FAMILY HISTORY OF RAY BROWN I
By His Grandson, RAY BROWN III
Thomas Cottam Romney, PH. D. authored a book named "The Mormon Colonies in Mexico", I will quote this book extensively in the beginning of the history of my ancestors since this is a authoritative account of the Mormon settlements in Chihuahua, Mexico, and a testament to the origins of my family line in Mexico.
In the beginning the question of establishing Mormon colonies in Mexico was discussed by President Young in a letter dated April 11, 1877, addressed to J.Z. Stewart and his companion's missionaries. This letter instructed the missionaries to contact J.W. Campbell, who was residing in Texas at the time. President Young was interested in the conditions in Mexico. As a result, the presidency responded by sending three missionaries to the Mexican Republic in the summer of 1879. In November of 1887, A.M. Tenney, Peter J. Christopherson, Charles Edmund Richardson and Gilbert D. Greer were called to a misson to the state of Sonora. This mission proved to be untenable since the Yaqui and the Apache Indians still maintained considerable control over the area, besides most of the territory is very rugged and arable land is in short supply. This situation was different on the Eastern slopes of the Sierra Madres, especially in the Casas Grandes area. The stage was set for Miles Park Romney my great, great, grandfather and his daughter Martha Diana Romney to settle in this area on the 7th., of December, 1885. From the Piedras Negras River, a tributary of the Casas Grandes River, the foundation for Colonia Juarez was laid five miles northwest of Casas Grandes. In the meatime O.P. Brown, my great grandfather was preparing for a mission in Ogden, and eventually was sent to the Colonies in Mexico. The two met in the Colonies and were soon married. The first two children died in 1890, and 1892, however; my grandfather Ray Brown born in 1892 was the third child and survived.
Quoting from T.C. Romney's book, "In the middle of January, 1886, A.F. Macdonald was given the power of Attorney by 31 colonist to purchase for them a tract of irrigable and pasture lands adjacent to the San Diego grant, owned by Don Luis Terrazas, a multi-millionaire and ex-Governor of Chihuahua." "Several days were spent in the examination of the deeds and other document pertaining to the property and finally, on the 12th of February, a contract was drawn up and signed for the purchase of 20,000 hectares, or 49,400 acres, of land on the Piedras Verdes River, on which latter was built Colonia Juarez."
The early days of O.P. Brown in the Mexican Colonies must have been full of adventure. According to my father Ray Brown Jr., my great grandfather, Orson Pratt Brown, settled in an area described as inaccessible due to box canyons and jagged cliffs. To access this area a traveler had to traverse through mountain passes and rugged canyons of the Sierra Madre deep in to the valley of the Bavispe River where the Sonoran cities of Baserac and Bavispe were founded, they were also the chief centers of agriculture and ranching.
Quoting from T.C. Rommey's book, "The purchase of about 200 square miles of territory along the banks of the Bavispe River by George C. Williams and John C. Naegle in 1892, initiated the serious colonization of Sonora. Resulting from this purchase, was the establishment thereon of a colony named in honor of President Diaz's natal state, "Oaxaca"". "A fair measure of prosperity attended the efforts of the colony for a number of years. What land could be cultivated was extremely fertile." "On September 24th, 1900, the new colony was christened "Morelos" ". "The town was organized into a branch of the Church under general supervision of the Oaxaca ward. Lorenzo S. Huish was appointed the presiding elder, and his brother Edward Huish the branch clerk. Later, in 1901, a ward organization was effected with O.P. Brown as Bishop."
My father Ray Brown Jr. and my grandmother Amy Johnson Brown would tell me stories about the early days. With regards to O.P. Brown, it was mentioned that he owned a ranch somewhere near "El Pulpito" which was the name of a rock formation high in the Sonoran Sierras.
Ray Brown b.10-1892, Gramma Phebe Brown Fife, Clyde b. 11-1894, Orson, Mattie
Home in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico
My grandfather's childhood and early teenage years were spent in the Casas Grandes area; one significant friendship was made with Gillermo Quevedo, a brother of a local Mexican rancher. Rodrigo Quevedo Moreno would later become the Governor of Chihuahua during the 1930's, and then during the 1940's and 50's, the State Senator from the State of Chihuahua to the Republic of Mexico. However lets go back to the early days of the Mexican Revolution and how it affected the Mormon Colonies. My Grandmother would tell the story about my great grandmother Martha Diana and how she lived in a Victorian style home until one day the entire families were evacuated so fast; bread was left baking in the oven. My Aunt Emma Galbraith also related some tales about a 7 mile wagon trip to the rail spur in the desert (this event would lead the families to El Paso, Texas). About half way Aunt Emma's younger brother (William Galbraith Brown) fell off the wagon and was run over, my grandfather (who was about 20 at the time) dug the grave for a hasty burial.
