Biographical Sketch of Jacob Brown (died 1785)

By Phil Norfleet

Gabriel and Jacob Brown in South Carolina

Brown's Creek, now in Union County, South Carolina, was named after Gabriel Brown (d. 1780), the elder brother of Jacob Brown (1736-1785). The creek was originally called Ranger's Lodge.  However, on 3 April 1752, Gabriel Brown acquired a patent from the Province of North Carolina (NC) for 200 acres located near the point where the creek flows into the Broad River.  [See NC Patent Book 2, page 6]  Soon thereafter the creek became known as Brown's Creek.  Gabriel and Jacob Brown's father seems to have been a certain John Brown, [See Mecklenburg County NC Patent Book 23, page 294] but the brothers' place of birth is unknown.  Most historians have speculated that they were born in VA, probably Augusta County. Jacob and Gabriel were probably the first settlers in the Brown's Creek area, arriving about 1750 or 1751. At that time, the region was thought to be part of Anson County, North Carolina, hence both Jacob and Gabriel received patents for their land in this area from the Province of North Carolina.

Jacob Brown acquired a 300-acre grant from North Carolina on 24 September 1754. [See NC Patent Book 15, page 40] The grant stated that the land was located in Anson County, North Carolina.  A record of Jacob's grant [1] is on file at the North Carolina State Archives, it states:

"Jacob Brown three hundred acres Anson [County] on the So Side of Broad River on a fork of Browns Creek Below the Great Shoals of said Creek. Begins at a Chestnut Tree ... to the first Station. September 24th 1754 ... "

Gabriel Brown's land grant falls within an area that has been platted by members of the Union County Historical Society and published by that Society in 1976.

Link to Plat Map of Brown's Creek Area

Jacob Brown's land grant lies about a mile to the west of Gabriel's.  I have personally located and visited the location of this 300-acre tract which once belonged to Jacob Brown and later was purchased by John Mayfield. The tract is about a mile west of Broad River at the fork of Big Brown's Creek and Little Brown's Creek, and is about three miles south of where the modern road SC 49 crosses Broad River, at the village of Lockhart.  The Browns Creek - Lockhart area, as it was in the early 19th century,  is shown in the Mills Atlas (first published in 1825) map for Union County.

 Link to Mills Atlas Map of Brown's Creek Area

Historians such as Judge Haywood and J. M. G. Ramsey have referred to Brown as "a small merchant" [2] and Jacob probably operated a small store at this location.  After he purchased this land from Jacob Brown in 1770, John Mayfield is reputed to have had a grocery store here.  In my opinion, the location would have been ideal for such an enterprise in the 18th century. 

Death of Gabriel Brown

Although Jacob ultimately removed to what is now Eastern Tennessee, Gabriel Brown remained in South Carolina for the rest of his life.  He supported the Whig cause during the Revolution and became a Captain in the SC Militia forces commanded by General Thomas Sumter.  Gabriel was killed on 20 November 1780, during the Battle of Blackstocks.  He was slain by the same British musket volley that seriously wounded General Sumter.  At the time, Gabriel was situated on the General's left in the front line of the advancing Whig forces. [8]

Jacob Brown in Tennessee

On 2 August 1770, Jacob Brown sold his Brown's Creek property to a certain John Mayfield.  After the sale, Jacob removed to the Nolichucky River area in what is now northeastern Tennessee. Upon his arrival, Jacob leased land from the Cherokees and established a trading post.  In addition, Jacob served the needs of the Indians as both a blacksmith and gunsmith. [3]   In March 1775, Jacob was at the negotiations conducted at Sycamore Shoals between Judge Richard Henderson and the Cherokee Nation, whereby Henderson "bought" all the land south of the Ohio and north of the Cumberland River - essentially what is now the State of Kentucky!  The Cherokee's were only too happy to sell the land since they didn't really own it!  The territory was a hunting ground used by all the tribes that lived in the general area, particularly the Shawnee.

A few days after the Henderson acquisition, on 25 March 1775, Jacob Brown also acquired two sizeable tracts of land in the Limestone Creek/Nollichucky River area of what is now Unicoi, Greene and Washington Counties Tennessee - these tracts were collectively known as "Brown's Purchases." 

Link to Map of Jacob Brown's Purchases in TN

Of course, all of these land acquisitions were expressly forbidden by the Royal Proclamation of 1763, condemned by the royal governors of both VA and NC, and were rejected as invalid by the successor state government of VA and NC! The rejections notwithstanding, the Henderson purchase opened the floodgates of migration to KY - Daniel Boone was acting as an agent of Henderson when he led one of the first groups of settlers into the area. The fact that Henderson dared to defy the Proclamation of 1763 is a strong indicator that royal authority along the Frontier had already ceased to exist by early 1775.

Jacob Brown's home was located on the north bank of the Nolichucky River near the mouth of Cherokee Creek. Brown's home was about three miles west of the site of John Sevier's home, Mount Pleasant. [4] It is interesting to observe that at least three members of the Mayfield family, Micajah, Isaac and Sutherland, lived on Cherokee Creek in the 1780's. In fact, in 1784, Jacob Brown served on a jury where Micajah Mayfield was tried on a charge of adultery. [5]

Jacob held the rank of captain in the Washington County, North Carolina militia. In October 1780, Jacob led his company, under the regimental command of John Sevier, on the Kings Mountain campaign. While living under the State of Franklin government, Jacob was promoted to second major of the Washington County militia. His last active military service was on the Boyd's Creek campaign. Jacob Brown died on 28 June 1785. [6]

Ruth Gordon, Wife of Jacob Brown

While still living in SC, in 1760, Jacob Brown married Ruth Gordon (1740-1810), daughter of John and Ruth Gordon. The Gordons had come down from Virginia in about 1751 and acquired land in that part of South Carolina which later became Union and Newberry Counties.  I suspect that these Gordons may be related to the family of John Gordon (d. 1758) of Nansemond County Virginia and Chowan County North Carolina.  John Gordon's branch of the Gordon Clan intermarried with the several of my  Norfleet relatives in the Albermarle Region of North Carolina.

Jacob and Ruth Gordon had four known children.  All four children were born in South Carolina during the 1760's, i. e., Jacob, Jr., Benjamin, Thomas and John Gordon Brown.

Jacob Brown seems to have become estranged from his wife, Ruth, prior to relocating to the Nolichucky region - she never joined him while he lived there. While living in northeastern Tennessee, Jacob formed a liaison with a certain Anne Henderson. This relationship continued throughout the remainder of Jacob's life. Brown tried to make a provision for Anne by conveying to her a lifetime interest in a 180-acre plantation in 1781. This attempt failed. After Jacob's death, Ruth Brown brought suit contending that the conveyance to Anne Henderson was fraudulent. The suit dragged on for several years and finally, in 1802, it was decided in favor of Ruth Brown, in a decision handed down by Judges David Campbell (1750-1812), another distant kinsman of mine, and Andrew Jackson! [7]  A few years later, Ruth Brown died in 1810.

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1.  See North Carolina Patent Book 15, page 40.

2.  See John Haywood, The Civil and Political History of the State of Tennessee (1823), page 55 and J. M. G. Ramsey, The Annals of Tennessee (1853), page 110.

3.  Paul M. Fink, Jacob Brown of Nolichucky, Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Volume XXI, Number 3 (September 1962), page 237.

4.  Ibid, page 244.

5.  Ibid, page 249.

6.  Ibid, pages 244-249.

7.  Ibid, pages 249-250.

8.  Robert D. Bass, Gamecock - The Life and Campaigns of General Thomas Sumter (published 1961), page 107.

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