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James Brown Theories

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1681 to 1774
Location: Nottingham, Pennsylvaniamap
Surname/tag: Brown
This page has been accessed 686 times.
This page seeks to compile the theories (and supporting facts) about James Brown-2471 (1681-about 1761) emerging from Brown Family Issues. Questions about evidence? Place them in the appropriate "Notes/Outstanding Questions" section or use the public comment feature.
Please see the profile of Brown-2471, updated as of June 2020, for the current understanding of the issues presented below. Theories 3 and 4 below have been accepted as most likely in light of all currently available information and after considerable research and review.


Theory #1: From Chester Co, PA to Frederick County, VA then North Carolina

James Brown married (some believe this was his first marriage; others say that based on his birth, he's likely to have had an earlier marriage c1705) about 1719 a non Quaker for which he was read out of New Garden PA Monthly Meeting.

One researcher suggests the non-Quaker may have been Rachel Froude who married in Philadelphia one James Brown but several years earlier in 1716.

He removed by 12 Nov 1735 to Frederick Co., Virginia, as one of the 36 identified families who with Alexander Ross, founded the Hopewell Monthly Meeting (of Friends/Quakers); that he was the father of Abigail Brown who married William Thornburgh Jr; and that he joined them at New Garden MM, North Carolina in the mid 1750s.

Supporting This Theory

There is no evidence of an earlier marriage or earlier children by James Brown-2471.

The 1715 will of James Brown-2470 (1656-1715), after specific bequests to children and grandchildren, left the remainder of the estate (which supposedly included property) to his wife Honor and [presumably eldest] son James. The will does not specify which property but implies it is the property / plantation where James and Honor resided at the time of the father's death-- i.e., Nottingham, PA.

Some researchers believe that the land inherited by James Brown-2471 included land in Chester, PA, [link to map; link to freespace page with and that it was this land that James Brown, weaver (with wife Abigail releasing her dower rights) sold in 1732.[1] And that after this time, James (some claim Brown-2471) and wife Abigail moved to Frederick Co., VA/Hopewell MM where their names as a couple also appear on land records. [link] . But property record details demonstrate that this 1732 property was actually in Chestertown, Kent County, Maryland.

Many settlers of the Hopewell MM in Frederick Co, VA included Quakers from Chester Co., Pennsylvania who followed Alexander Ross there. The list is included on the profile of Alexander Ross. The largest number (14) came from Chester Co., PA.

Working Against This Theory

A history of land deeds demonstrates that the Chester Co, PA properties initially owned by James Brown-2470 were sold to others outside of the Brown family or deeded to sons William and Jeremiah; suggesting that there was no property left there for James Brown-2471. [need to confirm this] This compilation also makes the case that the property inherited in 1715 by James Brown-2471 [and his brother Daniel] was in Nottingham, not Chester, PA.

A 1721 record (Rawle v. Brown) about James, known son of James Brown-2470 calls James "yeoman of Chester."
This transcription of the 1732 Wilmer/Brown land sale strongly suggests that the property was in what is now Chestertown, Kent Co., Maryland, not Chester, PA. Note the reference to Calvert Street, which currently exists in Chestertown, MD, but not in Chester, PA. Also note the Lot #s. A review of Simon Wilmer's other Chestertown properties list many other "Lots" in Chestertown. [2]

The 1754 transfer letter calls James Brown of Nottingham, not of Hopewell, suggesting that the man who removed to North Carolina did so directly from Nottingham, PA [and was never in Hopewell].

There is evidence that the James Brown of Hopewell MM/Frederick Co., VA remained in that vicinity well into the 1750s and possibly as late as the mid 1770s, and so was not the man who moved to North Carolina. See this evidence at Brown-82507.

The Quaker families who removed to Hopewell MM came from a variety of locations in PA (8), MD (6), NY (2), NJ (2) and Delaware (4), not just Chester Co., PA (14).

We have Quaker minutes that show a James Brown requested a certificate to Dunns Creek in 1761,[3] and have no reason to think Abigail Brown Thornburg and her family ever lived there, which argues against a familial association.

