David Brown, one of the earliest settlers on the shores of Lake Worth, arrived in June of 1876 with his family. In 1870, they moved from illinois to Jacksonville, where David was a dairyman. There he was visited by Mason Dwight, who offered to sell him his house, located in what would some day be Palm Beach. Brown took a chance and, along with fellow Illinoisans Cap Dimick, Frank Dimick and Albert Geer, traveled south to Lake Worth. They were so delighted with the area, they determined to make their homes there.
David Brown was born in 1825 in Pennsylvania of Irish parents. His wife, Fannie E., was a native of Michigan. Their five children, all born in Illinois, were Anna: Jarvis, Roswell K., Lida P., and David E. (“Ned”). Anna was attending college in Illinois when the rest of the family moved to the lake, and she rejoined them in the fall of 1876.
The Browns had hardly gotten settled into the Dwight house on the east lakeshore, north of where the Royal Poinciana Hotel would be built, when Mrs. Brown got a plea for help. H.D. Pierce’s wife, Margretta, was in convulsions after the birth of her baby at the Orange Grove House of Refuge (present day Delray Beach). Fannie Brown, city woman who had never walked through beach sand, nor yet met Mrs. Pierce, went unhesitatingly to her aid. The two became fast friends, and their two sons, Roswell Brown and Charles Pierce, best buddies.
When the Dimicks and the Geers arrived with their families, the David Browns took them all in to live with them until their own houses were built. All their furnishings were piled on the wide porches. Somehow, Fannie managed to find beds for everyone. In October of 1876, there were twenty-eight people in the house, which included three infants, when a hurricane struck. One person remarked that it was the largest gathering ever on the lake and ordinarily would have been an occasion for merrymaking but, instead, they all crowded into the center hall of the house, listening to the roaring wind through the night. No lives were lost but many trees were down, and the Dimicks’ and Geers’ belongings were strewn far and wide.
David Brown afterward raised a large fine crop of tomatoes, hoping to ship them to northern markets, but they all spoiled en route due to the poor transportation facilities. However, this event inspired his fellow pioneers to build a tramway from the north end of the lake across the sawgrass to the southern end of Indian River, greatly shortening the length of time to market.
David’s oldest son, Jarvis (“Jardy”), accidentally tripped a shotgun set to kill deer and lost part of two fingers and took a buckshot in the thigh. The nearest doctor was 140 miles to the north, and he seemed to heal with Fannie’s good nursing, but in two weeks, he was dead. They buried him on their property, the first death in the little pioneer community.
In 1885, the heads of families around the lake decided it was time they had a school. David Brown and Squire J.C. Hoagland each gave half- an-acre of land for the building site. Other settlers donated lumber which was brought from Jacksonville by the Brelsford Brothers, free of freight charges. Roswell K. Brown and George Lainhart built the school, which opened in March of 1886 with twelve pupils, one of whom was Ned Brown.
No death records have been found for David and Fannie Brown.
Daughter Lida P. Brown married _____Trumbull and lived in Port Angeles, Washington. Son David E. Brown (“Ned”) also died in State of Washington. He had been an appraiser for the United States Customs Bureau, from 1900 to 1930. He was also a well-known authority on birds, especially those of Washington State. He and his wife, Mary, made their home in the Seattle suburb of Bothell, and had a son, Ford K. Brown, of Annapolis, Maryland. His sister, Anna Brown, predeceased him.