Thomas Brown/e, Lieut. Col.

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Thomas Brown/e (Brown), Lieut. Col.

Birthdate: (75)
Birthplace: Yorkshire, England
Death: Died in St Vincent
Place of Burial: St. Vincent
Immediate Family:

Son of Jonas Brown and Margaret Brown
Husband of Esther Browne
Father of Thomas Alexander Murray Browne; Susan Harriet McDowall; Charles Browne and Mary Frances Weatherall

Managed by: Joan Marilyn Leggett
Last Updated:

About Thomas Brown/e, Lieut. Col.

Well documented for his fight for the British in the American War of Independence. See Edward J. Cashin's "The King's Ranger - Thomas Brown and the American Revolution on the Southern Frontier", published 1989. After the War Thomas was compensated with land in South Caicos and Abaco for the property he lost in Georgia, subsequently he applied for and was granted land in the north east quarter of St Vincent. Later Thomas Brown changed his surname to Browne.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Brown_(loyalist)

Thomas 'Burnfoot' Brown (May 27, 1750 – August 3, 1825) was an English Loyalist during the American Revolution.


Intending to become a quiet colonial landowner, he lived instead a turbulent and combative career. During the American Revolution, he played a key role for the Loyalist cause in Georgia.


America


Born in Whitby, Yorkshire, England, Brown was of a prosperous family, his father Jonas owning a successful shipping company. In 1774 Thomas recruited colonists from Whitby and the Orkney Islands, and emigrated with them to the Province of Georgia. He established the community of Brownsborough northeast of present day Augusta and anticipated a life as a gentleman planter.


Instead, he quickly became engaged in the coming revolution. On 2 August 1775 a crowd of Sons of Liberty confronted him at his house. Brown requested the liberty to hold his own opinions, and finally met their demands with pistol and sword. Taken prisoner with a fractured skull, he was tied to a tree where he was roasted by fire, scalped, tarred, and feathered. This mistreatment resulted in the loss of two toes and lifelong headaches.


The enraged Brown assumed leadership of backcountry Georgia loyalists, and developed a plan to support Augusta area Tories with Indian allies from the West and a landing of British soldiers from the East. He helped bring the plan about by living with the Creeks in 1776 and 1777, gaining their confidence, and establishing a network spreading from Florida to the Carolinas. In 1779 he was appointed Superintendent of Creek and Cherokee Indians and continued his efforts to engage them in the conflict.


Brown came to lead a mounted Loyalist company eventually styled as the King's Rangers, developed this over time into a uniformed and disciplined unit, and became a skilled commander himself with the rank of provincial Lieutenant Colonel. His Rangers fought in Lt-Col. Archibald Campbell's 1778 invasion of Georgia, the 1779 Siege of Savannah, and the Loyalist occupation of Augusta in 1780 and 1781, as well as minor backcountry clashes. In September 1780, Brown maintained a stout defense against Elijah Clarke's surprise attack at the First Battle of Augusta, holding the fortified Mackay House until arrival of a relief force. On June 5, 1781 he was compelled to yield Fort Cornwallis in the Second Battle of Augusta after a spirited and creative defense. Nathanael Greene arranged to have him paroled and escorted to Savannah with his regular troops with the promise they would not re-enter war. Greene was afraid Brown would be killed by his troops in captivity.


Brown's campaign plan achieved temporary success, but ultimately failed due to tardy or insufficient support from local Tories and his Indian allies. His war career was later vilified, but Cashin's research found no historical evidence that he did anything beyond his duty according to the recognized rules of war. It is unlikely that he hanged thirteen prisoners at the Mackay House with savage relish, rather he imposed (or condoned) a widely approved penalty against parole breakers. Brown angrily denied that he ever encouraged Indians to barbarous behavior.


Florida and the Caribbean


In late 1782, Thomas Brown with several thousand Tory refugees from Charleston and Savannah relocated to British territory at St. Augustine, Florida. Fully expecting to settle permanently, the newcomers were shocked in 1783 by news that East Florida was ceded to Spain, and British citizens had eighteen months to depart. Even here Brown struck a blow by encouraging his Creek friends to cooperate with the new Spanish authorities in controlling American westward expansion.


The British government continued to provide compensation for dispossessed Tories, and Brown's next destination was Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Brown led Abaco Loyalists in protesting lack of representation in the local Assembly, but the point became moot as the Abaco and later Caicos Islands lands proved unprofitable.


In 1799 Brown applied for and received a grant on St. Vincent's Island. His status as a former colonizer still entitled him to a princely grant of several thousand acres, on which he finally lived his gentleman planter dream until his death at Grand Sable Plantation, St. Vincent Island in 1825.


