While Brown’s military career is relatively clear, his biographical information is much more difficult to discern, especially given his common name. Despite this difficulty, we do know that the recruitment area for the Third Company targeted Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, which gives us an idea of where he may have come from. Brown’s mention in a petition from a Prince George’s County militia company to the Council of Safety in April 1776 makes his connection to the area more plausible. A record of a marriage between Peter Brown and Elizabeth Beall in May 1781 in Prince George’s County further strengthens the case for his ties to the area.
Brown’s connection to Prince George’s County enabled us to focus on records from that county to gain a more complete picture of his life. Land records were particularly useful in this case; they refer to him as a “planter,” and reveal that he also owned land in Montgomery County. Yearly tax assessments from both counties indicate the years he resided in each county, and provide the value of his land and personal property. This information helps us determine his occupation, wealth and social class relative to the rest of the local community, and gives us a better sense of his quality of life.
Interestingly, Brown does not appear in probate records for either county, an indication that left the area before his death. The last documentation linking him to the area is an August 1798 court case regarding money owed to him from a deceased person’s estate. While this gives us an approximate idea of the latest date he lived in the region, it does not provide any insight into where he went or why.
To determine where Brown may have gone, it was necessary to expand our search outside of the two counties. The 1800 Federal Census lists a Peter Brown in Frederick County, Maryland, but we were unable to confirm if this was our research subject. It was very possible that Brown was steadily moving north through the state and ended up in Frederick County. However, the 1790 Census listed two Peter Browns; one in Prince George’s County and one in Frederick. This information led us to believe that the Peter Brown in Frederick County was the same one showing up in later censuses and was not the Peter Brown from the Maryland 400.At an apparent dead end with our resources, it was necessary to do an internet search for clues. Results indicated a possible connection to Kentucky, and one source specifically referred to the will of Andrew Beall, Elizabeth Beall’s father. Examining his will in our records confirm his mention of Brown, and the bequeathing of his “Cain Tuck” lands to Elizabeth. Aware of the fact that many Marylanders settled in Kentucky after the Revolution, it is very likely that “Cain Tuck” refers to Kentucky. The listing of a Peter Brown in Kentucky in the 1810, 1820, and 1830 Federal Censuses also corroborates this.
Unfortunately, without access to archival records from Kentucky we cannot look at Brown’s will or other documents that might confirm his connection to Maryland. However, the totality of the information we uncovered enables us to make the case that he most likely came from Prince George’s County and eventually settled in Kentucky. Though we cannot absolutely confirm this, we are confident that the evidence we have uncovered supports this theory.
The complications confronting us in finding and confirming the details of Peter Brown’s life outside of the army are not unique when researching the men of the Maryland 400. Often times we are only able to uncover general information and in many cases we are unable to locate any information at all. In the case of Peter Brown we uncovered specific facts about his occupation and wealth; however, we can make only generalizations about his origins and eventual relocation to Kentucky.