In one Jefferson County community, the legacy of a man considered a hero during the War of 1812 has stood strong for centuries. In this week's edition of "Your Hometown," Elizabeth Jeneault explains how General Jacob Brown launched the Town of Brownville.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- In 1799, a Pennsylvania land surveyor named Jacob Brown set out for the North Country. On his way there, he traveled through many areas before settling in what is now known as the Village of Brownville.
"I think he settled here because he saw the waterfalls and figured it would be a good source of power," explained Constance Hoard, a Brownville resident.
After deciding on the area he brought his family north. Their early log cabins served a hub for newcomers.
"When people came up they needed a place to stay and eat and the Browns fed them," said Hoard.
The Town of Brownville was officially formed in 1802. Back then, it stretched past Clayton. Now, the Villages of Brownville, Dexter and Glen Park comprise it. Although the Village of Brownville wasn't incorporated until 1828, it was where the town's life first began to flourish.
"Because once people came they had to figure out what land was available, had to buy the supplies for the land, so it made Brownville bigger," said Hoard.
A sawmill was built in the village and then a gristmill. Settlers in remote areas would travel to the village for their services.
"Gristmills ground up grains and made it so that they could use the grains that they grew to make staples to eat," explained Bill Bell, a Brownville resident.
At the onset of the War of 1812, Jacob Brown was appointed captain and then colonel of the 108th Regiment of the New York Militia. As Brigadier General in the Spring of 1811, Brown was charged with defending 300 miles of land from Oswego to St. Regis. That gave Brown power, which he then used to boost transportation to the area.
"All the roads coming into the area led to Brownville," said Bell.
The success Brown found with getting business to boom followed him on the battlefield. He oversaw the British attack on Ogdensburg in 1812 as well as their raid on Sackets Harbor a year later. By 1814, he had been promoted to Major General.
"He was one of the few ones that had won all of his battles," explained Hoard.
Despite being remembered as a hero, Brown's legacy is often best remembered by the mansion he left behind. After Brown moved to Washington to serve as General-in-Chief of the Army, the mansion was sold to his brother-in-law and then to other families.
"It was in private hands until about 1950 then Samuel Upham purchased it from the person and gave it to the village," said Hoard.
Since then, it has been known as the jewel of the village. It contains a library, the village offices and more.
"The mansion itself has been a godsend for us," explained Village of Brownville Mayor Patrick Connor. "The people kind of drift to it, show up here."
It's a place where weddings have been held, children play in the summer and where people can forever remember the Brown family legacy.
If you'd like to learn more about General Jacob Brown, the village invites you to visit the mansion during office hours.
The historic home is located at 216 Brown Boulevard. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.