NoD: Orlando Brown House built to make inheritance equal

Orlando Brown House - Frankfort, Ky.
Orlando Brown House – Frankfort, Ky.

John Brown wanted his two eldest sons to inherit equally, which was anything but a standard bequest in his day. Brown, who served as Kentucky’s first United States Senator and was instrumental in bringing Kentucky into the Union, had constructed Liberty Hall on Wilkinson Street in old Frankfort. Though Senator Brown purchased eight acres in 1796, Liberty Hall would not be completed 1804.

Mason, the elder Brown son, would inherit Liberty Hall. But what of the younger boy, Orlando? For him, the statesman contacted famed architect Gideon Shryock to design an adjacent residence in 1835. Construction of this beautiful Greek Revival two-story cost only $5,000. Both the Orlando Brown House and Liberty Hall operate as museum today.

Orlando Brown, born 1801, was educated at Princeton and Transylvania before beginning the practice of law in 1823. In love, he had expressed interest in his cousin, Mary Watts Brown, who was seven years younger than he. Upon her rejection in 1824, Brown took his law books to Alabama but returned to his hometown in 1829. The two were married the following year.

By 1833, Orlando Brown realized his passion was not in law but in writing. He took the position of editor of The Frankfort Commonwealth that year and Brown became a voice for the Whigs. In 1848, Orlando Brown served as Secretary of State in Governor John J. Crittenden’s administration. Also that year, Brown wrote furiously in favor of the Whig’s presidential candidate: General Zachary Taylor. When Taylor won the presidency, Brown was summoned to Washington and asked to serve his country as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

The man and the job were not a good match; Brown resigned in 1850 and returned to Frankfort. There, he and his brother would jointly enter into many civic endeavors, including the organization of the Frankfort Cemetery. Too, Brown and his father were among those who in 1836 created the Kentucky Historical Society. And for all of his efforts, Orlando Brown has the distinction of being named the first honorary Kentucky Colonel.

Sources: Ky; Orlando Brown Papers