Jerome Brown & Mary or Polly Pratt
and Their Descendants
By Paul Robison DeBry
In 1974, Aldis Jerome Browne of Chicago, a great-great-grandson of Jerome Brown, Sr. hired a professional genealogist in Illinois to trace his Browne line back to Colonial days in a successful attempt to be accepted as a member of the Society of Colonial Wars. In so doing, this researcher came across Jerome Brown, Sr. She was not able to find any record of his wife, however, and listed Mary or Polly Pratt as simply, “unknown.” She then continued researching the Browne line back to the 1500’s.
We have likewise traced the Pratt line back to the 1500’s, but where we tie into the Browne line, we have also listed it as “unknown.”
Thus, for over 150 years, the Browne’s did not know about the Pratt’s, and the Pratt’s did not know about the Browne’s. It was a letter from Parley P. Pratt that, once found, tied these two families together.
This letter, from Parley to his brother Orson in 1853, stated that Jared Jerome Brown was still alive provided the spark of information that led us to discover the Browne descendants. A search of the 1850 US census found Jerome Brown living in New York. Then, in the 1860 census he was listed with his family in Washington D.C. (Note: the Brown name was spelled without an “e” on the end until the family moved to Washington D.C. in the 1850’s when they added the “e” to the end of their name. They did this because that is the way their ancestors in England spelled Browne.)
Finding this family led us to the descendants of Jerome and Mary Brown, thus solving the mystery of the Browne and Pratt family connection.
It would not surprise me if the scanty records left by Orson and Parley that mention Jerome Brown, Sr. and Mary or Polly Pratt together with their son, Jared Jerome Brown, are the only records in existence that tie this family together.
Here is a brief recap of each generation beginning with Jerome Browne, Sr. and Mary or Polly Pratt who were married about 1811: (Note: In our ancestor’s time, “Polly” was a nickname for “Mary”).
1st and Generation – (born late 1700’s to the early 1800’s)
Jerome Brown was 32 years old when he married 17 year old Mary or Polly Pratt, an only child of Jared Pratt and Mary of Polly Carpenter. Jerome had been married earlier and had three children with his first wife, Lucy Simons.
Jerome and Polly were married in about 1811. She bore him one son, Jared Jerome Browne in 1812. He became known as Jerome Browne, Jr.
Jerome, Sr. left Mary and returned to his first wife. Jerome, Sr. and Lucy lived together, died nine months apart, and are buried next to each other in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, New York.
In 1816, when Mary’s son, Jared Jerome Brown was four years old, Mary married a man named Samuel Bigelow of New Lebanon, Columbia County, New York. They had no children. Mary died January 2, 1849 at age 52.
Other than Parley’s mention that Mary’s son was named, Jared Jerome Brown, we find no record of him using the name Jared. He was known as Jerome Browne, Jr. The name Jerome appears as the middle name of several of his descendants down to the current time.
2nd Generation (born 1812)
Jerome Browne, Jr. (1812-1894), an only child, took his family off the farm, as was the case with many families at the beginning of the industrial revolution. He became a merchant in New York and then moved to Washington D.C. where he became an insurance agent. He and his wife Mary Padgett had 10 children, only three of which grew to maturity.
Two of the children, Hiram, age 16, and Hattie, age five died within a few months of each other, indicating that they may have died from a disease such as cholera which swept the early populations of this country before vaccinations were discovered. George, born in 1864, during the Civil War, died as an infant. These three, together with their parents, are buried in the same plot in Glenwood Cemetery, in Washington D.C. Only the headstones of Hiram and Hattie, seen here, remain today.
Another son, Jerome Levi Brown was born in about 1846 in Washington D.C. The family then moved to New Hartford, New York where Jerome Levi Brown died in early August, 1853 in New Hartford, New York. He is buried in a family cemetery plot purchased by his father in Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, New York. He is in the same plot with his grandfather, Jerome Brown, Sr. and his step-grandmother, Lucy Simons.
At the time of this writing we do not know the names of three of these 10 children. We do know that they children died young.
