Vincent (Vince) Brown’s search into family records began with some genealogy information given to him by his grandmother Loree Brown shortly before her death in 1977.
Vince found it “exotic” that it included news that some of his grandmother’s ancestors had moved to Kansas. He wrote to a newspaper in Waverly, Kansas, where they settled in 1870 through 1900, asking for information.
Although he received four letters in return, he didn’t act on the information until 2016-2017 when he connected with Kansas relatives on social media.
That initial information from his grandmother led to a 350-page book he has written and self-published with the help of his brother Steven Brown. The book details the family’s ancestry both in Morrow County and for the branch that migrated to Illinois and Kansas.
About half the book has census, birth, marriage and death records. The rest of the book contains personal data including old letters, lawsuit, divorce and foreclosure records as well as a few photos and some theories of the authors about what the lives of their ancestors were like.
At the center of the story is a farmer, the Brown’s third great-grandfather Hethcote Chilcote. He fathered 12 children and buried two wives in Morrow County. He moved to Kansas in his early 60s with six of his adult children and their families. Chilcote took with him about $15,000. Much of that was from the sale of his property in Morrow County to his oldest son, Denton.
Steven was intrigued with the mystery of the seeming disappearance of Hethcote’s first wife, Mary. She was the mother of Denton Chilcote, their great, great grandfather.
There is no record of Mary after the 1850 census and they can find no record of her life or death after that.. He wonders if Denton didn’t speak of it because of trauma, or embarrassment.
“A serious difficulty for me is to try to imagine what their lives, values and personalities were actually like 150 years ago,” Steven said. “We see dry facts, when someone died or was married. It becomes difficult to extract from that data what was really going on back then.”
Having lost two wives in Ohio, Hethcote married a divorced Kansas mother with her own farm and six children.
Research in Kansas
Vince, whose career has been at Battelle in Columbus, traveled with his brother Steven a United Methodist pastor to Illinois where an ancestor Nicodemus Chilcote had settled. The two also made trips to Kansas to research their ancestor Hethcote’s family.
“I was surprised to learn our ancestor (Hethcote) had loaned money to his wife at least four times,” Vince said. “And on two occasions she signed mortgages with her pre-marital farm as collateral.”
He also found it surprising that Hethcote made so many personal and business loans that he operated almost as a private bank. He wondered what kind of a person his ancestor was who had made so many diverse business dealings.
In Kansas they met relatives who were descendants of Hethcote and searched the Waverly, Kansas records for property transfers and other information about the life of Hethcote and his children who left Morrow County.
Browns looked for evidence of why some of the family migrated to Kansas and Illinois, while others in the family like their great-grandfather Denton remained in Morrow County
Vince said the short answer is that they could buy land in Kansas for $20 an acre in 1870 and 1895 when they left Ohio. There were also many living in Kansas who had migrated from Ohio and told stories of golden opportunities in the west.
Vince noted that Waverly has celebrated “Ohio Days festival annually for about 125 years since there are so many Ohioans who went there to live.
Details of research
Vince said he began his search of family history with land records. That puts a person at a place on a certain date. Census records online were also an important resource since they show all the people living in a residence.
Mount Gilead Public Library genealogy volunteer Stan Sipe said Vince spent a lot of hours in the library’s genealogy department. It is a good place to begin research into Morrow County families.
The library has a membership to Ancestry.com and patrons can use it at both the main library and genealogy department. Patrons can also access birth and death records of Morrow County in the library’s genealogy department as well as Morrow County Sentinel archives.
There is a lot online now in Familysearch.com and other records,” Sipe said.
The Mount Gilead Library Genealogy Department is open on Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. A copy of “Chilcote-related Families Migrating from Central Ohio to Eastern Kansas circa 1870-1900” is available at the Mount Gilead Public Library genealogy department.
Vince Brown can be contacted for copies or more information at [email protected].