A picturesque character passed from earth when Major Ben Brough died. He was laid away last week, in his ninety-first year. Four years ago Major Brough moved to Delphi from his farm in order that he might be nearer his children, and up to within recent months his figure was a familiar one upon our streets. Age had left its stamp upon him and as he slowly made his way about town with his staff, his favorite cape falling over his shoulders, his felt hat drawn close down and his faithful dog “Sam” by his side he presented a picture never to be forgotten. “Sam” was his constant companion. He loved his master for he took him in and gave him a home years ago when he was a tramp dog, an orphan with no place to lay his head. And when “Sam” died a few weeks ago the fact was kept from the master as carefully as he would have been protected from the announcement of the greatest misfortune.
It is to be regretted that Major Brough never made the more exciting experiences and incidents of his life a matter of written record. No man in Indiana had a busier career or passed through a more varied experience. The story of his life would read like a romance. He had distinct recollections of the war of 1812. He became of age when John Quincy Adams was president. Seventy yeas ago he was a member of the militia stationed at Fort Dearborn where Chicago now stands. There was no promise of a city there then. Men and women who are now old and feeble went to school to Major Brough. Year after year he loaded his corn on a flatboat here at Delphi and floated the cargo down the Wabash to the Ohio, thence to the Mississippi to New Orleans. Once he walked back the entire distance. He was a “forty-niner” and crossed the plains with a caravan of prairie schooners. He walked every foot of the way, and in his skirmishes for game had several narrow escapes from falling into the hands of the redskins. He had an iron constitution and a will to match. It is said that on that trying journey Major Brough never once lost heart. A member of the party recently told me that one occasion the caravan was overtaken by a snowstorm. It was biting cold and there was danger of the entire party perishing. Major Brough got out his fiddle, struck up a familiar tune that was “quick and devilish” and in a few minutes every man in the party was doing the “corn dance” for dear life. It was dance or die and the Major knew it.
Major Brough was a Kentuckian. His parentage was Scotch. His father died at the age of ninety-two. Sixty three years ago. Major Brough was married to Mary Lyon, in Kentucky, and to them nine children were born. The good wife, aged eighty-three, and all the children survive and were present at the funeral. Major Brough came to Carroll county in 1832 and settled on the farm where he lived until four years ago. A volume could be written of his experiences in the “backwoods” of Indiana. The wolves howled about his little cabin at night and the deer sought protection from the mosquitoes in the smoke of the burning logs of the clearing.
In 1833, together with his young wife and babe, (now Mrs. Isaac Griffith) he visited the old Kentucky home. They made trip on horseback, passing through what was then the “village” of Cincinnati.
In an early day he was commissioned Major of the state militia. Though born and reared in a “slave state” he was a firm Union man during the exciting times of a third of a century ago. Three of his sons entered the service. It is related by one of his sons, who enlisted without his advice, that when he told his father what he had done he replied, “I was not going to advise you, but if you hadn’t enlisted I’d have disowned you.” The fires of his patriotism burned high and no sacrifice was too great to assist the cause of freedom. His heart was as tender as a child’s. No poor man ever applied to Major Brough for assistance in vain. He would give in charity his last crust.
Major Brough never made any profession of religion. Yet his faith in a future life was absolute. And he never grew sour nor morose in his old age. He was an optimist. To one of his friends he said only a short time before his death, “If the next life is as sweet and happy as I have found this one, I’ll be satisfied.”
He was a great reader of the Bible. Last summer he would sit for hours under a tree on the lawn and doze and read. Sitting there in the old arm chair with the Bible in his lap and faithful old “Sam” lying near by snoozing and snapping at flies, I can see the picture now. I always stopped and talked with Major and he would chuckle and laugh and joke with the “Man on the corner.” He told me many times that he could tell me “lots of things” to put in the paper that would be interesting, and so he could, but he never did and now he never will. He has gone away. He is in his new home and is happy. There he awaits those he loved on earth, whose tenderness and affection kept his mind and heart young and bright and full of hope.
Benjamin Franklin Brough was born 18 December 1804 in Mason County, Kentucky, the fifth child of Peter and Jean (Machir) Brough. This obituary was published on the front page of the Delphi Journal, Thursday, October 4, 1894. I found it as a typed document in a collection of papers in my grandmother’s house. Her husband, my grandfather Brough Patterson, was Major Brough’s grandson.
A biographical sketch in the History of Carroll County, Indiana by John C. Odell, published in 1916, comes close to the obituary, although his age at the time of his death is different:
Benjamin F. Brough departed this life in Delphi, 24 September 1894. He was born in Mason County, Kentucky, 18 Dec 1804 and was at the date of death, 89 years, 9 months and six days old. His parents came to Kentucky from Scotland. He was the last surviving member of his father’s family. He was married in Kentucky to Mary Lyon and they were the parents of nine children. He, with his family, came to Delphi in the year 1832. He resided many years on a farm south of town. He, with others of this county, went to the gold fields of California in 1850; after three yeas he returned home. Mr. Brough was one of the earliest school teachers, having taught school in a log schoolhouse in Delphi in which was held the circuit court. He taught many years in the country schools. He was never known to be sick and died of old age without pain, a case most remarkable, without a similarity probably in the state.
Other items of interest…
~Benjamin Brough is not found on the 1850 census with his family, a fact that puzzled me until I read the obituary.
~My fourth cousin has letters documenting the trips made by her branch of the Broughs from their homes in Kentucky and Ohio down the Mississippi with their crops.
~My brother owns the violin that was passed down through this family, and in a letter my mother was told that “It is all of 200 years old.” However, for that to be true in 1973, it would have had to come over from Scotland, and quite frankly, I don’t believe it did. Still, it could be the “fiddle” that saved lives.
~A photograph of Benjamin Franklin Brough can be seen in the Carroll County Historical Museum online here:
~And a photograph in my possession labeled in pencil “Grandpa Brough.” My mother said she was told he was her great-grandfather.
For my sibs: Benjamin Franklin Brough was our great-great grandfather on our mother’s side.