For a time before moving to Richfield, John Brown bred race horses. He said, "...that if he did not breed them, somebody else would; but his son John 'convinced him that was the gamblers and the slaveholders argument, and he abandoned the business, and went into sheep-farming and tanning'. In March, 1839, (John Brown) drove a herd of cattle from Ohio to Connecticut, and in July brought back with him a few fine sheep, from which he bred his first flock in Richfield."
John Brown was to become a world renowned shepherd, with his preferred breeds Merino (pictured above) and Saxony. He was as gifted and skilled with sheep as he had been as a younger man raising prize winning cattle and race horses.
Beginning in 1845, John Brown had at least 14 articles published in the "Ohio Cultivator", with several of them reprinted in the Chicago "Prairie Farmer" and in other publications in other states, about his methods and cures for sheep diseases and the producing of higher quality wool. One of the largest woolen mills on the East Coast sent him a letter that declared Brown's "..wool was of the highest quality. Your flock is now superior to any in Spain."
While in Richfield, John Brown was in charge of the shearing of "Lord" Farnum's flock of upwards of 1500 sheep. He also partnered with Capt. Oviatt to raise sheep on the once 4,000 acre Oviatt farm to the west of town on Streetsboro Rd. Under Brown's care, Heman Oviatt's flock flourished. On his various business trips to other states, he would often find quality sheep that he would bring home for the improvement of Oviatt's flock. (On those same trips he would also "shepherd" north a party of the escaped). In 1843, the Saxony's that he had purchased, cross-bred, and raised won prizes at county fairs throughout the Western Reserve for their size, strength, and quality of fleece.
One of his daughters was later to write, "As a shepherd, he showed the same watchful care over his sheep (as he did his children and family). I remember one spring a great many of his sheep had a disease called 'grub in the head,' and when the lambs came the ewes would not own them. For two weeks he did not go to bed, but sat up or slept an hour or two in his chair, and then would take a lantern, go out and catch the ewes, and hold them while the lambs sucked. He would very often bring in a little dead-looking lamb, and put it in warm water and rub it until it showed signs of life, and then wrap it in a warm blanket, feed it warm milk with a teaspoon, and work over it with such tenderness that in a few hours it would be capering around the room. One Monday morning I had just got my white clothes in a nice warm suds in the wash-tub, when he came in bringing a little dead-looking lamb. There seemed to be no sign of life about it. Said he, 'Take out your clothes quick, and let me put the lamb in the water.' I felt a little vexed to be hindered with my washing, and told him I didn't believe he could make it live; but in an hour or two he had it running around the room, and calling loudly for its mother. The next year he came in from the barn and said to me, 'Ruth, that lamb that I hindered you with when you were washing , I have just sold for one hundred dollars.' It was a pure-blooded Saxony lamb."
In a letter dated June 22, 1844, John Brown wrote to his son, John Jr. He said in part, "We moved to Akron about the 10th of April. (We) have had a good deal of loss amongst our sheep from grub in the head. Have raised (in Richfield) 560 lambs, and have 2,700 pounds of wool; have been offered 56 cents per pound for one ton of it. (Son) Jason spends most of his time in Richfield. Have not yet done finishing leather, but shall probably get through in a few weeks after my return. The general aspect of our worldly affairs is favorable."
For some time after the most of the Brown Family moved to Akron and the Simon Perkins Farm, two of John Brown's sons remained in Richfield to tend to the family business's there. Jason tended to the sheep and Frederick ran the tannery.
In an earlier letter to John Jr. written from Richfield, in Jan. '44, John Sr. wrote about that later possible move to Akron that, "We expect to keep the Captain Oviatt farm for pasturing." And that, "We have nothing to do with providing for them in the winter excepting harvesting rutabagas and potatoes."
Sheep have continued to be raised long after John Brown left Richfield. For many years Dan Emmitt raised and sold sheep from his farm on Streetsboro Rd. east of town. Carter Wilmot raised sheep for many years to the north of town, just across the road from where the first cabin built in Brecksville was raised. And the Fry family has raised sheep on their Southern Rd. farm for 60+ years. From the very first settlers in Richfield, the area has been known for its particularly rich fields that were good for pasturing. It continues to be so these 200+ years later. The Fry's and Wilmot's attended services together on a Sunday morning, at the same church John Brown and his family attended. I remember some 60+ years ago our father asking (the much older) Mr. Wilmot advice on raising sheep. I wonder if some of his knowledge had been passed down from John Brown.
Copyright © Jim Fry 2018