into Mexico While encamped on the Medina river he was attacked by twelve Tehuacanos Indians. They intended to rob him, but he killed several of their number and the others fled. In the fall of the same year (1826) he arrived at San Felipe with several hundred head of horses, destined as was the previous herd, and while halting here discovered a man riding rapidly toward him from the west. As he approached nearer he seemed to be an Indian riding bareback. But suddenIy he reined his horse and sprang toward Capt. Brown, exclaiming, "Brother Henry! don't you know me!" It was the lost brother. In as brief a manner as possible he related the many adventures of his eighteen months captivity, which gave him the name of Waco Brown. He explained how lie had suffered and used diplomacy to go an several marauding expeditions, hoping to escape and how at last he had succeeded while with a company of seventeen, on Cummins Creek. Now the time for avenging his brother's cruel treatment had come. Capt. Brown, with twenty men, including his herders, marched all night and at daylight rushed into the Indian camp, killing all except one.

In the latter part of 1827, Capt. Brown, on returning to New Orleans, visited Missouri. In the beginning of 1828, he again resumed the Mexican trade, making two trips. On the first trip he was robbed of a considerable amount of goods by the treachery of a Mexican in whom he had placed confidence.  The following extracts from "The Indian Wars of Texas," by Col. John Henry Brown, gives the sequel, to the Second expedition:

"In the month of December, 1828, Capt. Henry S. Brown was returning from a trading expedition to Mexico, having as the proceeds of the expedition about 500 horses and a considerable amount of silver in rawhide wrappers. He had with him nine Mexican ranchers, a faithful old Cherokee Indian named Luke, and two or three Americans. At night on the road between San Antonio, and Gonzales, his animals were stampeded and driven off by a party of hostile Indians, leaving portion of his men on foot. He repaired to Gonzates and increased his force to twenty-nine men. With these he he moved leisurely up the country through the mountains, and finally, crossing the Colorado, a little above the mouth of Pecan Bayou into the present territory of Brown county, hoping to surprise an Indian village and recover his own or an equal number of horses, and mules. He suddenly came upon an, encampment destitute of horses and scarcely any women and children. Quite a fight ensued, the Indians occupying a rocky point near its termination at a brushy little stream. For a time the Indians seemed defiant and killed one of Capt.. Brown's Mexicans, besides wounding several of his men slightly, but several Indians fell and suddenly they fled into the Creek hottom. Capt. Brown still anxious to find the object of his search, traveled westerly till night and encamped. During the night some of the guard discovered a camp fire apparently about two miles distant. As day dawned the party mounted and moving cautiously, struck the village just as it was light enough to see. Six of the Mexicans, under prior instructions, stampeded the Indians' horses. The other twenty-three men covered the rear and prepared for battle. Forty or fifty mounted Indians made pursuit and heavy skirmishing ensued, until four or five warriors had been tumbled from their horses. They drew off until reinforced by about as many more who however made no attack, but traveled parallel with the retreating party occasionally showing themselves till the sun went down. But all this time the horses had been pressed into a gallop and were too tired to be easily stampeded at night, the forlorn hope of the enemy. The retreat was continued to the full cpacity of the animals for two or three successive days. Then, still traveling all night and grazing the horses and sleeping by alternation portions of the day, the party arrived at Gonzales with the loss of only one Mexican killed and four or five wounded, but none fatally."

I once had the name of every man in the party, but lost the list, many years ago. Among them, however, was Brazil Durbin, Shelby, Andrew Scott, Cherokee Luke, nine Mexicans, Jesse Robinson, Moses Morrison, Abram M. Clare and William Bracken. They reached Gonzales late in January, 1829. They started with about 700 animals, but got in with only a little over 500, the remainder escaping in the night marches. They were equally divided among the captors to the satisfaction of all. It was this affair that prompted. Capt. Brown later in the year 1829, to lead a second expedition into the some section of country, in which at the mouth of the San Saba, he accidently fell in with the company of Capt. Kuykendall, the particulars of which are also extracted from "The Indian Wars of Texas." After describing the departure from San Felipe of two companies, aggregating a hundred under Capt. Oliver James and Bartlett Sims the whole commanded by Capt.Abner Kuykendall, on an expedition, against the hostiles in the upper country, the narrative continues:

