Hannah M. Brown (~1831 1860): Killed at Prayer

killedatprayerMuch has been written about the history of Hampton, New Hampshire, where my progenitor John Brown (~1595-1686) settled upon landing in Salem, Massachusetts after emigrating from London, England in 1635. One of the sources my mother relied on when she wrote her history of our Brown ancestors was Joseph Dow’s History of Hampton, New Hampshire: From Its Settlement In 1638, to the Autumn of 1892, which I wrote about last week.

Today I did a search in Dow’s history of Hampton looking for any mention of my 10x great-grandfather. Knowing that searching for as common a name as “John Brown” is fraught with opportunities for error, I came across this account of a “Mrs. John Brown” who had been struck by lightning and killed:

August 8, 1860, the Marston house, the paternal homestead of Mrs. Uri Lamprey, who inherited it, was struck by lightning and injured beyond repair. “The lightning struck on the west end, near the roof, and ran down to the ground, ripping off the clapboards, passing out and in, and completely riddling the end of the building. A child, abed in one of the chambers whose walls were shattered, miraculously escaped uninjured.” Mrs. John Brown, an Irish tenant, was killed, at prayer. Having just remarked that, if she must die by lightning she would die praying, she dropped upon her knees. While in that attitude, the bolt fell. The house was built in 1690.1

It’s not clear from this passage whether the wife of John Brown was Irish or whether John Brown himself was Irish. Further on in the book, in the “Genealogical” section, I learned that the parents of the John Brown whose wife had been killed were born in Ireland, so he would not have been one of the many descendants of my progenitor who had settled in Hampton, New Hampshire.2

irish-john-brown

No Relation, But of Still of Interest

I found Hannah’s estimated birth year of 1831 on Family Search.3 Her death certificate provides surprisingly little information except to confirm August 8, 1860 as the date of her death and “Killed by Lightning” as the cause.4

record-image_s3ht-dyf3-43k

A little research on Family Search suggests that the John Brown to whom Hannah was married was John R. Brown, born in Ireland about 1820. The date of death matches Dow’s history, as does his father’s name of John and his mother’s first name of Julia.¬† Although his mother’s maiden name is listed on his death certificate as “Ragan” rather than “Reagan,” I suspect they are alternate spellings of the same name.

John R. Brown’s death certificate lists his occupation as “Farmer” and his cause of death as “Found Frozen.”5

john-r-brown2

I’ve put the circumstances of Hannah M. Brown’s death on my research list to see if I can find a newspaper account of it. I question whether it happened with the degree of dramatic irony¬† reported in Dow’s history.

I’d also like to find a newspaper account of John’s death. His cause of death suggests that he was working on the farm in bad weather, became incapacitated, and was unable to make it back to the house. The circumstance reminds me of the chilling short story, “The Metal Sky,” by Ervin Krause, about a farmer who is working alone in his field and becomes trapped beneath his tractor when it overturns.


1 Joseph Dow and Lucy Dow, History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire: From Its Settlement In 1638, to the Autumn of 1892 (Salem, MA: Salem Press, 1893), 332.

2Dow, 630.

3“New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FSKZ-2XP : 12 December 2014), Hannah M Brown, 08 Aug 1860; citing , Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,001,062.

4“New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FSKZ-2XP : 12 December 2014), Hannah M Brown, 08 Aug 1860; citing , Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,001,062.

5“New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FSKZ-PVM : 12 December 2014), John R Brown, 20 Mar 1885; citing Hampton, Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,001,062.