In the 1880 census, the young couple is living at Hollis, Illinois in Peoria County. Henry is 22 and Victoria is 18, they have been married just long enough to have an 11 month old son name Louis. Henry had chosen to follow the path of his father and became a coal miner.
By 1890, the call of the Southern Illinois coal fields had brought the Henry Brown family to Marion, Illinois and on September 22, 1893, Adele and R.D. Holland sold the NE ¼ of the NE ¼ of Section 23 of West Marion Township consisting of 40 acres to Henry Brown for the sum of $1,170. This section of land consisted in today’s terms to the area of land ranging from S. Carbon Street to S. Fourth and was bounded by W. Main on the north to Copeland Street in the south. This would later be the areas of First, Second, Third and Fourth Streets.
In 1895, the Browns had a daughter named Bertha Brown followed in 1897 by another girl named Emma Brown. These were the fifth and sixth children born to them but were the only two children out of six who lived through childhood. All the other passed away in infancy, a fact of life not uncommon to many parents in the early days.
By the 1900 census, the Brown family was entrenched on West Main Street. Henry at age 42 had now turned to farming his 40 acre plot of land, and did so with the help of a 53 year old, live in, servant by the name of Philip Smith. Victoria was 38 and the girls Bertha and Emma were aged 4 and 2 respectively. The Brown family constructed a home located at 1831 W. Main St. on their acreage in which their family lived. This would have been a lot or two west of where Marion Gas is located and on the same side of W. Main St.
The Marion Trades Council, an early labor union, was chartered on September 7, 1901, and Henry Brown was elected president to represent them.
On October 1, 1903, their 40 acre tract was mortgaged to C.H. Denison, then Mayor of Marion to secure a loan of $200. Release of mortgage was dated August 2, 1907. I believe this mortgage was secured to begin construction of their store building.
During this time period, Henry contracted Robert C. Nall and Oscar M. Williams to construct a brick store building for him on his property at the corner of West Main Street and S. Carbon next to Lilly curve. The location of this would have been 1801 W. Main Street right where Marion Gas now sits but in those days would have been outside of city limits.
Nall and Williams were major building contractors in the early days and were responsible for building the Heyde building on North Market St., Marion Pressed Brick Works, the residence of S. H. Goodall on the southeast corner of North Market St. and Boulevard, Marion Bottling Company’s brick building on S. Granite St. and many more.
On July 1, 1909, Henry and Victoria Brown signed a 5 year release of oil and gas rights lease to G. E. Foster on all but 5 acres out of the 40 acres in this tract. Presumably, the 5 acre tract is where the Browns were currently living and operating their store. This lease allowed Foster to enter the property at any time for the purposes of prospecting, drilling and operating for oil or gas and to erect and maintain any necessary buildings, structures or pipes. The lease was for 5 years or as long as oil in any paying amount is found. The Browns would receive $100 per year for the gas products of each well or if oil was found they would receive 1/8 of the oil produced and saved. The lease was released on July 16, 1910.
In the 1910 census, Henry who is now 52 has returned to coal mining for a living. His daughters Bertha and Emma have reached ages 14 and 12.
In 1911, the Brown building and business at 1801 W. Main St. was sold to J.M. Cooksey who began his grocery business there. The building was demolished in 1970 when the corner property was sold to the Derby Refining Co. and used as a Derby service station.
In 1914, when the Marion Development Company was active in Marion, the property belonging to the Brown family and additional property to the west where the VA now sits belonging to the Blankenship family was platted off into a subdivision called, “Marion Heights”. Attempts were made to sell off plots of land but with the approaching World War it really never developed as intended. In 1918, the plat was adapted to the City of Marion anyway.
In 1917-18, during the course of World War I, Henry became even more involved in labor management. He appears to have been president simultaneously of two labor unions. The Orchard Coal Company, with Charles Norman, Superintendent, represented by Local Union No. 3731 of Marion, Henry Brown, President and the Keystone Coal Company, Mr. Cool, Superintendent, represented by Local Union No. 3221, Pittsburg, Henry Brown, President.
By the 1920 census, Henry and Victoria have moved to Amarillo, Texas. Their daughters are no longer with them. Henry is 62 and Victoria is 58.
On December 5, 1921, Henry and Victoria Brown sell off their Marion, Illinois real estate property to Robert L. Bryan and wife, Gussie Bryan for $3,600 in the form of a Warrant Deed.
In the mid 1920’s, Henry died in Amarillo, Texas. By the 1930 census, Victoria is a 68 year old widow living alone in a $9,000 home that she owns.
For a view of their W. Main store building as it appeared in 1960, see J.M. Cooksey, click here.
(Data from 1905 Souvenir History, WCHS; Federal Census Records; Marion City Directories; Williamson County in the World War; compiled by Sam Lattuca on 03/09/2013)