By Noelle Pope, Summer Intern
The Tobacco Farm Life Museum includes an exhibit gallery as well as several historic and reproduction buildings on the grounds, including an early 1900s homestead with detached kitchen and smokehouse. This is the Brown Family Homestead, which was originally located in Micro, NC. In honor of Father’s Day, we are reflecting on the lives of Iredell Brown, the patriarch of the family who lived in the home, and his son Walter Brown.
Walter Brown (top) and his father Iredell (bottom)
Iredell was born in January 1852 to Austin and Gilly Brown. Iredell’s father served in the Civil War and died due to an illness contracted during battle. His mother died shortly after, leaving him orphaned and living with his aunts nearby. From an early age Iredell was independent, self-reliant, and conservative; these characteristics defined his approach to farm life like others in the community. He enjoyed the outdoors and took great enjoyment in rabbit hunting in particular. He represented the backbone of America as a farmer who was content with his work and living off the land. In 1875 Iredell married Lueazer Brown whom he had met through attending the Beulah Primitive Baptist Church. Together they had five children, Walter being the middle child born in 1882.
Iredell Brown’s family, circa 1913.
Top Row, Left to Right: Bessie Brown, Russell Allen, Lucy Allen, Walter Brown, Effie Brown
Middle, Left to Right: Andrew Brown, Artis Brown, Malissa Brown, Ovealur Hawkins, Clarence Hawkins, Lueazer Brown, Iredell Brown, Lula Brown, Vester Brown
Front: Jasper Brown, Lester Brown, Oscar Brown
Walter was described as the more “eccentric” of the children. To others in rural Johnston County, his lifestyle seemed nontraditional. He had a passion for reading and his curious nature led him to explore many subjects, including the day’s current fashion, modern medicine and technology. He even subscribed to a number of local newspapers and bought his first car in 1927. He remained a bachelor until his late fifties and married Alder Brown who was about a decade his junior. Walter was considered progressive-minded and took an interest in the developing industrialist society of North Carolina unlike the typical farmer of the early 1900s. To some degree Iredell shared the same liberalist thinking by promoting his children’s education and new scientific farming ideas, but his father overall held greatly to the conventions of the past.
Walter with his nephew Pem Hawkins, circa 1947.
Their relationship as father and son was undoubtedly unique as each man represented different generations – the old against the new. Walter himself never had any children and instead was devoted to maintaining the family farm and taking care of his wife, mother, and sisters after Iredell passed away in 1921. Despite differing ideas about culture and society, Iredell and Walter respected and appreciated each other. They shared an appreciation for the land on which they lived and embraced the hard work and satisfaction of farm life. Their lives represent the links between past and present, change over time, and the balancing of tradition with innovation.
Source: “Hanging On,” The Story of the Iredell Brown Family and Farmstead by Jerry L. Cross, 1991.