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The road to the Sesquicentennial

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, the year was 1860 – James Buchanan was president of the United States, though Abraham Lincoln won election to the office that year, future Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase started the year as Ohio governor, the United States was on the brink of the Civil War, and old farmer Brown bought 52.853 additional acres of land.

Fast-forward 159 years, and an article in the local newspaper announces that farmer Brown’s purchase on Jan. 31, 1860 was the catalyst to great state of Ohio recognizing the Brown-Roush Farm in Highland County as an Ohio Sesquicentennial Farm.

A lot has changed since 1860 – the year the discovery of the hypothetical planet Vulcan was announced – but one thing has remained the same. Those 52 acres of land has stayed in the same family that entire time.

Today, my folks, Ken and Judy Roush, own that property and live in the two-story brick farmhouse that farmer Brown built in the 1840s. Farmer Brown’s name is Joshua Brown, who was born May 6, 1807 in Russellville, Ohio. He’s also my great-great-great grandfather.

Before we continue with more on Joshua Brown and his family and descendants who kept the farm going, let’s examine the beginning of the road that led to the Sesquicentennial Farm designation.

As previously mentioned, Joshua Brown had a farm off of what is now U.S. Route 50 west of Hillsboro well before he bought the 52 acres in 1860, but some of that land was sold outside the family after he, his wife and his youngest son had died. Actually, the youngest son was killed by a brother-in-law, but we’ll get to that down the road.

My Dad and I often talk about family history, and one day a year or so ago we were chatting about the Ohio’s Historic Family Farms Program, but after some discussion, we decided the most of the farm wouldn’t qualify since the aforementioned fact that a lot of the land was sold outside the Brown family in the 1890s – but there was a possibility the land Dad bought back in the 1990s might just qualify since he bought it off the estate of a Brown descendant, John Henry Brown.

You see, the land has to be owned for at least 100 years, but if one can prove that 10 or more acres has been in the family for a century or more and has been devoted to agriculture use, the entire farm qualifies.

From there, I reached out to friend and Highland County Recorder Chad McConnaughey. I can’t thank Chad enough for his assistance with tracing the property back through the years. The goal was to find a path to achieve a Century Farm designation. Turns out, the road took us all the way to the Sesquicentennial – and beyond. Many, many thanks, Chad!

My Dad and I knew that Joshua Brown’s son, William Elgar Brown, had built a home on that “Old Brown” property in the late 1800s, and that was the biggest clue we had that a Century Farm designation was possible. But what we didn’t know was that the land had been bought by William Elgar’s father. We also found out for certain that the property, indeed, stayed in the family for the past 150-plus years.

That path included nine steps. The first was Joshua Brown buying the land. I had said on Jan. 31, 1860, he bought 52.853 acres. On that day, he purchased 112 acres, but it was the 52-plus acres that have stayed intact. And at the time, he owned a 6/7th interest of the land, which I found rather odd.

Joshua Brown bought the property from William Strange, et al for $2,892.86.

Let’s pause for now and we’ll continue next time with more on Joshua Brown buying a 6/7th interest of 112 acres from William Strange and other folks.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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