John Brownlee

The story of the proprietor of a sawmill in Costello, Pennsylvania.


John Brownlee, proprietor of a sawmill in Costello, Pennsylvania is the son of Robert and Ruth Brownlee, and was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland in 1827. When he was 2 years old his parents moved to Killyleagh, County Down, where he was reared and educated, and learned the trade of baker and pastry chef.

In 1851 he came to the United States, the passage occupying 13 weeks, and located in New York City. The first engagement on this side of the Atlantic was as a pastry cook on the steamship Georgia under Admiral Porter, running between New York and Aspinwall. After following his trade for 5 years in New York, he came in 1856, through the influence of his half brother Gorman Young of Ohio, to Potter County, where he has ever since resided. He settled in Portage Township on the place he now owns, which he purchased when it was wilderness. This he cleared and improved, making it a fine property. Coming here as he did with $2,000 in money, Mr. Brownlee was considered a capitalist in those days. He is the owner of a saw, grist, planning and shingle mill, and in addition to attending to the work on his farm, has always been in the lumber trade. Mr. Brownlee has been twice married....first in Liverpool, England to Elizabeth Savage of Downpatrick, County Down, Ireland, who bore him 10 children, all natives of Potter County except the eldest, who was born at 73 Fulton St. New York City. Seven of the children are yet living. This wife dying, Mr. Brownlee afterward married Rebecca Courtney, of Fulnek, a Moravian settlement in Yorkshire, England. Politically Mr.Brownlee is a republican.

Thomas Washington Brownlee, born at 73 Fulton St. New York City August 27,1854, the eldest son of John Brownlee and grandson of Robert and Ruth Brownlee, married Ellen Louise Chadwick of Emporium, PA.(born 2/12/1852). They were married at Costello, Potter County PA on 9/29/1885. Ellen Chadwick taught school and operated a millinery shop before her marriage. There were 3 children born of this marriage. They are Francis (Frank) Chadwick Brownlee born 6/23/1887, Anna (Mary Ann) Irene Brownlee born 5/15/1894, William Penrose Brownlee born 3/14/1896. They pursued farm work and the various other enterprises that were on the family property. In 1889 Thomas and wife Ellen with their young son Francis moved to St. Petersburgh, Florida. Purchasing an orange grove and working it about 2 years. They lost the grove due to an exceptional freezing winter. Moving back to the family homestead where the other 2 children were born, and living there until September 30, 1911, when the Bayless Paper Mill damm burst creating a devastating flood which destroyed the family holdings, this flood was called the Austin Flood. They were left with a team of horses and the clothes on their backs.

Thomas Brownlee then moved his family to Jamestown, N.Y. where work was found in the furniture factories there. Francis Chadwick Brownlee met Leafy Lucille Bush (born 11/15/1892) and were married 6/19/1915 in Jamestown, N.Y. Frank worked at the Cresent Tool Company and 3 children were born of this marriage, they are, Burdette Ohmer Brownlee born 3/19/1917, Robert Winfield Brownlee born 11/17/1918 and Ruth Elizabeth Brownlee born 1/6/1922 dying 1/9/1922. Aall the children were born in Jamestown, N.Y. On 1/28/1923 Lucille Bush Brownlee died of pleurisy leaving 2 small boys, Burdette and Robert. Frank and son Burdette then went to live with Frank's parents Thomas and Ellen Bownlee, and son Robert going to live with his maternal grandparents Hiram and Violet Bush, all residing in Jamestown, NY. In May of 1924 Thomas, Ellen and grandson Burdette moved to Rochester, N.Y. to live with their daughter Anna Irene Brownlee Fessenden who was a teacher in the Rochester school system.

In December 1925, Thomas Washington Brownlee went to Spring House, PA. for an operation of his throat cancer, from which he never recovered dying 12/19/1925. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery Rochester, N.Y. Frank C. Brownlee moved to Rochester in the summer of 1925 to again live with his mother Ellen Louise Brownlee. Work was slow in Jamestown, which was one of the reasons for coming to Rochester. He worked as a truck driver for a car dealer.

William Penrose Brownlee and Lucy Irene Haskins were married 5/22/1920 in Jamestown NY. Of this marriage there were 3 children born, they are Thomas Marlin Brownlee born 1/26/1921, Waldo William Brownlee born 7/7/1922, Shirley Deloris Brownlee born 11/23/1923. All were born in Jamestown, N.Y. William and Lucy Brownlee and family moved from Jamestown to Rochester, the spring of 1926 locating on Tremont Street. William worked as a truck driver for the Rochester Gas and Electric.

From Beers History of McKean, Elk and Potter Counties,1890. Submitted by Carol Brownlee Brown

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