"About the same time, without concert, a company of thirty-nine men of DeWitt's colony under Capt. Henry S. Brown, left Gonzales on a mission against the depredating hostiles supposed to be in the mountains. Among these thirty-nine early defender's of infant Texas, were Samuel Highsmith, deceased in 1849, Brazil Durbin, Moses Morrison, James Curtis, Geo. W. Cottle (killed in the Alamo) and Friley. Kuykendall scoured the country between the Brazos and the Colorado. When about twenty miles below the mouth of the San Saba, a sort of epidemic appeared among the men, probably from eating wild fruits. He halted and sent forward scouts. The scouts returned on the third day and reported a large encampment on the west bank of the Colorado, just below the mouth of. the San Saba. Kuykendall determined, if, possible by a night march to make a daylight attack the next morning. The night march was made but owing to cedar brakes and broken ground to the regret of all, daylight appeared when they were five or six miles short of their destination. Still anxious for the advantages of a surprise at dawn. Capt. Kuykendall concealed his force in a dense cedar brake, to await another night and the dawn of the morrow. But a part of warriors, during the day, discovered Kuykendall's scouts, followed them and mutual discovery resulted in the redmen rushing to their camp to give the alarm. Kuykendall mounted and followed as rapidly as possible. Arriving in sight of the village, the Indians were seen mounting and fleeing, some already ascending the highlands. Kuykendall made a gallant charge on a band of warriors who remained to cover the retreat, but their stand was feeble. Only a few shots were fired, of which Nestor Clay, a brave and talented Kentuckian, killed the only warrior Indian who fell. A few squaws and children in the rear were allowed to follow their people. The Indians, however, left their camp equipage, including a great number of brass and copper rattles, blankets, buffalo robes, a considerable quantity of corn and a large number of horses, all of which were secured and taken in by the victors. During the afternoon Capt. Brown appeared. He had discovered the camp, secreted his men, put out concealed watchers and like Kuykendall, expected to attack at dawn on the following morning. He passed through the mountains on the east-side of the Guadalupe, across the Perdenales and Llano to the head of the San Saba. He encountered two small bands of Indians in the first killing three, and in the second near the Enchanted Rock, surprised a small camp near heavy thickets. Five or six Indians fell, the remainder escaping into the brush. Both appeared to be only hunting parties of warriors. It was on this trip that Capt Brown, with his men, became the discoverer of the Enchanted Rock. He had followed the San Saba dow n to its month and a little below that discovered the Indians encamped as already stated. Neither he nor Kuykendall knew of the other being in that section, until Brown discovered the flying Indians turning a ridge two or three miles away, upon, which he moved to the late Indian camp and there found the other party. The two commands moved down to Kuykendall's late camp. Several new cases of sickness appeared among the former's men, but none died. While here one of the men who went out hunting, did not return and could not be found. There were a number of wearied horses unable to travel with the command. Jesse Robinson and another man of Capt. Brown's company, volunteered to remain and if possible take them in, which greatly to their credit and the surprise of all, they successfully accomplished. On the sixth day in a perishable condition, the lost man fell in with Robinson and was saved. After traveling together two days, Kuykendall and Brown separated, the former deflecting eastward to and down the Brazos reaching San Felipe without other incidents worthy of mention. Of his two captains Oliver Jones became a leading senator in after years and Bartlett Simms a noted surveyor, a long resident of Bastrop county. Captain Brown bore down the Colorado and crossed it at the mouth of Shoal Creek, where the city of Austin stands, scoured the country on Onion, Creek, the Rio Blanco and the San Marcos and reached Gonzales without further adventure. It was these expeditions into its territory which twenty two years after his death caused Brown county to be named for him.

Capt. Brown continued actively in the pursuit of Mexican bandits, but with his untiring numerous engagements with depredating bands of Indians, energy and vigilance, he invariably made them regret that they ever attacked the sagacious border chief. On two occasions, once on the Nueces and once on the Medina, he was attacked by Mexican robbers, but he defeated both parties and they fled, leaving several dead. He was ever on the alert, and ready to meet his foes. In 1831, Captain Brown located at Columbia, Brazoria county. Soon afterwards the contest arose between the colonists and the Mexican garrisons at Nacogdoches, Anahuac (The mouth of the Trinity), and Velasco, (mouth of the Brazos), and particulars of which pertain to the history of the country. And as Captain Brown was always the first in war, we find him among the first volunteers to attack Anahuac. But upon ascertaining that the treaty made with Ugartechea, (which with the non-assistance of Bradburn at Anahuac) had been, broken, Captain Brown hastened home and was elected Captain of one of the three companies which attacked Velasco. Col. John Austin was senior officer and Captain William J. Russell commanded a detachment on an armed schooner in the river. Captain Brown's company was composed of some very prominent men. Edwin Waller, Robert Mills, the distinguished merchant, Dr Charles B. Stewart and others. William E. Wharton, Governor Henry Smith and other prominent men were privates in Austin's company. The most of Captain Brown's company was composed of boys, but his cool courage and daring bravery seemed to inspire them with a heroism worthy of veterans. Velaseo was garrisoned by 100 Mexican soldiers under Lieut. Col. Domingo Ugartechea. The attack was made at night, Austin on the upper side of the fort, the schooner in front and Captain Brown, by a circuit on the east side, effected a lodgement on the lower beach side among some drift logs, within fifty yards of the fort. The fight began about midnight and continued until an hour after sunrise, when a heavy rain causes a cessation, followed by a negotiation and the surrender of the fort. The loss of the Texans was seven killed and seventy-seven wounded, but they sunk some of their dead in the river. In this initial battle three years prior to the revolution proper in 1835, the most gallant heroism was displayed, but none won more laurels than Captain Henry S. Brown. His encouraging words to the boys of his Company, transforming them into men, of heroes, will ever be a pleasant theme and one which will be reverted to with pride. Out of the battle of Velasco grew the feud between Col. John Austin and William Wharton and this led to a duel between their respective brothers, William T. Austin and the brilliant John A. Wharton. Captain Brown, as a mutual friend, joined with the others in an endeavor for a peaceable adjustment, but this failing, he reluctantly attended, with Warren D.C. Hall, as next friend to Austin, on the field. Wharton's arm was broken on the first fire and the contestants subsequently became friends.

