Old documents can help connect us to our ancestors

Family Searcher    My husband, Fred and I were out looking for the old Brawn Homestead cellar holes this spring (before blackfly season), trying to find the former home of James and Rosetta Brawn in Gray Valley on the Dover-Guilford line. We had first been inspired to look for the Homestead by looking at old photos taken there about 1919, shortly before James died. In one of the shots taken that day, James’ daughter Belle is there with three of her children, Cloyd, Myrtie, and Queenie, and Queenie’s son, a 4-year-old, tow-headed Aubrey Wilson.

    Fred and I easily found the one-room schoolhouse that Queenie attended, taken there in winter by James in a horse-drawn sleigh beneath a buffalo robe. Beyond, is the house built by Dennis Brawn to get “closer to town” (still too far out on a muddy Sebec Shore’s road for my taste). Another mile or so beyond is the Gray Valley Road, listed on the 1880 census as the Back City Road. Unfortunately, since it was such wild territory, and houses were listed in the order they were visited, it was not possible to tell from the census where the homestead had been.
    One day while looking on Ancestry.com for some information about Arthur Brawn, Ancestry brought me to a page I had forgotten from the 1882 “Crosby Map” of Piscataquis County. I had long ago gotten a copy of this great old map at the Registry of Deeds, but had packed it away and forgotten about it. The great thing about this map is that it shows where buildings were in 1882. This map showed a building near the corner of the Gray Valley Road off Sebec Shores Road, and the property was listed on the map as belonging to J. Brawn, The next property down the road was listed to A. Brawn and way down Gray Valley were several homes and properties owned by various Grays. Dennis Brawn, James’s son, had married Angie Francis Gray who was related to these Grays. Since Angie had been raised in Hudson this gave us a clue as to how they may have met.
    Anyway, the map left us quite confused. The Brawn homestead had been nothing but a memory for many years when Fred was a boy. He remembered traveling out to Gray Valley to help move cows for a Gray uncle. He had been told the Brawns had lived out there, and saw a couple of old foundations a couple of miles down the road, and so remembered this as the Brawn Homestead. Aubrey Wilson’s daughter had been out as a child with her grandmother Queenie (which is how I learned the stories about Queenie) but didn’t really remember where anything had been. Then just this past week I ran into Earl Brawn’s widow at the grocery store. She confirmed for me that, although the Brawn Homestead was just a cellar-hole when she and Earl had visited it early in their married life, it was in fact, the place shown on the 1882 Crosby Map.
    My searching the old censuses, maps, etc. helped me understand the connections between the people who lived in that section of Guilford, and how they fit into the Brawn clan over the years. Now I understand how some of the other surnames ended up in the “Brawn Cemetery.” Now I know what I will be writing about in my next column.
    Nina G. Brawn has lived in the Dover-Foxcroft area for over 50 years and currently lives there with her husband Fred. Nina was the last of 10 children, has three children of her own and nine grandchildren. She can be reached online at ninagbrawn@gmail.com.

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