Members of the Brown family of Waterport pose around the new Peace Garden dedicated Saturday morning at Brown’s Berry Patch. The monument pays tribute to the Brown family’s role in the War of 1812, when British landed on their soil and was confronted by Bathshua Brown. (Virginia Kropf/Daily News)
Posted: Monday, October 7, 2013
WATERPORT — Perhaps no other Peace Garden can boast a connection to the War of 1812 like the one dedicated Saturday at Brown’s Berry Patch.
Former Assemblyman Charles Nesbitt was master of ceremonies for the event, at which the 18th Peace Garden on the International Peace Garden Trail was unveiled.
“This is the coolest place around, and with this tribute they’ve shown another way to make this place even more special,” Nesbitt said.
Ceremonies began with an invocation by the Rev. Douglas Holmes from the First Presbyterian Church of Albion. Scouts from Boy Scout Troop 14 in Albion formed a color guard while Elijah Van Epps from Albion High School sang the National Anthem and Zach Shaffer, also an Albion High School student, sang the Canadian National Anthem.
Assemblyman Stephen Hawley presented Deborah Brown with a proclamation from the State Assembly. He said the garden’s setting was a perfect place to remind visitors of their peaceful surroundings.
The Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail spans 600 miles across the United States and Canada and celebrates 200 years of peace between the two countries, Hawley said.
Wayne Hale, director of Orleans County Tourism, said the Brown’s Peace Garden was unique because of its linear design.
“It likely represents the long, peaceful border between our two countries, which it honors,” Hale said.
He also said the 1878 History of Orleans County describes Orleans County as a refuge during the war for those burned out of their homes in Lewiston and other towns west.
“If Orleans County emerged from the War of 1812 relevantly unmolested, I have do doubt Bathshua Brown had a lot to do with it, when she banished that British captain from the area forever,” Hale said.
Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin told of Bathshua’s involvement in the War of 1812.
Bathshua, who was the great-great-great-great-grandmother of Robert and Eric Brown, was 19 when she married Elijah Brown in 1774. They lived on Fisher’s Island off Connecticut, where they raised livestock and ran a shipping business to the West Indies.
When the British invaded the area during the Revolutionary War, they took all the Brown’s livestock and burned their home and barns, while allowing the family to escape.
They eventually settled in Sodus and in 1803, Elijah bought 100 acres of undeveloped land along the Oak Orchard River near what is now Waterport.
En route to their new home a year later with their 12 children (four had died), Elijah died and Bathshua’s first chore on arriving at her new home was to bury her husband.
“It’s hard to imagine what this area looked like more than 200 years ago,” Lattin said. “It was unbroken forest, with trees so dense sunlight couldn’t penetrate it. That’s why it is referred to as the ‘Black North.’”
“The Brown’s history is really our history here in Orleans County,” Lattin said. “The family was the first to come here, and it is interesting we can point to a woman who made a home out of this area with dense woods and wild animals.’’
Elijah’s is the first marked grave in Orleans County.
“His grave is just a short distance from here,” Lattin said.
Elijah Jr. planted the first apple trees.
In 1812, another war erupted and in 1813 the British entered Lake Ontario, attacking and plundering goods from the early settlers.
Lattin described how a captain and his crew came up Oak Orchard River and spotted the ripe plums on Brown’s trees. He was so foolishly engrossed with eating plums, he was captured and brought to Bathshua’s cabin. She immediately recognized him as the same captain who had burned their property in Connecticut.
According to another story, Bathshua found the captain in the smokehouse trying to steal hams and she shut the door and locked him in, refusing to let him out unless he promised to leave.
The captain was given three choices – be taken to Ridge Road and turned over to the American militia; be left with Bathshua’s sons to determine his fate as they would; or get on his ship and leave Lake Ontario, never to return.
“He chose the third option,” Lattin said. “It took a great deal of tenacity to stick it out in this wilderness. Bathshua not only stood up to that British captain, she stood up to Mother Nature.”
Paula Savage, president and founder of the International Peace Garden Foundation, urged everyone to visit all Peace Gardens along the trail.
“This trail is a tangible symbol of our countries’ friendship,” she said.
In 2014, Savage announced the Peace Garden Trail will be expanded to include Washington, D.C. A bus trip from this area is being planned for the celebration, she said.
She said Brown’s was an ideal place for a Peace Garden.
“It offers a variety of experiences,” she said. “It is a fun place to be, and now there is a new feature to enjoy here.”
After Savage and Robert Brown unveiled the Peace Garden panel, Brown spoke about Bathshua.
“We all have a bad day when we misplace our cell phone, or the brakes still squeal after we’ve just had them fixed, or the kids are driving us crazy, but Bathshua lived in a cabin in the woods, and it is likely her most important piece of equipment was an axe,” he said. “We need to count our blessings for all we have, and this is a wonderful tribute to that.”