Lydia Neal Janney Brown

Lydia Neal Janney Brown is in the right half of this picture wearing a dark dress, looking toward an unidentified woman. Her husband, William “Circleville Will” Brown is at the far left, with his leg up on the tree trunk. William and Lydia Brown lived on Circleville Farm, outside Lincoln, Virginia. Others in the picture are, from left to right: next to Will Brown in son Samuel Brown, daughter Cosmelia ‘Cossie’ Brown Hughes, her husband D.M. Hughes, son Thomas Janney Brown (high in photo) with arm to his wife in dark dress Elsie Palmer, directly below her is Lydia Neal Janney Brown. Unknown is the man seated low, and the woman in a white blouse above on the right. Photo from private collection.
quaker girl civil war photograph
Lydia Neal Janney Brown (1844-1926)

Lydia Neal Janney Brown (1844-1926) was a daughter raised in one large Quaker family, the Janneys, who then married into another large Quaker family, the Browns. She raised her own family on Circleville Farm outside Lincoln village. The families and friends stayed in touch through letters, and Lydia’s show herself to be insightful and highly educated. Toward the end of her long life she wrote a journal which covers Lincoln Quaker genealogy as well as anecdotes and memoirs of family members. Much of the journal will be transcribed here. The Lydia Neal Janney Brown journal can be seen at the Swarthmore College Friends Historical Library in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

It would be wonderful to have more pictures of Lydia and her family! Hopefully someone will have them to share. 

Lydia wrote down her mother and father and siblings’ marriage/birth information. It might be helpful to refer back to when reading the upcoming journal:

“Lydia Neal Haines [Lydia’s mother] married Asa Moore Janney [Lydia’s father] 10 mo 12, 1826

Their children:


1. Mary Jane born 8/15 1827 died 9/11 1829


2. Eliza married William H. Pleasants* 5/18 1852 she died 7/26 1912


3. Ellen born 8/13 1831 married William J. Smith 5/5 1868 she died 8/1 1916


4. Abijah born 3/17 1834 died 11/14 1843


5. Cosmelia Janney born 1/13 1836 died 6/10 1916


6. Thamsin born 6/16 1838 died 12/17 1890


7. Hugh born 11/25 1841 died 01/04 1843


8. Lydia Neal born 8/14 1844 married William Brown 5/24 1866

    (William Brown born 2/22 1839 and died 2/7 1922)

Asa M. Janney [father] died 5/31 1877 in his 75thyear. Lydia N. Janney [mother] died 6/26 1891 in her 91st year.”

* William Henry Pleasants was a member of the famed Virginia abolitionist family descended from Robert Pleasants.

Here is the original hand-written journal. A transcription of the journal is below. Lydia wrote her journal memoirs in a notebook, using pencil. The original notebook was donated to the Swarthmore Friends Historic Library.

Lydia relates anecdotes told to her by her sisters and husband, plus incidents she remembers from her own early years in Richmond before moving to Lincoln, in Loudoun County. If time is a factor for a reader, the journal entries relating to the Civil War in Lincoln are near the bottom of this page.  The beginning and middle sections cover early family history, including anecdotes from Quakers settling in Virginia.

Lydia writes about her father, Asa Moore Janney (a younger brother of Samuel McPherson Janney), as a mill operator in Richmond. She writes of her father being saved from drowning by a quick-acting stranger. Lydia writes proudly of her mother, Lydia Haines Janney, being able to build a brick kitchen at their Richmond house on Church Hill, thus amazing male passers-by. 

