If you are familiar with the Glen, you may know that the newly restored Leonard Brown House sits at the end of a drive lined by majestic linden trees.  Who was Leonard Brown and what does he represent in Portsmouth history, especially its agricultural history?

Leonard Brown was born in Middletown in 1815.  A newspaper clipping shows that he is an orphan in 1835. By 1838 Brown marries his wife Sarah. She was the daughter of Revolutionary War militia leader Cook Wilcox.  Leonard Brown came by his farm land through his wife’s inheritance from her widowed mother. What would become the Brown farm had been part of Wilcox’s land and that land was originally part of settler John Cooke’s original land grant.  Brown’s descendants believe that the property would not officially become Leonard Brown’s until 1870 after the death of Sarah Wilcox Brown’s mother – “Polly” Wilcox. The Wilcox home is found close to East Main Road in the Walling map of 1850. By 1870 the Dripps map shows Leonard Brown holding the property in 1870 and that his house was placed much further into the land where it is today.

Leonard Brown House in 1920

There is no doubt that Leonard Brown was farming the property even when his mother-in-law officially owned the land. Dating the Brown House has been difficult.  The diary of George Manchester shows that Brown was on the land in 1851 because a barn was built for him by Albert Coggeshall.  1852 clippings of the winners of the Aquidneck Agricultural award show him as the winner of “best lot of native cows.” Award postings for 1875 give us an idea of what animals he raised. He won Agricultural Fair ribbons for best Durham cow, Beef cows, lambs, working oxen, Aldernsey heifers, Southdown Backs sheep, and best pen of sheep.

By the 1880s Brown was considered one of the best farmers in Portsmouth.  He raised poultry and pigs and brought them to market in New Bedford.  Along with farming, Brown served as a wheelwright and a blacksmith. Leonard Brown represents the Yankee farmers, the descendants of the original English settlers.  Brown and the farmers like him were the backbone of Portsmouth.  They served in political offices, farmed and were the skilled craftsmen of the town.

 When Leonard Brown died in 1896, the Brown farm was sold to H.A.C. Taylor and became part of the Glen Farm.