Before the exodus there were several significant events that warrant mentioning. First Pancho Villa did not participate in the Mexican Revolution until after the exodus. Most of the events that precipitated the exodus took place during the early months of 1912, and in the prior year. During this time the leader of the Revolution was Francisco Madero who was wounded in the wrist while storming the old town of Casas Grandes. Two months later he would take the City of Juarez, two hundred miles to the North. The leaders of the Colonies received assurances from the Mexican Federal Government that they would be protected, however; since Madero started the Revolution in the North, the Colonists were justifiably concerned. During that period there was also fighting and killings among the Colonists and the local Mexican population. One incident in particular was the killing of Juan Sosa who was implicated in a theft. Colonists were also assaulted and killed in previous years and also during this time. "These incidents and others of a similar nature induced the head of the Mormon colonies to call together leading colonists from Colonias Dublan and Juarez to consider the matter of importing from the U.S. arms and ammunition to be used by the colonists in self defense". O.P. Brown was authorized to make the purchase and arrange for the importation of the arms into Mexico. My great grandfather referred the matter to the Mexican Consulate in El Paso who in turn, laid the case before the President of Mexico. The President ruled that the Mormons should not be permitted to import their arms. About a month later my great grandfather (April 11th., 1912) wrote a personal letter to President Madero (who was elected president of Mexico as a result of his initial success in the Revolution, short lived; Madero was later assassinated by Huerta) for the importation of 24 - Mauser rifles, 20 - 30/30's, 10 - 30/40's rifles, 4 shotguns (12 gage) and 25,000 assorted cartridges. Again the president of the Republic of Mexico denied the request. "The situation was so tense and the danger so imminent, president Junius Romney decided to import the guns without the authority of the Mexican government". My great grandfather brought in the shipment over the international border and distributed the weapons among the Colonists. The weapons were not distributed to individuals but held as a community property to be used in the case of an emergency.
"On July 5, 1912, the Associated Press received the following report from Casas Grandes: "Rebels under General Salazar, commanding the van-guard of the insurrect army have begun to terrorize this region…..
President Romney (after a conference with general Salazar) gave the following statement: "I may observe that up to this moment of time it had never crossed my mind that the Colonists would have to leave Mexico, but from this moment I was perfectly convinced that unless Salazar changed his attitude toward the colonists there would be nothing for us to do but to evacuate the country, or in the alternative, actually fight the revolutionists. His manner of expression were such as to convince me that he had already formed a definite plan for the oppression, if not the extermination, of the Colonists.""
President Romney consulted with Anthony W. Ivins, who had been sent as a representative of the Church authorities on the border. The message of the impending crisis was then sent via telegram to the Church authorities in Salt Lake City that "to attempt to retain our arms and ammunition meant to engage in an armed conflict with the rebels". On July 20th., General Rojas and Colonel Jose de la Torre confiscated horses and saddles and anything else they could find in Colonia Dublan. My great grandfather then sent a letter to President Romney informing him that the revolutionaries were about to search every home and that every man should to take up arms and hide in a "good safe place".
The exodus from the Colonies took place during July 28th., and 29th.. According to a Western newspaper account, the number of colonist totaled approximately 4000. While the firearms were being turned over to the revolutionaries, the women and children were rushed to the nearest railroad point (Pearson) seven miles in distance from Colonia Juarez. Simultaneous with the above departures, the families living in the mountain settlements, Pacheco, Garcia, and Chuichupa traveled by wagon to Hachita, New Mexico.
The revolutionaries pursued various bands of Colonists consisting of most of the men. They attempted to stop them, however; the accurate and effective fire that was returned with long range rifles allowed the Colonists to escape across the U.S. border at various points of entry.
Left were great memories of a place with temperate climate and high adventure. My Father once told me a story about my Grandfather (while still living in the Colonies as a your man) and his father (O.P Brown), in their quest to discover the legendary lost gold mines of Tyopa. According to legend the Spaniards in the early 18th., century worked the gold mines high in the Sierra's. For this purpose they had enslaved the surrounding Indians, consequently they revolted and destroyed the mines to include the entrances. The only remaining structure was the mission with its cast iron bell. O.P. and my Grandfather packed in with horses until they sensed danger. The closer they approached the mines, the more they would encounter strange sightings of Tarahumara Indians. In addition, avalanches on the trail disrupted their progress. My father said that they were so close they could hear the mission bell, however; they decided to turn back due to the hazards they were encountering. My Grandfather was planning another expedition after the war with my father and his best friend Skeet Williams, however he passed away in 1946.
