IIBYRON FRANK ARCHER 1836-1906
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Orson Pratt Brown's Granddaughters' Husband's Grandfather
Byron Frank Archer
Comments by his grandson , Frank Davis
Grandfather Byron Frank Archer was a tall, well-built man, about six feet tall with broad shoulders. He was a fine looking man with dark hair and mustache having a distinct reddish cast. He was born on April 14, 1836, in New York state, the son of George Archer and Frances Olive Archer.
He was a ship's carpenter in the Brooklyn Navy yard during the Civil War. He had a bad scar on his knee, the result of his participation in some of the riots which occurred while he worked there . Someone attacked him with an axe. He was not in the army
He was an intelligent, alert man, seemingly well-educated, but how much education he had is not known . He was a great reader and there was a bookcase of his books in the home. They were good books by good authors such as Sir Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper . He was interested in politics and kept up with current problems.
When he was about 27 he was married on July 4, 1863 to Agnes Isles Brodie Duncan who was about 18, she was the daughter of Lewis Thomas Duncan and Barbara Brodie Duncan---a marriage which seemed not to have been a particularly happy one . He was an Irish Catholic and she a Scots Presbyterian . They were married by a Protestant minister and he often taunted her by saying that they were not really married ---- only living together.
We knew that there was discord in the home but we always took Grandma's part (privatey) and were quite surprised to find that the neighbors blamed Grandma for a share of the trouble . One year at threshing time, Hylie and ? (who were just kids), heard Mr. George Fredenberg saying to some of the men that if Frank Archer would give his wife a well deserved beating there might be more peace in the family. Grandma had a very spiteful disposition and no doubt did a lot of nagging.
He was fond of liquor and when he met his cronies in town he would go on a drunk that would last for days, not coming home during that time . He seemed to be aware of his weakness and would often stay away from town for months. Then the whole thing would start over again . The wrangling between him and Grandma got so bad that he spent a great deal of his time over at the "shanty farm". This farm is across the road from the Bernard Johnson farm on Gene's Road . The grove of trees is still there and there used to be a small cabin there.
Things went from bad to worse until Grandma sued for divorce which was granted. He continued to live over in the cabin, until in about 1905 or 1906 he came to the Davis home ( they were living in Alexandria at that time ) and announced that he was leaving for good. In the divorce settlement all the property seemingly was given to Grandma. But he told the Davises that he had been able to get a judgement against the shanty farm for $1000. so he wasn't going away penniless.
He went to Seattle where his sons, Tom (Lewis Thomas Archer) and Byron "Frank" Archer, Jr., were employed . He got in touch with them but Tom particularly couldn't get along with him. Mother (Mary Davis) wrote to Tom regularly asking for reports about her father. His answers were rather brief saying that " Dad seemed to be hitting the bottle pretty heavy ".
In 1907 Tom and Frank came back east for a visit . The Davises (Mary and Lewis) were then living in Cathay, North Dakota, and the brothers stopped off there for a brief visit.
During that time Mother (Mary Archer Davis) and Tom went outdoors and talked at great length, an hour or more. When Mother came in at last, she was crying and went into the bedroom and closed the door . When she came out she told the family that Grandfather was dead. We never knew any of the details regarding his death.
Lydia Hoefer Olson says that Tom Archer most resembled his father of all the sons
My mother thought the world of her father so he definitely had a lot of good traits. He loved his children and had nicknames for each of them and joked and enjoyed them and their friends.
'The next summer a new house was built. The two brothers lived there together until in late fall Frank joined a couple of families who were moving to Kansas or Nebraska. Shortly after he left LeRoy "Roy" Archer, who was then living alone was taken ill. We rode horseback to the home of his brother Ralph David Archer, where he died the next day of an apparent heart attack (at around 23 years of age). Frank was located after much delay and when he returned for the funeral, remained in the Hudson Community, where he married Bride Williams, and later moved to California.
