Dr. H.J. Brown:

Personal and Family Life


Henry Jerome Brown was born two days after Christmas 1830 on Baltimore's Bond Street. According to Leroy Graham, Brown received his education in the North, training in Philadelphia for a career in medicine. Reportedly, Brown taught himself phrenology, physiology, physiognomy, hypopathy, and electricity. Apparently, he was fairly respected within the circles of his discipline. In fact, he may have even authored a book in 1855 on the medical profession, A Voice from the Pious Dead of the Medical Profession, or, Memoirs of Emminent Physicians Who Have Fallen Asleep in Jesus: with a Preliminary Dissertation on the Cross as the Key to All Knowledge (Philadelphia, 1855).

During the late 1850s, Brown married a Washington woman named Pauline Fleet. Pauline's father, James H. Fleet was a prominent African American political leader. In fact, Fleet had served as president of the National Negro Convention of 1835. One of Pauline's sisters married Richard T. Greener, the first African American graduate of Harvard College (1870) and a prominent nineteenth century national black leader of notable accomplishment. H.J. Brown remained married to Pauline for sixty-three years, until the time of his death in 1920. Their union reportedly produced an astounding twenty-seven children, most of whom, however, did not survive to adulthood.

It seems that H.J. Brown and his family left Baltimore during the war years. It seems that the Browns spent these years in several northern states bordering Maryland and Delaware. Of the four children born to H.J. and Pauline during the war, three were born in New Jersey, and the fourth in Pennsylvania. It is quite likely that Brown continued to travel to Baltimore during the war years, for as the war ended, he appears to be a recognized leader in Baltimore's black circles. Once the war broke out, Brown was not listed at a Baltimore address again until 1867, when he lived at 92 N. Dallas Street.

Apparently, Brown like others received some patronage consideration in the form of federal-level appointments. This proved lucrative as two years after becoming a federal employee, H.J. Brown was able to move into a single family home and have his family rejoin him, presumably from some city in either Pennsylvania or New Jersey, where they had resided since the war. In 1870, a thirty-nine year old Dr. Brown; his wife, Pauline (32); their daughters, Ione (9), Auriella (8), Verdi (7), Lamentina (4), Jennevere (2); and a son, Henry, Jr. (3) took up residence at 137 Mullikin St. In the city directory for 1871 Brown reports his occupation as "lecturer." Due, perhaps, to H.J.'s appointment to the custom house in 1872-73, and the ever-increasing need for more space created by Pauline Brown's almost perpetual state of pregnancy, the Browns resided at the Mullikin Street address only until 1875. Briefly, for the years 1875 - 1878, the Baltimore City Directory lists Dr. Brown as having moved from Mullikin Street to 289 E. Fayette St. In 1878, however, the Browns settled in a nicer house, at 141 West Biddle Street, in a middle-class area of the city. According to Graham, Brown was "quite an entertainer" at this address. He reportedly held social gatherings for the likes of Frederick Douglass and U.S. Senator Blanche K. Bruce.

The Browns were firmly within the upper social circles of Baltimore's black community. When H.J. and Pauline Brown's oldest daughter, Ione, married in 1886, the event was covered by Baltimore's leading white paper, the Sun: "A fashionable colored wedding took place last night at the Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford street. Rev. E. F. Eggleston, a graduate of Lincoln University, of Oxford, Pennsylvania and Miss Ione Elveta Brown, daughter of Dr. H.J. Brown, were the couple. Rev. C.B. Perry, of Mt. Calvary Church performed the ceremony The bridesmaid was Miss Alida Matthews, of Washington. The ushers were Harry Peters, of Washington, and John Wilson. The bride wore a white brocaded satin dress handsomely draped with lace and orange blossoms. Prof. Bellini D. Fleet of Washington performed a wedding march. There were present, amongst a large company, many from Washington."

The extent to which Dr. Brown practiced medicine during the late-1870s and early-1880s is not clear. From the late 1880s until his death in 1920, Brown lists his occupation on censuses as "physician," and in the city directories, he alternates his profession between physician and "lecturer." The fact that no record of Pauline's bearing children during the first decade that such records were kept in Baltimore City, 1875 - 1885, may suggest that many, if not all, of the reported twenty-seven births were delivered by Dr. Brown.

In 1889, the Browns moved into a three story brick townhouse at 426 N. Gilmor Street in West Baltimore. H.J. and Pauline remained at this Gilmor Street address until Henry's 1920 death. In 1912, Constantia B. Brown, the youngest of the Brown children, married Ralph W. Reckling of Baltimore City. Apparently, the newly wed couple moved into the Brown family home. In fact, by time the 1920 census was taken, Ralph Reckling was considered the owner of the house, with Henry listed as a "head-of-household/renter."

Dr. Brown instilled in his children the importance of community service. Ione Brown Eggleston moved to Newark, New Jersey in 1909 with her husband, Rev. E.F. Eggleston, and Auriella Brown Eggans's occupation after she wed her second husband, Joseph A. Eggans, is unknown. However, three other off-spring of H.J. and Pauline, Harry R. Brown, Constantia B. Brown Reckling, Pauline L. Brown Wharton, continued the Brown family tradition of service.

Harry R. Brown was a Baltimore barber from 1890 until approximately 1900. In 1890, he lived at the Brown family home on Gilmor Street. By the end of the nineteenth century, prior to his move from Baltimore -- probably to Pittsburgh -- he lived on Biddle Street. Constantia B. Brown began a teaching career, probably, in the mid-1890s. All of her older sisters that lived to adulthood, Ione, Auriella, and Verdi, were teachers. In 1912, Constantia married Ralph W. Reckling. Reckling became a professor and one-time acting head of the Department of English and History at the Colored High School as early as 1916. He held a Ph.D. from Brown University, and an A.M. from Columbia. Constantia Brown Reckling, by 1920 had stopped teaching and begun to market herself as a singer.

Pauline L. Brown married Herber E. Wharton in 1897. At the time, both were teachers. By 1916, Pauline L. Wharton appears as a second grade teacher in School 101 (Paul Laurence Dunbar). While Herber's name does not appear in the directory, and evidence suggests that he was dead by the mid-1920s, two of the Whartons' children, Hermione E. and Constantia L. Wharton, appeared as teachers by the mid-1920s.


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