I am delighted to welcome back my friend and guest blogger Kathleen Mae Schneider who is here with the latest chapter of
In-Dell-ible Memories, a chronicle of her mother Margaret's childhood at the Shady Dell in the early years of the 20th century.
Fighting City Hall
Our dog Sheila, napping contentedly in the sun, suddenly lifts her head toward the sound of barking dogs as it drifts across the pasture from a nearby farm. Sniffing the air for a sign only she under-
stands, and sensing no real danger, she responds with a small disgruntled ‘woof” of her own before returning to her siesta.
German Shepherd/Australian cattle dog
My grandfather would have loved Sheila as he
did all dogs. Sounds of their barking meant that his kennel at the Shady Dell was thriving and his family's future was secure. However, his dogs were not only his livelihood; they were his pride and joy. George Andrew Brown's beagles, hounds and terriers, known to be of the highest breeding, quality and training, were in demand by scores of repeat customers. The sizable fortune he acquired was built on this solid reputation and his reliability as an honorable businessman.
As it turned out, George's expertise and love
of dogs was both a gift and a curse. The dogs made his wealth but they were a major reason he lost it.
Until now this series has been gleaned mostly from Mother's memories, seen through her innocent eyes as a child living at the Shady Dell. Mother and her siblings grew up with dogs
as this wonderful early photo of Ethel, an older sister, shows.
As I research the history of the Brown family, however, I'm uncovering much that Mother was never told in her 101 years. While archived documents tell a lot, they leave just as much untold. Mother and two of her sisters were too young to understand what happened, and my aunts and uncles who were old enough kept it to themselves. They took the answers to the grave many years ago. So from here on out we will encounter many unsolved mysteries.
Despite glowing testimonials in his catalog,
many of George's neighbors did not approve of 100 to 200 dogs on his property above Violet Hill.
They drew up a petition in which they complained
of Mr. Brown's dogs "making loud, gruesome noises, both in the day time and in the night time and the constant howling and noises were emitted by said dogs to the great damage and common nuisance of the neighborhood."
In the fall of 1921 my grandfather was indicted and there was an inquest. Despite pleading innocent to the charges, his case went to trial in January 1922 and he was pronounced "guilty". He was then sentenced to four months in the York County jail.
By agreeing to pay court costs and "abating
the nuisance" in 90 days, George's sentence was delayed. In March he bought a 63-acre farm twelve miles south of the Dell near Loganville at a cost of $3,500. He established another kennel at the farm and sent most of his dogs there, but that didn't stop the complaints. At another trial in September he was sent to prison, supposedly because he had not removed all of the dogs from the Dell.
After serving a month in jail, George changed
his mind and decided to get out of the dog business entirely. He sold the new farm and had his sons close down all his businesses, selling his re-
maining valuable dogs at a sacrifice. He claimed that a new road replacing the one that ran by
his property caused his automobile enterprise
to collapse because of lack of traffic.
The garage that once bustled with REOs and Cadillacs stood empty, much as it did for the
next century. George also stopped selling his homemade medicines.
George was now 49 years old with four children still at home. Since he was running out of both money and options, he was clearly a broken man. Petitioning through his lawyer for early release from prison, he stated that "his enemies have done him unjust harm and have driven him from his home. They caused him great financial loss, and that he cannot, and positively will not under any circum-
stances, live among his enemies any longer."
The last time I visited the Dell house, I was struck by the beauty of this glowing stained glass panel above one of its matching front windows. Illuminated by the morning sun, it seemed a sad testament to my grandparents' lost dreams. When they built the house, perhaps they added this expensive stained glass because they felt their prosperity was assured. Instead, their financial ruin meant that they had to leave behind the house they loved.
My daughter Elisabeth and I visited the Shady Dell property for the last time, also in the autumn. I told her the story of George's trial and imprisonment. As she stood in the doorway of her great-grandfather's barn, she imagined George tending his dogs in this same spot during that tragic September
90 years earlier.
Except for the faint chorus of crickets in the underbrush, the old barn stood silent. Seeing its ancient hand-hewn timbers and moss-covered walls, Lis and I felt an undeniable connection to George's life. It was easy to imagine his confident and energetic stride when this barn was new, the sounds of his prized dogs and myriad other animals, his multiple enterprises that flourished for a while
in this place.
I think George would be happy to know that although his wealth didn't last, his family and beautiful home survived. With his descendants now numbering in the hundreds and the Shady Dell house now refurbished and home to another family, he could still be proud that he and Allie started it all back in 1912. Surely he would be pleased that one of his 10 children, Margaret, lived long enough to be persuaded to tell his story to another gener-
ation, ensuring that his life and times will not be forgotten.
In the next chapter, my grandfather's back-
ground as well as his personality will come into sharper focus. His choices and certainly some of his impulsive actions were partly to blame for his downfall and conspired to make his life a tragedy waiting to happen. Please visit us again for:
Chapter 7: The Demise of the Dell, Pt. 1 Harvest of Tears
Chapter 6: The Dream Becomes a Nightmare
Winter Count: Margaret's 2013 Birthday
Happy Birthday, Margaret! Oldest Living Dell Rat Turns 101
Chapter 5: Home Sweet Dell
Chapter 4: Allie's Rats, Pt 2: Margaret's Pig Tale
Chapter 4: Allie's Rats, Pt 1: Hill and Dell
Chapter 3: The House on the Hill
Chapter 2: Margaret is Born...and So Is the Dell
Chapter 1: The Beauty and the Butcher
Introduction: My Shady Dell "Roots"