Another NC Brown researcher, while researching a separate, unrelated branch, also researched what we believe are "our" Browns. Transcriptions of Quaker minutes show that James Brown of Dunns Creek requested a certificate to Core Sound meeting in Carteret County in 1764 and it was accepted in 1766.[4] There is also a 1766 Carteret County property record for a James Brown which may or may not be the same person. In 1766, a grant of 100 acres was recorded by Carteret County for James Brown on the north side of Newport River. This is significant because in the opening pages of the Carteret County (Core Sound) Quaker minutes, the genesis of the Carteret Meeting is described as "Several famalys of Friends being settled on newport River North Carolina well Conserned for truth thought it their -- To meet together..."[5] Unfortunately, it appears that the grant was never patented, thus we can not learn anything further from this record.[6] If Brown-2471 went to Carteret County, that further suggests he was not related to Abigail Brown Thornburg who remained at New Garden MM through her death. [check] [citation needed]

Notes / Outstanding Questions

  1. Where was Brown-2471 between 1725 (last tax record in Nottingham) and 1735?
  2. Which Chester [town] did James live in? At least one record (1732) says "Chester in the province of Maryland" [One researcher argues that Chester, PA was considered part of MD in 1732; see this wikipedia map linked to from Cresap's War. BUT see This transcription of the 1732 Wilmer/Brown land sale which strongly suggests that the property was in Chestertown, MD.

Theory # 1b: From Nottingham to Maryland to Frederick, back to Nottingham, then to NC

This is a variation of #1 above.

James followed the weaver occupation of his father; with wife Abigail [who may or may not have been the out-of-unity wife] removed to Chester [possibly Chestertown], MARYLAND where they lived until they sold their property there in 1732, then removed to Frederick Co./Hopewell MM where in 1734 they had land surveyed.[7]</ref> their daughter Abigail m. William Thornburgh, and the widowed James (after returning briefly from Hopewell MM to Nottingham MM) followed his daughter to North Carolina in 1754.

Supporting this Theory

The occupation of James Brown, husband of Abigail, was weaver, same as James Brown-2471.

Working Against This Theory

The James Brown husband of Abigail appears to have remained in Frederick Co., VA long after the 1754 transfer of James Brown from Nottingham PA to New Garden NC, indicating a separate man. A review of the Frederick Co. property records reveals this.

Notes / Outstanding Questions

  1. ...

Theory # 2: By Earlier Wife was Father of James Brown-36347

This theory proposes that James Brown-2471 had, through an earlier wife [earlier than the 1719 out-of-unity marriage], at least one child, including James Brown-36347 who removed to Lancaster Co., PA and was the testator of 1768, with sons John, Hugh and ...

This theory also suggests that James Brown-2471 remained in/near Chichester when his parents moved to Nottingham in 1702. (See James Brown's Property.) James was an adult by then and may, like his brother William (who was deeded Poddington), have remained in the Chichester area.

This theory also suggests that the father James Brown-2470 who died in 1715, left James Brown-2471 land in Nottingham in order to bring the elder brother to the town where the youngest (Daniel) was living (and who also received Nottingham property from the same 1715 will).

This theory also argues that James Brown-2471 remained in Pennsylvania, never went to either Chester[town], Kent Co., MD, or Hopewell MM/Frederick Co., VA, and was the James Brown Sr who requested in 1754 to transfer from Nottingham MM to New Garden MM to North Carolina.

Supporting this Theory

James Brown-2471 was born in 1681; tradition of this era would expect to see a first marriage by the age of 25 (i.e., by 1706). At his 1719 marriage, James Brown-2471 would have been 38. Therefore, it's wholly reasonable that he had an earlier marriage and children, including James Brown-36347 (estimated to have been born about 1703), who removed to Lancaster Co., PA and was the testator of 1768.

In addition, the 1716 will of James Brown-2470 makes no provision for son James dying without issue, suggesting that James had issue by 1716.

Additional circumstantial evidence is described at Brown-36347, which includes a section "Family background - theory". [TO DO: JSS pull from this the strongest points, including evidence of James Brown in Nottingham tax/land records]

There are several Nottingham land records during 1725-1752 naming "James Brown" some of which may refer to James Brown-2471.

On the Brown Family Issues page, is the following quote: "He is listed as paying tax in West Nottingham, 1719/20, 1720/21, 1721, 1722, 1724/25 and the last entry that can be credited to him is 1732." citing Chester County Pennsylvania online indexes 1715 - 1764 Chester County Tax Index A - C.

Working Against this Theory

There is no record of any wife or children of James Brown-2471 in Chester County, PA prior to his 1719 out-of-unity marriage, and there *are* records of other members of the Brown family during this same time. We've confirmed that this is so for Nottingham, but have we checked the towns further north (Chichester, etc.)?

The 1768 will of James Brown-36347 includes names not associated with the Browns of Nottingham -- Patrick and Hugh. [Supporters of this theory point out that these names could have been from the wife's family.]