3rd Generation (born in the mid-1800’s)
Aldis, Sarah, and Francis (Frank) were the three of the ten children who survived to live to maturity.
Sarah had no children, Frank only had two, but Aldis had seven and most of the posterity of this Browne family comes through him.
Aldis Birdsey Browne (1857-1914) and his family became very well known in Washington D.C. legal, business, philanthropic, and social circles. Three years after graduating from law school at Columbia University, he became a member of the reputable and well respected firm of Britton & Gray in Washington D.C. His clients consisted of many of the large and Influential corporations in the area of finance, railroad, and other corporations.
“Despite the many calls of his time,” wrote a biographer, “Mr. Browne has any interests aside from his law practice, and his name is found among the directors in many of the philanthropic, educational, religious and scientific institutions of the city. He is a director of both the Atlantic and Pacific Building Companies; trustee of the American University (which he helped found), of this city, ad a director of the Washington Hospital for Foundlings; trustee of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church, this city, and of the Woman’s College, Baltimore. Among other societies and institutions with which Mr. Browne is affiliated may be mentioned the Columbian Historical Society, the National Geographical Society, the American Geographical Society, the American Society for the Advancement of Science, the American Forestry Association, and the Columbian University Alumni Association.
In his law practice he appeared often before the United States Supreme Court.
“On December 1, 1880, Mr. Browne married Mary … Delahay. Seven children, all living …”
His obituary in the Washington Post, June 2, 1914 states that:
“Forty-three years ago, when he was but 14 years old, Aldis B. Browne left the public and private schools of Washington to enter the law firm of Britton & Gray as an office boy, and he remained connected with that firm all is life, at the time of his death being the senior partner.”
Among his pallbearers were well known members of the legal world as well as the Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Chancellor of the American University. One of the honorary pallbearers was Justice Van Devanter of the US Supreme Court.
Cause of death was Bright’s disease, a very painful disease of the kidneys. The obituary says that he died “after a year and a half of illness.”
Aldis and his wife Mary are buried in the Rock Creek Cemetery in D.C. along with four of their five sons.
This is a man who accomplished a lot by the time of his death at the young age of 57.
Aldis’ older sister, Sarah, married John West Wagner, an architect. They had no children and were later divorced.
Younger brother, Francis, or Frank as he was called, was a patent attorney who had his own office, but worked with his brother on several cases. His wife, Lena Delano, of German parentage, had two children. Frank and Lena are buried together in the Rock Creek Cemetery with his parents and brothers.
4th Generation (born in the late 1800’s)
Seven of the children of this generation are from Aldis Birdsey Browne and Cornelia Semple. Two are from his brother, Frank and his wife Lena Delano.
This generation of Aldis’ family launched off of the success of their father, Aldis Birdsey Browne, into the legal, philanthropic, and social scene in Washington, D.C. They were well educated. Three of them graduated from Yale University; Evans, Alexander, and Aldis.
The Washington Post has over 100 entries in their newspaper reporting on the Browne’s appearing in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. They became wealthy and their marriages and other civic activities were well chronicled in the Washington Post newspaper in the 1920’s and 30’s. They were a close family who went to college together and worked together professionally. Many of them are even buried together.
Evans and Alexander were lawyers and practiced law with their father at Britton & Gray. The three other sons, Aldis, Jessie, and Arthur were successful real estate developers. Aldis moved to Chicago while Jessie and Arthur built some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the District of Columbia.
One article about the Browne’s in the Washington Post, Society Section, mentions that even though they had several cars, they were only used to go to work and when it rained. For social occasions they always took the carriages which were pulled by fine horses.
The seven children of Aldis Birdsey Browne and Cornelia Semple are as follows:
- Evans Browne (1882-1920) the first to graduate from Yale, died in his law office one day from a heart attack. He was 38 years old. He had complained of not feeling well for weeks. He left a beautiful estate in Edgemoor, Maryland that was for several years occupied by the Swiss Legation (diplomat).
- Helen Browne (1883-1935) married John Fletcher Comer, the son of the Governor of Georgia. They moved to Alabama where they raised four children.