After the exodus my Grandfather would visit his mother (Martha Diana) in Rupert Idaho, there he met my grandmother (Amy Johnson). During this time he was also serving in the U.S. Army as General "Black Jack" Pershing's personal scout during the punitive expedition in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. [At one point Villa was wounded and was in a cave in the mountains, Villa saw these American troops pass and Ray Brown was with them. He recognized Ray.] Pancho Villa had raided Columbus, New Mexico and the U.S. Army mounted the expedition to capture him. Villa was never found, and my Grandfather received a commendatory letter from General Pershing. In the following year, my Grandfather served with the Rainbow Division in France during WWI.
I was told by my father that he spent time in the trenches near the Argone forest in France, and suffered a gas attack.
[After the thing was over and Pershing had gone, the Carranza government had offered Villa amnesty and he accepted it. They gave him that big Canutillo ranch. After Villa was settled and peaceful, Ray went down to sell him some agricultural machinery and he asked Villa; "General, when you came to Dublan that night when you were on the retreat from Columbus, why did you go out around?" Villa said, "I saw all those camp fires in the streets, and I was in no shape to fight." That night the graveyard fence, which was made of pine lumber and cedar posts five boards high, burned down, and from the reflection on this glass, he thought there was an army in here. He said, "I saw all those fires." Harvey Hyrum Taylor investigated this phenomenon from different locations and found that the graveyard fence fires were likely reflecting on the various home windows causing it to appear from a distance that there were campfires throughout the town. Story found in the Life and Times of Harvey Hyrum Taylor, Page 48, 101.]
X = Ray Brown with friends in front of bullet-ridden wall in Chihuahua after Revolution.
Ray was 20 years old when Exodus occurred in 1912.
After the war my grandparents were married in El Paso, Texas, and then moved to Mexico. My father was born in Chihuahua on August 4th, 1921. During the early 1920's my grandfather was in the car business, until one individual approached him with some minerals that were found in the Namiquipa area in the State of Chihuahua. After the ore was assayed, a significant content of gold was discovered. From that time on my grandfather then moved to Namiquipa in order to promote and develop the mine. In the beginning the financial aspect of the venture was challenging, he even had to close down the mine during the depression. He moved to El Paso, Texas for a while until he secured additional financing to re-open the mine. All of them lived in Namiquipa until they bought their property in Nombre De Dios, sometimes during the 1930's. This was a small agricultural town a few miles north of Chihuahua City. This is were I grew up until I was sixteen, the house was built by French industrialists in the 1880's, it was Victorian style and was converted into a hospital for revolutionaries under Pancho Villa. On these grounds, my grandfather, Ray Brown, enjoyed cultivating his apple and pecan orchards during his last years. The property was sold when we moved back up to El Paso during 1959.
During the late 1930's my grandfather achieved financial success in the mining business primarily by buying and selling mining leases. One interesting mining lease was Plomosas located near Ojinaga, which is a border town in the Texas Big Bend country. According to my father, the Plomosas mine was hundreds of years old, and was originally worked by the Spaniards. In those early mining days of the 17th century the engineering techniques they would use can still be seen to this day. To hold the ceiling of the interior of the mine, the Spaniards would mine large entrances and would leave large pillars for support. They would also use black powder to extract the ore. This particular mine was a lead and zinc mine with substantial deposits of galena ore. My grandfather simply mined the pillars and turned the property into a successful mining operation until he sold the lease to ASARCO, (American Smelting and Refining Co. operates a smelter for lead and zinc outside the city limits of Chihuahua, where the airport is now located).
During these (the late 1930's and early 40's) years, Dewey Brown maintained the financial and accounting records, and Clyde Brown assisted my grandfather in the operation of the various mines. Clyde Brown bought his property next to where we lived, my mother would tell me she had fun times with Aunt Mabel (one incident often mentioned was when they both packed lingerie in Aaron Brown's suit case while on his way to a mission). Manuela, Uncle Clyde's housekeeper, remembers hearing his 45 cal. Auto being discharged at the front gate when she delayed to open it. He would later operate mines with my father.
All of the Brown's business was conducted out of their office located in downtown Chihuahua City. Their social affairs included daily meetings with outside visitors who would stay at the Hotel Victoria (a colonial style hotel located in Chihuahua City).
My grandfather's best friend was Skeet Williams who owned a ranch in between Chihuahua and El Paso. Skeet was a legend in West Texas since he was one of last of the old time cowboys, he also attended my wedding at the Ft. Bliss Officers Club in El Paso on December 22nd 1971.
