Historian who wrote books about Rock Hill and Catawba Indians dies

Jessica SchonbergJuly 19, 2007 

Author and historian Douglas Summers Brown was so particular about her research and writing that she wrote her own obituary. She gave it to family members who updated it for the Lynchburg (Va.) News & Advance when Brown died Friday.

She was 104.

In 1953, Brown wrote "A City Without Cobwebs," an in-depth history of Rock Hill. The book traces the city's existence from its discovery by European explorers, through the Civil War, Reconstruction and up to the first half of the 20th century.

Brown, a Virginia native, was fascinated by history.

Henry Brown IV, Brown's grandson, said his grandmother always would talk about history when they went for weekly drives through the country.

"When you'd take her out riding, if you went over a creek or a river she'd start telling you the history of the river, what Indians lived on it, what cultures were in the area," he said. "If you went into a town she'd start telling you about the history of the town."

Brown documented the history of the York County-based Catawba Indian Nation in her book "The Catawba Indians: The People of the River."

Brown also wrote numerous magazine articles and history books on several other cities.

Henry Brown said his grandmother kept writing until she was 101. After going by Douglas throughout her life, Brown decided in old age that she wanted a more feminine touch and began to use Jane as her first name, her grandson said.

Very few local historians alive today knew Brown, but many are familiar with her work.

Louise Pettus, who also has written extensively about the area and the Catawbas, said she considers Brown's book an important contribution to the community.

"Everybody uses it," she said. "It's where you should start if you're going to do anything on the Catawba Indians."

Pettus said Brown's work was extremely detailed. She praised Brown for always going to visit the places she was writing about and interviewing the people there.

Much of Brown's work is still available in the York County Library in Rock Hill. Three large bound volumes contain pages of notes from when Brown was researching her books.

Brown's daughter-in-law, Helen Brown, remembers Jane Douglas Summers Brown as a very proper and old-fashioned minister's wife. She said her mother-in-law was always willing to open her home to those in need.

Jane Douglas Summers Brown lived in Rock Hill while her husband was the minister at First Presbyterian Church.

According to her obituary, Jane Douglas Summers Brown is survived by her sister, five other grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and numerous of nieces and nephews.

Memorials may be made to Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church at 5810 Fort Ave. in Lynchburg, Va.

Jessica Schonberg • 329-4072

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