Happy Birthday, Joseph Brown

Born 4 April, 1859, Joe Brown was a Canadian-born pitcher who made six starts for the Chicago White Stockings in 1884, winning four of six decisions.  He might have pitched in the American Association in 1885, but I can’t tell for sure.  If he did, his obituary didn’t mention it.

On 28 June 1888, less than three years after his last game, Brown died in Warren, PA of consumption.  He was 29.

“At five o’clock, on Thursday evening, occurred the death of Joseph Brown.  Mr. Brown was 29 years old the fourth day of last April, and was well known in baseball circles throughout the country, where he passed under the familiar title of ‘Old Reliable Joe Brown.’  He began his career, as a baseball player, several years ago in a Warren nine, where he developed such a talent for pitching that he won more than a local fame and, finally, joined a professional club at Fort Wayne.  From there he went to Chicago, where he played with one of the leading clubs for one season, leaving there to join the Milwaukees.  At the close of his engagement with the latter club he came east and joined the Bridgeport, Conn. club.  He remained with the Bridgeport team two years and after playing with the Jersey City nine for a short time, he returned to Warren, broken in health and with that dread disease, consumption, fastened upon his system.  Joe had literally worked himself to death.  He had fairly won the title of “Old Reliable,” but it cost him his life.  If a man was wanted anywhere Joe was ready to step in and take the place, and he would stand in the pitcher’s box and struggle manfully for victory, game after game, without a day’s rest in between.  The club knew that he was always to be relied upon and, therefore, they made him work harder than any two men in the club.  He was temperate, honest, faithful and he stood manfully at his post long after he should have been in bed.

“He was ill when he came home and after his arrival he grew worse rapidly.  During the winter he failed constantly and even the warm sunlight and balmy air of summer failed to revive his waning strength, and at last the Angel of Death came and bore his spirit away from the wreck of his shattered body to that country where sickness and suffering cannot enter.

“To-day, at two o’clock, the earthly remains of ‘Old Reliable Joe Brown’ were borne across the river and laid beside those of a sister who preceded him but a few weeks into the silent land.”

“Death of Joseph Brown”, Warren Mirror, 30 June 1888, Page 2.

Putting aside the writing of someone mourning the loss of a vital and athletic young man who had left his town for sporting fame…  When Joseph Brown was hired to pitch for Fort Wayne in 1883, he was brought in as the alternate pitcher.  In time, however, he became the ace of the Fort Wayne team and stayed a second season.  His pitching there earned him a tryout with the White Stockings in 1884 – and he didn’t necessarily fail, though he wound up playing for Milwaukee the next season instead.

After 1885, though, he spent less time as a pitcher and more time in the outfield.  Some of that may have been related to an injury suffered in a horse/carriage accident.

“Joseph Brown has nearly regained his usual health, his right arm that he almost despaired ever having the use of again has been gaining strength all winter, he has resumed the care and management of his horses that came so near being the death of him.  They are a handsome pair of steeds.”

“Corydon”, Warren Sunday Mirror, 5 August 1885, Page 2

Joseph Brown has been ill for some time with a serious attack of neuralagia.  He is better now.

“Corydon”. Warren Mail, 26 October 1886, Page 3.

I tried to assemble the story of his youth and family by going through census records and here’s what I can find:

In the 1870 Census, Joseph is #7 in the list of children.  The list includes James (26), William (22), Mary (20), Margaret (18), Alexander (14), John (13), Joseph (12), Adeline (9), Martha (6), Roscoe (3), Irene (2 months).  A family tree record in Ancestry.com shows another sister – Bertie – born in 1873, but she is not in the 1880 census as she had died before then.

According to the 1880 Census Joseph was working at a sash factory with his brother Ambrose John.  Here are the family members listed: John Brown (68), Martha Brown (49), Ambrose John (23), Joseph (21), Evaline (18), Mattie (15), Roscoe (12), Lorena (10).

John, Joseph’s father, was a laborer born in Canada to Scottish parents; the mother was born in Ireland to Scottish parents (?) and moved to Canada.  The kids born prior to 1865 were born in Canada, but the last two were born in Warren, PA – so that tells you that the Browns moved to the United States just after Civil War and just before the area just east of them, Bradford, PA, turned into oil country.

From what I gather, the family dealt with a lot of grief.  Some of the kids didn’t make it into adulthood and a couple of the others that did never saw their thirtieth birthday.

Another thing – their home is now gone, the Kinzua Dam along the Allegheny River has put what used to be Corydon under water.  Corydon was Seneca country before it was an incorporated township.  Johnny Cash sang about it in the song “As Long as the Grass Shall Grow,” which is the first track on the “Bitter Tears” album.

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