Appearance in Literature


Thomas Brown appears as a prominent character in "The Hornet's Nest", a novel written by former United States President (and Georgia resident) Jimmy Carter.


Revealing Thomas Brown

This Loyalist likely lived on North Caicos and helped build Ft. St. George.

By Dr. Charlene Kozy, former professor and president of

Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee

In my previous article, “Follow the Chimneys”  (Spring 2009 Times of the Islands), local plantations were described as to content and their relation to a new community. To further learn and understand this early history, the individuals that immigrated  and built the community should be studied. Each has an unique and fascinating story. Let’s begin with Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Brown of His Majesty’s Kings Rangers.
Thomas Brown was born in the seaport town of Whitby in Yorkshire, England. His father Jonas Brown was from a distinguished and titled family and his mother was the granddaughter of Isaac Newton. He received a classical education and sailed on his father’s ships to the New World transacting business from Nova Scotia to Barbados. He spoke of the cordial treatment from the American colonists and decided to settle there, specifically in Georgia.
Unfortunately for Brown, he arrived in America when a movement for independence from England was strong, although it seemed far away in Boston. Brown attended one of the “Sons of Liberty” meetings where he spoke freely of allegiance to the King and refused to sign a document known as the “Continental Association” which declared allegiance to a rebellion. Brown had been honored with a magistracy appointment and had taken an oath to uphold British law.
After the meeting, he was followed home by “a hundred or so” men. After a vigorous defense, he was brutally assaulted, tarred and feathered, partially scalped and tied to a tree with fire under his feet that caused the loss of toes. The greatest harm was a blow to his head that came from behind and left him unconscious for two days and  with headaches for the rest of his life. He even submitted to brain surgery to remove any bone fragments that might have lodged in his brain. Nothing stopped his headaches. His feet were so damaged that he was known as “Burntfoot Brown” throughout the war.
The mistreatment of Brown brought the Loyalists one of their ablest leaders who would repay the “Sons of Liberty” in full measure. In a letter to his father he said, “I do not wish to take up arms against the country that gave me being.” He understood commitment and his five years in the American Revolutionary War gave him experience.

A new home on North Caicos

Following the unsuccessful war in America, the British government began aiding the banished Americans in finding new homes. Surveys in 1782 and 1783 established which islands in the Bahamas were uninhabited and the kind of soil each had. The Caicos Islands were found as uninhabited and “having the best soil.”

Claims were made systematically relating to losses in America. Considerations were given to those who had performed “exceptional services,” and those who had borne arms. The total acreage granted on North Caicos was 10,090 acres and on Middle Caicos 4,814 acres.
The military grantees were obviously favored over the non-military grantees and were high-ranking commissioned officers. Although the number of actual grants to the military was approximately one in four, the average acreage per grant was approximately 680 for military and 189 for non-military. The largest percent of the grantees were from Georgia, South Carolina and East Florida with the exception of Stephen De Lancey, a high ranking officer from New York. His plantation is noted on present day maps by its name “Greenwich” on North Caicos. William Farr was the only grantee who was originally from the Bahamas. The grants were issued between 1789 and 1790. The planters built homes, roads, planted crops and were beginning to be a community.
Thomas Brown received eight grants of land in 1789 and one in 1790. The grants totaled 4,560 acres and some sources have his acreage as high as 8,000. Many grantees named their plantation as Brown named Brownsborough in Georgia. The location of his plantation home has not been identified since no appraisal was made and a name not recorded. A clue might be that his future father-in-law, William Farr, received 380 acres “on the southward of the salt pond between Pumpkin’s Bluff and three rocks bounded on the north by the said salt pond and on the east by Thomas Brown’s.” Farr called his plantation “Cottage.” Mr. Farr died in l800 and it is likely that Brown’s house was nearby since it became a familial household with widow Farr, her sister and Charles Fox Taylor (an Indian Loyalist from Georgia) living there. The coastal town of Whitby, North Caicos was undoubtedly named for Brown’s birthplace, Whitby, England.
The West Indies had been described as a virtual money-box to both the British and French for over 100 years. After a short ten years of peace, the humiliated British Navy set out to re-establish sea power and acquire the entire French possessions in the West Indies beginning in 1793. The proximity of the Caicos created a threat to the fledging Island settlement.

