William Laban Brown was born 28 May 1834 in the Stock Creek community of Knox County, Tenn.
He was the son of Major John Brown II of Knox Co. and Mary[Polly] Gossett born in Guilford County North Carolina, the daughter of Absolum and Alice White Gossett of North Carolina. He was born on the Brown family farm near Knoxville which was a land grant to William Brown on December 26, 1791 probably his great-grandfather. William Laban Brown married Nancy Colvin Brown who was born on March 30, 1834. Nancy's maiden name was also Brown, though no relation at the time to her future husband. Her
parents were Benjamin Brown and
her mother was Martha Cusick. William and Nancy lived in a little
log cabin in Knox County, Tennessee. They had five children, Martha Louisa (1856-1875), Mary Melissa (1858-1871), John Judson
(1859-1877), William Henry (1861-1934), and Albert Rosecrans Brown
times in his letters to his wife he referred to himself as Paw when
instructing her to tell the children something he gotten them or just to tell
He mustered in 3rd Tennessee Cavalry Union Army company B in 1863. He was in his late twenties when he went to war. In one of Brown's
letters home he stated that because he was older than many of
the other guys in his regiment they referred to him as "the old
man" for the fun of it.
I believe this is the first soldier
I have had the privilege to read so many letters he sent home during
the years he was off in battle. There are to many to just post them all
here but I will reference the website they can be found on below with
in the sources for your pleasure to read. I couldn't help but shed
tears while reading through them. He stated in a letter dated May 18, 1863, "
The children and you I
would like to see. But if you I no more seen on earth I
still hope we will meet on Canaan(‘s) peaceful shore where parting
will be no more. Tell the children that Paw said be good
children and Maw Nancy I promise you that I would not forget to
pray and I often pray God to bless me in all my trials and
troubles and get home and I want you to pray also." As I already knew his outcome. He would never get to see his family here on this earth.
In several letters home he would
end his letters with phrases of a hymnal. It wasn't until his letter
on September 21, 1864 that he stated why he did that. He stated to his
wife that it was his favorite hymn so he told her that whenever she
heard it to think of him and ended his letter with this phrase of the
song called There is a Fountain Filled with Blood, "There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s
veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their
guilty stains. The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain
in his day, and there may I as vile as he, wash all my sins
away." This was the last letter apparently due to being captured by the
Rebs near Athens, Alabama on September 24 or the 25th. Most of his
regiment surrendered or was captured on these two separate days. Under
the authority of Major S.W. Pickens there were about 150 men who were at
Athens, Alabama. Several men representing six different regiments
signed a statement protesting against the surrender as unjustified to
Major General Forrest. However, 400 men were captured at Blockhouses 7
and 8 and Sulphur Trestle on the Nashville and Decatur Railroad.
Between the two events it almost wiped out the regiment. The officers
were exchanged on December 15, 1864 and was sent to Camp Hicks near
Vicksburg awaiting their exchange to go home.
He was able to
send a letter once again on April 11 and 14th while waiting to be
exchanged. He didn't know if he would get to write another letter home,
because they didn't have any money at that time. He had no idea how
correct that would be, but one would have to assume that once he boarded
the Sultana his hopes of going home was soaring high. April 27, 1865,
William Laban Brown would be one of many thousands of souls taken from
this world and their loved ones who was awaiting their return home.
This was truly a man who loved his whole family very much and wrote to
them as often as he possibly could as well as send them money every
chance he got.
After the death of their father, Nancy Brown being unable to care for the five young children she placed them in the National Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphan Home in Washington, D.C. Three of them died of tuberculosis in their late teens and early twenties, except Albert Rosecrans and William Henry. She believed her children would get a good education. She also worked there for a time herself. The children were there about seven years from 1865 to 1873. Letters indicate Mary Melissa became ill in DC, but died in Knoxville as
Nancy had taken her two girls back home sometime in the 1870's while
the three boys stayed in D.C. All three of the oldest contracted either TB or Trichinosis and died in their teens. Leaving William Henry and Albert Rosecrans the only two surviving children to carry on Brown's lineage.
William Henry Brown was born on August 1, 1861 on the Brown's family farm. He married Annie Louise McPherson, Anniston, Alabama, and he died July 25, 1934. Many people know and call him "Major." Major William H. Brown was very well known in the city of Knoxville where he resided for many years. He was well known for his military affairs as he served as Captain of Old Company C, in the Coal Creek riot. He also served as Major in the 3rd Tennessee Regiment in the Spanish-American War. He was living in Johnson City at the time of his mother's death in 1913.
Albert Rosecrans never knew his father as he was born after his father mustered into the Union Army in 1863. While his father was in army he served under the command of General William Rosecrans. Albert's father thought so much of the general he named Albert middle name after him.
William Laban Brown, had served under the command of Union Army Gen.
William Rosecrans during the Civil War. His father thought so much of
the general, he chose Rosecrans as his son's middle name. After Albert was placed in the orphanage in 1865 he went on to become one of East
Tennessee's most respected businessmen and political figures. In 1893 Albert married Tuppie Burleson of Plumtree, Avery Co, North Carolina. He moved to Erwin, TN in 1894 and opened up a hardware and mercantile store called A.R. Brown and Company. Ironically, he and his wife also had five; Jessee Burleson, Olive
English, Alberta, Jodie, and Haynes. Albert organized and was also president of the First National Bank. He also served as president of Unicoi Band and
Trust Company, Erwin Water Company, Erwin Manufacturing Company, Erwin
Cemetery Company, Erwin Inn Corporation, and Unaka Academy. He was secretary-treasurer of the Erwin Development Company; served as
vice-president of Unicoi Telephone Company; served as secretay of the
Tennessee Textbook Commission; and served as trustee of Carson-Newman
College. He was an active member of the First Baptist Church of Erwin. His mother Nancy lived with him until her death in 1913 of a stroke as she never regained consciousness. They transported her back to the Brown's family cemetery in Knox County, Tennessee. Brown was also an alderman and mayor in Erwin as well as a member of the
Tennessee General Assembly from 1927-1933. Brown died in a car accident on May 29, 1937. Albert Rosecrans had built one of East Tennessee's most significant homes in Erwin, now known as the
A.R. Brown House. Up until the 1990's was the home of his
last daughter, Jodie. Jodie died in 2006 in the same room in which she was born as she literally lived in the same house all of her life. Today the home is still in the Brown's family which is owned by Brown's granddaughter, Martha B. Stromberg of Erwin.
Both brothers are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Erwin, Tennessee.
Civil War Letter of William L. Brownhttp://www.sounddoc.com/wlbrown/wlbrown2.html
William Laban Brown and A.R. Brown Family Papershttp://archives.etsu.edu/index.php?p=collections/findingaid&id=768&rootc>
Family Group Recordshttp://www.argenweb.net/scott/brown2.pdf
Knoxville News Sentinel: East Tenn. home, school named to National Registerhttp://www.knoxnews.com/news/local-news/east-tenn-home-school-named-to-national-register