This article was found pasted into a scrapbook entitled, “1838 Patriot War.” The scrapbook is located at the Flower Memorial Library Genealogy Department at Watertown, New York. This article, one of a series written by L. N. Fuller, was copyrighted in 1923 by the Brockway Company, Publishers of the Watertown Daily Times. The series appeared in the Watertown Daily Times in March, April, and May of 1923. John B. Johnson, Jr., Editor/Co-Publisher of the Watertown Daily Times has granted me permission to incorporate these pieces on my website. I feel very honored to have been given this permission. (Shirley Farone)
Story of George T. Brown,
Who Was Banished For Life
Theresa Blacksmith Was Pardoned and Lived Many Years
After Stirring Scenes of His Youth --- Plans to Escape
NORTHERN NEW YORK IN THE PATRIOT WAR
By L. N. FULLER
(Copyright, 1923, by the Brockway Company, Publishers of the Watertown Daily Times.)
One of the unfortunate victims of the Patriot War was George T. Brown, for many years a blacksmith at Theresa. His son, Charles S. Brown of 559 Main street, Watertown, has in his possession a pardon granted by Queen Victoria, issued to his father. George T. Brown was one of the patriots who was sentenced to be transported for life to Van Dieman’s land and he was there nearly four years, suffering the greatest amount of hardship.
Mr. Brown was a native of Fort Ann, Washington county, and came to Evans Mills when a young man, where he worked for Peter Ryther. He was about 20 (unclear) years old when he became fired with patriotic fervor and allied himself with the Patriot movement. He joined the force that had set out to capture Prescott and he took a part in that battle, being taken prisoner when the greatly outnumbered force surrendered. He was taken to Kingston and after waiting many weeks in Fort Henry, he was court-martialed and sentenced to be executed. It is probable that his youth saved him from the extreme penalty and his sentence was commuted to transportation for life to Van Dieman’s land.
The months dragged on with awful slowness. Prison conditions at Fort Henry were bad at first. The prisoners were subjected to the brutalities of cruel keepers, the food was of the plainest possible kind, much of it unfit for human consumption and the lot of the prisoners was a most unhappy one, even after the daily thought that they would be led to the gallows had gone. Mr. Brown, in common with some
other prisoners, received gifts of food from devoted friends and relatives in Jefferson county and this made life a little more bearable.
It was nearly a year after their capture before they left Kingston for their journey to the other side of the world. On Sept. 22, 1839, loaded with chains, the unhappy prisoners were removed by boat to Quebec and a few days later they set sail on the ship Buffalo. Late in November, the ship reached Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where fresh water and stores were taken on. Feb. 14, 1840 the party arrived at Hobartown, their final destination.
Brown was “let out” to an Englishman named Burthen shortly after he arrived there. He was bound over to his master and later became known as a ticket of leave man, that is he could move about within restricted limits.
By trade Brown was a blacksmith and his son found employment at that work. The prisoners were allowed no arms and Brown, who was a genius in the art of metal working, contrived to make a rifle out of nothing but old horse-shoe nails. The barrel was carefully forged of the old nails and was bored out. He could work but a little time each day and he hid the weapon under the bellows in the blacksmith shop where he was employed. Eventually, it was found by the officers and was taken away.
Burthen was struck by the ingenuity of Brown and felt that such labor should not go unrewarded. Burthen was apparently a most agreeable sort of a fellow and despite rules to the contrary he furnished Brown with a rifle and ammunition. All this time Brown was turning over in his mind a plan to escape, because he felt that the only way in which he could get away was by his own efforts, the sentence of the court being banishment for life.
With his rifle he killed a kangaroo and sold the meat and hide. With 15 companions he entered into a plot to escape by taking passage on the first American ship that came into the harbor of Hobartown. They planned to smuggle themselves on board and when the ship was at sea appeal to the captain as Americans. They pooled their resources and found that they could muster about $100 each. Just as the plan was about to be consummated, one of the party turned traitor. The prisoners had bought a large amount of provisions and had packed them away near the shore. The traitor betrayed the hiding place and the conspiracy was nipped. As a reward for betraying his comrades he received a pardon and the equivalent of $500.