Protecting Fort St. George

“The water is clear and cannons are easily
seen lying partially buried in the sand.”
Dr. Donald Keith,  2007
This is what we see now, but let’s drift back in time to the 1790s and visualize Fort St. George Harbor. In letters written in 1805 by Thomas Brown to the Earl of Camden and the Under Secretary of State he tells how he met the threat of a French invasion in an area “totally out of the protection of government and is daily exposed to capture or destruction.”
With this daily reminder of what could happen, he states that “he (the petitioner) also constructed two forts,  barracks for soldiers at his own expense and provided the same with fourteen cannons, ammunition, and other military stores for the defence of the Island and provided the same with and equipped and manned 14 guns from the last war for the defence of Saint George Harbor.” He mentioned in the last paragraph that a furnace was constructed for “the heating of shot.”
The letter continues, “that for the security of his  property on the Caicos, as will be more fully appear by documents delivered to the Lord of the Treasury, he armed, clothed, and disciplined . . . all of his Negro men during the whole of the last war and never had a cause to repent of the trust in their fidelity.”
There is no account of the fort being tested by a French invasion but one rousing activity was reported in the Bahama Gazette of August 21, 1798:

“A ship bound for Grand Caicos was wrecked on West Caicos. Brown and other planters sent their boats to retrieve goods belonging to them. As the supplies were being transferred into the small boats, a French privateer came up under full sail. Four vessels made a run for it, but Brown’s men decided to fight for their possessions. The all-black crew was armed with only a two-pounder cannons and muskets, but they drove off the Frenchmen repeatedly. The heavier armed privateer stayed out of range of Brown’s defenders and used its cannons to sink Brown’s boat. The valiant crew swam ashore.”

A letter from Brown to his father Jonas Brown in Whitby, England told of the battle and wrote, “I was so proud of my men, I did not mind the loss of the goods.” For slaves to be armed without fear of a rebellion or running away is more than unusual, it is unheard of on American plantations. The attitude of slave owners was to keep watch and severe punishment was inflicted for any suspicion of disloyalty.
He shows his understanding of the efforts in the West Indies by suggesting that the troops going to Jamaica be sent to the Caicos “for seasoning” to reduce the mortality rate. He further proposes the establishment of “a naval and military camp hospitals on Pine Key . . . For the people with contagious disorders might have a chance of recovery in pure air.”
In a later letter Brown offers to “with pleasure (if deemed necessary) embark with 100 armed Negroes . . . or any service I am capable from my local or military knowledge” to aid in the war.
In the several letters recorded in the Colonial Office, Brown repeats his concern for the safety and welfare of the inhabitants of the Caicos Island and that Ft. St. George was a vulnerable place because of its deep harbors, and urged that it be strengthened to withstand any attack.

Happy days

Thomas Brown’s ten year stay on North Caicos was perhaps the happiest time in his life. He received land in March, 1789–90 and in October 1789, the Gazette announced his marriage to Ester Farr of Nassau, the 16-year old daughter of Captain William Farr and his wife Sarah “on the Caicos.” Projecting, it is possible that the two met in Nassau, fell in love and with Brown’s influence, Farr received land on the Caicos. Her young age would support the desirability of her parents moving with her. Thomas and Ester (Hetty) had four children born on the Caicos. Mary Frances, Thomas Alexander Murray, Charles Susan Baring, and Susan Harriet — who was her father’s favorite.

