The Brown Family
The Brown family was part of the 1710 Palatine German migration to upstate New York. They settled in Schoharie where John Brown married Magdalena Zeh on May 5, 1770. John Brown and his brothers joined the Loyalist cause during the American Revolution, and he, Magdalena and their children moved to Fort Niagara in 1781.
John served as a private in Captain Lewis Genevay’s Company of the Corps of Rangers, known as Butler’s Rangers from 1781 until their discharge in 1783. He was subsequently granted 900 acres of land in adjoining corners of Thorold, Pelham and Louth Townships to reward his loyal service to the crown and to replace lands he lost in Schoharie. This tract included the parcel on which the John Brown House sits facing Pelham Road (referred to in John’s will as “the place where I now live … lot No. 3 in the Eighth Concession in Louth”), as well as the rolling hills and valleys once referred to as “The Gore,” now part of the Short Hills Provincial Park, which the building overlooks.
In order to ratify the land grant the soldier in question had to clear a certain amount of land (often at least five acres) and build a dwelling no smaller than 20 x 16 feet. The section currently considered the original structure of the home, now the rear section of the present building, is exactly 20 x 18 feet. Differences in stonework, eaves treatments and window and floor heights, suggest that this rear wing was not built by the same craftsman, and thus predated the building of the main block. The absence of certain window openings in the two-story portion is considered to indicate that this rear section was already in place when the larger part of the house was built. The stonework is so skillfully worked together that a joint is not clearly discernable. This, however, has been considered additional evidence of the level of craftsmanship employed.
The soldier also had to occupy the dwelling for one year before his patent was granted. Given that the land grant was ratified in 1797, the current assumption is that the original structure was completed by 1796. Construction of the remainder of the house is said to have begun in 1802. This rear wing was likely used as a kitchen upon completion of the main house. John left a sizable sum of cash when he died two years later in 1804. Mrs. Brown was willed all of John Brown’s property on his death, to be divided between his children upon her death.