All I have to make a living.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

Nicholas Brown filed claim #17581 with the Southern Claims Commission. Brown was 34 years old and worked as a wagon maker in Fayetteville. He was “at Fayetteville NC up to March 1865. When Genl. Sherman’s army came I left here with a part of the army went to Wilmington NC.  From there I went to Washington City in a Government Steamer remained there about 2 months and returned home about the middle of June 1865.  My place of residence was about 2 miles from Town. I bought the land before I was of age and took the deed in my mother’s name in order to secure her a home.”  The place was about 12 ½ acres, and he farmed as much as he could. He was conscripted in 1864 and put to work making wagons at the Confederate states arsenal.  Before that, he “was at work with the man [John W. Welsh] that I served my apprenticeship with.  He made wagons for the confederate government which I worked on being in his employment.”

All his property was taken on 11 March 1865 at 10 or 11 in the morning.  Soldiers came to his house at several intervals to take the horse, some fodder and shucks. Witnesses included his mother; his brothers “Laurance”, Washington and Benjamin; and his father, now deceased.

Lawrence Brown, bootmaker, was Nicholas Brown’s brother.  When the soldiers came, “my Father and I was in Fayetteville with my brothers horse and cart hauling corn from the River, corn that my Brother had bought in Bladen County and brought up on the steam boat.  The officer said, “Old man I must have this horse and cart. We have some things to haul.” My father said, “If you take this horse you will take all I have to make a living.” The officer said he could not help that and took it all.  Lawrence then went to his brother’s place about two miles north of Fayetteville and saw the yard full of soldiers taking his property.

George W. Brown, another brother, age 26 and a laborer, testified that he also witnessed the depredation, as did their mother and sisters Mariah, Mary Eliza and Wm. Ann.

Edinboro Scurlock, 45, of Fayetteville, also a wagonmaker, testified that he worked in a shop with Nicholas.  “He always talked in favour of the United States Government said the Southern people brought on the war because they were afraid that their slaves would be freed at some day.”

John W. Welsh, 54, blacksmith, testified that he had known Brown since 1858.  “He has been in my employment nearly all the time since 1858 he finished his apprenticeship with me he worked in my wood shop at wagon making.” “I had no conversation with him about the war he was but a boy at work in my shop.”

The Commissioner of Claims noted that Brown’s father was a slave and his mother free, “so he was free born.”