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As far as can be ascertained from differing accounts of early Linn County emigration, the men first to locate at or near Brownsville were Courtney, Isaac Hutchins, Josiah Osborne, William Finley (37), Elias Walters and Austin Walters, who arrived variously in the fall of 1845 or the spring of 1846 (45). In the fall of 1846 came James Blakely, Hugh L. Brown, Jonathan Keeney and R. C. Finley (16). Alexander Kirk and his son, Riley Kirk, arrived in the spring of 1847 (45).

James Blakely settled on a claim upon which part of Brownsville now stands. He laid out the town in the spring of 1853 (46), hiring Luther White to do the surveying (47), and naming the place for his uncle, Hugh L. Brown who had started a store there. Blakely built the first house in Brownsville in 1846 (8). He was born in Knox County, Tenn., on November 12, 1812 and married Sarah Dick in Jefferson County, Tenn., in 1835. The two had 12 children and Mrs. Blakely died June 14, 1888. Blakely was a captain in the Rogue River War of 1856. In partnership with Brown, James McHargue and he built the first flour mill in Brownsvi11e (19), and was one of the chief promoters of the  Brownsville Woolen Mills. He was also a prominent stock raiser and served in the legislature. In November, 1912, he attended the birthday dinner in his honor, in Brownsville, at which five generations of family were present; he was then 100 years old. He died on January 29, 1913 (48).

Hugh Leeper Brown, who accompanied Blakely, took up a claim one mile east of the present Brownsville. He was born in Knox County, Tenn., on January 24, 1810, married Clarissa Browning of Tenn. in 1828, and crossed the plains to Oregon with her and their three children. He, like his nephew, Blakely, was one of the founders of the Brownsville Woolen Mills, was a soldier in the Cayuse War, mined in California and served in the legislature three times. During the latter part of his life he was blind. He and his wife had eight children and celebrated their golden wedding in 1878. He died in 1888, his wife surviving him (49).

An addition to the names of the early settlers in and about Brownsville must be made, namely that of Henry Harmon Spalding. This missionary and his wife were friends of the Marcus Whitman’s, and their daughter, who was going to Whitman’s school, was a survivor of the Whitman massacre. The Spaldings, barred from the clearwater by the murderous uprising of the Cayuse Indians, sought a new field near Brownsville.  However, finding all the good land already taken up, Spalding was about to leave, when the Browns and Blakely’s, rather than lose such a valuable addition to their community, shifted their claim lines enough to make room for Spalding to locate. Eliza, Spalding’s daughter, married Andrew Warren (5).

In the beginning Brownsville was known simply as ‘Calapooia’ (45); a post office was established in 1850 (52). At times the place was referred to as “Kirk’s  Ferry”. When Blakely laid it out in 1853 and named it Brownsville, the post office took that name (53). Blakely platted the town in 1864 and filed the plat for record in the Linn County clerk’s office (34). North Brownsville was surveyed in 1863 on the farm of A. S. Bassett on the north side of the Calapooia. Previous to this, in 1856, the river had been bridged (47) and a ditch for water power had been dug in 1858 (5). Woolen mills were built by a joint stock company in 1861. The village of Amelia was laid out by H. H. Spalding in 1858 (47). In 1876 Brownsville was incorporated, and North Brownsville in 1874. The three communities, so close together as to form almost one, were incorporated as a unit in 1895. The U. S. Census, which took no notice of the population of towns in Linn County until 1880, in that year credited Brownsville with 143 inhabitants and North Brownsville with 307, ignoring Amelia. In the census of 1890, Brownsville is given 580 population—-which no doubt includes that of both Brownsville and North Brownsville. In 1900 all of Brownsville is listed with 698 inhabitants; in 1910 with 919; in 1920 with 763; in 1930 with 746 and in 1940 with 784.

Brownsville, like hundreds of other towns, grew from a store to a village; got a school, churches, business houses, a bank, weekly newspaper, water works and electric light plant. However, its one sustaining industry was the Woolen mill, which began with a meeting for the discussion of plans on November 24, 1860 (55). Present were, among others, Dr. B. H. Crawford, chairman and T. A. Riggs, secretary, both of whom lived near Crawfordsville, east of Brownsville. A committee of five was appointed to interest people and to get subscriptions for the venture, namely: William H. Templeton, W. R.. Kirk, Dr. E. H. Griffin, Joseph Hamilton and T. A. Riggs. Stock was 400 a share.


Early History of Brownsville Woolen Mill

Leander Kirk, son of Alexander Kirk,  tells of his father and early Brownsville days.

W.C. Cooley, known as “Curran” Cooley, tells about the Brownsville store.

Mrs. Eliza Finley Brandon remembers her father, Richard Chism Finley and the old Finley mills.

Andrew Warren Kirk, son of Riley Kirk, tells the story of “Indian Lize” and her husband, Jim.


Brownsville Quick Facts

Location:  Twp 13S, Rge 2W, Sect 31, also 14S, R2W, Sec 6 

Name Origin:  Hugh Brown, early settler. 

Other Names:  Kirk's Ferry, Calapooya 

Post Office Established:  18 May 1859 

First Postmaster:  James W. Meach 

Incorporation Date:  1876 

Population 1999:  1495 


Sketches & Photos:  J M Moyer, M.A.E. Swank, Brownsville Woolen Mills, Wagon Bridge


More Links:

Richard Chism Finley

Hugh Leeper Brown

Captain James Blakeley

Brownsville History

Brownsville Woolen Mill - Fire

Further Reading:

"Brownsville" by Margaret Standish Carey & Patricia Hoy Hainline


Town histories were  abstracted from:  "History of Linn County", Compiled by Workers of the Writer’s Program, Works Progress Administration, 1941.  See bibliography for above-cited references.  All photos from the collection of Lisa L. Jones, unless otherwise noted.  Lisa L. Jones contributed and is solely responsible for the content of these pages.  Copyright 2001.