Opponents of this theory claim that James Brown-36347's will is not a Quaker one because it uses the Latin term "Anno Domini" a phrase not used in Quaker wills which typically use instead "Year of our Lord."

There are enough James Browns in Nottingham, PA that could have been one or more of the "James Brown" in the land/tax records of Nottingham 1725-1752. This needs greater analysis.

Notes / Outstanding Questions

Theory #3: James Brown husband of Abigail and/or father of Abigail (Brown) Thornburg was a different man entirely

James Brown of Hopewell MM was someone else entirely, some other James Brown unrelated to James Brown-2470, -2471 or -36347.

He happened to be a weaver; he had property on Calvert Street, Chester[town], Kent Co., MD that he co-owned with Simon Wilmer and that they together sold in 1732 when he removed to Frederick Co. He was married to Abigail; he was father of Abigail Brown who m. William Thornburgh Jr, but he did NOT follow her to NC, but remained in Frederick Co. And that the James Brown who removed from Nottingham PA to New Garden MM NC was James Brown-2471 and not related to Abigail Brown Thornburgh.

Supporting this Theory

The lack of original source documentation linking the Nottingham James Brown-2471 with the James Brown of Frederick Co/Hopewell MM.

The 1752/3 records identifying the James Brown who moved to North Carolina as having come from Nottingham, PA without any reference to Hopewell MM where the Theory #1 says he was from at least 1732 to 175x.

We have Quaker minutes that show he requested a certificate to Dunns Creek in 1761, and have no reason to think Abigail Brown Thornburg and her family ever lived there, which argues against a familial association.

Another NC Brown researcher, while researching a separate, unrelated branch, also researched what we believe are "our" Browns. Transcriptions of Quaker minutes show that James Brown of Dunns Creek requested a certificate to Core Sound meeting in Carteret County in 1764 and it was accepted in 1766. There is also a 1766 Carteret County property record for a James Brown which may or may not be the same person. If Brown-2471 went to Carteret County, that further suggests he was not related to Abigail Brown Thornburg.

Working against this Theory

  • The number of Nottingham Quakers who followed Alexander Ross to Hopewell MM. The largest number of those who moved came from Chester Co., PA (14).

Notes / Outstanding Questions

  1. Is there anything in the NC records that indicates that James Brown who removed there was also father of Abigail Brown Thornburgh? [Update this with new research obtained by Julie K from another researcher that tracks the James Brown who went to NC...]
  2. Did probate or land records survive from this era/place?

Theory #4: James Brown (2471) had NO Children

Supporting this Theory

While we know he married out of unity with New Garden Monthly Meeting (of Pennsylvania), there is no direct evidence that James Brown had any children. We find no birth records, no mention of children in any records that we can definitively tie to THIS James Brown. There is no mention of children in any of his requests to remove to another Friends Meeting.

Working against this Theory

If this James had had no children, then surely his father would have made provision in his will for the possibility of James dying without issue. This suggests that at least at the time of his father's will, James Jr likely had children. (This also supports the earlier marriage theory.)

Notes / Outstanding Questions


  1. Cecil O'Dell, Pioneers of Old Frederick County, Heritage Books, Westminster, MD, 2007, pages 52-53: "James Brown, weaver, of the town of Chester in the Province of Maryland and Simon Wilmer of Kent County, Maryland, sold a 'Lott' and house in the town of Chester to John Stevenson, weaver, on 6 January 1731/32 with James' wife Abigail releasing her right of dower."
  2. Simon Wilmer Estate Inventory
  3. See 1761 apology and certificate to Dunn's Creek.
  4. See Carteret MM minutes.
  5. U.S. Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935, North Carolina, Perquimans County, Eastern Quarterly Meeting, Minutes, 1733-1791 (Ancestry.com, image 4 of 114) image
  6. image, on-line North Carolina property record
  7. Pioneers of Old Frederick County, Cecil O'Dell, Heritage Books, Westminster, MD, 2007, pages 52-53: "On 21 December 1734, [James Brown] had Robert Brooke survey a tract of land containing 121 acres adjacent to John Williams on the Potomac River for which he received a patent from the Colony on 12 November 1735. James and his wife sold this 121-acre patent land to William Teague for 45 pounds on 21 June 1738 and on 4 January 1738/39, Abigail 'relinquished her right of dower at the dwelling house of Abigail Brown in Orange County [later Frederick County], Virginia, who is so sickley and impotent she cannot travel to the Court.'"

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