- Alexander Browne (1885-1936) the second Yale graduate was vice president of a large real estate firm in D.C. His wife, Cornelia Semple, was a beautiful girl from Kentucky. She was only 18 when they were married. He was 28. The Washington Post had this large picture of her in the Society section on January 24, 1915 wearing this large brimmed hat, seen here. It said, “Noted beauty of Smart Set in Washington.” Under her picture it said: “Among the noted beauties of the Capital’s younger married set is Mrs. Browne, who before her marriage was Miss. Cornelia Semple, of Louisville, Ky., one of the belles of the South.” Sadly, at the young age of 35, this appeared in the newspaper:
Death notice in the Washington Post, March 14, 1929. Died at age 35.
“BROWNE–On Tuesday, March 12, 1929, at her residence, 1917 Twenty-three street northwest, CORNELIA SEMPLE, wife of Alex Britton Browne, age thirty-five years.Funeral from the late residence, on Thursday, March 14, at 3 p.m. Interment at Louisville, Ky., on Friday, March 15. (Louisville papers please copy.)”
He remarried, but followed her to the grave seven years later at age 51. He died while visiting at a friend’s home in Connecticut of a heart attack.
- Aldis Jerome Browne, (1886-1961) the last of this generation to graduate from Yale became successful in real estate development. After his wedding to Elizabeth Cunningham, a girl from Chicago he moved there and raised his family.
- Jessie Delahay Browne (1888-1915) was in real estate and building construction. He married a beautiful and wealthy girl from Pennsylvania, named Hester Harton Singer. Her picture appeared in the Society section of the Washington Post. Her uncle was the Secretary of State under President Taft and she was often invited to social functions at the White House.In 1914 they were living in “The Wyoming” a prestigious Victorian hotel, built just four years earlier in 1910, on Connecticut Avenue, NW, in D.C. This was an area of town that Jessie and his brother’s Arthur and Alexander developed. Women’s Who’s Who of America, reported this in their 1914-1915 issue. The important item in this entry is that it gives the name of their young daughter. It was the same as her mother, Hester Harton Browne.Jessie died about a year later after moving to Providence, Rhode Island to engage in business there.When her father died he left her a large estate.
It was reported in the newspaper as follows:The Charleroi Mail Newspaper, Charleroi, Washington County, Pennsylvania, dated Saturday, July 20, 1928:
“Singer Estate Will Amount to Millions”
“Pittsburgh, July 20-The estate of H. Harton Singer, of Edgeworth, on probate today, will amount to approximately $1,000,000, to a son and daughter, G. Harton Singer, Jr. and Hester Singer Semple, it was estimated.
“A trust fund for education and maintenance of two grandsons was established. It totaled $50,000. Several provisions were made for employees.”
This was a time when a newspaper cost two cents, a pair of shoes $3.00 and the average yearly wage of a worker was $1,200, or $100 a month. A person with $1,000,000 in the bank would earn $30,000 a year in interest. It would take the average person 25 years to earn what a million dollars would bring in interest in one year. She could not spend even the interest on her money.
Jessie died before she received her inheritance. In 1915, at the age of 26, after only four years of marriage, he died of peritonitis following an operation for appendicitis.
Hester was 28 when Jessie died. Three year later, in 1918, at age 31 she remarried. Her new husband was Richard Hollyday Semple. He had a six year old son by a prior marriage and she had a five year old daughter. He became president of the Continental Bank of Chicago, a prominent bank, well known throughout the entire United States. He was well known in the banking world from coast to coast and was often quoted in newspapers and financial magazines on economic matters.
- Arthur Browne (1890-1933)
Arthur’s marriage announcement includes this information:“Special to The Washington Post.
Rockville, Md., April 28.-At Ravenswood, the home of the bride’s parents, near Rockville, (Maryland) Miss Jane A. Walter, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Walter, and Mr. Arthur Browne, of Washington, were married at 8 o’clock this evening by Rev. Dr. Austin, rector of the Episcopal Church at Chevy Chase. Owing to the Browne family being in mourning, only members of the two families were present.” (Arthur’s 26-year-old brother Jessie, and business parter, died three months earlier, on January 30, 1915 -see above).