The others of the party were deprived of their tickets of leave and were put to work at the hardest kind of labor and kept under the closest confinement. They were harnessed like beasts to an ox cart and were put to work road building. They were compelled to draw heavy loads of stone six miles. Barefooted and in rags, their sufferings were indescribable. Their feet were torn by the sharp stones and they were compelled to labor under the lash of the brutal overseers. One toe was broken and he was very lame for several months.
Again Brown determined to make his escape and he plotted with a mate on one of the boats that entered the harbor to assist him. The mate agreed, but ill fortune again stood in the way of young Brown. Another prisoner was seeking to make his escape. He was a Mason and the mate happened to belong to that fraternity. The Mason escaped and poor Brown was left.
But fortune at last smiled on him. In 1844 after four years’ imprisonment he was pardoned. The American minister in London interested himself in the cases of the unfortunate prisoners, and Brown was among those selected to secure his liberty.
When at last he was a free man he sought passage on an American whaler that touched at Hobartown. Being a blacksmith, he was set to work making lances and harpoons and time passed quickly. In those days whalers went on long voyages and it was three years before she touched an American port. The whaler landed at New Bedford, Mass. It was the custom of the whalers to divide the receipts of the voyage among the crew, depending on their rank. No wages were paid, but the proceeds derived from the sale of the whale oil and other products were divided pro rata. The captain told the crew that he was going to Boston to sell the whale oil that had been gathered, that it was a most prosperous voyage and that he would return and divide the money. He went to Boston and sold not only the proceeds of the voyage, but he sold ship and all and that was the last ever seen of him. The crew had given three or four years of their time for nothing. If they could have found the captain he would have paid with his life and he kept out of their way.
Without funds and without friends his sole possession being a whale’s tooth, Brown walked to Fort Ann, and then came to Theresa, where he established a blacksmith shop which he conducted for many years. The boys of that day used to gather around the forge and listen to him tell of his experiences and of the strange people and animals that inhabited the other side of the world. It was almost like coming from a new planet, and more than one boy of that generation was fired with the determination to be a sailor, despite the ill fortune that Brown had. Mr. Brown lived until 1889 when he passed away.
The pardon which is in the possession of his son is written on genuine parchment and has the great seal of the British colonial office. It has been carefully preserved all these years. The writing, though somewhat faded, is legible. In the center is a stain which is the result of Mr. Brown falling overboard while in pursuit of a whale.
A verbatim copy of the pardon follows:
“To all to whom these presents shall come, I Sir John Eardley Eardley Wilmot, baronet, lieutenant governor of the island of Van Dieman’s Land, and its dependencies send greetings:
“Whereas, by Her Majesty’s royal warrant under sign manual bearing date at Buckingham Palace the ninth day of May, one thousand eight hundred and forty-four, countersigned by one of her majesty’s secretaries of state and addressed to the lieutenant governor of the Island of Van Dieman’s Land, for the time being Her Majesty, the Queen, is pleased in consideration of some circumstances humbly represented to her, to extend her grace and mercy unto George T. Brown who was tried at a court-martial in Upper Canada and convicted of feloniously invading the province of Upper Canada and sentenced to death, which sentence was commuted to transportation for life, and to grant him her free pardon for his said crime. Now know ye that I, the said Sir John Eardly Eardly Wilmot, baronet and lieutenant governor of Van Dieman’s Land, and its dependencies have received Her Majesty’s warrant and do hereby certify and declare that the said George T. Brown hath and ought to enjoy Her Majesty’s free pardon for the said crime whereof he was convicted as aforesaid and I do hereby discharge the said George T. Brown from all custody in respect to his said sentence and transportation.
Dated Hobartown, Dec. 5, 1844
By His Excellency’s Command.
J. E. Rieteno