I hear a train a comin’

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Shake the family tree and there are bound to be some unusual fruit that falls out. Brownlee Zuver fits that description to the “t”. A Civil War veteran who did a lot of recruitment for the army, Brownlee had plenty of personality. From his enlistment records from 1861 – 1865 at the age of 20, Brownlee had spent many months in Pittsburgh doing recruitment.


By 1873 he had returned to his hometown of Mercer, Pennsylvania and was planning on marrying in November. In March we find him in the Eagle Hotel billiard hall, according to the local newspaper accounts. Another local citizen, Mr. Coon, walked into the billiard hall and was conversing with the proprietor and another local gent. It seems that Brownlee wasn’t included in the conversation, when he inserted himself into it abruptly. He began to vocalize his viewpoints on the recent election, and as many political conversations go, this one tanked. Mr. Coon denied the charges being made by Brownlee to no avail.


By this time Brownlee had jumped down of the counter, on which he was setting, crossed the room and punched Mr. Coon behind the ear. According to the newspaper account of the day, Mr. Coon tried backing away from Brownlee, but Brownlee followed him throwing punches and landing blows. By this time Mr. Coon had motioned to reach for his gun and Brownlee threatened to blow his head off if he touched it. Mr. Coon managed to get out of the hotel, without his hat but with his head still attached. This tirade got Brownlee arrested, fined $20 and made to apologize to Mr. Coon, with Mr. Coon’s hat in hand.


Ten years and 5 children later, Brownlee shows up in the newspaper again. The military was sending him, Captain Grace, and Lieutenant Gifford to Gettysburg to inspect the monuments that were being placed in memory of the fallen soldiers there. Captain Grace would be meeting Brownlee in Warren, Pennsylvania in September for the trip south to Gettysburg. Upon arriving at Warren, Captain Grace found the almost lifeless body of Brownlee lying torn and bleeding by the side of the car tracks, where it had been thrown by a passing train. Captain Grace had trouble finding someone to take Brownlee in and attend to his wounds.


This was a battle that Brownlee wasn’t going to survive. He died, September 30, 1884, his youngest child being only 11 months old.



  1. Brownlee Zuver was my grandfather. My father was Harry Brownlee Zuver, the youngest child of Brownlee & Martha Hamill Zuver

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