Lydia explains at the beginning of her memoirs that she is starting her journal by copying oral history written from her sister, Cossie, who was listening to cousin Edward Haines. It is common for Lydia to jump back and forth like this in writing her memoir, using different sources, but it is all recorded in her own hand, as you can see from the original text in the above link. She occasionally underlined words, as shown. Anything within [brackets] is my addition, for clarity. Anything in the transcription within (parenthesis) is part of Lydia’s writing: 

“The following was copied from a paper written by my sister Cossie [Cosmelia], taken from cousin Edward Haines’ dictation. – Lydia N. Brown”

 [Edward Haines’ dictation:] “Our great grandfather Abraham Haines came from New Jersey and took a homestead in Jefferson Co., Va in 1758. After awhile the Indians became very troublesome and the neighbors for miles around flocked to a log fort, on grandfather’s place, and very near the house, now standing where my mother lived. As the Indians became more and more exasperated, burned a great deal of property, grandfather’s family concluded to return to New Jersey where they remained until the danger was over. On their way back to Virginia, when they stopped at some place to spend the night, grandfather was put into a bed where someone with small pox had slept. He took this disease and died very soon, I think before getting to their journey’s end. Benjamin and Simeon were his brothers. Aunt Pollie Haines was the wife of Benjamin.

Aquila and Abraham Haines were their sons. Betsey Haines was their daughter. Abraham raised no children, his wife was his first cousin, Simeon’s daughter. Aunt Pollie made her home with Aquila’s family. She was blind. Cousin Edward Haines thinks she went blind very suddenly in one night. Cousin Aquila’s daughter Sarah, who married “Frank” Jackson was her constant companion. Aquila married James Taylor’s sister, their daughter Mary married a Jackson.

Aquila was a tailor by trade, also practiced Thompsonian medicine. Abraham died recently leaving all his property he had accumulated (considerable) to his brother Aquila’s children. Kitty, Rachel and John were Simeon’s children, Rachel married her cousin Abraham. Kitty never married. John’s wife was named Harriet. John was killed by the Rebels during the late civil war.”

(This must have been written as early as 1870. Cousin Edward Haines died 1881.   – Lydia N. Brown)”

 [Edward Haines continues:] “Abraham and Sarah Haines, our great grandparents, came from Eversham Township (as near as I can make it from the old parchment bearing the date 1758) Burlington Co. to West New Jersey. In his will he left his Back Creek property to his sons Thomas and Benjamin, the Bull Skin property to Nathan, he was to pay his sister Sarah One Hundred Pounds out of it. Abraham and Simeon were the younger sons.

The executors were to purchase a plantation for them and their mother out of the proceeds of movable property. This was to be equally divided when Abraham became of age, after which time I find no provision made for the mother. He evidently thought she would marry again, as she did.

In his will he mentions some Cedar Swamps property that was the pine meadows he left to Abraham and Simeon, and the Old Cedar Swamps above Haines Mill he left to Benjamin. His wife was to have all the benefit of the property before his children arrived at the age of twenty-one. His will required the wife to give her children an education to fit them for business. The executors were Benjamin and Noah Haines his brothers (they also lived in Virginia) also James Carter a friend. I expect the one [James Carter] his wife afterwards married. I suppose the Cedar Swamps were in New Jersey. – Written by Cosmelia Janney copied by her sister Lydia N. Brown. This was copied during the winter of 1917 while at the Lincoln home where father & mother and four sisters all fell asleep.

Father [Asa Moore Janney], when a young man, was very ill, thought he would not recover. In earnest prayer he asked his Heavenly Father to permit him to recover, he would dedicate his life to serving him to the best of his ability. A promise he faithfully kept. He and mother went to grammar school together.

Mother’s mother, Nathan Haines’ wife, died when she was 50 years old. Mother was quite young, being the youngest of 16 children. I have been to mother’s old home and seen the window on the stairs that two of her sisters got out when they ran off to get married, one of them married a Grubb. Mother went to live with her sister Polly, wife of Edward Walker, after her mother’s death. They lived in the old stone house where cousin Daniel Walker lived after his father Edward died. Hugh & Mary Lupton lived there before they built their house. I visited them there. Our children, also my sisters’ [children], were cousins.

I should write something about the time my parents lived in Dumfries and moved from there to Richmond where sister Eliza lived. When my sister Eliza, 15 years older than I am, was visiting us at Circleville, we were sitting sewing and she said, “How particular mother was, teaching me how to sew, as I sat on a stool at her feet. I wish I had that little stool, but it was left in the yard with a lot of things, we couldn’t get in the wagon when we moved to Richmond from Dumfries. We could only take one Newtown wagon with bows covered with white sailcloth. The wagon held most of the furniture, also mother and 4 children. I walked with father & Maria part of the time. Maria was a colored woman, mother’s faithful helper with all their children. Maria staid with mother until the youngest child (Lydia) was quite a large girl. She wanted me to call her ‘mammy’ as so many white children called their colored nurses, but I did not feel I could do it.

