Brown Family

  • A Splendid Adventure: Mary Yoder Brown Scott’s 1908 Trip to Italy

    By Sara Elliott, Director

    1908 Trip Blog Lillian MYBS

    May 6th is National Tourist Appreciation Day. Liberty Hall Historic Site (LHHS) is a favorite stop for folks who visit Frankfort and we are grateful for every one of them. In these days of non-travel, I thought I would share a story of Brown family members being tourists. Although travel is quite a bit different now than in the early 20th century, the experiences of tourists are universal.

  • Benjamin Gratz Brown

    By Sara Elliott, Director

    Gratz Brown Blog imagePortraits of Benjamin Gratz Brown by Oliver Frazer, oil on canvas, ca. 1835 (left) and ca. 1845 (right), Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections

    “Called Ben Gratz!!!” exclaimed John Brown on the name of his first grandchild[i]. Benjamin Gratz Brown was the only child of Mason and Judith Ann Bledsoe Brown and therefore the first grandchild of John and Margaretta Brown. Born on May 28, 1826 at the home of his namesake and great-great-uncle, Lexington businessman Benjamin Gratz, the infant would soon take up residence in the heart and home of his paternal grandparents in Frankfort.

  • Collections Spotlight: A Re-Discovered Kentucky Treasure at Liberty Hall

    By Mack Cox

    Fig. 1Figure 1. This fancy chair (one of six) and fancy settee date from about 1820 to 1830 and were early furnishings of Liberty Hall. They are attributed to the same anonymous chair making shop, which was likely located in Frankfort or Lexington.

    A gilded ball over a spike and ball foot caught my eye. It was visible below a protective sheet in Liberty Hall’s attic. As I raised the sheet, a magnificent Kentucky fancy chair appeared (Figure 1). It was painted vermillion red with chromium yellow, black, and gold leaf accents. The paint was original and pristine, and the original rush seat intact. It was as if the chair had been stored, untouched for centuries. Under adjoining sheets were five more matching chairs.  Although exhibiting heat damage (bubbled & faded paint with craquelure), perhaps from a mid-20th century fire at Liberty Hall, the additional chairs were in unusually good condition.

  • Collections Spotlight: China Painting

    By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

    China Painting Blog illustration one

    Plates. Liberty Hall Historic Site has a lot of them. I know this because I’ve been doing an inventory of the museum’s collection. Some of the more interesting ones (if plates can be interesting!) are a series of nineteen hand-painted plates dating to the 1880s. The designs are floral scenes and they are all painted on Haviland and Co. Limoges porcelain from France.  Some are signed by Brown family women.

  • Collections Spotlight: French Fashion

    By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

    French Fashion Blog Image 1House of Worth gown, ca. 1906; Weeks gown, 1910-1915; Cheruit gown and suit, 1910-1920, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections

    Among the fifty pieces of historic women’s clothing in the LHHS collection there are four early 20th century Parisian garments, three gowns and a suit.  Who in the family owned these clothes and did they travel to Europe to acquire them?  It seems that someone in the Brown family knew that Paris, France, was (and still is) the fashion capital of the world. American women who wished to be in style in the early 1900s bought French clothes.[i] 

  • Frankfort Friends: Paul Sawyier and the Browns

    By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

    Another View of Frankfort photo by Gene BurchAnother View of Frankfort, Paul Sawyier, watercolor on paper, ca. 1895, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections

    Liberty Hall Historic Site owns eight Paul Sawyier paintings.  Six of these were likely collected by Brown family members.  Though not born in Frankfort, Paul Sawyier (1865-1917) and his family moved to the capital city in 1870.  While living in Frankfort, Sawyier created watercolor landscape paintings of his central Kentucky surroundings. He also painted portraits and worked in oils. Sawyier was influenced by American Impressionism and studied with Impressionist artist, William Merritt Chase, in New York City in 1889.  

  • Hail Glorious Day! Early American Fourth of July Poems

    By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

    Fourth of July poetry image 1Title page from Margaretta Mason Brown's commonplace book, 1785-1807 and portrait of Margaretta Mason Brown, watercolor on ivory, ca. 1790s, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections

    One of my favorite items in the collection is a commonplace book owned by Margaretta Mason Brown (1772-1838).  The book contains 52 poems.  Margaretta wrote many of the poems in the book, but she also copied some of them from magazines and newspapers.  They are arranged chronologically, and she titled the book “Fugitive Pieces, or, Juvenile Essays.” Margaretta began writing and copying poems into the book in 1785, when she was just 13 years old and lived in New York City. The last poem in the book is dated 1807. 

  • Holiday History at Liberty Hall: Clues from the Library

    By Vicky Middleswarth, Educator

    Holiday plate optHand-painted plate, Haviland & Co. Limoges, porcelain, France, ca. 1880, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections.

    “There never has been a more delightful Christmas” wrote Margaretta Brown to her son Orlando in 1828.  But what exactly did she mean?  She went on to describe warm weather that was expected to last until New Year’s day and she implored Orlando to “be born to the newness of life” through his faith.[i]  What she did notmention was how they celebrated December 25. 

    In fact there are few references to Christmas in Brown family letters we know of, even later in the nineteenth century. No one wrote about hanging a wreath, trimming a tree, or expecting a visit from Santa.  A plate decorated with a winter scene is one of our only artifacts with a holiday theme. The library at Liberty Hall probably holds the most clues to how the Browns may have observed the winter holidays.

  • Oh What Responsibility Rests Upon Me! Margaretta Brown and the Frankfort Sabbath School for Girls

    By Vicky Middleswarth, Educator

    Sun dappled bench opt 1

    In a shady corner of the Liberty Hall garden, there’s a stone bench with an inscription on the seat. Its age makes it hard to read, but the words represent an important aspect of the life of Margaretta Brown.

  • Old-fashioned Election Cake

    By Vicky Middleswarth, Educator

    Cake 4Election cake loaf made with a recipe developed for the Old Farmer’s Almanac based on the one in The American Frugal Housewife.

    What special days do you assoicate with special foods? Is Election Day on your list? In some parts of early New England, Election Day was observed with a yeasty cake thought to be an American original.  Sometime after 1829, Margaretta Brown copied a recipe for “Election Cake” in a small oblong journal, one of several family receipt books in Liberty Hall’s archival collection.

  • Scenes from a Western Journey: Excerpts from John Mason Brown’s 1861 diary

    By Sara Elliott, Director

    Map RouteMap showing the route taken by John Mason Brown on his trip to the Northwest in 1861, The Filson Club History Quarterly, 1950.

    John Mason Brown, the son of Mason and Mary Yoder Brown, was born at Liberty Hall in April 1837. A graduate of Yale, Brown taught school in Frankfort, worked for the Kentucky Geological Survey, studied law and shortly after being admitted to the Kentucky bar, followed his half-brother, Benjamin Gratz Brown, to St. Louis in 1860.

    Brown was interested in history, geology, geography, and languages. Therefore, it is not surprising that the lure of the west—the west that Lewis and Clark had seen a little over 50 years before—would lead him on a six-month adventure that, fortunately for us, he chronicled in his diary.