Raffle to raise money to restore cabin; Historical society hopes to preserve Rev. Brown’s home

Raffle to raise money to restore cabin; Historical society hopes to preserve Rev. Brown's home The Clay County Historical Society is working to raise funds for the restoration of Rev. Brown's log cabin, located in Riverside Township.

Raffle tickets for a quilt made by Betty Ann Inberg Dahlin and her daughter Valerie Dahlin Begeman, are now on sale at the Austin-Whittemore House or Nook 'n Cranny. Tickets cost $1 each or six for $5.

The quilt will be on display at the Austin-Whittemore House until Sept. 1. It will then be exhibited at Nook 'n Cranny until the drawing, set for Sept. 28 during the Clay County Historical Society's regular monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m.

In 1868 the Swedish immigrant Daniel Peter Brown arranged for two of his fellow countrymen to build him a log cabin from the trees growing on his claim in Riverside Township in Clay County, Dakota Territory, near the Vermillion River. Compensation for these builders came in the form of logs from Brown's homestead claim, that they could use to build their own dwellings.

Brown was a clergyman � a preacher � and his cabin became an early gathering place for religious and educational purposes among the Swedish immigrant homesteaders in Clay County.

Church services and confirmation classes, baptisms and communions, weddings and funerals were led by the Rev. Brown and conducted in his log cabin. His preaching became the inspiration in the lives of many of the early Scandinavian homesteaders in Clay County.

The Rev. Brown held school classes in the English language for the immigrant children in his log cabin until country school districts could be organized.

The Rev. Brown was skilled in English, Latin, German and a Native American dialect. He used his ability to help Swedish immigrants locate homesteads and to serve as a translator when they filed for homestead claims at the U.S. Land Office in Vermillion. The Rev. Brown's cabin became a destination for Swedes and Norwegians first entering Clay County, seeking assistance.

The Rev. Brown served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was mustered in at Fort Snelling, MN, and was discharged from St. Louis, MO. He was a soldier in Ulysses S. Grant's forces during the siege of Vicksburg, MS, which changed the course of the Civil War in the Western Campaign.

Brown's origins are a mystery and his demise is an unsolved crime. He declared himself a Swede, but the rest of his background he kept to himself. The first record of him in the United States is of his being a preacher among the Swedes in Carver County, MN in the 1850s.

He sold his Dakota Territory homestead in about 1882 and moved to St. Helena, NE. It is believed he met with foul play on a trip to Yankton. His body was never found. All that was found was his empty knapsack � his most guarded possession.

When the Rev. Brown sold his homestead, he made provisions in the deed that he retained ownership of a few acres of his homestead in case he would want to return to his cabin and live. He never returned.

His cabin still remains on the original Brown homestead. In 1932 the desire to preserve the cabin was expressed by children of the homesteaders who The Rev. Brown had helped decades before. The cabin was then moved to its present location.

In 1974 a second move was made to preserve the cabin by repairing and replacing many of the logs. The transfer of the cabin's ownership to the Clay County Historical Society also took place.

Since then, another attempt at preserving the Rev. Brown's cabin started in 1999 with the formation of a committee and a discussion regarding the future of the structure.

In addition to the raffle, other donations to this project are also welcome and can be directed to the Clay County Historical Society, 15 Austin Street, Vermillion, SD 57069.

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