Sister [Eliza] continued, “One of the first words I learned to spell was Llewellyn when I was a tiny thing. When we lived at Dumfries I remember the oak trees, there were rose bushes on either side of the walk and in a bed by the house. When we first went there we only had 2 rooms downstairs and 1 up, then father added a living room, kitchen and room over the kitchen for Maria. Father used to go to the Potomac every Spring fishing, to get herring to salt down, while he was away Captain Thomas Carmen generally staid with us at night.

One night he was not there, mother was sleeping in the living room, she had a bed that lowered across the out door. We all slept in the living room, mother would take out a bureau drawer for brother Abijah. I slept on pillows on chairs, placed against the wall. Ellen slept in bed with father and mother. The night Captain Carmen was not there mother was asleep in bed across the out door when two men pounded on the door, then went around to the front door, mother jumped up went to the front stairs and called, “Thomas! Thomas! Come down here quickly!” The men, thinking the Captain was there, ran off. Mother went halfway up the kitchen stairs to look out of the window, saw two men cross the creek and go towards Captain Carmen’s house. The next morning mother heard they had robbed his springhouse of cream, butter and pies.

I remember when father’s sister Anna Lupton visited us, she wore a maroon colored merino dress, but before that father’s sister Thomasin came to see us and taught me to knit. I became very fond of knitting and knit a good many pairs of socks. Grandfather, Abijah Janney, visited us, saw me knitting, and told me he would give me a calf if I would knit him a pair of long thread stocking. He wore knee breeches with knee buckles. I knit them, he was very much pleased and gave me the calf. I [Eliza] was only about six.”

“Sister [Eliza] was born 8 mo 17 day 1829. Sister Cosmelia was born 1 mo 13 1836 and was a babe in arms when the family moved to Richmond. – Lydia Neal Janney Brown”

She said, “I [Eliza] remember once when Aunt Elizabeth Janney’s brother Joseph came to see us, mother had broiled ham & poached eggs for breakfast, which he enjoyed so much. I remember so vividly when a lady from the village of Dumfries walked to see mother. She brought a little girl with her, I thought her the prettiest thing I ever saw. She had flaxen curls and was dressed in white with red kid shoes. Her name was Alice. I named my first child Lydia Alice for mother and that little girl.

Once someone sent father some small tomatoes. He was afraid to let any of us eat them, said he would try the pigs first. Finding they would not touch them, he would not let us eat them for fear they would poison us.

We had no matches, sometimes we could strike a flint to get a spark to light some pine cut very fine. Mother always covered up the fire so as to have some coals in the morning. I remember distinctly one morning the fire went out. Maria took a warming pan and went to our nearest neighbor Captain Carmen to get some fire.”

“(Will can remember when they had no matches and he has [sic] gone to the foot of the hill where Owen Hamilton’s mother lived to get fire. – Lydia Neale Janney Brown)”

“(I remember father as a very active man going up long flight after flight of stairs at Gallegos Mill, two steps at a time. – Lydia Neale Janney Brown)”

Lydia’s interjection mentions the Gallegos Mill. That was one of the flour mills in Richmond run by her father, Asa Moore Janney. Gallegos Mill was the last mill Janney operated before leaving Richmond and moving his family permanently to Goose Creek (Lincoln) before the war broke out in 1861. Letters were still being address to Asa Moore Janney at Gallegos Mill as late as spring of 1860.

March 1860 envelope to Asa M. Janney at Gallegos Mill, Richmond (1)

This letter to Asa Moore Janney is from his brother, Samuel McPherson Janney of Lincoln and dated ‘3 mo 25′ 1860.’ The letter shows that the brothers were scouting good locations for a mill outside the village of Lincoln. Asa Moore Janney did move his family to the Lincoln area and take over Forest Mill. Letter courtesy of Swarthmore’s Friends Historic Library.