Since there was no appraisal, the contents of his household are not known as it is with other plantations;  however, the structure of property and management of the plantation is known and in comparison to other plantations is most unusual.
In a petition written to the Earl of Camden requesting land on St. Vincent, Brown describes his plantation as having 643 Negro slaves (he did not own slaves in America, his servants were white indentured) and 15 white overseers and their families situated on 13 cotton plantations and one sugar estate. He allowed each slave (or family) to live on an acre of land. Mathematically, this would encompass at least 300 acres and would spread the slaves’ living quarters instead of slave row houses found on other plantations.
With the acreage he owned, he could support these large numbers and still show a profit. He recorded, as being cultivated, 3,000 acres in cotton, 1,000 in grapes, and 700 in corn to feed his people. Trees were used as wind barriers and fences. This eliminated the laboriously built stone fences found in other plantations. For profit, he claimed his estate made 20,000 pounds each year.
A unique feature of Brown’s plantation goes beyond “arming and disciplining” his Negro men. It is the total lifestyle he created for “his people.”
He wrote more than once about the treatment of his slaves; i.e. not asking his people to do tasks that animals could so such as turning heavy wheels of grist or sugar mills. He would buy a slave from another plantation for marriage at his plantation and his policy was to not sell his people. His relationship and trust in his slaves are exemplified in the arming of the men, allowing them to have land of their own and respecting their tasks performed and family life.
The death of his father on March 28, 1799, the proximity to rebellious islands, and the slowing of profit on the Caicos caused Brown to return to Whitby, England. The danger of the seas and an illness delayed his departure until June 1802. He gathered his children, now age 11 and younger, Hetty’s mother Sarah Farr and Black Nancy, the housekeeper with her mulatto son George to make the trip.
It is speculated that George was Thomas’s son. In his will that was written at St. Vincent he gave a certificate of freedom for some “faithful Negroes who had given unequivocal proofs of affection for him and pay to Nancy  Browne, his eldest and most faithful servant £10 annually during her life and give her a house and grounds upon his estate and in case of sickness or any casualty to demand the plantation allowance and medical attendance.” Cyree Browne and Maurice Moore Browne of the Caicos were mentioned in the will with similar gifts. They stayed on the Caicos to manage the cattle ranch when Brown moved to St. Vincent. (The will is courtesy of Joan Leggett, great-great-great-great  grandaughter of Thomas Brown.)
In Yorkshire, Brown bought Newton House from family members and moved his family there. A fifth child, George Newton Brown. was born at Yorkshire. Brown’s war record and fortune opened society’s doors and he was generally welcomed as a hero.
Brown’s plantation on the Caicos operated for a few years with overseers until he could clear his way to St. Vincent. King George III granted Brown’s request for 6,000 acres on November 10, 1804. He moved his family (with the exception of the younger children in school) to St. Vincent and in 1805 he procured a ship to transport his 643 Negroes and 15 white overseers. It was estimated that four or five trips would be necessary. It was in 1806 before the transition was complete. Brown returned to England and stayed until 1817 due to legal problems. The estate in St. Vincent would operate under the management of Tom Cayley, Brown’s nephew.
Upon returning  to St. Vincent, he built a mansion for his family. It was at this time that he added an “e” to change the spelling of his surname to Browne. He  named his house Montague House, honoring his ancestor Sir Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague, master of horse for King Henry VIII. Thomas Browne died on St. Vincent  on August 3, 1825 at the age of 75. 

Conclusions

The only visible legacy of Thomas Brown on the Caicos Islands would be Fort St. George at St. George Harbor. Evidence of British soldiers has been found, which leads us to question the authenticity of Brown’s claim of constructing the fort. A study of the war with France which began in 1792 and was fought bitterly in the West Indies is necessary, along with the capability of Thomas Brown.

Thomas Brown was a soldier, a British soldier. He entered service for His Majesty George III when he was 25 years old in America. He fought with Cornwallis against George Washington in the southern arena during the American Revolution. He developed the “Southern Strategy” that lengthened the war. Thomas Brown took part in all the major engagements and many minor skirmishes over a five year period and lived to tell it.
History chronicles the bloody war in the South with Brown a major player. General Henry Lee asked Brown to surrender at Fort Cornwallis which stood near a river. Lee described it as “judiciously constructed, well finished and secure from storm.” The second fort was Colonel James Grierson’s house or Fort Grierson. The Americans attacked Fort Grierson and Brown covered the men there with a cannonade and led them to Fort Cornwallis. The ability of Thomas Brown to construct and properly man  them is supporting evidence of his construction of the fort with possibly the help of other inhabitants of the Island.
The war in the Caribbean and the British need to win there must be considered. The Caicos Islands were uninhabited until the land grants were made in 1789–1791. The war between the French and English began in 1793. Three years was not enough time to establish the importance that the sugar plantations in the West Indies had.
In addition, the old rivalry between the French and English heightened after the French and Indian War in America when the French lost all their lands to the English. The French were not hesitant to support the rebellious colonies in America in getting their freedom from England.
The renewal of war after only a ten year peace alerted the British to protect their maritime and commercial interests. It was decided by the British Secretary of State for Home and Colonies that the West Indies was “the first point to make perfectly certain.” The main crops were sugar, coffee and cotton, with sugar by far the largest commodity for over 100 years. France enjoyed the same productivity but on a slightly smaller scale. England was addicted to tea with sugar added.
Thus, the mission in the West Indies was to re-establish British sea power and a hope of acquiring the entire French overseas empire. In May 1797. Britain’s offensive military resources were exhausted. At least 20,000 deaths in the army in the Caribbean were recorded in 1797. By 1801, it is reasonable to assume that 43,750 white men died both in the Caribbean and en route. Men ready to fight were demoralized by diseases of malaria and yellow fever more than by the French soldiers or rebel slaves.
The British changed their strategy in 1796–97 to safeguard their possession admitting “the climate of the West Indies . . . has destroyed the armies of Great Britain.” After 1797, military operations in the Caribbean were subordinate in nature.
It was after 1797 and the evacuation of British armies in Saint Domingo that Thomas Brown made the plea for protection of the Caicos Islands and the description of  forts built by himself/inhabitants of the Caicos Islands. At the same time it is documented that
“young Neil Campbell entered the Army in 1797 . . . and in October 1798 we find him stationed at Jamaica as ensign in the 67th Regiment. In consequence of evacuation of St. Domingo by the British at that period and its delivery to Toussaint L’Ouverture the Negro Chief, the colonist of the Caicos, or Turks’ Islands, were apprehensive that an attack might be made upon them by the Blacks . . . a small detachment of the 67th Regiment, and a party of Artillery with guns and stores under the command of Ensign Neil Campbell. . . . the whole encircled by a reef of coral excepting in one part. Where there is deep water and anchorage within the reef.  . . . on a small bank opposite to this anchorage, Ensign Campbell placed his detachment and then proceded to construct fences, barricades and storehouses. . . . Neil Campbell returned to England in 1800.”
No mention is made of cannons or furnace for heating shot in the documentary. It is logical to assume, since his stay was barely one year, that he refurbished the living arrangements for soldiers in the existing fort.
In view of the global situation with England and France and a careful study of the encounters between the French and English in the West Indies exacerbated by malaria and yellow fever, logic and fact would strongly suggest that the British government did not build the fort (or two forts) on St. George Harbor; however, they did occupy it when Neil Campbell was sent as a reinforcement after Brown’s plea for support at the existing forts.

