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The prolific Browns of Brown’s Flat

By on October 29, 2018 in Columnist with 1 Comment

Rod MolzahnBy Rod Molzahn

On Nov. 1, 1884 Deak Brown and Tom Owens walked into the Wenatchee Flat.

Deak Brown later recalled, “I ran across Tom Owens down in Vancouver. Tom had some traps here in the Wenatchee Valley. So, together we set out with our rifles, our blankets, a frying pan and a little flour and salt. We walked all the way over.”

When they reached the top of the Horse Lake Trail, Deak looked down on the upper Wenatchee Valley and told Tom Owens, “If there are 160 acres in that flat, that’s where I’m going to make my home.”

Owens stayed for a time and claimed a homestead but soon collected his traps and furs and headed back to Vancouver.

Reuben Austin “Deak” Brown picked out a homestead, moved in with Alex Brender for the winter and began building a one-room cabin on his own land in what would come to be known as “Brown’s Flat.”

That winter Deak began two letter writing campaigns. One was to his brothers, George and Noah, trying to convince them to join him in the Wenatchee country. The other was to Lucy Rosetta Cole, a girl he knew back in Fern Prairie near Vancouver.

Deak would leave his letters with Sam Miller at the trading post where they waited for a traveler headed for The Dalles, Oregon. From there they would go by boat to Portland then letters to his brothers headed south on a steamer to San Francisco then to Stockton and San Jose where Noah and George lived. Letters to Lucy went on to Fern Prairie.

Deak wrote about the virtues of the Wenatchee Valley. To Lucy he wrote about, “how this new country would make a fine home for a young fellow if he had a wife to help him.”

Lucy wrote back that, “She knew a girl who’d marry him and be glad to come and live in the Wenatchee country.” Deak answered, “Do you want to come?” Lucy’s response was even shorter, “Come and get me.”

The Deak and Lucy Brown family (around 1910): top from left, Maude, Dude (Noble Leon), Ora (Othello), and Sam; second row, Abbie (Mary Abigail) and Grace; third row, Melvina, Lucy (mom), Deak (Rueben Austin – dad) and Lutie May; fourth row, Bob and Effie on Deak’s lap. Photo courtesy of Jack and Nadine Pusel

Deak and Lucy were married April 8, 1885 in Vancouver. Lucy’s father wrote her a wedding letter that included advice. “As you are going away among strangers to live, be courageous and kind to all, be true to yourself and the one who promised to protect you.”

Lucy’s sister added a rhymed couplet, “May your virtue grow and spread like butter on hot ginger bread.”

Three weeks later, April 28, they made it to the one-room cabin at Brown’s Flat. A friend, James Weythman, came with them, another of Deak’s converts to the Wenatchee country.

Weythman had a wagon and team and Deak had pack-horses. They came over Colockum Pass and had to leave the wagon at the Miller/Freer store. The Wenatchee River was full of the spring flood, too high to ford.

They took what they could on the packhorses over an Indian trail above Horse Lake Road then down to their new home.

There was much to do.

All their water had to be carried from the river by the bucket full. Mattresses had to be sewed and stuffed with straw. All the cooking and baking was done over an open fire. Sagebrush was grubbed out for a garden.

Deer were plentiful and Deak was a good shot. Excess game was dried or smoked for winter. Wild berries were harvested and firewood was cut split and stacked.

Nine months later Samuel Lyman Brown was born, the first white child born in the upper valley. He was the first of 11 Brown children, seven of them born in the one-room cabin.

Lucy made friends with the local Indian women, especially Mary Felix who lived across the Wenatchee River with her husband, Indian Felix.

The Indian women and their husbands were impressed by the clothes Lucy made with her sewing machine. Indian Felix had Deak bring a sewing machine back from The Dalles for Mary and Lucy taught her to sew. At the request of the Indian men Lucy also taught the women to bake bread.

Lucy Brown was also a healer and shared her knowledge of natural cures with the Indian women who, in turn, taught Lucy their medicines. Lucy made a variety of medicines including an all-purpose, sticking salve that wouldn’t rub off using rosin, burgundy pitch, bee’s wax, mutton tallow, spermaceti, and something called British oil.

As with many new settlers, Deak did some work for Sam Miller. That summer of 1885 Sam had 60 logs cut up the Wenatchee River. He offered Deak $70 to bring them down to the confluence.

Deak went to work tying then into rafts to float down the river. He was more than half the way down when a raft stuck on a rock and the following logs piled up on it. Deak had to separate logs from the jam and swim them, one at a time, down to the confluence.

He earned his $70 and Sam Miller’s respect.

Deak’s second letter campaign was also successful.

On Sept. 3, 1885 brothers George and Noah Brown along with Noah’s wife, Addie, set out from Fern Prairie bound for Brown’s Flat and the Wenatchee country. They brought a full wagon, two cows and a calf for Deak and Lucy and a horse for George.

They traveled by boat up the Columbia to The Dalles where Deak was supposed to meet them. When Deak didn’t show (his letter from George and Noah was late reaching him) they headed north to Goldendale, Noah and Addie by stage and George with the wagon and stock following.

They found Deak in Goldendale then headed for Yakima.

As they forded the Yakima River the wagon high-centered on a rock in mid-stream. Everything in the wagon had to be unloaded and carried, by hand, to the shore before the wagon could be floated free.

They arrived at Brown’s Flat on Sept. 17. George located and filed on a 160-acre homestead. Noah and Addie bought Tom Owens’ claim.

Brown’s Flat was filling with Browns.

Historian, actor and teacher Rod Molzahn can be reached at shake.speak@nwi.net. His third history CD, Legends & Legacies Vol. III – Stories of Wenatchee and North Central Washington, is now available at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center and at other locations throughout the area.

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  1. Jill Gradwohl says:

    Great post about the Brown’s from Wenatchee. I’m a postcard collector and recently purchased an early 20th century postcard that shows a view of the Columbia river and the Wenatchee Valley. The postscript on the card reads ‘No. 1320 Brown’s Flat, Wenatchee Valley, Washington’ , A great view of the Valley before it was populated. Your post helped me learn some of the history of the Valley and it’s early occupants.

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