Fortunes of war were hard on Gallegos Mill; it was destroyed by Union troops during the final push toward Richmond. War illustrator Alfred Waud drew the ruined mill while traveling with the Union army in 1864. Because of Waud’s illustration, we can see the sheer size of this mill, and can imagine Asa Moore Janny “going up long flight after flight of stairs at Gallegos Mill, two steps at a time.”

ruined water wheel at Gallegos flour mill, Richmond (1)
“Ruined Water Wheel at Gallego flour mill, Richmond” Alfred Waud, 1864 Courtesy Library of Congress

Lydia’s journal continues, picking up her sister’s remembrances: Sister [Eliza Janney] said, ‘I went to Alexandria in a gig with father & mother. One of the wheels came off,  father sprang out and caught the side of the gig before it touched the ground.’

[Eliza continued] ‘It took quite awhile to get the gig fixed, made us so late we stopped at a log cabin to see if they would keep us all night. They were very hospitable, they only had one bed in the one room, they got up made a bed on the floor for themselves, fixed the bed up clean and insisted on us taking the bed. It had only a dirt floor. I can see just how the things looked, sitting around the open fire, while the woman got breakfast of corn pone, fried bacon and coffee. I enjoyed watching the cooking.

Father after awhile went to Richmond to see what he could find to do in the milling business. He found a place above Richmond, on the canal bank, above the pump house called Rutherford Mills. He dressed the burro, got the mill in running order then came back for his family, walking 56 miles the last day, getting home on the day night. He went out the next day, found a wagon, which came early morning the 2nd day. They packed all they could in the wagon. What they could not get in, they had to leave. The table in Lincoln in the dining room, which they use all the time was among the things they took. We camped out every night, father sleeping under the wagon, the rest of us inside. Father built a fire and Maria made tea or coffee. She had boiled a ham, made a lot of beaten biscuits before they left home.

One night mother heard someone around the wagon. She said, “Asa, there is someone around here.” He could see no one, but next morning they found someone had taken half the biscuit and some of the meat. Mother said she was thankful they had divided with them, instead of talking all.

When we got to the canal we saw a flat-boat with a lot of soft coal on it. Mother said, ‘Asa, what is that?’ He told her. We got into another boat with our things, then went up the canal to the house, which had the second story even with the bank. There was a door on the bank, which was opened to put the things in, what was wanted down stairs had to be carried down through the house. We had one living and one we used for dining room and kitchen. The lower story was on the level with the mill, only a yard between so father could conveniently walk across the yard to his meals.

When we got to the house there was a coal fire, covered up with fine coal so it would keep. Mother had always been used to wood fires, when she saw that fire she broke down and said, “Is this the only place to keep warm?” Father stirred it up and soon had a blaze. We lived very, very plainly on corn bread, bacon and beans, until pay-day came. Father bought some flour from the mill, walked to Richmond got a roast of beef and some sweet potatoes. I remember very well how we enjoyed that dinner. We lived on corn bread during the week, but had wheat bread for first days. Father used to walk to Richmond to Meeting, a good long walk.

When Father was at Bragg’s Mill the family lived on Brown’s Island, a beautiful place when the water did not get too high. The house was chained to trees, when the water got high father came for us in a boat, the little boat he used to go back and forth from mill to house. One time father was coming home. He lost control of the boat and was near the rapids when a man from the armory ran, throwing his coat off,  jumped in and caught the boat just in time.”

“(Sister [Eliza] thinks they moved to Welon next, at the foot of Oregon Hill, near the canal and armory. – Lydia Neale Janney Brown)”

[Eliza] “We lived at Thomas Spencer’s awhile. We lived on Church Hill next to where the old sugar house was burned, left a lot of bricks. Mother got permission to use some of them to build a summer kitchen, Her faithful Maria carrying the bricks and mortar, mother doing the mason work. People would stop and look at them in wonder.

One day two men passed in a buggy, stopped and looked. When they returned in about two weeks, they saw smoke coming out of the chimney. One said to the other, ‘There the house is finished and smoke coming out of the chimney.’

