“Borned and Raised”
in Brown County

by Henry Swain

Millard Joy was the first native resident I met when we moved to Brown County. Millard later worked with me on our building crew for many years. He told me of a native resident who applied for a factory job in Columbus. Millard said the applicant filled in the space asking for qualifications for the job with, “I was borned and raised in Brown County.”

I have heard this phrase a few times over the many years I have lived in Brown County. This statement usually comes out in some public meeting requiring change in the community. The change usually was being promoted by a newcomer, and objected to by a long time county resident in the audience.

Any public meeting suggesting change often becomes heated as the discussion develops. Emotions sometimes take over. At the height of this heated discussion, a native in the audience may utter the title of this story as the final argument to the debate.

Newcomers have difficulty seeing how native birth could be pertinent to the discussion, but it is. It is not so much about being born here as it is about living here long enough to have an understanding of the history of our community.

If being a true native of Brown County means you were born here, that number is becoming rare. Home delivery has enjoyed a modest resurgence, but most mothers appear to prefer the safety of a hospital environments should some unexpected complication arise. I suspect that not being able to get to the hospital on time would now account for most native-born Brown County children. We no longer have babies being born on the way to the hospital in the Bond Funeral Home ambulance.

There are still many Brown County families that can claim residency through several generations. The influence of these families is being diluted by the influx of new people moving in, while at the same time many of the children of native families leave the county in pursuit of their careers.

As a part of the Brown County Chamber of Commerce Citizenship Award, a committee interviews three male and three female senior students who have been selected on the basis of their essays. I have been surprised to find only about half of them began and completed their schooling here.

This indicates that our county is importing not only young children, but also young parents. Young people in these rapidly moving times tend to place less importance in history. Residents of our community whose family roots go back generations have a different feeling about the county and its past, and view with skepticism these invading strangers and the new ideas they often bring with them.

I see this new and old intergenerational mixing as a positive influence for the future of our county. If new residents educated themselves a little more in the history of our county, they would be more patient with our deliberate pace of change. If some of the old time residents could objectively look at some of the new ideas the newcomers bring with them, they might find some of those not only worth trying, but actually long overdue.

I have discovered that when the residents of our county are well informed about needed change, they invariably make good decisions. The process of becoming informed can be tedious, difficult, and time consuming. I’m sure the same process goes on in other communities, but Brown County does have a small and vocal cadre that take a certain perverse joy in putting a stick in the wheels of change.

Being “borned and raised” here no longer carries the argument. It often did forty or fifty years ago. We are a better community now that it no longer does. Those pioneers who first discovered the beauty and magic of this place knew it was special and kept it that way for a long time. Those of us who have come lately should be grateful they did not keep this secret to themselves.

I doubt I could find a native who would now say they were “borned and raised” here. They would now say with modest pride, they were born here and think of it as home.

May the weaving of the old and the new become our future, in which change stays balanced in the assimilation. Change will not allow us to stay the same. Brown County, its people and its place, stir the embers of nostalgia in all of us, especially the tourists. They come to experience briefly what we enjoy every day.

The sense of nostalgia we convey is part fake and part real. Let us somehow manage to keep it mostly real, for the sake of honest memory if for nothing else. We acknowledge a slower pace of living here, which allows us to connect more intimately with our environment. We recognize our real roots are as deep as those of the trees that cover our hillsides.

I will always be thought of as an outsider by the natives, even though my wife and I came here as a young couple fifty-six years ago. If I outlive them all I wonder what my status will be? I wonder will I then be accepted as one of them by default?

Oh well, being an outsider has been a lot of fun. I think I’ll stick with what I know. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, “I’m not sure I would want to belong to a community that would accept people like me.”