Exploring family history can be exciting, tedious, frustrating, and amazing. One thing I have wondered about for years was how did Will and Annie meet? He was in St. Louis and she in Knoxville or Philadelphia.
When did they meet?
I imagined that they met in Washington DC when Will went to apply for the job of assayer for the Newton-Jenney Expedition to the Black Hills and Annie came down from school in Philadelphia to help her father when he was Senator.
However, last month I stumbled on the truth. Around 1872, papa William (1) and his brother James (2) invested in a Tennessee marble quarry, the Knoxville Marble Company. Tennessee marble is really a crystalline limestone, but when polished it looks like marble.
This was at the time Will was studying geology and mining at Washington University in St. Louis. Since his father was president of the company, I am sure that Will would have made several trips down to Knoxville to see the quarry and that is when he met Annie.
Will and Annie didn’t marry until 1881, but that is understandable, since Will was a student and then he had to get established as a mining engineer before they could wed, in 1881.
So that mystery is solved. But…now comes another. While going through newspaper clippings about the Brownlow family at the East Tennessee Historical Society, I came upon this little piece. There is no date, but the reference to Senator Brownlow being alive and the “Miss” involved being 18, that narrows it down to about 1870-73.
A Daughter of Senator Brownlow of Tennessee, Attempts to Elope with a Stonecutter.
Every one[sic] in these United States has heard of W. G. Brownlow, the vindictive and sacrilegious United States Senator from Tennessee, and a resident of Knoxville. When this old viper was editor of the Whig he was always very willing to expose the frailties of humanity to the gaze of those who roll the recital of such escapades as a “sweet morsel under their tongues.” “Chickens come home to roost,” and from a letter received in this city yesterday it appears that a daughter of Brownlow—a pretty Miss of some eighteen summers—has been attempting to run away with a stone-cutter employed on the new custom house in Knoxville. Now Knoxville has a daily newspaper, two of them in fact, but neither have mentioned the occurrence. Possibly Brownlow induced them to suppress it, and therefore it remains for the Kansas City Times to give the details of this love affair of the young lady.
The stone-cutter’s name is Miller, and the young lady’s Christian name was not given. Their attachment was mutual. Finally they resolved to elope. Brownlow is very aristocratic, and the idea that his daughter should elope with a stone-cutter was too much for the old chap. The news of the intended elopement reached his ears, and Miss—- was informed that she was a prisoner.
She was locked up in a room, but the room was found insecure. She declared that she loved Miller, and marry him she would. The pretty Miss was wafted away in the dead of night to a train and there sent on her way to a convent at Washington DC. Miller followed on the next train, and here the curtain drops. Further developments may be expected, not through the Knoxville papers, but possibly through the Times.
Was it true?
First, note how they refer to WGB. They are not admirers of his and are happy to print this “news.”
The Custom House in Knoxville was finished in 1874 and WGB’s son-in-law, Henry M. Aikin, was the first custodian (not cleaner, but person in charge).
So who was the Miss? Annie and her fraternal twin, Caledonia, were born 10 November 1854, and would have had 18 summers in 1873. Their sister, Fannie, was born 5 October 1851 and would have had 18 summers in 1870. 1870 and 1873 fall in the construction timeline for the Custom House. So the timing is right.
“Brownlow is very aristocratic, and the idea that his daughter should elope with a stone-cutter was too much for the old chap.”
While his children did “marry well,”there is no indication that WGB was “aristocratic.” He was a well-known figure and Senator at this time, but he was not a rich man. For all his fire and brimstone as a newspaper editor, he turned out to be a very easy “touch.” One of his biographers figures that WGB was actually broke when he died because he had “loaned” so much money to friends and associates that he knew would never be repaid.
And then, there is his own love story. Eliza is also recorded in several news articles as saying that in 40 years of marriage, she never heard one cross or angry word from him at home. I would have assumed a few cross and angry words would have been spoken if he had tried to lock up one of his daughters.
So what’s behind the article?
The best gossip, and this is pure gossip–not factual news, is based on some truth. In this case it would be the romance between Will and Annie.
The Knoxville Marble Company could very well have been providing the Tennessee marble for the Knoxville Custom House. The company probably provided the marble for the St. Louis Customer House which was being built at the same time. Did Will work for a summer at the quarry as a stonecutter? I would like to know. I believe that he probably was involved in the management of the quarry. But whether he actually did the manual work, I don’t know.
But referring to Will as a stone-cutter makes the story more scandalous than saying that one of WGB’s daughters was involved with the son of the company president. And, of course, they couldn’t use his real name.
So this article is just a slander piece, but it does connect the Brownlow family with the local stone-cutting industry.
Still think it might be a real story?
What do you think the probability is that a Methodist minister who was very, very, very anti-Catholic would send his daughter to a convent? He would choose to marry her to her stone-cutter in a Methodist church rather than put her into the hands of the Catholics.