[Eliza continues:] When we lived in cousin Henry Clarks’s house at 18th & Franklin, I was very sick with typhoid pneumonia and brother Abijah died with typhoid fever. After I got well I went to Springdale. While I was there, they [Eliza’s parents and siblings] moved to Mary Ann England’s house, and then to 18th & Main, where thee was born!” *

* [The house on ’18th & Main’ Eliza speaks of, telling Lydia it is “where thee was born!” is still – as of 2018 – standing. The elegant building is now a commercial establishment, kept in good condition and holding its own memories.]


Lydia Neal Janney Brown now ceases to quote her sister Eliza, and takes over the memoir with her own thoughts. 

“I [Lydia] remember that house very well, as I lived there twelve years. I came from there to Springdale with my sister Thamsin, as mother did not want me to go to school in Richmond without someone older to care for me. When we got back to Richmond, Father, mother and sister Ellen had moved. Sister Cossie was away at D- [illegible] When we [Lydia and Thamsin] got home they had moved to a home owned by Peter Crew – father. They lived next door.

I had a nice large play house two room, one above the other, a large glass door in front (4 panes of glass high and 3 panes wide) nicely furnished, had been given to me by cousin Henry Clark’s girls. It was a great disappointment to me but mother thought it was time for me to give up childish ways as I was then 13. The house where they had moved was on Broad Street between 18th & 19th a nice new house in a block of four houses and next door to Peter Crew, whose daughter Virginie married sister Eliza’s oldest son Henry Pleasants.

Cornelius Crew, his father, lived just beyond Peter Crew’s in a nice large colonial house, surrounded by a beautiful large garden. Peter Crew wished my mother to come in often to see his wife who was sick. There was a board fence between the back yards, boards ran up & down, he took one off so mother could come that way not have to fix up in plain bonnet & shawl to go around through the street. There were 2 rooms in the basement. We used one for dining and the other for a kitchen. There was a brick kitchen in the yard, like most all the Southern houses were built.

Sister Cosme [Cosmelia] and Sister Thamsin wanted to have school, so Peter Crew built another room, adjoining the out kitchen. They had a large (two rooms) school. Before sister Eliza was married and we were living in the house on 18th & Main, she and sister Ellen had a large school. They had some very nice girls, belonging to Jews, they would bring Passover bread at times and give me some. It was a good deal like soda crackers, but thinner and baked in sheets.

My! How that house lives in my mind now. I can see every crack and corner. I have often told my children and grand children about a confectionary store under our house, it had a store, and 2 rooms in back, one for ladies and one for gentleman. We had a large back porch but we always entered the same that way. Higher up was on the level with our yard & gardens & right over the bakery there was a window with 3 panes of glass that raised into the Ladies’ Saloon [room]. Once in a while the colored waiter would come to the window knock and give me a saucer of ice cream, which I appreciated very much.

At Christmas, Pezina, the merchant, always had his store filled with dolls and other toys. He always invited sister Thamsin and myself to come down and always gave each of us something. I kept some of the things until the Circleville house was burned.

Across the street cousin Sara Clark and her widowed sister Phebe Hills lived in a quaint old house that I can see, and loved to dwell there often. They had an unopened store under their house. They would let me rummage through the things. You could enter the house, through a door, up some steps into a porch from that porch you could step into the parlor, which was never used when I was there but had a lot of handsome old time furniture and venetian blinds. Cousin Sara went through there to get into her bedroom. A front room, over the store next to her room was another that held a great many curiosities. Among them were two large old-fashioned straw bonnets. I have seen pictures like them in old books. I had them packed ready to bring to Loudoun but mother thought I would be undignified, making myself ridiculous, therefore objected. My! How often I have wanted them for charades.

At the end of the porch you would go up 3 steps into a quaint living room, through that into another small porch down some steps into a garden with lovely old & new fashioned flowers. I have eaten figs off of a tree in that garden, beyond that, she had a stable and kept a cow, but I guess it is time to stop. But I still go on thinking of the good times I had, although I had very few playmates. Oh! I must say she cooked by a great big fireplace in the kitchen.

