If you are familiar with the Glen, you may know that the Leonard Brown House sits at the end of a drive lined by majestic linden trees. Who was Leonard Brown and what does he represent in Portsmouth history?
Brown was born in Middletown in 1815. His wife Sarah was the daughter of Revolutionary War militia leader Cook Wilcox. What would become the Brown farm had been part of Wilcox's land. By the 1880's Brown was considered one of the best farmers in Portsmouth. He raised poultry and pigs and brought them to market in New Bedford. Along with farming, Brown served as wheelwright and blacksmith.
Leonard Brown represents the Yankee farmers, the descendants of the original English settlers. The first generations of farmers on the Glen were the Cooks. Father and sons owned the majority of the Glen land from Glen Road to Sandy Point. As they moved on, the land was sold to a variety of farm families. These Glen farmers, and others around Portsmouth, were the backbone of Portsmouth. They served in political office and took the lead in church communities. Like Leonard Brown many were the skilled craftsmen for the town as well.
I have been trying to date the construction of the Leonard Brown House, but I have been unsuccessful in pinning down a date. Some clues were found by a descendent of George Manchester (1822-1879). Manchester lived on Glen Road and was a carpenter who later represented Portsmouth in the General Assembly. In his diaries Manchester mentions that Albert Coggeshall built a barn for Leonard Brown. He began to frame it September 22, 1851 and the barn was raised on October 2nd . The barn was 30 by 50 feet. Coggeshall was the brother of Manchester’s father in law. From this information we know that Leonard Brown was on the property by 1851 and that there is a possibility that the house was built around that time. Brown probably removed the Wilcox house that was closer to East Main Road when he built his own home. An 1860 Portsmouth map shows Brown as owning the property.
When Leonard Brown died in 1896 he was buried close by at the Union Cemetery. Wealthy H.A.C. Taylor bought the land and absorbed it into his Glen Farm. A 1904 Gardening Journal notes that H.A.C. Taylor has round stone gate posts built and new walls were set. “Great care has been taken in handling the stones, that may appear old, all the moss having been left upon them to give them that look. The walls have been curved at the entrance to give the driveway a better effect, and on both sides of the drive, from the road to the Taylor mansion, young linden trees have been put out to make the way ornamental as well as shady.” The trees were furnished by the Vanicek family (Rhode Island Nursery today). Note the "young linden trees" were the start of today's Linden Lane.
The Brown House was used as a home for the Glen Farm families until the Town of Portsmouth bought what had been Brown's land in 1989. In 1988 there was a fire in the house and in 1991 the tall narrow center chimney in the ell was destroyed by Hurricane Bob. The Friends of Leonard Brown House have been trying to restore the house.