Brown, A. H., & Co.
Merchant Ledger & Memorandum Book of A. H. Brown & Co., of Point of Rocks and Fleecy Dale Farm, Frederick County, Maryland, 1832-1844

Folio, 278 manuscript pp., plus blanks, bound in contemporary sheep, boards dusty, spine lacking, boards very worn scuffed and rubbed, edges and corners worn through, interior good, a couple of leaves lacking, entries written in ink, in a legible hand, dated 21 April 1832 to 24 August 1893, the volume includes four different sections as follows: 1. Point of Rocks Business Ledger, 148 mss pp., 21 April 1832 to 10 Dec1835 2. Day Book Journal, 7 mss pp., 20 April 1840 to 19 Aug 1840 3. Fleecy Dale Business Ledger, 69 mss pp., 20 Aug 1841 to 10 Jan 1844 4. Miscellaneous writings and notes on religious topics, etc., 54 mss pp., 9 Dec 1888 to 24 Aug 1893

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Alexander H. Brown (1800-1873)

While the ledger is not signed, it was kept by A. H. Brown, of Point of Rocks, Frederick County, Maryland. Brown was a commission merchant at depot at Point of Rocks.

Point of Rocks is today an unincorporated town in Frederick County, Maryland. In the early-19th century, the arrival of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad led to an increase in settlement and industry in the Point of Rocks area. The village became a temporary terminus for both the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad in 1828 when the companies went to court to determine which would control the right of way through the narrow passage between the Potomac River and Catoctin Mountain immediately west of Point of Rocks. After six years of court battles, the companies agreed to compromise and share the right of way, the B&O Railroad eventually constructing a tunnel through the mountain to broaden its lines through the narrow water gap. It was during this time that this ledger was mainly kept.

 

With the construction of the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad and its strategic location on the Potomac River, Point of Rocks was poised to become a regional transportation hub and center of industrial activity. In 1835, Charles Johnson, the owner of the land on which Point of Rocks was built, had lots surveyed and streets laid out for a new town.  A.H. Brown is found purchasing at least one of these lots, lot #56 for $ 41 from Johnson.

In an advertisement in The Franklin Town Herald (Frederick, MD) of 30 June 1832, A. H. Brown & Company advertises the following:

"Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road. A.H. Brown & Co. Forwarding Agents & Commission Merchants, at the Depot at the Point of Rocks, Respectfully offer their services to farmers, millers, and others, in forwarding flour and produce to market on Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road. Their charge for forwarding flour will be thirty five cents per barrel (which charge includes all costs after its delivery to them, until delivered at the Depot in Baltimore). They are also prepared to forward any merchandize or other article that may be consigned to the west - having built an extensive warehouse for the accommodation of those who may favor them with their custom. Point of Rock, April 14, 1832."1

The Point of Rocks community became an important town in Frederick County in the 1830's when the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was built and again in the 1870's when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad opened the Point of Rocks Railroad Station. Although the area had been used as a trading center called Trammelstown by early settlers and even earlier as a village of the Kanahwa Indians, the existing town of Point of Rocks emerged after the introduction of the Railroad in the 1870's.

The Fleecy Dale Farm was owned by Matthew Brown (1766-1831). It was a 400 acre farm with a dwelling house that was built in 1768 of bricks brought from England. The first glass works in Maryland was started on this farm and after Brown purchased the farm, he turned the glass works into his wool manufactory, glass ceased in the area, and local landowners began raising sheep to support the wool industry.

Matthew Brown was long connected to the press of Baltimore City and Frederick County. He wrote considerably and devoted much of his time to agriculture and wool manufacturing. After he retired as an editor he removed from Baltimore to Frederick County, where he purchased several thousand acres of farm and timber land situated in Urbana District.

Brown also owned the Fleecy Dale Factory, near what is now known as Park Mills, where he did a good business that provided "dyeing, fulling and dressing services for wool. As a complement, or supplement to the wood factory, Matthew probably also owned a sheep farm, judging by an advertisement he placed "Ewes Wanted" in a Frederick County newspaper in 1816. Brown grew grain on the same farm; this assumption is based on another advertisement where he advertised "corn for sale" at his farm on the Monocacy River near the mouth of Bennett's Creek. Between his farm and factory, he would have benefited from the nine slaves that he owned."2

Scholar Myra Beth Young Armstead in her book "Freedom's Gardener: James F. Brown Horticulture and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America," makes a case that James F. Brown (1793-1868), an escaped slave, who became a master gardener for a wealthy family in rural upstate New York, was once a slave held by Matthew Brown.3

Matthew Brown married a woman by the name of Mary and had at least three children. His daughter Anna married William Graff. His son, Peter H. Brown, purchased and become editor of the Republican Gazette. His second son Alexander H. Brown (1800-1873) became a commission merchant at Point of Rocks. The ledgers offered here include many entries for agricultural foodstuffs and various types of timber, or lumber commodities of A.H. Brown & Company.

      Description of Ledger

 While the volume is not signed, there is enough internal evidence in the ledger to conclude it was kept by A.H. Brown. The section of the book titled "Day Book Journal," contains accounts entirely of A.H. Brown, where he is paying out monies for various laborers, both white and "coloreds." Elsewhere in the volume, such as on the endpapers, the Brown family name shows up. Point of Rocks and Fleecy Dale are the names of two sections of the four sections in the volume and we know that the Brown family owned Fleecy Dale and A.H. Brown is shown in the above advertisement of 1832 (the same time this ledger was being kept) as having a commission merchant business at Point of Rocks, MD. The entries in the ledger show the keeper to be a merchant, thus the ledger of A.H. Brown & Company.

     The ledger keeps tracks of the expenses, sales, etc, and of the money that is coming in and the money that is going out, such as that paid for items or material, the expenses of laborers, both white and black. The "Day Book Journal" section reads more like an account ledger then a traditional day book or journal.

     An example from this section follows:

"Day Book 1840 June 6

A.H. Brown Cr. Beets Acc.

Shovel plough chaking furrows 1 colorman 1 hour .35

1 white boy dropping seed 35c

1 white boy hoeing seed ½ day .12 ½c

1 white boy hoeing seed 1 day 25c

1 black boy hoeing seed 1 day 25c

1 colored young man 35c

One acre No.1 field

Island

2 ploughs 2 white men 6 hours 2.30"

 

Footnotes:

1. The Franklin Town Herald (Frederick, MD), 30 June 1832.

2. Armstead, Myra Beth Young. Freedom's Gardener: James F. Brown Horticulture and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America. New York & London: New York University Press, 2012, pp. 16-18.

3. Armstead. pp. 16-18