The Orphan Wanderer

by Samuel Pope, Artist

Price: $15.00 ($12.00 for Historical Society members)
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Signed and Numbered of 200 Prints by Artist on Off-White Paper
Suitable for Framing
Dimensions 14 3/4” x 11”



In the spring of 1850, thirteen year old orphan James Byron Brown arrived in Eastmanville, Michigan. Having been bound to a farmer and his family in New York, he was obligated to move with them when they decided to try their luck in the West. Unhappy with his lot — the farmer frequently whipped him when his work did not measure up to the farmer’s exploitative expectations — Brown ran away to Grand Rapids. He found work as a mill-hand and at doing odd jobs; and attended Professor Franklin Everett’s Eclectic Academy.

Upon successful completion of Everett’s course of study, Brown taught school for a period of time. Then, in 1861, when the Civil War broke out, he returned to New York and joined some of his old acquaintances in the 154th Regiment, New York Volunteers. The unit saw action on many battlegrounds, including Gettysburg. At the close of the war, Brown and Mary Ann Godfrey were married at Newport, Rhode Island. They returned to Grand Rapids where they made their home until Brown’s untimely death in 1872. While riding to the Alpine area with his brother who had since joined him in the West, Brown’s horse and carriage was struck by a train. Both men were killed. It is unlikely 

that Brown’s story would be remembered had he not written his autobiography shortly before his death. Excerpts from that work were edited by Dr. Dirk Jellema and published in the first issue of the Grand Rapids Historical Society’s publication, “The Grand River Valley Review”. His description of life in the mid-nineteenth century provides valuable information about the early days of Grand Rapids and its people.

Upon reading James Brown’s autobiography, local artist, Samuel Pope, was moved in 1979 to draw his conception of the self-styled, “The Orphan Wanderer”, James Byron Brown, making his way along the road from Grand Rapids to Cascade in search of work and a place to live.



Samuel Pope is a native of Birmingham, Michigan. He lived for several years in West Michigan while he was a student at Grand Valley State Colleges in Allendale. Later he worked as an exhibit designer at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. His work has been on display in numerous art exhibits throughout Michigan. He makes his home in the Detroit area and operates Samuel Pope Design.


Originally Compiled by Gordon Olson, City Historian ©1980, 2014. Grand Rapids Historical Society. ©1979 Samuel Pope.

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c/o Grand Rapids Public Library

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Grand Rapids MI 49503-3268

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