Major Brown’s Journey: Part One

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Garrison Brothers: John Josina, Major Brown, Eugene Hutchison, Edward Leon and Richard Gillespie. Source :Ancestry & Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Records

My second great grandfather, Major Brown Garrison, has truly captivated my imagination. Perhaps it is because I have found more information on him than many on my line, or perhaps it is because his story begins before the Civil War and ends in 1914, and sees so much change in between. Either way, researching him has been great fun and I hope to keep finding tidbits of information about his life.

Major Brown, or Brown as he was referred to in many records and I will use here from this point forward, was born in the Ebenezer Community of York District (County), South Carolina, on September 4, 1844. His parents, as I have mentioned in previous posts, were Peter Garrison, a prominent member of the community, and Cynthia Louise Hall.  They seem to have given their son his unique name in honor of two family members. Major after Cynthia’s father, Major Temple Hall, and after Peter’s mother, Sarah Brown. The family bible birth listing indicates that Brown was a twin, his brother Josina A. Garrison being listed as born on the same day. Sadly, on the following bible page listing family deaths, Josina A. is listed as passing on December 7, 1844.

Garison Bible Births
Source: Peter Garrison’s Bible, copy courtesy of distant cousin Robert MacIntosh of South Carolina

Brown’s early life was most likely spent helping his father and brothers on their farm and attending the Ebenezer Academy, a nearby one room school house on the church grounds that served as the school for the community. The school house still exists and is on the National Register of Historic Places. In the book The History of Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, by local historian and writer Samuel Brooks Mendenhall (1985), “the early academy offered young men college preparatory classes and had specific emphasis on the classics.” At the time of Brown’s attendance, the school was constructed of logs but a chemical explosion in the classroom caused it to burn down in 1859. The existing brick structure was built in its place. While the school served the community, it was not a free school. Courses were taught in several subjects and each had an associated fee:

Orthography, reading, writing and arithmetic…..$6.00

The whole or either of the above with English Grammar or Geography…..$9.00

The whole or either of the above with History, Philosophy, chemistry or

any other high English Branch…..$12.00

Latin or Greek Languages either of them…..$17.00

Mendenhall states that in 1857 the Academy was described by the Yorkville Enquirer as being located in a “beautiful and healthful section of the county, where there are few temptations to vice and extravagance.” The paper additionally stated, “It is furnished with philosophical and chemical apparatus [explains that chemical fire!], globes, maps, astronomical charts and such conveniences as are necessary in imparting thoroughness of instruction.”

Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
Ebenezer Academy- By Bill Fitzpatrick (Own work)  via Wikimedia Commons

This gives me a wonderful glimpse of the early education Brown would have received and makes me curious about his preferred academic pursuits. As he joined the Confederate cause around the age of 16, I wonder if he would have pursued more scholarly endeavors had the circumstances of the times allowed.  One unsourced family document I inherited from my grandmother states that he joined as a volunteer in June of 1861. According to his widow’s pension application, Brown initially served in the South Carolina Infantry and later served in the Company K, 5th regiment’s cavalry. The “Fighting 5th” as they were sometimes called, was also referred to as Ferguson’s Regiment, and Dunovan’s Regiment.  Men from Company K, were referred to as the “Mountain Rangers” and consisted of men from several South Carolina Districts (counties), including York District where Brown was from. (Source: Family Search). The pension application indicates he was honorably discharged from service on or about May 1865. The unsourced document from my grandmother states he surrendered at Hillsboro, North Carolina in April 1865. Other online searches corroborate this time frame. This indicates he may have fought in the Battle of Bentonville, which was the last battle between the armies of Union General William T. Sherman and Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. While this surrender took place after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia earlier that month, the combined surrenders marked the effective end of the Civil War. Hopefully, further research may reveal more about his activities and service during the war.


I have not been able to find any documentation of what his life may have been like immediately following the war, and what activities he may have pursued other than working on the family farm. However, a wonderful tidbit I found in the Mendenhall book was specifically about Brown a few years after his return home that is a fitting ending for today’s  Valentine’s Day post.

Happy Valentine's Day (2)

Mendenhall recounts that Brown “had gone to Charleston on a trading trip after the war, about the year 1870. He brought a small magnolia tree back with him and presented it to a friend, a Miss Killian. She planted the tree on the family plot in Ebenezer Cemetery. It lived and grew and bloomed many springs.” As my series on Finding Mary Jane shows, Brown did not end up marrying Miss Killian. However, I wonder at this relationship and if there had been a budding but brief romance with her. Mendenhall goes on to state that Brown and Mary Jane (he calls her Molly, perhaps a nickname?) “later moved to Warren, Arkansas, and never returned to this county except on occasional visits. They have long since returned from the ‘dust whence they came’ but the tree lives and blooms each May, a reminder of a young man’s affection for a sweetheart long ago.” While Mendenhall wrote this in 1985, his late wife and I have been in communication recently regarding my search and she confirmed that the magnolia tree is indeed still there. When I next return to Ebenezer Church, I can’t wait to see it in person.

Copyright © 2015-2016 Beth Wylie and Life in the Past Lane. All rights reserved.







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