“Yankee Jim” Brown: my outlaw ancestor
James B. Brown, my 4x great-grandfather, married Morelda (sometimes Zurilla) Wilson in Morgan County, Alabama in 1846. They had five known children: Isaac Van “Dock” Brown, Sarah Ann Brown Graves, Lena Jane Brown, James H. Brown, and Mary Brown. Another family historian recorded that in the Civil War, Yankee Jim was a neutralist. He lived at Brown’s Point located on Brindlee Mountain in Alabama. The Union troops ravished the countryside, but they spared James Brown’s whiskey distillery. After the war, he moved to Marshall County before dying at his daughter’s residence in Cullman County in his mid-late 90s.
In April 1906, James B. Brown lay on his deathbed in Cullman County, Alabama. As oral tradition has it, the nearly 100-year-old whiskey distiller left his sons with one last shocking revelation: he came to Alabama some 70 years before to escape the law. He was the sole survivor in a shootout with the law that resulted from an illegal counterfeiting ring (perhaps in his home state of Pennsylvania). He rode south to Alabama where he assumed the name James Brown. Apparently, his deathbed confession did not include his real identity. He was known as Yankee Jim because of his accent although other accounts record him as nicknamed Dago (an ethnic slur for Italian descendants). In census records, he lists his mother as a New Yorker and his father from New York or Wales. The lack of solid information regarding Jim’s real identity or his crimes has made this a brick wall in my research. So if you know if any Pennsylvania counterfeiting shootouts, please leave a comment.