Contributed by: Shannon Bellis
In search of a new beginning in a land full of promise, settlers in covered wagons trekked across the countryside bound for the Texas territory. According to the Texas State Historical Association, the earliest settlers in the Northeast Texas region came in the early 1800’s, making their home on land once occupied by the Caddo and Cherokee Indians. Included among the early Texas pioneers is Bill Brown’s ancestors who settled in the countryside of Smith County between present-day Tyler and Lindale, Texas.
“They were here when there were Indian camps and before the Civil War,” he said.
“There are seven generations of Browns here,” said Bill when referencing his family’s heritage.
Smith County and the surrounding area quickly grew into a hub for agricultural production. From corn and cotton to beef and pork products, farmers and ranchers shipped goods to Shreveport by ox-drawn wagons and provided vegetables and meat during the Civil War to feed military personnel. Rooted in that rich agricultural history is the Brown family.
Bill grew up on the land where he and his wife, Sandy, currently reside. It’s a beautiful brick house they built together that sits down a small paved country lane.
“I was raised in the house across the street where my mom still lives,” Bill said. “We grew up running this land all of our lives.”
“We used to run cattle and cut and bale hay,” Bill said. “We used to raise baby calves in that barn,” he said recalling memories of his childhood.
Bill grew up working side by side with his father, who passed away a little over a year ago.
“It’s still very fresh,” Bill said. “He worked this land and was a cattleman all his life. My dad always had his hands in the ground— in the dirt, the yard, the pastures, the woods— and I get to carry on that legacy,” Bill said.
“There were three things that daddy always wanted to do,” Bill said with a tear in his eye. “He always wanted a four-wheel drive tractor with a front end loader—and we got that about 10 years ago—an old 1954 pickup that’s been in that barn that we’re going to restore, and he always wanted a shop.” ...And a shop is what they built.
“I know it makes him feel good because he’s getting to fulfill some of his dad’s dreams that his dad didn’t get to do,” Sandy said of her husband.
“We put [the shop plans] together less than three months ago,” Bill said. “It’s going to be an all-around, all-purpose building.” The Browns are going to finish everything out using tin from an old chicken house that has been in the family for 130 years and barn wood from an old barn Bill and his dad tore down 40 years ago to give it a rustic feel.
“There was a lot of history in that old barn,” Bill said.
“The whole process has been seamless,” Bill said. “The crew were all standup people. They were here doing their job start to finish and they did a great job. No issues, no problems,” Bill said.“It was very comfortable and we enjoyed working with Johnny” (who serves Southwest Metal Systems as a Project Manager). “Johnny always answered his phone, and if he didn’t, he always called us right back,” Sandy said.
As an oilfield engineer, Bill likes to be outside and “out where’s it’s happening.” Just like his dad, he “has his hands in the dirt” and he is passing that passion on to his grandkids so they can carry on the Brown family traditions.
“It wasn’t too long ago that I had all the grandsons out and we went on an all-day expedition,” Bill said. “We trekked down in the ravine that used to be a creek,” he said pointing to the area behind his new shop.
With six grandkids and a great grandbaby, the future of the Brown family legacy is vibrant.
Seven generations have lived… have loved… have farmed the land.