Sources

PRIMARY SOURCES

Bahama Registry

Colonial Office, British Public Record Office, 260/19

Letters from Thomas Brown to his father Jonas Brown

Joan Leggett, private collection

BOOKS

Cashin, Edward. The King’s Ranger. Thomas Brown and the American Revolution on the Southern Frontier.

Duffy, Michael. Soldiers, Sugar and Seapower. The British Expeditions to the West Indies and the War against Revolutionary France.

The Bahama Almanac and Register for the Year 1801. Memoir of Sir Neil Campbell.

NEWSPAPER

Bahama Gazette. Nassau, Bahamas. 1784–1800. Microfilm copy in P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, University of Florida.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Terry Smith

Lee Smith

Dr. Donald Keith

Editor’s Note: Dr. Donald Keith from Ships of Discovery and Dr. Neal Hitch of the TCI National Museum plan an expanded archaeological exploration project on Ft. George Cay from October 23 to November 6, 2009. We’ll keep you informed of the results.

This Loyalist likely lived on North Caicos and helped build Ft. St. George. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Futher info. is in the following article: By Dr. Charlene Kozy, former professor and president of Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee

In my previous article, “Follow the Chimneys” (Spring 2009 Times of the Islands), local plantations were described as to content and their relation to a new community. To further learn and understand this early history, the individuals that immigrated and built the community should be studied. Each has an unique and fascinating story. Let’s begin with Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Brown of His Majesty’s Kings Rangers.

Thomas Brown was born in the seaport town of Whitby in Yorkshire, England. His father Jonas Brown was from a distinguished and titled family and his mother was the granddaughter of Isaac Newton. He received a classical education and sailed on his father’s ships to the New World transacting business from Nova Scotia to Barbados. He spoke of the cordial treatment from the American colonists and decided to settle there, specifically in Georgia.

Unfortunately for Brown, he arrived in America when a movement for independence from England was strong, although it seemed far away in Boston. Brown attended one of the “Sons of Liberty” meetings where he spoke freely of allegiance to the King and refused to sign a document known as the “Continental Association” which declared allegiance to a rebellion. Brown had been honored with a magistracy appointment and had taken an oath to uphold British law.

After the meeting, he was followed home by “a hundred or so” men. After a vigorous defense, he was brutally assaulted, tarred and feathered, partially scalped and tied to a tree with fire under his feet that caused the loss of toes. The greatest harm was a blow to his head that came from behind and left him unconscious for two days and with headaches for the rest of his life. He even submitted to brain surgery to remove any bone fragments that might have lodged in his brain. Nothing stopped his headaches. His feet were so damaged that he was known as “Burntfoot Brown” throughout the war.

The mistreatment of Brown brought the Loyalists one of their ablest leaders who would repay the “Sons of Liberty” in full measure. In a letter to his father he said, “I do not wish to take up arms against the country that gave me being.” He understood commitment and his five years in the American Revolutionary War gave him experience.

