Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mary Elizabeth Brower and George Colville Smith, A Follow Up

In January 2011, I placed online a genealogical summery detailing the descendants of George Colville Smith and his wife Mary Elizabeth Brower. At that time the parents and ancestry of Mary Elizabeth Brower had not been identified (a post had been written on the old blog site and is no longer online). In 2008 I had been contacted by someone who was searching for Mary Elizabeth Brower's ancestry, and who had previously corresponded with William B. Bogardus. Five years later, the parents of Mary Elizabeth Brower have finally been found. The above highlighted document has now been updated. It includes a new date of birth, a date of death and marriage date for Mary Elizabeth Brower.

The breakthrough came with an e-mail received from Carole Jean Smith who was researching Smith families. She was able to locate, and forward to me, both a marriage notice and death notice for Mary Elizabeth Brower, that had been published in newspapers of her time.

The marriage notice, as published in the New York Daily Tribune of Monday, August 26, 1861, reads:
SMITH-BROWER - On Wednesday, Aug. 7, by the Rev. Mr. Poisul, Colville Smith to Mary Lizzie Brower, daughter of Robert Brower, esq., all of this city.

The death notice, as published in the New York Herald, Sunday, June 7, 1914, reads:
SMITH - At Jamaica, N. Y., on June 6, 1914, Mary Elizabeth Smith, widow of Colville Smith and daughter of the late Robert D. Brower and Mary Elizabeth Brower. Funeral services at the residence of her sister, Mrs. Samuel W. Kirby, No. 94 Merrick Road, Jamaica on Monday afternoon at three o'clock. Interment private.

From the above we now have the names of Mary Elizabeth Brower's parents as Robert D. Brower and Mary Elizabeth. Further identification of Robert D. Brower and his wife required additional research, and information found on census records and marriage records of other children leads to the conclusion that Robert D. Brower is a descendant of Adam Brouwer of Gowanus, Long Island, through Adam's son Jacob Brouwer and his wife, Annatje Bogardus.


The family of Robert Brower is found on the 1850 U.S. Federal census at Brick, Ocean County, New Jersey. The eldest child in the family is Mary, who is aged 13 years.

Robert Brower household, 1850 U.S. Census (NARA, image downloaded from Ancestry.com)
The key to linking Mary Elizabeth Brower, the wife of Colville Smith to this Robert Brower household, was the presence in this household of a child, Morris, at the time age five. Morris is found variously in records as Morris Brower, Morris F. Brower, Maurice F. Brower and Maurice H. Brower. His marriage to Catharine Higinson in 1870 can be found online in the Family Search database titled, "New York Marriages, 1686-1980." Here, the parents of "Maurice H. Brower," are recorded as Robert Brower and Mary Robinsen. Marriages for two other children of Robert D. Brower and Mary Robinson are also found in this database, although neither one, David P. Brower, and James Delano Brower, were born at the time the 1850 U.S. census was taken.

The household of Colville Smith, is found on the 1870 U.S. Federal census in the 16th Ward of New York City (in Manhattan). Found in the household, along with Colville's wife, "Lizzie," and his children, Robert, Lizzie and Isaac, is Morris Brower, age 26, a house painter, and Catharine Brower, age 27, "keeps house," who would be his wife (relationship specifics were not recorded on the 1870 census).

Colville Smith household, 1870 U.S. Census (NARA, image downloaded from Ancestry.com)
Although no record of birth or baptism has been found for Mary Elizabeth Brower, it can be concluded from the above collective group of documents (her marriage and death notices, the marriage record of Maurice H. Brower, and the 1850 and 1870 census records) that Mary Elizabeth Brower is a daughter of Robert D. Brower and Mary Elizabeth Robinson. A bit of a stumbling block in this research had been the 1900 U.S. Federal census in which Mary E. Smith (a widow) had been recorded with an age of 55 years, and born May 1845 in Virginia.

Mary E. Smith household, 1900 U.S. Census (NARA, image downloaded from Ancestry.com)
The presence of her son, George C. Smith, and brother-in-law, Archibald Smith, in her household, make it certain that this Mary E. Smith is our Mary Elizabeth Brower. Why she is recorded as age 55 and born in Virginia is simply one of those U.S. census errors (of which there are many) that defies explanation. In addition her father's place of birth is recorded as North Carolina. The 1850 census states that Mary Brower was aged 13, so born about 1837. The 1870 census records Lizzie Smith's age as 31, so born about 1839. Perhaps she was born in 1838.

In addition to the above, the identity of Colville Smith's mother can be corrected. I had initially been told (by the correspondent from 2008) that her name was Susan Armour. Her name was in fact Susan (or Susannah) Lucas, and is recorded as such on the record of her marriage to Isaac Smith. This info was also provided to me by Carole Jean Smith at can be found at Family Search in the "New York Marriages, 1686-1890" database.

As mentioned, the "Descendants of George Colville Smith" report has been updated, and in addition I have added a "Descendants of Robert D. Brower and Mary E. Robinson," with the caveat that it is not complete. It does contain source citations for all of the above statements. The families will be updated online with the next update of the Brouwer Genealogy Database, although that will not take place for a few more months.

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