In 1833 Captain Brown was empowered to arrest some refugees from Louisiana supposed to be about San Antonio, shielded by the Mexican authorities. With half a dozen picked men he partially succeeded, but encountered the opposition of the Mexican soldiers, resulting in a skirmish at the Mission of San Jose, in which one of his men, Brazil Durbin was wounded by six different balls, and he had been shot by the Indians with a musket ball in 1826, which had never been extracted, yet he lived until 1858, Ben Duncan and English Tom Williams were captured and remained as prisoners for some time. Captain Brown and James Gibson were pursued by a squad of soldiers to Gonzales, but they repulsed and drove them back.

In December 1833, Captain Brown was elected one of the Ayuntamiento of the jurisdiction of Brazoria, a tribunal between our district, county and municipal courts, composed of an alcalde and two regidors, or associates. In this case Edwin Waller was alcalde, William H. Wharton and Henry S. Brown regidors and by them Henry Smith, (afterwards governor) was made secretary. They were inaugurated on the first day of January, 1834, and on the next day published an able address to the people, on the critical condition of the country, pending its application to be admitted as a state of the Mexican Union, a document of historic value in showing the actual condition of things at that time. On the 24th day of July of that year, Henry Smith was promoted to the important office of political chief of the department of Brazoria, embracing all the colonies in Texas; and two days later, on the 26th day of July, the soul of Henry S. Brown crossed the river, in the forty-second year of his checkered life. His attending physican was Anson Jones afterwards president of Texas. Captain Brown's remains were interred in the cemetery of the Bell family, in whose presence he breathed his last. He sleeps beneath the shades of a majestic live oak besides the once noted Captain Bird Lockhart.

Captain Brown was a true pioneer in the nobility and magnanimity of his nature; unselfish and generous, one who rejoices in the preventing and despised the stirring up of personal strife among men. His mind was quick and comprehensive and fertile in resources, upon sudden emergencies. If all the various episodes of his short but eventful life were recorded, it would remind one of the romantic Scottish legends. It was said by old citizens that he had more contests with the Indians and was more generally successful than any of the brave,pioneer chiefs of that day. Judge Waller, in a letter written in 1835 said, that while he was mercurial in temperament and furious when provoked to wrath, he was remarkable for self possession in danger, fearless as a lion and had a wonderful faculty for controlling (without seeming to control) men and of attaching them to him in the strongest bonds of friendship. He stated further that his death before the revolution was a great loss to Texas for in that struggle he would have been a pillar of strength. General Burleson, Thomas R. McKinney, President Anson Jones, Governor Henry Smith and other men of distinction, who knew him intimately, expressed similar views of his character. All agreed that if he had lived until the issue came he would have held a prominent position in the patriot army of 1835-6.

Many interesting events in his life have been omitted. Indeed his life from 1824 to 1833, was but a succession of hazards in the infantile condition of the country, with its spare population and numerous tribes of roving hostile savages. supplemented by the disturbed condition of the Mexican border, with its contingent of organized bands of banditti. Yet he proved equal to the emergency. The hideous yell of the wild Comanche along the mountain gorges sent no thrill of horror to his dauntless bosom and his name, a synonym of honor, courage and fidelity, is perpetuated by the beautiful county of Brown. But he left a worthy representative in the person of his son, John Henry Brown, who speaks more forcibly of the pure chivalrous character of the father than any such honor could bestow. Captain Brown's brother, Dr. Caleb S Brown, came to Texas from Mississippi in 1840 and was a prominent and useful citizen of Gonzales until his death in 1855. He was surgeon at the battles of Plum Creek and Salado. Dr. Hugh H. Brown, another brother, died in Missouri, but his widow and children came to Texas and now sleep in its soil. Nicholas Brown, a half brother, was a captain in the army of 1836, afterwards lived in Mississippi and California, but he died of yellow fever in Brownsville near the close of the Civil War. He was childless and Dr. Caleb S. Brown left but a single child, Mrs. Thomas V. Porter [Thomas J. Ponton] of Gonzales.

This article  from Frontier Times, Vol. 2, No. 9, June 1925 provided courtesy of Brown descendant Laura D. Dahlberg

1997-2008, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved.