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Peace Garden at Brown’s pays tribute to pioneer tenacity

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 October 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Bob Brown stands next his wife Deborah while praising his ancestors, including Orleans County pioneer Bathshua Brown, for settling in an area that was such a dense forest it was known as the Black North.

CARLTON – Bob Brown often thinks of Bathshua Brown, who 209 years ago was left to tame a forest, start a farm and raise a family, all without her husband Elijah. He died on a boat while the family moved from Sodus to near the Oak Orchard River not far from Lake Ontario.

“Her most important piece of equipment was an ax,” Brown said today when the family dedicated a peace garden, part of a trail of gardens that has emerged to celebrate more than 200 years of peace between the United States and Canada.

Each of the peace garden sites tell a story, recalling life from two centuries ago. The garden at Brown’s Berry Patch includes an interpretive panel. It notes the family’s eight generations of work as farmers. It focuses on Bathshua Brown and her “pioneer tenacity.”

When Bathshua and her 12 children settled in Carlton, the area was a dense forest. Trees were thick the area was known as the “Black North,” because the sun could barely penetrate the dense canopy, Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin said.

Former State Assemblyman Charlie Nesbitt served as master of ceremonies during the dedication of a peace garden today at Brown’s Berry Patch.

This marker notes Brown’s Berry Patch is now part of the Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail.

“The early days were not comfortable,” Lattin said. “It took a great deal of tenacity to get through the early days.”

Bathshua was a determined woman. The family had already met hardship. The interpretive panel at the new garden tells the family’s story. Before Elijah died on the journey to Carlton, he and his wife rented a farm off Fishers Island off the shore of Connecticut. They lost all of their livestock, possessions and buildings to a British captain in 1776 during the Revolutionary War. The Browns moved to Sodus before purchasing the farm in Carlton in 1804 from the Holland Land Company.

“During the War of 1812 the British had several armed vessels on Lake Ontario to hinder commerce along the south shore,” according to the panel. “During one of the raids a British captain foolishly found himself captured and subsequently brought up to Bathshua Brown, the matriarch of the area. To her surprise he was the same captain who plundered the family on Fishers Island. Bathshua gave him three choices: be turned over to the American forces at Ridge Road, let her sons have at him, or return to his ship and never come back to this area again. He chose to leave and was never seen again.”

Bathshua and her pioneering spirit is also noted on a historical marker in front of Brown’s Berry Patch.

Bob Brown said he thinks of her hardships and how they compare when he gets annoyed when a cell phone doesn’t work or when there are other minor inconveniences.

“As a society we need to stop and count our blessings,” he said.

The garden shares an inspiring story of Bathshua Brown. It also highlights a beautiful and fun area with the farm market and adventure course at Brown’s Berry Patch, said Paula Savage, the Peace Garden Foundation president.

Paula Savage, the Peace Garden Foundation president, congratulates Bob and Deborah Brown for creating a honorary peace garden at Brown’s Berry Patch. The Brown’s garden has been recognized by the Peace Garden Foundation and is now part of a peace garden trail.

She helped create a peace garden in Batavia last year. There are 18 in New York state, and they highlight the friendship between the U.S. and Canada, she said.

The gardens tell stories, and that heritage can be a draw for tourists, said Wayne Hale, the Orleans County tourism director. Counties and regions are tapping heritage tourism as an economic development tool, he said.

“It’s all about the story,” he said.

Former State Assemblyman Charlie Nesbitt served as master of ceremonies for the garden dedication. Albion High School student Elijah Van Epps sang the United States anthem while student Zach Shaffer sang the Canadian anthem.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley presented the Browns with a citation for working to create the garden and for choosing to celebrate peace between the two countries.