Monday, April 18, 2011

Tuesday's Tall Tales - Run Out of Town

I've got this great uncle that's always fascinated me.  The bad boys always do.  He was the first bad boy I found in my family tree (not the last) and I was always interested in finding out if the tales were true.  This is what I had to go on...

Thomas Joseph Brown Jr. was the son of Thomas Sr and Mary nee Barrett and was born around 1905 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.  I was told that he was run out of town because of gambling and booze during prohibition.  He relocated to Elmira, New York, about a 2-1/2 hour drive (133 miles away).  What did he do in Elmira?  I'm told that he ran a whore-house.  Um...kay...My Uncle Ed also believed that Tommy joined the Army at some point, but it may not have been that long a tour of duty.

So I'm not 100% sure about the year of his birth.  It was estimated on the U.S. Census, but it should be close.  I was able to find a record for a Thomas J. Brown who served in the Army.  He enlisted in 1942 from Chemung County (Elmira is in Chemung) and was born in Pennsylvania in 1905.  Should be mine, but for some reason I never requested his military records.  I guess I wasn't so convinced it was him.  I'm half Irish and our names are fairly common...Brown?  Yeah, just think of how many Thomas Browns there could be.  I know, looking back at it I can think to myself that I was an idiot for not realizing it was him.  Call it inexperience!

No whore house found though.  Nothing verifying that he was "run out of town".  As far as we know he never married.  My uncle Ed (and he's been right or very near it with almost everything he's told me about family) said that he was buried in unconsecrated ground because of the things he'd done.  My grandfather, Edward Brown Sr, was said to have gone to Elmira to try to secure a burial place for him and perhaps to permit his burial in consecrated ground.  If he was successful, I don't know, but I did finally find his final resting place.

Last week I was fulfilling a request on Find A Grave and when I was done I decided to side-track myself a bit with my own family.  I tried locating Barrett relatives that moved to Buffalo, New York.  Not having much success with concrete matches, I turned to another line, and Tommy was the first I thought of.  He popped right up too.  The memorial had been there for years.  I couldn't believe it.  Had I really not searched for him on there before?  Either way, he was there, waiting for me to find him, nicely tucked away in Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira, NY....a veterans cemetery.

I immediately requested a picture of the gravestone and requested that his memorial be transferred to my care.  Within one, maybe two days, both had occurred.  I don't know why I was so delighted to find him.  I never knew him.  I was born 15 years after he died.  Perhaps it was the love of the hard find!  My uncle Ed was right again though.  Tommy died in 1957.

I've already sent away for his death certificate and military records.  With any luck I'll see them sometime in 2011, maybe 2012.  That won't stop me from finding more information though.  When I travel back to the Northeast this summer, I'll be diving into the local newspapers, both in Elmira and Hazleton.  I'll be checking for the obituary and see if it gives any clues to his purported shady past.  With any luck I'll find a picture.  What did he look like?...apart from being 67-inches tall and 107 pounds (short, skinny bugger!).  So many more questions and the tall tale hasn't been confirmed or denied, but I've got more to go on and that's just what I needed!


  1. The bad ones are always more interesting, aren't they??

  2. I totally agree with you....the bad boys and gals are the BEST! Good luck finding out more of your great uncles story.

  3. Look forward to hearing more about Tommy. I wish some of my lot had been bad! Jo :-)