This is a copy of a letter written by Mrs. Gertrude Douglas Brackin, a schoolmate and lifelong friend of Lillian Archer Cordes. It was written in August 1969 when Mrs. Brackin was 95 years of age. I received a Christmas card from her Christmas 1973):
"Now Laura (Cordes), I will answer your questions about your grandfather, B.F. Archer. Don't worry, there wasn't a thing wrong with him, only he was a heavy drinker. No bad traits that we ever knew of, seemed to bother no one.
My folks, (the Zenas Douglas's got acquainted with your grandpa and family when they lived at St. Cloud, MN and they met at the same store to trade. In fact I guess it was the only large store there. (The Boyd Store) with its potbellied stove for heat. I was about six years old then. Your grandma's ancestors were Scottish and so were my father's people so they were soom acquainted. Later on your folks left. I don't know if my folks knew where your grandparents went or not.
I was then about six years old. My grandpa and Pa had a farm seven miles from St.Cloud. Grandpa died and Pa sold the farm and came to Alexandria to look for a farm. He met your grandpa again and he said the farm next to the Archer place was for sale so he bought it.
When I was old enough to go to school your mother took me under her wing and always saw me to school and back home again . From that time we were together most every day.
Your grandpa was always at work and I never saw too much of him.. As I remember he was of medium height and I believe he had a mustache. All the time I was ever there ( and was most every day or your mother was at our house) I never heard a bit of trouble. He seemed. to have land. over on Gene's Road, right across from the old Allen Place , which is now owned by Bernard Johnson. This land has or had a grove of trees on it. I wonder if your grandfather took that as a tree claim. I didn't know he had this land until he built a little house on it, and when it was done he went over there and lived . But when threshing time came Grandma cooked all the meals and your mother and I took food over and fed the threshers. Seemed no trouble there or she would not have done all that. But he stayed over there in that house all alone. I just can't tell for how many years.
All at once he disappeared, they didn't know how or where. There seemed to be nothing said either. They never heard a word from him. After many years a card came to your Grandma saying, " The old devil is still alive." It was from out west somewhere . They never knew where .
You know Grandpa and Grandma used to go up north at blueberry time. They took me with them twice and we all had the nicest time. Fanny went too. Your mother had to see to things at home.
I think Grandma had a lot of worry about him. I know of one winter at Christmas time it was very cold and so much snow. It seemed he had gone to town and it came midnight and he wasn't home yet, she sent one of the boys over to see if Pa and my cousin would go and see if, they could find him . The horses had come home alone. They went to all the saloons and they reported he had been there but had started for home. They started back and then they found him under the sled box. The team had taken a short cut and upset.
Ben and I were at Grandma's funeral. This is a mixed up mess. I don't know if you will understand it. Since I got so hard of hearing my mind gets all mixed up.
Agnes Isles Brodie Duncan was born on July 5, 1845 in Riga, New York, just six weeks after her parents, Lewis Thomas Duncan and Barbara Brodie Duncan, with their two children, William Duncan and Mary Duncan, arrived in America from their former home in Scotland. Several of Barbara's brothers and sisters lived in this part of New York state, but whether they came before or after the Lewis Duncans is not known.
Agnes Isles Duncan was married to Byron Frank Archer on July 4, 1863. She was only 18 and had lost her mother the year before on March 9, 1862. The marriage probably took place in Riga, New York. Some time later they evidently moved to Watkins, New York, (now known as Watkins Glen ) where their first two children were born:
Mary Duncan had married William Pattison sometime before 1860 and had moved to St. Cloud , Minnesota where William Pattison had already taken up land and established a home, some five or six miles northwest of St. Cloud. At the came time he had set up a ferry across the Mississippi River at St. Cloud.
In 1870, or thereabouts, Frank and Agnes Archer and their two children came to Minnesota, joining her sister Mary and her family at. St. Cloud. They bought a farm three or four miles north of St. Joseph, Minnesota. There four children were born:
In 1880 Byron Frank Archer wemt to Douglas County and purchased a farm of 140 acres in Hudson Township (also known as East Prairie) from Purdon and Walker for $1,525. In the spring of 1880 the family moved from Douglas County. Frank Archer prepared a light spring wagon, loaded it with household goods and farm tools, tied a horse behind, and started out for Alexandria, bringing with him his two daughters, Mary, aged l3, and Lillian, aged 8. They came as far as Sauk Center the first day, spending the night there . They completed their journey the next day. There was a small cabin on the new farm, so everything was unloaded , the horse tied out to graze , and after helping the girls get settled after a fashion, he went back to St. Cloud to get the family and the rest of their possessions.
As Mother (Lillian) told this story many years later, she said," I wasn't afraid because I was sure that May wasn't afraid . She didn't show any signs of fear. But I know now that she was terribly frightened ." The two girls stayed alone in the little cabin in this absolutely strange community for nearly a week before the rest of the family joined them. They really got along quite well, the most exciting thing happening one day when the old horse, tied, out in the orchard, lay, down to roll . He did this so thoroughly that he rolled into a sort of hollow or depression and couldn't get up. There he lay on his back, and though the girls pulled at his halter they weren't strong enough to help much. Finally Mary ran to the neighbor on the north and told about the situation. The hired man came back and helped get the old horse on his feet again . This hired man was Emil E. Nelson, who later became a prosperous farmer in La Grande Township. He was also a cattle buyer for many years. He worked around the Hudson community for some time and Mother said she thought he had quite a crush on Mary.
Four sons were born after the Archers came to Douglas County:
B. Frank Archer being a carpenter built a large comfortable home for his family which stood till the winter of 1916 when it was destroyed by fire.
Agnes Duncan Archer died on July 3, 1916 in Alexandria, Minnesota. Thus was completed a strange sequence of important dates in her life --- born on July 5th. , married on July 4th , and died on July 3rd .
Frank Archer and Tom Archer came home for their mother's funeral and afterward Tom returned home to California, but Frank remained to stay with Roy who was now alone at the farm. That winter the home burned, the fire evidently starting in the basement . The two barely escaped with their lives and nothing in the house was saved .
My mother (Lillian Josephine Archer Cordes) always said, " My grandmother, Frances Archer was a southern woman. Perhaps we Archers inherited her trait of southern hospitality, since we all thoroughly enjoy entertaining guests . However, we knew nothing about her, not even her surname.
These statements puzzled me since she did not say " The Archers were a southern family". I wondered what circumstances would bring a young southern girl north to New York State where she would meet and marry a handsome, young Irishman . I have also wondered if her surname might have been "Byron " since that was our grandfather's given name ----- or was he named for a tiny village of Byron located in the Genesee Valley, south of Rochester, or did his name have no particular significance.
About a year ago in browsing through our library shelves, I came upon "Genesee F. Fever" by Carl Curmer, a novel based upon the history of the Genesee Valley in central New York, from 1793 to 1796. Here is a brief synopsis of the relevant (as far as we are concerned) parts of the book which are also based on historical fact:
"After the Revolutionary War a group of wealthy Englishmen purchased a huge tract of land, two million acres, in the Genesee Valley from Robert Morris, an American financier. They formed the North American Land Company and hired Captain Charles Williamson to promote the sale of the land. He might be called the first great real estate dealer and promoter in the United States. He had in mind a planned development of a native aristocracy with huge estates patterned after the plantation life of the South which would take leadership in the governnent of the country. He, therefore directed his promotion program toward the wealthy aristocrats of the southern states and the eastern seaboard. The result was that a great number of these wealthy families made their way northward to the Genesee Valley, bringing with them their fine horses, coaches, slaves, furniture, and their gracious way of life. Fine new homes were built patterned after the southern plantation homes. Williamsburg Fair, horseracing, and a theater at Bath ---- all were promoted, in keeping with the former lifestyle of these new settlers of the future state of New York.
Might Frances Olive Archer have been a daughter of one of these families who came north to participate in this adventure? Who knows?
Signed, Laura Cordes 1973
Lucy Morreim is the great-grandaughter of Mary Duncan Pattison, sister of Agnes Isle Duncan Archer. Lucy, who lives in St. Cloud, MN, is the daughter of Patricia Pattison Morrein whose father is John Brodie Pattison. Lucy is a Senior at St. Benedict's College in St. Joseph, Minnesota, majoring in social work . She is deeply interested in the history of the Brodie family, and in 1972 she went alone on a trip to Scotland to probe into the history of the Brodie family as far as possible in the short time at her disposal. She was extremely fortunate in her contacts and returned home with a wealth of stories and pictures
She took a bus from Inverness to the gates of Brodie Castle. There she talked to a woman who lives in the gatehouse, explaining that she would like to see the castle in its surroundings and take a few pictures. The woman said that the Brodie (chief of the clan) was at home just then and urged Lucy to call him on the telephone. She explained that Lucy should address him as "Brodie" ---- not Mr, Brodie or by any title. Lucy called and he answered. When she explained who she was and why she was there he said be would be glad to see her but that he was engaged at the moment.
So she waited at the gatehouse for quite a while. Then the gatehouse woman called him saying , " The young lady is waiting." He said he would send his car for her which he did. To Lucy's surprise , she found that it was a two mile drive from the gatehouse to the castle itself. She was invited in by the Brodie and Mrs. Brodie and was shown through the Castle itself, which is furnished quite luxuriously. Lucy was particularly impressed by a beautiful grand piano and a huge Rembrandt painting which hangs in one of the beautiful rooms . She took a picture of the Brodie (whose first name is Ninian plus several others, including Alexander) and Mrs. Brodie standing before this painting . She also took some pictures of the castle itself.
The Brodies have held land in Morayshire since 1160. The tower of the castle (built during the 1400's) is a survival of the 15th century Brodie House which was burned by Sir Lewis Gordon, 1645, all that survived was the tower and the left area seen in the pictures. The Brodies received their lands from King Malcolm IV in 1160 as a reward for helping drive out the aboriginal Celts who retreated to the highlands. The Brodies are a lowland clan . The Celts then became the ancestors of many of the highland clans . In burning Brodie House, Gordon was acting in the interests of Montrose, a Scottish supporter of Charles I of England, and of the Catholic Church. Alexander Brodie of Brodie, a Protestant, had enraged high churchmen by tearing down two sacred pictures in Elgin Cathedral , and the local bishop suspected him of conveying food and money to the banished ministers of the kirk. So his home was burned. The castle was later rebuilt. [Brodie Castleand all its contents, has since Lucy's visit, been taken into the care of the National Trust for Scotland in 1980 through National Land Fund procedures. The late Brodie of Brodie also provided an endowment.]
Lucy stopped at the tiny village of Brodie where every business place has " Brodie" as part of its name ------ Brodie Garage ---Brodie Grocery, etc. Brodie is on the highway between Inverness and Forres.
She then went on to Perth and then to Scotland Welland Burrelton, where the William Duncan family lived. (brother of Agnes Isles Duncan Archer). They operated post offices in both places. After the death of her parents, Christy Duncan kept the post office in Scotland Well until she was too old and ill to continue. Scotland Well is so-called because Robert the Bruce stopped there to get water during a campaign to free Scotland from the English.
Christy was then taken back to Burrelton where she lived out a few short years. She died in poverty in 1952 . In Burrleton Lucy contacted a Mrs. Morris who had taken care of Christy till the time of her death.
She also met Peggy Barry ( in Edinburgh ) who is of Brodie descent by way of Mrs James Brodie, who was born Christy Brodie, married a Grant, later marrying James Brodie, thus acquiring the name of Christy Brodie Grant Brodie. Peggy may be a descendant of a brother of Mrs. James Brodie.
Since Lucy's visit , Mrs Brodie, wife of the Brodie has passed away, 1973.
Laura Cordes, 1973
PAF - Archer files = Orson Pratt Brown + Angela Gabaldon > Bertha Brown + Everardo Navas de Molina > Ana Lucia Brown + Clay Archer < Robert Thomas Archer + Corene Hawsey < Louis Thomas Archer + Leah Maude Harmon < Byron Frank Archer + Agnes Isles Duncan.
Information received from Edna Mae Archer Radosevich in 1998.
Copyright 2001 www.OrsonPrattBrown.org