Family oral history tells us that Selma's grandfather, Arthur Willis Brown, was the son of John Theodore Brown, born in 1859 in Decorah, Iowa, and that the family was of German descent, the family name having been Braun, originally. He was, we were told a cabinet maker who turned house carpenter when ecconomic times were bad.

The 1900 Census records doesn't record the birthplace of either John's or his wife Emma's parents. In place of the birthplaces there's nothing but a scribble, though in at least one place I've seen it transcribed as "Germany", perhaps due to the fact that the neighbors' entries had Germany in the columns.

1900 US Census, Precinct #9, Rio Grande, Colorado

We therefore spent a lot of time searching for a John Brown, born in 1859 to German-born parents in or near Decorah, Iowa, all to no avail.

But more recently, I came across his 1910 census record, which gives his parents' birthplace as Pennsylvania, making only Emma's parents immgrants:

1910 US Census, Logan, Conejos Co., Colorado

And so, I returned to the Boston Public Library's on-line census records and found Joseph and Leah Brown in the 1860 census.

While this census lists Leah as born in Ohio, according to Debra Phillips, the 1850 census gives her birthplace as Pennsylvania:

1850 Census, Iowa, Winneshiek Co. Page 1163
Brown,Joseph age 27 b. Pa Occupation-Farmer
Leah age 25 b. Pa
Lewis age 2 b. Ill

According to her, Leah's parents were John and Magdalena (Fenstermacher) Klontz. Her information did not contain any primary source information on the Klontzes.

One of the sources she cited was Leah Klontz Brown Wheeler's obituary

The obituary text below was provided by fellow researcher KB:

MAY 4, 1899

Mrs. Leah Wheeler died in Decorah, Thursday evening, April 27th, of tuberculosis, complicated with old age.

The maiden name of the deceased was Klontz. She was born in Berks County, PA, in 1825. At ten years of age she moved to Ohio, where she resided for fourteen years. During this time she was married to Joseph Brown, with whom she moved to Iowa by wagon. When the civil war broke out Mr. Brown collected to help put down the rebellion and was one of those who gave his life a sacrifice to his country. Subsequently Mrs. Brown was married to Hiram Wheeler, who still survives. The deceased has been infirm for years, but for six weeks past has been very feeble. She was conscious to the last and passed quietly away on Thursday evening. She expressed a perfect willingness to depart, feeling that to go would be her gain. Four children besides the aged husband remain to mourn her departure. They are Mrs. R. A. Barsh and Wm. Brown, of Decorah, Mrs. Alice Botaford, of Fairburg, Neb. and John Brown, of Montana.

The funeral services conducted by Rev. J. W. Allen, pastor of the Baptist church, was held in the Russell school house on Sunday afternoon. The burial was in the cemetery near the school house.

This gave me a few doubts, since in the 1900 census John Theodore Brown and his family were living in Rio Grande, Colorado and his three children who were born in the 1890s were listed as born in Colorado. Could he really be "John Brown, of Montana", who survived Leah? Further research was called for....

A search of the internet shed no light on whether Joseph and Leah were the right parents, but did provide the information that Joseph Brown had a notable role in the founding of Winneshiek County:

Past and Present of Winneshiek County Iowa


With the organization of the county perfected, and the location of the county seat disposed of-temporarily at least-the thoughts of the settlers turned to county officers, and an election was called to be held on August 4, 1851. Alexander's History says that "according to the best information obtainable a well attended caucus was held in the log cabin of Nelson Johnson, in the southern corner of Decorah township." That the settlers lined up on opposing sides is shown by the fact that there was a contest for each office with the result that David Reed was chosen county judge over J. R. Morse. George Bachel defeated James F. Moore for sheriff. Francis Rogers won out for supervisor over William Vail. John W. Kline defeated R. G. Nuvland for surveyor. Daniel Kuykendahl was elected recorder and treasurer over Philip Morse. E. W. Aldrich defeated D. Bender for coroner.

A total of eighty-two votes were cast and the election was conducted by Isaac Underhill, F. Joseph Huber and Joseph Brown, who served as judges.

But the great power of the internet, is not merely that you can search out information, but that by publicizing what you are looking for you can get information to come and find you. Enter Keith Klontz. Keith, seeing my Joseph Brown/Leah Klontz family on the net sent me a lot of information on the family.

Among the many documents that Keith provided me was an 1885 Iowa state census which listed John, his wife Emma, Calvin Brown, and Leah Wheeler and her daughter Cora. Having seen this, I looked up Hiram Walker's 1870 census at the Boston Public Library site. Combining it with the 1860 census that I already had, we get the follow progression over 25 years:

Comparison of the Wheeler/Brown households
1860 Jos. Brown Household 1870 Wheeler Household 1885 John Brown Household

So here we have John living first in his father and mother's home, then 10 years later in his step-father's house, followed 15 years later by his own household consisting of him, his wife Emma Benter, his brother Calvin, his mother and his half-sister Cora. This seems to tie John and Emma, Selma's great-grandparents to Joseph and Leah. We are left with the small puzzle of where Hiram is in 1885, but Selma's line seems to be well established.