The Old Wooden Wagon from 1770
Residing in the basement of Valentown Hall for some decades has been an ancient wooden freight or farm wagon. A sign was on it that told of it's construction in 1770 and having been used in the Revolutionary war as a supply wagon in the Hudson Valley. This information was no doubt taken from descriptions from its' purchaser, J. Sheldon Fisher, who acquired it from an antique dealer in Ohio in the 1950's.
On the left back wheel was deeply carved the name of OLIVER BROWN. On the right side wheel was deeply carved the name of HOSEA BROWN.
Check out more images of the wagon in our Exhibits Gallery!
A story by Joy McMullen on the website, Ancestry.com, relates the story of Oliver Brown. He was born in Stonington, CT in 1760. The young Oliver joined the federal Army in 1776 and served four years in the War of Independence. The History of the Western Reserve (Ohio) adds that he served in the vicinity of New York, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. He was active in the battles of Long Island, Harlem Heights, Fort Mercer, Brandywine, Germantown and others, and was at George Washington's camp at Valley Forge where many hardships were endured by the soldiers in winter. For his service he earned a pension of $8 per month, paid semiannually and started in 1818.
All this is very interesting, and it would be even more interesting if this Oliver Brown was the same who carved his name in the Valentown wagon wheels. There were probably quite a number of Oliver Browns over the course of history, and there appears to be no direct link from that Oliver to this wagon.
However, there is more to the story.
Oliver was married to Mrs. Gracie Gregory in 1780 and set up household in Norwich, CT. They became the parents of 7 children, including a son by the name of Hosea, born in 1783 in Stonington, CT. Young Hosea learned the trade of boot and shoe making, and married Miss Chloe Bemiss in 1810. The above history is quoted: "Hosea Brown, senior, accompanied his father and other members of the family to Genesee County New York, and later to the Western Reserve." "They made the journey through an almost trackless wilderness and utilized ox teams and covered wagons." The town in Genesee County was Riga, just west of the Genesee River, and the year they left Riga for Ohio was 1816. It is said that the land to which the family moved in Ohio was a U.S. government land grant, awarded for Oliver's military service. Oliver Brown died at the age of 85 on June 5, 1845.
One clue as to Hosea's military experience was a record in Ohio that he had successfully pettioned the federal court in 1879 for a raise in his military pension. This was earned from his service in the War of 1812, evidently while he was in Riga. Hosea's days ended on Christmas day of 1857.
All of this circumstantial evidence makes the case quite strongly that the Valentown wagon is in fact the wagon used by the above Oliver and Hosea Brown. It could in fact have been used in the Revolutionary War for supply movements, its' appearance and form matches that description. It could well have been bought in a used condition by Oliver for his move to Riga, NY, possibly by the military road or path that is now U.S. Route 20. As one time historian for the Rochester Museum in the 1930's and 40's, Sheldon Fisher may have acquired the information that this historical piece was available by virtue of his position and contacts at the time. Oliver had a son, Hosea, who accompanied him along the moves from CT to NY, and to the present day Ohio. The information that he found it in Ohio is strong circumstantial evidence along with the rest of the story that the wagon's ownership is attributable to the above Oliver Brown. We might surmise that Oliver or Hosea carved the names in the wheel felloes before or during one of their two moves. The reason why may never be known; but we are grateful that it was done to allow us to now decipher part of their journey.
Historic Valentown Museum