I commenced copying in these books 2/26 1917 and now it is 3/12 1917″


landscape with field and stream (1)
Northern Virginia rural farm field May 8, 1861, war was one month old. Illustration by Alfred Waud, travelling with the Union Army of the Potomac.

While the nation was at war from April 1861 – April 1865, military activity was common in northern Virginia. The Quakers of Loudoun County were caught between both the Confederate and the Union armies. Confederates and secessionists neighbors knew Quakers tended to be Union supporters; Confederates considered the religious sect potentially treasonous. To the Union army, Virginia Quakers were Southerners and consequently didn’t warrant special favors.

A Confederate cavalry battalion under John Singleton Mosby traversed a broad area which included Loudoun County. Mosby’s partisan guerillas ambushed passing Federal troops and occasionally dropped in on Quaker farms. Both Union and Confederate armies treated Quaker barns, fields and homes like a commissary. They would take wagon loads of corn, wheat, barrels of meat, horses, pigs, chickens, honey…whatever couldn’t be hid from sight. 

Lydia’s older sister, Thamsin, wrote Lydia in the winter of 1862, giving details of a violent attack on some of the Lincoln Quaker households, including their own home, Forest Mill, and the Circleville home of Will Brown’s brother, Samuel. (Will Brown was Lydia’s future husband.) A map shows Forest Mill‘s location outside Lincoln.  The raiders claimed to be in John Singleton Mosby’s Confederate battalion, but since Thamsin never identifies the men, it is possible they were opportunistic thieves dressing up their attack with military motives. (Mosby’s partisan rangers weren’t officially formed until 1863, but Mosby and his men were active in Loudoun County before their status changed to an official Confederate Batallion.) Whoever was responsible, it is hard to see this raid as anything other than cruelty, and an example of how society breaks down with the sanction of war.


Look here to see a Civil war travel pass used by Lydia’s father, Asa Moore Janney, and two of her sisters.

quaker girl civil war
Lydia Neal Janney from a picture taken during her time at Earlham College, Indiana. Courtesy of Lilly Library, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana

Lydia Neal Janney Brown: 

“I went to Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana in Sept. 1862. During that winter, received a letter from sister Thamsin, written on a sheet of Foolscap, telling of a Raid Mosby’s men made on Forest Mills, but before they reached the Mill they stopped at Circleville where Will and his father Thomas Brown had a store.

One of the soldiers pointed a pistol at Will and demanded his gold watch, which he handed over, saying he had no use for it. They took his new overcoat and new suit of clothes and all they wanted out of the store. Will’s mother had presence of mind to throw a curtain over their iron safe, which contained $2000 dollars, so they did not see it. After they left, Will went out back of the garden, raised an old rail worn fence, and hid the money until the next morning, when he took it to Baltimore.

After leaving the store they – soldiers – went up the hill to the house (where all our children were born) at that time occupied by Will’s brother Samuel and his first wife. They [soldiers] kicked a panel out of the door, opened it and demanded Samuel N. Brown’s money. He and his wife were sleeping downstairs in the small room in the brick part. When the soldiers commenced pounding on the door Brother Samuel threw his pocket book with his good money under the bed. When the soldiers opened the door and demanded his money he opened the secretary got out his Confederate money and gave it to them.

When they went to Forrest Mills owned by my father [Asa Moore Janney], they set a lot of barrels on fire, the flames leaping up high. Father had to give them $50 dollars to put it out. They took father up to the house. They left one man standing in the hall door leading to the dining room where my mother and sister were sitting, the other [one] took father upstairs with them.  Of course mother was very much frightened not knowing what they might do to father. They searched the house for what they could find, in a closet they found some jelly. One man put his fingers in it and smeared the jelly over my father’s face, hoping to make him mad so they would have some excuse for injuring him.

We had a large wooden box with a lid that slipped in a groove. They did not know how to open it, one man kicked at it until he kicked a heel off his shoe. He stopped somewhere to have it put on but as he was a soldier, father could have nothing done. They found some little trinkets that had been given to me, a silk dress belonging to sister Thamsin and a lot of other things.