My grandfather's other best friend who sometimes played a significant role was Guillermo Quevedo the [brother of] Governor of Chihuahua during the 1930's, General Rodrigo Quevedo Moreno (1888-1967). During the early 1930's, President Calles with his communist influence decided to close all religious institutions. At risk were all Catholic and Protestant churches in the Chihuahua City area; this situation also included the LDS Ward. The church officials from various denominations including the LDS church approached my grandfather to negotiate a settlement with the authorities. Apparently General Quevedo interceded, since all of the churches remained open during those perilous times. The following is one among many anecdotes related by my father. [Clyde] Glen Brown (1917-1944) was riding in the same vehicle that General Quevedo's brother was driving. The incident occurred during a political campaign in Chihuahua City in the early 1940's. They were parked alongside a well-known street when suddenly the brother was approached with a drawn 45 cal. Auto. Fortunately for Glen, the General's brother reacted swiftly, with one hand he pushed back the slide immediately blocking the hammer mechanism, and with the other he drew his 45 cal. Auto and discharged it four times in the opponents lower side.
Ray Brown I, age 50
The mining leases were sold and a distribution was made to Dewey and Clyde who invested some of the proceeds in Caterpillar dealerships. My grandfather, Dewey, Clyde, and Eloy Vallina (who owned the Banco Commercial de Chihuahua and was assassinated inside his own bank lobby during the early 1960's) founded Maquinaria General de Chihuahua S.A., all owned equal shares. The Caterpillar Corporation sold the franchise to "Maquinaria" granting exclusive territorial rights for the States of Chihuahua, Sonora, Sinaloa, and Coahuila. Dewey operated the dealerships in the coastal towns of Hermosillo, Cd. Obregon, and Culiancan, my grandfather and Clyde operated the dealerships in the State of Chihuahua, and Coahuila. All of this took place during the early 1940's, my father at this time was attending New Mexico Military Institute, and Glen was at the College of Mines in El Paso. Glen was commissioned and achieved the rank of captain, as a B-26 Marauder pilot (known as the widow maker), he was killed in action sometimes during the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944. My father who was an infantry 1st Lt. in the 99th Division, was reported as missing in action during the same battle and at the same period of time. My father did not return from WWII until after my grandfather's death.
All of the above events must had an impact on my grandfather's health, he suffered extreme pain in his face due to a virus related to chickenpox (shingles). My grandparents traveled to the Mayo Clinic in New York, and the resulting surgery did relieve the pain, however; it was short lived. On October 11, 1945, my grandfather passed away on the operating table in New Orleans, LA. Again the purpose of the operation was to sever nerve endings in order to relieve the pain from the virus. The doctor that put him under had applied excessive chloroform.
Elsie Johnson Anderson [Amy Brown's sister who was 98 when she died December 15, 2003], who resides in Salt Lake City remembers the long funeral procession from El Paso to Chihuahua. She also has fond memories of my grandfather, in particular his generosity, good sense of humor, and being well liked by all. My Aunt Elsie also knew Martha Diana in Rupert while she was a child. Aunt Elsie's mother Pauline Johnson and Martha Diana were good friends. Elsie also remembers the viewing, which lasted three days. It is well known that in Mexico the majority of people in those times did not share the same material resources as those living on this side of the border. However; it is these people that attended the funeral and truly expressed their sorrow. There are many anecdotes relating to my grandfather, I will just mention a few. Manuela once told me the story of a man on horseback that approached her while she was attending a flock of turkeys on her farm. The man asked if she would sell him some birds, Manuela responded (not realizing that the man on horseback was my grandfather), that she was saving her turkeys for the rich gringo down the road, and that he would pay a higher price. My grandfather and my father with their olive skin would blend in with the population since they both wore a mustache and also the local hats. I came across Tony Vega in a shopping mall in El Paso during the 1980's, again my grandfather was mentioned in the ensuing conversation. Tony Vega bought uncle Clyde's house and was our neighbor; his father was a general in the revolution. Mr. Vega then related the story of when my grandfather was being held in a prison by the revolutionary forces under charges for spying. General Vega knew my grandfather in the Colonies and played a role in releasing my grandfather by identifying him as not being the right man, but just another gringo.
While growing up in Chihuahua I would run across people who knew my grandfather. The night custodian at my school knew my grandfather and shared fond memories. Others in Nombre De Dios would also relate stories, in particular how my grandfather would always distribute candy to all of the children in the small town on the Mexican holiday known as "El dia de los ninos" (children's day). My grandfather was remembered primarily by the local people as being a very friendly and generous man, which in my estimation is his finest tribute.
PAF - Archer Files = Orson Pratt Brown + Martha Diana Romney > Ray Brown
Biographical story contributed to this site by Ray Brown III.
Bertha's Book of Remembrance
Photo identification by James Gordon Brown.
Clarification on Guillermo Quevedo from Erin L. Quevedo T. of Casas Grandes, Chih., Mx. <email@example.com>
Life and Times of Harvey Hyrum Taylor, Page 48, 101
Copyright 2001 www.orsonprattbrown.com