Monday, May 1, 2017

Colonel Henry Brown’s House – Part 1

Brownhelm Township is celebrating its bicentennial this year, so it’s a good time for me to do this series. It’s all about a historic house owned by Col. Henry Brown, one of the original pioneer settlers of Brownhelm Township. The township is in fact named after him.

The house was later owned by the Baumhart family. You can see its location in the 1874 map above, where today’s Baumhart Road meets U. S. Route 6.

The house is long-gone now – ironically lost to the now-shuttered Ford Plant. But as you will see in this blog series, the house had a rich history and was a Lorain County landmark for many years.

This first article, written by Rhea Soper Eddy (Mary Lee Tucker herself) ran in the Lorain Journal on May 27, 1947.

House Built by Judge 
Gave Brownhelm Name

Indian Lookout Post, Hand-Carved Woodwork, Huge
Fireplaces Distinguish Ancient Home


You’ve probably passed the house time and time again during the last year.

Possibly you never noticed as you whizzed by on State Route No. 6 that it’s a different sort of a structure than the usual type of home usually seen these days.

Perhaps you didn’t know that the big square house on the lake shore west of Lorain, with its large square windows uniformly set into the wood on all sides, is the oldest frame house in Brownhelm-twp – built around 125 years ago.

Mysterious Trap Door
If someone had called your attention to the house and you had examined it at close range, you no doubt would have asked about the mysterious trap door that sticks up from the high roof, and the lovely hand carved doorways on the front and side.

The house, somewhat weather-beaten and much in need of repair, was one of the best known residences in northern Ohio once upon a time. It still is impressive with its two large front rooms with high ceilings, glass fanlights over its doors and delicate, carved woodwork.

Col. Henry Brown, later known as Judge Henry Brown, arrived in 1816 from New England and settled on the site of the present house which, in late years, has been known as the Baumhardt house, named for the late Jacob Baumhardt, who was born there.

He first built a log cabin and later the present frame building, thereby establishing a new settlement closely associated with the early development of Lorain-co.

It was in this big home, with its immense hand-carved log fireplaces in every room, that the township people gathered to organize the first church. It was there that the pioneers congregated to decide on a name for the town, and in later years, it was the township postoffice.

Little is known about Brown, other that that he named the place for himself – Brownhelm. Why he picked “helm” is not known. Possibly it appeared to him as more euphonious than the usual suffix, “ham” or “ton.”

Judge Brown, like so many of those early New Englanders, was devoted to the idea of higher education. He had spent two years at Harvard university and had often discussed plans for a college for settlers’ sons.

But, in spite of his determination to get a college established in these parts, he didn’t succeed.

Oberlin Offer Better
After many conferences, the sites he selected were turned down and folks who owned the clearing where Oberlin now stands offered their land for less. It was mostly mud and clay, wet much of the time, but cheaper.

Judge Brown, however, was rewarded for his efforts. Before Oberlin got underway, people down in Hudson, O., some 70 miles distant, asked him to help them obtain a charter for a college they were going to call Western Reserve. He saddled his horse, took himself down before the legislature, and got the charter passed. In return, he was made a trustee of Western Reserve, a position he held the rest of his life.

The present owner, Mrs. Harvey Emmerich, who, like her father, Jacob Baumhardt, was born in the house, declares that Brown built a trap door in his roof as an Indian lookout because there had been much talk about Indian uprisings. Leading up to it is a winding, steep stairway from the high ceilinged second floor. The spot provides a splendid view of the lake beyond the Nickel Plate tracks.

It is believed that Judge Brown used the platform only a few times. Little is known of his personal life, but there are indications it was anything but happy. Death came again and again to members of the family when they still occupied the log house and after they moved into the big one.

Rows of Graves
Besides the graves of Judge Brown and his wife, Harriet, in the little old Browhelm cemetery on North Ridge at the head of the Vermilion river valley, are a row of children’s tombstones. Inscriptions on them indicate that four children of the couple died between the years 1822-27.

First to die was Henrietta, in 1822 at the age of 11. Next was Sidney, aged six and a half, whose death occurred two years later. Then Harriet, 10 and Henry Jr., 3, both died in 1827.

The judge died in 1843, at the age of 70, and no one in these parts can tell of a single survivor today of the man who had struggled against many handicaps to rise to wealth and power. His wife, Harriet Seymour Brown, died 24 years later at the age of 86, in Auburn, N. Y.

Mrs. Emmerich knows little about the circumstances whereby her grandfather, James Baumhardt, acquired the property, other than that he came in possession of it in 1842, the year preceding the death of Brown.

Ninety-five of the 224 acres of land which comprise the present Baumhardt property are tillable and are worked by Mrs. Emmerich’s husband.

If the large maple trees in the front yard, which have been there since before Judge Brown first picked that site for his home, could talk they would have many fantastic stories to relate to the couple’s three grandchildren who play under them.


Daniel Baumhardt said...

Is there anyway possible to get a hard copy of these articles? I'm a Baumhardt and have heard many stories of the old homestead, but sadly have lost pictures and keepsakes over the generations. Thanks in advance

Dan Brady said...

Hi Dan,
I'm sorry that I don't have the original newspaper prints of anything I've posted, but I'd be happy to email or burn to a CD any images from library microfilm (or any photos) that I have. Usually I reduce them to post on the blog but I have larger versions.