They then brought father down stairs into the dining room, went to the cupboard taking the basket with knives and forks in it, threw it on the floor. Then [took] a pan of milk drank some of the cream and threw that down, then the vinegar jug, broke it [illegible] spilling the vinegar over all making a great mess. Then they broke up the sewing machine. I don’t remember what else they did there.

Then they went to the next house owned by William J. Smith who was in Maryland. Two of his sisters Sue and Mary P. were there, also Boone Davis, trying to take care of the place.  They [soldiers] were frightened off from there and left the hammer taken from our house, proving they were the same crowd.”


“Casey is everything ready? Strike a match.”

Lydia wrote a short but dramatic journal entry about the autumn of 1864 ‘Burning Raid’ in which Union forces moved through Shenandoah Valley, and into Loudoun County, to destroy barns, mills, and crops, as well as take livestock, in an attempt to remove supplies from the Confederate army, including Mosby’s Battalion. 

Waud burning raid
The Burning Raid as illustrated by Alfred Waud, courtesy of Library of Congress

Lydia writes:

“General Grant ordered [General Philip] Sheridan to burn the barns and mills in the Valley of Virginia “So that even the crows would have to carry their rations with them.” He hoped in this way to burn all supplies from Mosby’s men.

The morning of the burning, Will [Brown] came by Forest Mills riding one horse and leading two, taking them to the mountain hoping to saving them, which he did for that time. As he passed I was down at the gate. He handed me his pocket book, to keep for him (we were not engaged then.) It was not long before the soldiers rode up to burn the barn, but they found it would endanger the house so they left the barn, going to the mill. I went down and pleaded with them, telling them father was an old man, had no sons to help him make a living. But the man I was talking to said, “Casey is everything ready? Strike a match.” And the mill was on fire. There were many sad hearts that day. As Will rode back that evening, he could count 150 fires. He and his brother Samuel owned Montrose, that barn was burned.”


Circleville 1895 showing mill
A mill and some barns at the village of Circleville, circa 1895. Photo from a private collection.

Lydia continues her journal reminiscence, focusing on her husband William Brown’s oral memories that she wrote down while he related them to her, starting with a couple of sentences in her own voice, explaining these particular written memories: 

“Cossie sent a nice little book to her father William Brown xmas 1916 asking him to write some of his many expressions init. Finding he did not get it done I commenced gathering notes which he told me.

He said, “Before I was old enough to walk I would steal away from mother and crawl along the walk of large flat stone, to the store. Sometimes Henry S. Taylor, our Henry’s grandfather, would put me on the counter and count my ribs. It was customary then to dress little boys in plain red flannel, or red with black dots in it, then a white apron. Mother missed my brother Samuel one day. He was found over in Welsh’s meadow surrounded by cows. He was half a mile from home and had a red dress on.

I first went to school to Mary Ellen Holmes (who married Joshua Pusey.) I learned my letters from a handkerchief with letters printed on it. Afterwards we children went to school in the same house where father Asa M. Janney and Uncle Samuel M. Janney went to school. Uncle Samuel wrote a poem for which he received a prize called “The Country Schoolhouse.” We had a teacher who delighted in using the rule to make the children’s hands smart. My sister Mary H. was always a quiet gentle child and when he used it once on her hand it hurt me more than when he tried to blister mine.

When I was 16 or 17 my father was having the Circleville barn built. Brother Sam & myself dug the foundation. I carried shingles. Walker Welsh, (Will Welsh’s father) and Thornton Whitacre doing the work. Once brother Samuel (the teamster) was sick so father sent me and a little colored boy, Ed Grimes, (afterwards Ella Grimes’ husband) with the team to the river for lumber. There were several little colts following their mothers. Ed Grimes sat in the feed trough at the back of the wagon. We had to cross the river at Castleman’s Ferry to have the tire cut. The colts got tangled up in the harness. Ed cried, thinking they would be hurt or drowned, but we got back safely.

We started before day, did not reach home until late. I often had to wind in & out among the trees when the road went through the woods. We also had trouble with the colts wanting to follow other teams.

While Walker W. and Thornton Whitacre were building the barn one fifth day [Thursday] while father went to meeting, some of the men wanted a drink. Father kept some for medicine in a keg, with a spigot which he locked. He had the key with him. I made a false key, opened it the could not get it fastened until a lot ran out. I got rags out of the rag bag to soak it up.

