Agnes Ann Brennen / Brennan
(c1860-1926) was forty years old and unmarried. Based on period
newspapers, she kept a low profile in her occupation and in Chicago.
As one of nine children born to John Bauman Brennen and Sophia Freeman Brennen,
Agnes came to Chicago as a child from Mount Vernon, NY. Her family roots
went deep in America's history. Since I found little to nothing about
Agnes herself, I'll share what I learned about her rather remarkable
great-grandfather and father.
Agnes's paternal ancestors could be
traced to the American Revolution when her great-grandfather, Sebastian
Bauman (originally Beauman) (1739-1803), played an important role
militaristically and in recording details of the
final battle at Yorktown in 1781.
Around 1755, after killing a high
ranking Austrian officer in a duel, Sebastian immigrated to America.
As a well-educated military engineer he was welcomed into service in George Washington's
during the French and Indian War and assigned to Thomas Gage's troop.
He managed to survive general Edward Braddock's failed effort to
capture Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) and, like Washington, did not
come away from the experience a supporter of Britain's continued control
over the colonies.
Twenty years later, as a husband,
father and American, Sebastian was assigned to colonel John Lamb's
2nd Continental Artillery in the Continental Army. After distinguishing himself at the battles
of Long Island and Trenton, and at Valley Forge, he was in 1779 sent to take
charge of artillery at
The fort was then commanded by Benedict Arnold who
was secretly maneuvering to help the British take West Point. One of Bauman's diagrams relative to fortifying
the fort was among documents Benedict Arnold gave to his co-conspirator,
British spy, John Andre.
When Andre was captured it was among the documents found in his sock that helped convict Arnold
When Arnold deserted and went
to fight for Great Britain, Bauman remained at West Point for a time as its
unofficial commander. As troops gathered in Yorktown In September and
October of 1781, Sebastian came south down the Hudson from West Point to
become one of three artillery captains on rotation during the siege.
the battle scene
the British surrender, Bauman surveyed and drew
a detailed map of the Yorktown battlefield, presenting it to George
Washington who directed him to have it engraved and published. It became an important tool for scholars and historians.†
the war Bauman returned to West Point where he was promoted in 1785 to lieutenant
colonel. The following year he was appointed as first the first federal Deputy
Postmaster of New York. He operated the post office from his home and grocery store
at 62 Broadway in New York. It opened at 7:00 am and closed at 5:00
pm. As was the custom at the time, his postal clerks lived with the
Bauman family and on New Years day Sebastian presented them with a new suit
of clothing. Bauman was also
in charge of a two-hour fireworks display at George Washington's
inauguration in 1789.
Enlarge to read Sebastian Beauman's story as celebrated a century after the
Brennan and sons followed family tradition
Agnes's father was a noted
abolitionist in New York where he helped organize the Republican party in
Westchester County and co-founded
Vernon, NY north of the Bronx. He was one of eight men who signed the
petition for Mount Vernon's incorporation in 1853 when there were fewer than
1,400 residents. He served as a trustee the first year after
incorporation and was in 1859 appointed village
president. I did not a reason for the Brennan family's departure from
Mount Vernon but in terms of historical artifacts, their new home, Chicago,
was the benefactor.‡
Four of Agnes's brothers fought in the
Union Army, during the Civil War, two of which lost their lives in the conflict. Most of the
family moved west to Chicago in 1865. At least two of Agnes's siblings
also became educators. George A. Brennan, was a school principal in Chicago, as
was a sister, Rye Brennan Leonard.
Discrepancies and addendum
* Newspapers in 1903/4 reported
address as 2547 Indiana Ave and in 1896 she did live at 2548
Indiana Ave but by 1903, Chicago city directories listed her as boarding at
† The copper engraving for the map was done by R. Scott.
One auctioned in 1905 went for $175 ($21,000 in
‡ George A. Brennan authored
De Linctot, Guardian of the Frontier
published by the Illinois State Historical Society in 1917 in which he
reported that the British offered bounty on his great-grandfather Bauman's head and scalp during the Revolution, because
British generals deemed Sebastian's military benefit to the
Continental Army as essential, thus dangerous. George reportedly
placed a collection of fifty documents and relics
comprising thirty-two square feet of space with the
Chicago Historical Library. In CHL's online
catalog I found reference only to manuscripts and
receipts from Sebastian's time at West Point,
seemingly a smaller collection than George
described, and no mention of an Iroquois chieftain's
club. (Reportedly one of the Brennan family
heirlooms housed at CHL was a club from the Indian War presented to his great-grandfather by a
chief of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.) In the interesting-coincidences department,
Iroquois Theater co-owner/manager
Will J. Davis was fascinated by native
Americans, particularly the Iroquois Confederacy,
thus the name and
decorative theme at the ill-fated theater.
Davis also donated artifacts to the Chicago
historical society. It was reported
by long-ago family members that Sebastian was a good
friend of Alexander Hamilton and a founder of the
Society of the Cincinnati. I did not attempt
to verify either claim.