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The road to the sesquicentennial: Coincidences – or not?

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, on two occasions, I’ve written a series of offerings on the Joshua and Jeanette Brown family and their nine children.

Six years ago, I wrote a series “Ghost stories from where I grew up,” and now, “The road to the sesquicentennial.”

Joshua and Jeanette built the two-story brick farmhouse – in which I was raised – back in the 1840s. Several times during the “Ghost stories” series, I referenced an old photograph of the Brown family that hung in the same spot in the homestead for most of my life, but had been recently moved to a new location and was replaced by a clock.

On a sunny August afternoon, I was at my parents’ home and heard a tremendous crash. The clock, which had been hanging on a very sturdy mount on the wall, had come tumbling down, taking out an antique lamp that shattered into pieces all over the floor just feet away from me.

A couple of days later, I realized the crashing clock incident had occurred on Aug. 21. John C. Brown died on Aug. 21, 1888 – 17 days after he was mortally wounded after being shot at the Parker House in uptown Hillsboro by his brother-in-law, Marion Britton.

Let’s fast forward to “The road to the sesquicentennial” series. Less than a month ago, I penned the column entitled “A pandemic and the weeping woman,” which detailed the monument that Mary Brown Roush, John Brown’s sister, bought for him that stands more than 10 feet tall with ornate, sad stone woman seated atop the monument.

A few days later, a friend of mine sent me a pair of photos that showed that the weeping woman had toppled off the monument, losing her head in the process.

I was stunned, and then wondered if the monument had been vandalized, which upset me greatly. I reached out to a friend of mine, John Willis of the Harsha Monument Company, who is also on the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, and he told me a storm took down nine trees, including a huge pine tree that felled the weeping woman statue.

He told me several monuments were knocked over or displaced, but the John Brown monument suffered the worst damage. He said they have the bulk of the pieces of the monument and intend to repair it, for which I am truly grateful. He said the statue is a microcrystalline marble, so the pieces will fit together like a puzzle along with some monument adhesive. He said had it been microcrystalline marble, it would not fit back so easily. I’ll take his word for it.

Nine trees, nine Brown children, all but two are buried in the Hillsboro Cemetery. A family of 11, nine of whom are interred near to each other in the cemetery. A monument statue comes tumbling and crashing down. And a clock where the Brown family photo was once displayed comes tumbling and crashing down on the anniversary of John Brown’s death.

Coincidences or not?

On that note, let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next time.

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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