Person Scioto County Infirmary

A White Contraband

“When the County Commissioners, visited the Infirmary last Thursday, they found a colored girl, who gave the name Jennie Brown, occupying quarters there, who rejoices in a baby that has no apparent trace of African blood in its veins. The girl had been a domestic in this city, and was taken to the institution about the middle of January giving birth to the scion on the immortal 22nd of February. When the dignified Commissioners interrogated her, she states that the father of the child was a colored man named Brown, on the steamer Bonanza, but as the child was off-color, the Board were moved to doubt the reputed paternity of the child. The Commissioners gave directions to have a Justice of the Peace take her affidavit upon this point.”1

Record of Infirmary Inmates

The Record of Infirmary Inmates notes seventeen-year-old Jennie Brown’s admission date at Infirmary as December 31, 1879. The discharge date is not found on the subsequent page nor is her continued residence at the Infirmary documented.

In September of 1880 George Brown, aged 5 months, is included in the Record of Infirmary Inmates. His date of admission is January 22, 1880, and includes the remark that he was born in the Infirmary.

Unfortunately, Jennie Brown is not included in the September 1880’s census of inmates which suggests that she no longer was a resident there. It is also unfortunate that no date of discharge or to whom was noted for George Brown.

Father of George Brown

Research of genealogical records of that time returns no relevant results for either Jennie Brown, other than the 1880 Federal Census enumerating her at the Infirmary in June of 1880, however, the book History of Clermont and Brown Counties may provide some clues as to the father’s identity. While not conclusive, it is worthy of additional investigation as Charles Carrol Brown, also known as Charlie Brown, was the US Postal Agent aboard the Bonanza and that a son George T., is given mention.

The 1880 Federal Census enumerated Charles Brown and his family as residing on Court Street in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 1880.

From this information, it is not difficult to imagine that a pregnant seventeen-year-old unwed mother from Portsmouth sought the assistance of the Scioto County Infirmary, that less than a month after her admission she gave birth. It is left to speculation the final outcome for Jennie and her child or the identity of George’s father. It is my hope, however, that this information one day helps another researcher resolve this speculation.

  1. A White Contraband. (1880, March 6). Portsmouth Times, p. 2.
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