A new home on North Caicos

Following the unsuccessful war in America, the British government began aiding the banished Americans in finding new homes. Surveys in 1782 and 1783 established which islands in the Bahamas were uninhabited and the kind of soil each had. The Caicos Islands were found as uninhabited and “having the best soil.”

Claims were made systematically relating to losses in America. Considerations were given to those who had performed “exceptional services,” and those who had borne arms. The total acreage granted on North Caicos was 10,090 acres and on Middle Caicos 4,814 acres.

The military grantees were obviously favored over the non-military grantees and were high-ranking commissioned officers. Although the number of actual grants to the military was approximately one in four, the average acreage per grant was approximately 680 for military and 189 for non-military. The largest percent of the grantees were from Georgia, South Carolina and East Florida with the exception of Stephen De Lancey, a high ranking officer from New York. His plantation is noted on present day maps by its name “Greenwich” on North Caicos. William Farr was the only grantee who was originally from the Bahamas. The grants were issued between 1789 and 1790. The planters built homes, roads, planted crops and were beginning to be a community.

Thomas Brown received eight grants of land in 1789 and one in 1790. The grants totaled 4,560 acres and some sources have his acreage as high as 8,000. Many grantees named their plantation as Brown named Brownsborough in Georgia. The location of his plantation home has not been identified since no appraisal was made and a name not recorded. A clue might be that his future father-in-law, William Farr, received 380 acres “on the southward of the salt pond between Pumpkin’s Bluff and three rocks bounded on the north by the said salt pond and on the east by Thomas Brown’s.” Farr called his plantation “Cottage.” Mr. Farr died in l800 and it is likely that Brown’s house was nearby since it became a familial household with widow Farr, her sister and Charles Fox Taylor (an Indian Loyalist from Georgia) living there. The coastal town of Whitby, North Caicos was undoubtedly named for Brown’s birthplace, Whitby, England.

The West Indies had been described as a virtual money-box to both the British and French for over 100 years. After a short ten years of peace, the humiliated British Navy set out to re-establish sea power and acquire the entire French possessions in the West Indies beginning in 1793. The proximity of the Caicos created a threat to the fledging Island settlement.

Protecting Fort St. George

“The water is clear and cannons are easily seen lying partially buried in the sand.”
Dr. Donald Keith,  2007

Crumbling remains of fort on Ft. George Cay Crumbling remains of fort on Ft. George Cay

This is what we see now, but let’s drift back in time to the 1790s and visualize Fort St. George Harbor. In letters written in 1805 by Thomas Brown to the Earl of Camden and the Under Secretary of State he tells how he met the threat of a French invasion in an area “totally out of the protection of government and is daily exposed to capture or destruction.”

With this daily reminder of what could happen, he states that “he (the petitioner) also constructed two forts, barracks for soldiers at his own expense and provided the same with fourteen cannons, ammunition, and other military stores for the defence of the Island and provided the same with and equipped and manned 14 guns from the last war for the defence of Saint George Harbor.” He mentioned in the last paragraph that a furnace was constructed for “the heating of shot.”

The letter continues, “that for the security of his property on the Caicos, as will be more fully appear by documents delivered to the Lord of the Treasury, he armed, clothed, and disciplined . . . all of his Negro men during the whole of the last war and never had a cause to repent of the trust in their fidelity.”

There is no account of the fort being tested by a French invasion but one rousing activity was reported in the Bahama Gazette of August 21, 1798:

“A ship bound for Grand Caicos was wrecked on West Caicos. Brown and other planters sent their boats to retrieve goods belonging to them. As the supplies were being transferred into the small boats, a French privateer came up under full sail. Four vessels made a run for it, but Brown’s men decided to fight for their possessions. The all-black crew was armed with only a two-pounder cannons and muskets, but they drove off the Frenchmen repeatedly. The heavier armed privateer stayed out of range of Brown’s defenders and used its cannons to sink Brown’s boat. The valiant crew swam ashore.”

A letter from Brown to his father Jonas Brown in Whitby, England told of the battle and wrote, “I was so proud of my men, I did not mind the loss of the goods.” For slaves to be armed without fear of a rebellion or running away is more than unusual, it is unheard of on American plantations. The attitude of slave owners was to keep watch and severe punishment was inflicted for any suspicion of disloyalty.

He shows his understanding of the efforts in the West Indies by suggesting that the troops going to Jamaica be sent to the Caicos “for seasoning” to reduce the mortality rate. He further proposes the establishment of “a naval and military camp hospitals on Pine Key . . . For the people with contagious disorders might have a chance of recovery in pure air.”

