A Brown Family Legacy

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally published to Facebook on September 24, 2021

When Albert Neir Brown passed away on August 14, 2011, it was the end of a family legacy of military service to our nation.

The story starts with the birth of his grandfather William Thomas Brown. He was born in Zanesville, Muskingham County, Ohio on Feb. 6, 1841. William T. Brown went into the service on July 4, 1861 as a private in Co. B, 59th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, of the Union Army, here he served for the next three years.

In February of 1864, William T. enlisted again, this time, as a veteran. His final discharge was July 10, 1865. He served a total of 48 months fighting in the Civil War. He spent the last 9 months in Anderson Prison under horrific conditions.

After the war, William married to Catherine Waltz in 1865 in Indiana. Six sons were already born when they reached Nebraska in 1879.

  1. David A., 1867-1948, born in Indiana;
  2. Orrin Wesley, 1868-1922, born in Indiana;
  3. Charles Edmund, 1872-1965, born in Indiana;
  4. William, 1874-1900, born in Iowa;
  5. Harry E, 1875-1898, born in Iowa;
  6. Albert, 1877-1908, born in Iowa;
  7. Nellie, 1879-1963, born in Frontier County NE;
  8. Elizabeth, 1882-1930, born in Nebraska;
  9. Samuel, 1887-1977, born in Nebraska; and finally,
  10. Raleigh, 1890-1942 born in Nebraska.

After the children were born, William and his family moved to North Platte Nebraska, approximately 1891.

When the Spanish American War broke out (April 21 – August 13, 1898), four of the eight sons enlisted: David, Charles, Harry and Albert. Harry paid the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 1898. Even though the war was technically over, Harry died of flu which he contracted during the war.

North Platte’s local Spanish American Veteran’s auxiliary camp was named the Harry E. Brown Camp in his honor.

William Thomas passed away in Green River, Wyoming in 1911. William and Catherine had moved there in 1909 to live with their daughter Nellie and her husband. Catherine passed away in 1932. Both William and Catherine are buried in the North Platte City Cemetery. In Catherine’s obituary, it mentions how proud she was of her family’s service to their country. <See photograph of William T Brown’s headstone>

Once again, the Brown family went to war when World War I (United States was involved 1917-1918) broke out. Samuel and Raleigh served during that war. Then Samuel went on to serve again in World War II (US involved from 1941-1945). Samuel was 52 years old during WWII. Albert Brown Sr. (William Thomas Brown’s son) was tragically was killed in 1908 in a railroad accident <see newspaper article>. Albert had married Ida Leone and together, they had three children:

  1. Gladys, born in Nebraska, 1902-1983;
  2. Albert Neir, born in North Platte in 1905-2011; and
  3. Robert R., born in Nebraska 1907-1988

Albert Neir Brown, Jr. was only three years old, when his father died. After his father passed away the family moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa. He graduated from Council Bluffs High School and went to Creighton University dental school in Omaha.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Albert Neir Brown went to the Philippines with the dental corps as an Army Reserve officer. Shortly after he arrived the Japanese invaded the Philippines. He survived the Bataan Death March and three terrible, long years as a Japanese prisoner of war. While there, he suffered greatly from torture: stabbed by a bayonet, nearly went blind, sustained a broken back and was severely beaten. His body was racked with malaria, dysentery and dengue fever. He lived on three little balls of rice a day. Brown said when the rice balls were gone they ate snakes, crickets and worms, and finally, horses and mules. When he was freed from the camp, he weighed 90 pounds. Due to the damage done to his body in the Japanese POW camps, a doctor once told him he wouldn’t live to age 50. He eventually died at age 105.

He contributed his survival to being such a good athlete. He lettered in football, baseball, basketball and track. He always believed in keeping physically fit. Albert spent two years at Fitzsimmons Hospital in Denver, Colorado after the war. He eventually moved to Hollywood where he invested in real estate. After that he went to live with his daughter in Pinckneyville, Illinois. He also kept up his active life. He was a member of the YMCA and an avid handball player. Playing up to the age of 81.

Albert’s story is written in a book titled, “Forsaken Heroes of the Pacific War: One Man’s True Story” by Don Morrow and Kevin Moore.

When Albert Neir Brown passed away in 2011, at the age of 105, he was the oldest survivor of the Bataan Death March, and the oldest surviving World War II Veteran at that time. He passed away in a nursing home in Nashville, Illinois.

Thank you for reading another piece of our North Platte history! See you next week!

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