Arthur was Vice President of Hagner & Co., a successful real estate development company in Washington D.C. He died at age 57. Jane lived to be 71-years-old. They are buried together in the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington D.C.
- Mary Elizabeth Browne (1897-1973)
She married Walter Boyden in 1918 in Washington D.C. This was the year the United States entered World War I. Walter was a Lieutenant in the military. They had three children.
Little is known about Aldis’ other brother, Francis or Frank Browne and his wife Lena Delano and their two children, Ruth and Dudley.
Frank lived to be 74 and Lena, 85. They are buried together with his parents, three brothers, and other family members in the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington D.C.
We do know that Frank’s son Dudley was a patent attorney in Washington D.C. Dudley moved to New York City and became vice president of the American Home Products Corp, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. There are no children listed in the will of Dudley’s wife Eva who died at age 62. He died in 1973 at age 82.
5th Generation (born in the early 1900’s)
Sixteen descendants and 11 spouses are known in this generation. Most have passed on. Here are short biographies of some of the most prominent:
Secor Delahay Browne (1916-1986) was the Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board from 1969 to 1973.
Jessica Boyden, never married, was the Executive Administrator for the Vice President of Columbia University in New York City from 1961 to 1971.
Walter Boyden, was a student at Harvard University in 1913. Barbara Boyden, another sister graduated from Radcliff in 1947.
John and Mary Ruby, children of Helen Browne Comer and her husband, John, whose father was governor of Georgia, had a beautiful estate on 70 acres, called “Ruby Lodge at Spring Lake Woods” in Kentucky, where he was born. Today it is a Bed and Breakfast. You can see it on YouTube at http://www.bedandbreakfast.com/ky-madisonville-rubylodgeatspringlakewoods_videos.html
Aldis Birdsey Browne II (1907-1981) He carried the same name as his grandfather, not his father. Despite being only 4 feet tall; he overcame his handicap and graduated from Yale in 1934 with a degree in Fine Arts. He became a well known landscape and portrait artist.
He was commissioned in 1948 to “Colorize” a grayscale print of the Hartford waterfront behind the bar of the historic and famous “Griswold Inn” in Essex, Connecticut. Little did he know that his Pratt ancestors had lived in that town for hundreds of years. They would have frequented that Inn for generations. We know that Parley P. Pratt stopped there at one time.
Aldis was one of the founding members of the Essex Art Association. He specialized in watercolors.
Once while he was painting a scene for the Coast Guard, Aldis and Captain Jones had a disagreement. According to Admiral Perkins, Aldis “rose to his full four feet and threatened to paint Jones’ face on the figure of a smuggler in one of the murals.”
6th, 7th, and 8th generations are alive at this writing (November 2009) and therefore, for privacy reasons, nothing is written about them.
Recap of the generations:
1st Generation – Jared and Polly Carpenter Pratt had only one child, Mary.
2nd Generation- Mary Pratt and her husband Jerome Brown also only had one child, Jared Jerome Browne, later known as Jerome Browne, Jr.
3rd Generation -Only two of the 10 children of this generation lived to have offspring.
At the end of these first three generations there are only two descendants. It is unusual that this line could survive.
4th Generation -It took Aldis Birdsey Browne I (1857-1914) and his wife Mary to insure the continuance of their posterity by having seven children who were born in this 4th generation, all of whom lived to maturity, married, and had children. As far as it is known today, (December 12, 2009) all of the descendants of Jared and Polly Pratt, who are now living, come through Aldis Birdsey Browne I and his wife Mary Delahay.
The continued posterity of Jared and Polly Pratt is now assured.
 http://www.uscga1962.org/mural/browne/aldisBrowneLawyer.pdf (accessed Nov. 16, 2009)
 Woman’s Who’s Who of America, 1914-1915, John William Leonard, editor, New York, New York. The American Commonwealth Company.