Continued from Part 1 of “The Embezzler Redeemed”
A report that Benjamin Brower had been apprehended at Albany was refuted almost immediately as being “wholly without foundation.” But on October 25, 1803, the New England Palladium (Boston) briefly reported he had been captured. On the 29th the New York Morning Chronicle expanded upon the news of Brower’s arrest.
The Boston Gazette of Monday last, states that Benjamin Brower, who lately robbed the Manhattan Bank, of a very considerable sum of money, was taken up in that town, on Friday evening preceding, and after an examination, and the discovery of between 7 and 8000 dollars which had been concealed about his cloathes [sic], confessed the fact. He had taken passage, a few weeks since, from Newburyport for Passamaquaddy, where he arrived; but from whence he returned to Boston in a vessel commanded by Capt. Pulsifer, of Newburyport. It is to the vigilance of that gentleman with the aid of some others, that he was detected and committed. The reward for taking Brower is 500 dollars and ten per cent. of all the money recovered.
A brief notice in the May 2, 1804 issue of the New York Gazette stated “The trial of Benjamin Brower is postponed.” A fuller communication published in the Washington Federalist (Georgetown, D.C.) on May 7th reads:
The trial of Benjamin Brower, who has already been confined upwards of 6 months, on a charge of the Manhattan Company, for defrauding their bank, is further postponed by his prosecutors; and I am informed that Mr. Brower is so unfortunately situated, from the prevailing prejudice, that he is unable to give the bail required.
Seventeen days later Benjamin Brower was released from custody, “not” to quote the newspaper accounts, “because he was innocent” but because at the time New York State law required all prisoners to be released and discharged after two sessions of the Court of Oyer and Terminer “if in that time no prosecution has been carried through against them.”
Between his release from prison in May 1804 and his death in May 1818, I located only two notices of him in any newspaper. The first was published in the January 14, 1812 issue of the New England Palladium where Benjamin Brower was among five officers appointed to the 6th U.S. Regiment from New York. The notice concludes, “Mr. Brower, we believe, is a printer, and of the office of the N. York Public Advertiser.” The second was published under the head “Washington Academy, no. 236 Greenwich-Street” and appeared in the November 25, 1817, issue of the National Advocate (New York).
Mr. Brower respectfully informs the patrons of this establishment and the public generally, that their liberal patronage has induced him to form an association with Mr. Holly, a gentleman of good character, liberal education, and much experienced in teaching …
This school has now been before the public nearly four years, and received its marked approbation. … The male and female departments are separate, and, at the same time, every scholar is under the constant eye of the principals. The young ladies are under the more immediate care of Mrs. Brower, and every attention is paid to their manners.
But it is the decided opinion of the principals of this institution, that the same degree of delicacy or modesty ought to be cultivated in the minds of both sexes, and that many of the evils in society can never be remedied until this principle shall universally be recognized, and until as much disgrace shall attend every aberration from strict delicacy and propriety of conduct in a male as that of a female…
I was collecting evidence but still didn’t have proof that the printer and embezzler were one and the same. I turned next to the New York city directories. In Longworth’s directories for 1801-1805, Benjamin Brower is listed as an accountant. His name does not appear in the directory for 1806, and in 1807 it appears without an occupation. For the next two years, Benjamin Brower’s occupation is listed as milliner in association with Nicholas B. Brower, proprietor of a hat store at 109 William Street. In 1811 and 1812, Benjamin Brower is once again listed as an accountant. By the next year, the directory listed him without an occupation but his address at 3 George Street put him in close proximity to the printer Samuel Brower at 16 George Street. Benjamin Brower’s address first appears as 236 Greenwich Street in the 1814 directory, in which he is described as a reading teacher. Finally, in keeping with the news articles, for 1815-1817 he is listed as the principal of Washington Academy. In 1818, his widow Mary Brower is listed at the Greenwich Street address.
Assuming that Nicholas B. and Samuel Brower were related to Benjamin, and assisting him to get back on his feet, I went back to Ancestry.com and discovered that Nicholas B. and Samuel Brower were brothers, sons of Nicholas Brouwer and Mary Birdsall. Nicholas Birdsall Brower was born at Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York, on April 26, 1772, the year after his parents were married. Samuel was born at Wappingers Falls, also in Dutchess County, on May 4, 1786. Also listed are two sisters, Mary born in 1783, and Martha, with no birth date given. The children of both Nicholas B. and Samuel Brower were all born in New York City so I felt confident that they were, respectively, the proprietor of the hat store and the printer. I also believed that Benjamin Brower was their brother. In all the considerable authority work I have done in conjunction with cataloging, this would not be the first time that the “black sheep” was omitted from the family genealogy: the saddest case being that of a young woman who had committed suicide. Her birth record was listed in the town’s vital records and I was able to find an obituary which noted several previous attempts before the successful suicide, but her name appeared nowhere in the family’s published genealogy.
By this time I was relating the story to colleagues over coffee and lunch, and decided it was worth pursuing even further. I went back to America’s Historical Newspapers to read the articles I had skipped, and soon found the missing link between Benjamin Brower and Nicholas Brouwer of Dutchess County. An article published in the September 24, 1803, issue of the Republican Watch-Tower (New York) began with the description of Brower which had already been widely disseminated but continued with new information uncovered during the investigation.
He went away from Newark, New Jersey, on Sunday morning, the 28th of August, in a horse and chair, with his wife and child, and some baggage. The horse was a bay, about 15 hands and a half high, though it is probable he has changed horses on the road. The chair has steel springs, plated mouldings, green painted body, with sword case … the lining of the chair body olive velvet … We have learnt that he went up the North [Hudson] River, on the westerly side, crossed at Peekskill, left his wife and child, with some or all of his baggage, at Wapping’s Creek, Dutchess County, where his father resides; took up there a small lad about 14 years of age, a brother of his, and proceeded with him towards Poughkeepsie. The persons dispatched in pursuit of him have been as far as Albany, but could not learn that he had been there, or any where in the neighbourhood. We conclude, therefore, that he took one of the roads just beyond Poughkeepsie, which led to Canada, Vermont, or into the eastern states; or possibly crossing the North River, with the intention of getting through the back part of New-Jersey and Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia or Baltimore, in order to leave the U. States. …
The evidence that Benjamin Brower, the accountant turned embezzler, was also the printer of the Daily Telegraph and the compiler of The Columbian Speaker, or Juvenile Orator was, at this point, strong enough to enter a record for him in the national Name Authority File. But the question remained, why didn’t the Manhattan Bank carry through with the prosecution against him? Brower had most of the money with him when he was captured, confessed to the crime, and the “prevailing prejudice” was against him. It would seem that a guilty verdict was assured.