Surname Saturday... Sherman Lewis Brown and the Columbus City Directories

Finding Sherman in City Directories

I've enjoyed following my great-grandfather Sherman Lewis Brown through the Columbus, Ohio City Directories that can be found using I had heard that after you use census records, that you should look into city directories to find out what happened between census entries. I didn't realize how much had happened to Sherman between those 10 year increments.

Sherman Lewis Brown with his wife Emma Virginia Townsend
and their two youngest sons Harry and Lew.

Story Before City records:

This is what I knew about Sherman Lewis Brown from Census records. First, until later in life, he could be found under the name Sherman or the name Lewis.

1890 US Census... he was 13 and living with his parents and siblings in Jefferson, Madison, Ohio. 

1900 US Census... he was married to Emma and they had one child named Eugene. He worked as a day laborer and lived n Columbus, Ohio.
In reviewing the record again, I realized something I missed before today. That Sherman and Emma had bee married 5 years. They had had 5 children and only one was alive in 1900. So between 1885 and 1900, they had their 4 children that died. I had to write this here because I've been trying to figure out when/where these 4 children were born & died. Now I have my smaller window.
1910 US Census...  Sherman was living at Wager St in Marion, Franklin, Ohio with his wife Emma, two sons Eugene and Samuel. They had two boarders Ethel Townsend (Emma's relation) and William Wheatly (no relation?). They had been married 15 years. He's working at a factory but I can't read what kind.

1920 US Census... Sherman and Emma live at 1888 Parsons Ave with their sons Eugene, Samuel, Harry, and Lewis. He is a proprietor of garage.

1930 US Census... Lewis and Emma live at 438 Reeb Avenue (which is very near Wager St, very interesting). Their younger sons Harry and Lewis Jr still live with him. Lewis is a salesman at a filling station.

Sherman dies in 1937.

Story After City Directories

So, that's a pretty nice story but it's very incomplete. He goes from being a factory worker to a proprietor of a garage in 10 years and then a salesman at a filling station. The garage (auto related) and filling station (auto related) could be the same thing only described in different terms over the course of 10 years. In any case, that picture only tells part of the story.

I could go year by year detailing Sherman's life through city directories, but I'll use a timeline format and only highlight when something changes. I'll start with the earliest years I can find him in the city directories.

1899                616 S 8th, Peddler
1900                457 Jackson Street, Laborer
1901 - 1902     (Can't find him in Columbus City Directory)
1903 - 1904    Reeb Ave, Laborer
1905               241 Reeb Av, Ironworker
1906               Tinner
1907              Bartender
1908 - 1909    Can't find him in Columbus City Directory
1910 - 1911    US Census entry, Wager St, Laborer
1912 - 1913    1903 Wager St, Timber Worker
1914 - 1916    442 E Innis Av, Tinner
1917                Home 1511 Parsons Av Owns S L Brown & Son (a garage at 1885 Parsons Av
                        with his son Eugene)
1918 - 1919     Home 1888 Parsons Av Owns S L Brown & Son
1920               US Census entry, 1888 Parsons Av, proprietor of garage
1922 - 1924    Home 438 Reeb Ave, S L Brown & Son
1925               S L Brown & Son is now an auto accessory store and a billiards (two separate
1926 - 1927    S L Brown & Son (no billiards listed)
1928               Business is now Brown Automotive Services, Eugene working elsewhere
1929               Son Samuel is living with him again and working as an attendant
1930               US Census entry, salesman at a filling station (Can't find son Samuel in the directory,
                              suspected he moved to Missouri)
1931 - 1932    Business is still Brown Automotive Services
1933 - 1934    Ice Handler, no Brown Automotive Services listed
1935               Working as a mechanic, Home still 438 Reeb Ave
1937               No profession listed

Now look at the story. The one thing that stands out to me that I haven't included on the timeline is that Sherman's son Eugene worked with him for a few years before going his own way. Eugene remained a mechanic but he didn't work for his father after 1927. Samuel worked for Sherman for a few years but was drawn more to work as a salesman and a clerk rather than a mechanic. So, it can be conjured that Sherman worked in odd jobs to support his family until the opportunity to own his own auto garage came along in 1917. He named the business S L Brown (his name) and Son (probably Eugene as he was inclined to the mechanic profession) in hopes that they would work together throughout the remainder of his life and it would pass down to Eugene. Eugene quit working for his father around 1928. Knowing that Samuel was inclined to business and didn't want the garage, Sherman renames the business to Brown Automotive. And soon after, Samuel appears to have moved off to Missouri (which gives a narrowed year as to when this happened and supports family stories).

The venture must have declined as nearly 5 years later, the business is not attributed to Sherman and he is working as an ice deliverer/handler. He returns to the mechanic field in 1935 but is not working in 1937, the year he died.

I'm so thankful that someone clued me into city directories to enrich the stories of our ancestor's lives. I can't wait to share this information with my mother and aunts.

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