In a later letter Brown offers to “with pleasure (if deemed necessary) embark with 100 armed Negroes . . . or any service I am capable from my local or military knowledge” to aid in the war.

In the several letters recorded in the Colonial Office, Brown repeats his concern for the safety and welfare of the inhabitants of the Caicos Island and that Ft. St. George was a vulnerable place because of its deep harbors, and urged that it be strengthened to withstand any attack.

Happy days

Thomas Brown’s ten year stay on North Caicos was perhaps the happiest time in his life. He received land in March, 1789–90 and in October 1789, the Gazette announced his marriage to Ester Farr of Nassau, the 16-year old daughter of Captain William Farr and his wife Sarah “on the Caicos.” Projecting, it is possible that the two met in Nassau, fell in love and with Brown’s influence, Farr received land on the Caicos. Her young age would support the desirability of her parents moving with her. Thomas and Ester (Hetty) had four children born on the Caicos. Mary Frances, Thomas Alexander Murray, Charles Susan Baring, and Susan Harriet — who was her father’s favorite.

Since there was no appraisal, the contents of his household are not known as it is with other plantations; however, the structure of property and management of the plantation is known and in comparison to other plantations is most unusual.

In a petition written to the Earl of Camden requesting land on St. Vincent, Brown describes his plantation as having 643 Negro slaves (he did not own slaves in America, his servants were white indentured) and 15 white overseers and their families situated on 13 cotton plantations and one sugar estate. He allowed each slave (or family) to live on an acre of land. Mathematically, this would encompass at least 300 acres and would spread the slaves’ living quarters instead of slave row houses found on other plantations.

With the acreage he owned, he could support these large numbers and still show a profit. He recorded, as being cultivated, 3,000 acres in cotton, 1,000 in grapes, and 700 in corn to feed his people. Trees were used as wind barriers and fences. This eliminated the laboriously built stone fences found in other plantations. For profit, he claimed his estate made 20,000 pounds each year.

A unique feature of Brown’s plantation goes beyond “arming and disciplining” his Negro men. It is the total lifestyle he created for “his people.”

He wrote more than once about the treatment of his slaves; i.e. not asking his people to do tasks that animals could so such as turning heavy wheels of grist or sugar mills. He would buy a slave from another plantation for marriage at his plantation and his policy was to not sell his people. His relationship and trust in his slaves are exemplified in the arming of the men, allowing them to have land of their own and respecting their tasks performed and family life.

The death of his father on March 28, 1799, the proximity to rebellious islands, and the slowing of profit on the Caicos caused Brown to return to Whitby, England. The danger of the seas and an illness delayed his departure until June 1802. He gathered his children, now age 11 and younger, Hetty’s mother Sarah Farr and Black Nancy, the housekeeper with her mulatto son George to make the trip.

It is speculated that George was Thomas’s son. In his will that was written at St. Vincent he gave a certificate of freedom for some “faithful Negroes who had given unequivocal proofs of affection for him and pay to Nancy Browne, his eldest and most faithful servant £10 annually during her life and give her a house and grounds upon his estate and in case of sickness or any casualty to demand the plantation allowance and medical attendance.” Cyree Browne and Maurice Moore Browne of the Caicos were mentioned in the will with similar gifts. They stayed on the Caicos to manage the cattle ranch when Brown moved to St. Vincent. (The will is courtesy of Joan Leggett, great-great-great-great grandaughter of Thomas Brown.)

In Yorkshire, Brown bought Newton House from family members and moved his family there. A fifth child, George Newton Brown. was born at Yorkshire. Brown’s war record and fortune opened society’s doors and he was generally welcomed as a hero.

Brown’s plantation on the Caicos operated for a few years with overseers until he could clear his way to St. Vincent. King George III granted Brown’s request for 6,000 acres on November 10, 1804. He moved his family (with the exception of the younger children in school) to St. Vincent and in 1805 he procured a ship to transport his 643 Negroes and 15 white overseers. It was estimated that four or five trips would be necessary. It was in 1806 before the transition was complete. Brown returned to England and stayed until 1817 due to legal problems. The estate in St. Vincent would operate under the management of Tom Cayley, Brown’s nephew.

Upon returning to St. Vincent, he built a mansion for his family. It was at this time that he added an “e” to change the spelling of his surname to Browne. He named his house Montague House, honoring his ancestor Sir Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague, master of horse for King Henry VIII. Thomas Browne died on St. Vincent on August 3, 1825 at the age of 75.

