A Story of East Pennsauken: “Uncle Wes”

The Felton and Brown Families, as told to Joan Kaighn by Edward Ross, Sr., 89 years old at his home, 129 Moore St., Lenola, N.J. on March 31, 2004

“There was a very old, very stooped over, black man, who everyone called “Uncle Wes” Brown, who lived on Haddonfield Road in East Pennsauken (catty corner to where Bayard’s Chocolates is now) back in the 1920s. There was a farm owned by the Felton family on Haddonfield Road, which was then just a dirt road.

Now each day, Mr. Felton would hire workers on his farm, and Uncle Wes was the first one hired and he was the only one to be hired if there was only enough work for one man that day. Sometimes, Uncle Wes would bring his son to work and I would see them carrying lunch bags and walking up to the white farm house, which was on a rise. Uncle Wes and his son would eat with the Felton family and were treated like one of the family. Uncle Wes was a very nice man.”

“The Felton family would gather together everyday for a big mid-day meal. Then they would all gather in the living room and play music. Earl, who played the trumpet; Lester, who played the slide trombone; Theodore (Ted), who played the slide trombone and Ellsworth (Penn) who played the bass fiddle.”

“Later, Earl played for the Pennsylvania railroad.” Lester formed a band called the “Black Cats. Ted also had a band. Ellsworth (Penn) played solos at Mennel’s Inn in Maple Shade.”

“We all attended Pennsauken #5 School [on Union Avenue between Park Avenue and Maple Avenue].”

Additional Details

John Wesley “Wes” Brown was born in Delaware around 1857. His father, also named John Wesley Brown brought his family to Stockton Township in Camden County during the 1860s. Stockton Township in those times consisted of what is today the Borough of Merchantville and the Cramer Hill and East Camden sections of Camden.

Wes Brown, like his father before him, was a farm worker. He appears also to have been a prudent man, by 1900 he owned a home at 8516 Park Avenue in Pennsauken Township, just off Haddonfield Road. He was still living there and working on local farms as late as the spring of 1930, with his wife Rebecca and four adult, unmarried children. His sons, Rufus and Alexander, were also farm workers. Alexander had seen military duty during World War I.

Oscar T. Felton and his family were farming in Stockton Township as early as 1860. By the 1890s he had moved to Pennsauken. Oscar’s son Winfield was about three years younger than Wes Brown, son Allen Felton, about a dozen years younger. Allen Felton was living and working with his father as late as 1900. The Wes Brown and Oscar Felton families were neighbors in the 1890s and 1900s, only a few households away according to the census sheets.

Allen Felton’s sons are the brothers mentioned above as musicians. It appears that Allen Felton and Wes Brown had a working relationship that spanned both their lifetimes.


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