As part of our 200th Anniversary, we recognize the dedication of the steadfast spirit of pioneer farm women and the continued eternal optimism and tenacity of today’s farm women. Most successful family farms benefit from the positive influence of a farm wife, mother, sister, daughter, sister-in-law, or dedicated female employee to contribute to their perseverance through good times and bad. Pioneers and settlers needed three things to survive: shelter, food, and clothes. The men supplied the shelter, and the women supplied the other two.
Bathshua Sheffield married Elijah Brown on Long Island in 1774, when she was 19 years old. They moved to an island off the coast of Connecticut known today as Fishers Island. Elijah and his brother rented the island and raised all kinds of livestock which they marketed in the West Indies with their own vessel and returned with sugar and other items from the islands.
In 1776, during the Revolutionary War, a British Captain anchored several vessels of Hessian troops nearby to seek provisions. Bathshua, a staunch colonialist and mother, confronted the captain and expressed her intense loyalty to the revolutionary cause. Subsequently, the captain took all their livestock, and things of value and burned or destroyed everything else on the island.
The Browns moved to another home in Connecticut and then to Sodus, NY. Later, Elijah ventured west down the shore of Lake Ontario to the Oak Orchard River. After purchasing the present day home farm, from the Holland Land Company in Batavia, Elijah died while bringing his family along the lakeshore to their new home in a large bateau in 1804. Bathshua, age 49, buried her husband on the farm in what became Orleans County’s first marked grave. Bathshua and Elijah had 16 children and 12 of them lived to help her settle their farm in the unbroken wilderness.
During the War of 1812, the British had several armed vessels on Lake Ontario to hinder lake commerce along the south shore. During one of these raids, a captain foolishly found himself captured and subsequently brought up to Bathshua, the matriarch of the area. He was the same captain who had plundered them on Fishers Island in 1776. Bathshua gave him three choices: be turned over to American forces at Ridge Road, let her sons have at him, or return to his ship and never come back to this area again. He chose to leave and was not seen again.
Pioneering Farm Women of the Brown Family include:
- Bathshua Sheffield – wife of Elijah Brown
- Fanny M. West – wife of Robert M. Brown
- Sarah Jane Luttenton – wife of Robert Ralph Sheffield Brown
- Pearl Jennett Rowe – wife of Harry L. Brown
- Grace Angilean Reynolds – wife of Robert R. Brown
- Claire Clement – wife of Ralph R. Brown
- Deborah Ann Beers – wife of Robert R. Brown II
- Margaret Mary Krause – wife of Eric G. Brown