Conclusions

The only visible legacy of Thomas Brown on the Caicos Islands would be Fort St. George at St. George Harbor. Evidence of British soldiers has been found, which leads us to question the authenticity of Brown’s claim of constructing the fort. A study of the war with France which began in 1792 and was fought bitterly in the West Indies is necessary, along with the capability of Thomas Brown.

Thomas Brown was a soldier, a British soldier. He entered service for His Majesty George III when he was 25 years old in America. He fought with Cornwallis against George Washington in the southern arena during the American Revolution. He developed the “Southern Strategy” that lengthened the war. Thomas Brown took part in all the major engagements and many minor skirmishes over a five year period and lived to tell it.

History chronicles the bloody war in the South with Brown a major player. General Henry Lee asked Brown to surrender at Fort Cornwallis which stood near a river. Lee described it as “judiciously constructed, well finished and secure from storm.” The second fort was Colonel James Grierson’s house or Fort Grierson. The Americans attacked Fort Grierson and Brown covered the men there with a cannonade and led them to Fort Cornwallis. The ability of Thomas Brown to construct and properly man them is supporting evidence of his construction of the fort with possibly the help of other inhabitants of the Island.

The war in the Caribbean and the British need to win there must be considered. The Caicos Islands were uninhabited until the land grants were made in 1789–1791. The war between the French and English began in 1793. Three years was not enough time to establish the importance that the sugar plantations in the West Indies had.

In addition, the old rivalry between the French and English heightened after the French and Indian War in America when the French lost all their lands to the English. The French were not hesitant to support the rebellious colonies in America in getting their freedom from England.

The renewal of war after only a ten year peace alerted the British to protect their maritime and commercial interests. It was decided by the British Secretary of State for Home and Colonies that the West Indies was “the first point to make perfectly certain.” The main crops were sugar, coffee and cotton, with sugar by far the largest commodity for over 100 years. France enjoyed the same productivity but on a slightly smaller scale. England was addicted to tea with sugar added.

Thus, the mission in the West Indies was to re-establish British sea power and a hope of acquiring the entire French overseas empire. In May 1797. Britain’s offensive military resources were exhausted. At least 20,000 deaths in the army in the Caribbean were recorded in 1797. By 1801, it is reasonable to assume that 43,750 white men died both in the Caribbean and en route. Men ready to fight were demoralized by diseases of malaria and yellow fever more than by the French soldiers or rebel slaves.

The British changed their strategy in 1796–97 to safeguard their possession admitting “the climate of the West Indies . . . has destroyed the armies of Great Britain.” After 1797, military operations in the Caribbean were subordinate in nature.

It was after 1797 and the evacuation of British armies in Saint Domingo that Thomas Brown made the plea for protection of the Caicos Islands and the description of forts built by himself/inhabitants of the Caicos Islands. At the same time it is documented that

“young Neil Campbell entered the Army in 1797 . . . and in October 1798 we find him stationed at Jamaica as ensign in the 67th Regiment. In consequence of evacuation of St. Domingo by the British at that period and its delivery to Toussaint L’Ouverture the Negro Chief, the colonist of the Caicos, or Turks’ Islands, were apprehensive that an attack might be made upon them by the Blacks . . . a small detachment of the 67th Regiment, and a party of Artillery with guns and stores under the command of Ensign Neil Campbell. . . . the whole encircled by a reef of coral excepting in one part. Where there is deep water and anchorage within the reef.  . . . on a small bank opposite to this anchorage, Ensign Campbell placed his detachment and then proceded to construct fences, barricades and storehouses. . . . Neil Campbell returned to England in 1800.”

No mention is made of cannons or furnace for heating shot in the documentary. It is logical to assume, since his stay was barely one year, that he refurbished the living arrangements for soldiers in the existing fort.

In view of the global situation with England and France and a careful study of the encounters between the French and English in the West Indies exacerbated by malaria and yellow fever, logic and fact would strongly suggest that the British government did not build the fort (or two forts) on St. George Harbor; however, they did occupy it when Neil Campbell was sent as a reinforcement after Brown’s plea for support at the existing forts.

Sources

PRIMARY SOURCES

Bahama Registry

Colonial Office, British Public Record Office, 260/19

Letters from Thomas Brown to his father Jonas Brown

Joan Leggett, private collection

 
 



  
       
 
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Thomas Brown/e, Lieut. Col.'s Timeline

1750
1750
Yorkshire, England
1792
1792
Age 42
1825
1825
Age 75
St Vincent
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St. Vincent

There is a grave on Thomas Browne's Grand Sable Estate which is believed to be his grave and that of his son Rev.T.A.M. Browne.