16 February 2012

Unfortunate End


At the young age of 19, my grand-uncle, Percy Melvin Brown, was killed in a automobile/train accident. The story is one I have known for years, courtesy of oral history within our family.

Born in 10 Jun 1909 in Orting, Pierce County, Washington;  Percy was the first son of William W. Brown and Emma Andersson. He is listed in the household in both the 1910 and 1920 census records. Between 1920 and 1930 the family moved to Tenino, Thurston County, Washington. Although they did not reside there long, this is where Percy met his fate.

He was in a hurry that night. His brother, Harley, was late coming home with the family car, and Percy was therefore late in picking up his date for the dance they were going to. He was trying to race the train and get across the tracks. Harley always blamed himself for his brother's death, knowing that if he had been able to get home earlier, Percy, or Pete, would not have felt the need to get across the tracks so quickly.

The family story tells us that Pete's father filed a suit with the train company and won. He used the settlement money to buy himself a new suit, even when his wife had asked for diapers for the baby, Don. We all know Don as "Uncle Boone."  He is the last of the Brown children still alive today.

There is little paper evidence of Percy's short life. His birth and death record have been located through the State of Washington, and the two census documents listed above are about all that exist. Unless there are other records of the accident, possibly held by the railroad?, there is not much else. The newspaper clipping pictured here could have been easily missed, since they spelled his first name as Perry instead of Percy. Since we knew the date of his death and the circumstance already, it was easy to match the newspaper to the family.

Percy is buried in the Orting Cemetery, near his family, in Orting, Washington.

From the Brown Family Archives. On the back, "Percy Brown". Date unknown.  Simple watercolor painting that he made and was kept by the family, about the size of a bookmark. One of the few remaining pieces we have left of Uncle Pete.