When father came home some Friends came with him to do some shopping, which they often did on fifth days. Father commenced smelling and sniffing looking around to see what was the matter. Seeing I looked so embarrassed he let me off without a scolding, even after the Friends left.

The young people rode horse back. We had no buggies then. I had a horse named ‘Gazelle’, a fine traveller. He was taken during the war. Ladies kept riding horses too, and when a gentleman invited a lady to go to a party with him, she was expected to have her own horse ready to accompany him.

I was a venturesome young man, was often called upon during our Civil War to get my friends over the Potomac river. I helped Mary and Lizzie Hughes (Elias Hughes’ sisters) to run the blockade. I went with them to the Potomac river, also with Amos Hughes and Cosmelia Janney. When we reached there, we got into a boat, went to mid-stream where I witnessed their marriage.

I waited on William & Lizzie Gregg when they were married. Uncle Samuel Janney wanted to attend Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and asked me if I could take him across the Potomac river. I told him I thought I could. We passed through a regiment of Southern Troops unmolested. When we reached the river I signaled for a Federal Pickett. He came over in a boat. Uncle Samuel showed him his pass from Abraham Lincoln permitting him to pass through the lines, so Uncle Samuel was taken over and I came back home.

When Uncle Samuel returned from Baltimore, General Evans had him arrested for going into the enemy’s country. He was taken to Leesburg. General Evans asked uncle Samuel if he did not know his first duty was to his country. Uncle Samuel said, “No! my first duty is to my God.(Account of this is in his Memoirs.) When General Evans found out I had helped him run the blockade, he said, “If I could get hold of that fellow I would stop him from running Blockades.”

Some of my friends hurried to me, wanted me to leave the country, but I said no, if General Evans wanted me he would send and get me without saying anything about it.

Once during the war, Brother Samuel and Fenelon Taylor went over to Daniel Hrads [illegible] to get out of the way of conscription. When I thought things were quiet and it would be safe for them to come home, I went over to tell them. Fenelon came back with me, brother Samuel staid longer. As we were coming through the Blue Ridge Mountains we met Capt. Henderson’s regiment. They called a halt and wanted to know where we had been. Fenelon told them he had been to see his brother in law, in Johnson’s [Johnston’s] army (Southern) so they let us come home. That was July 21, 1861 day of first battle of Bull Run, afterwards called Manassas. I was Postmaster at Circleville, was often told I would be arrested (as I spoke out so freely) and imprisoned, but I was not

frightened from my post.

Once I was sitting on the cellar door in the store yard. Henson Simpson was standing near fingering a large knife. I asked him what he was going to do with it. He said he got it to kill Union men. I asked him why he did not join the army. That made him mad. He stuck at me. I knocked the knife out of his hand & we got into a fist fight. His brother & others parted us then hisbrother Samuel told him to get on his horse & go home. He told someone the next day he settled a Quaker boy yesterday. They asked him, what was the matter with his nose.”


Lydia Neal Janney Brown continues her journal giving anecdotes from husband Will’s life, including mention of this dream:

“Feb. 12 – 1809 Lincoln’s birthday

Feb. 12 – 1915, very early in the morning William Brown had a remarkable dream about riding on Mike between Lincoln and Purcellville with Abraham Lincoln. Just after they turned round by Henry Winter Davis’ they met Boone Davis. Will told Lincoln that Henry was a nephew of Levi Davis (I think Levi Davis was in Lincoln’s Cabinet) Lincoln had his – Davis – things were captured during the war and he would try to find the owners. Before he reached that place Will asked him if he had seen Henry Wilbur’s book “Lincoln’s Attitude Towards Slavery and Emancipation.” Lincoln said he had not read it. Will was taking Lincoln to Purcellville to attend a large meeting. While there Lincoln suddenly said he wanted to see Samuel M. Janney. Will started to look for him but did not get back to see the meeting between the two which he regretted. It was so vivid it made a great impression on Will.”


Further Reading: Civil War travel pass for Asa Moore Janney and two daughters can be seen here.