This article appeared in The County Press of Lapeer, MI, on November 20, 1974, written by Edward Carroll Parker.  The note at the beginning refers to the fact that Edward Parker was filling in for another columnist.  I have a copy of a letter from the then publisher of The County Press stating that this article, and others written by Mr Parker for the publication are not copyrighted, and that permission is not required to reproduce them.

1st Timber man on Flint River

(Ernie Force is ill. His column this week is written by the sage of Metamora, Ed Parker. The hero of this article, Thomas Brent, was the great uncle of Parker's maternal grandmother. - Editor)


        In 1836 there came to Michigan a member of a wealthy and illustrious Virginia family by name of Thomas Ludwell Lee Brent. He had with him a fortune of about $100,000 and rumor had it that it was all in gold coin. Brent bought 70,000 acres of virgin pine land, mostly in Genesee County but also in Saginaw, Lapeer and Tuscola. As the pioneer holder of timberland along the valley of the Flint River, his story deserves a place with the tales of other lumber barons which have been written for this newspaper.
        Like most young men of his social and moneyed background, Tom Brent took the "Grand Tour" of Europe in 1810. While visiting Spain he fell in love with a senorita, Francisca. Her last name has been lost, but she supposedly was the daughter of a Spanish grandee, and certain it was that everyone who met her was impressed by her ladylike appearance. He brought his young bride back to Washington, where he got a job in the State Department, due in part, no doubt, to the fact that his uncle, Richard Brent, was a Senator from Virginia.
        Francisca became a close friend of Dolley Madison and confided to the first lady that she was homesick. Consequently, President Madison appointed Brent to be Secretary of U.S. Legation in Madrid in 1814. In 1822, President Monroe appointed him Secretary of the Legation at Lisbon and he had become Charge d'Affaires there when diplomatic relations between the United States and Portugal were severed in 1834.
        When the Brents returned again to Virginia they ran into a family quarrel caused by religious differences. The Brent family had strong Roman Catholic roots going back to the founding of Maryland, but when Tom's father, Daniel Carroll Brent, married into the prestigious Lee family of Virginia, he became an Episcopalian. When the son married a Spaniard of the Catholic faith it was not approved of by the rest of the family. That was why he decided to make a new home for himself in Michigan.
        For their homesite, the Brents chose a spot about 4 miles north of the present town of Flushing on a U-bend of the Flint River. Beginning with a log cabin, as soon as cut lumber was available, they built what in those days would be considered a palatial house. It had a music room with the first piano in Genesee County, and a private chapel where peripatetic priests served mass to the family. The rest of the rooms were furnished with costly furniture trucked out from Detroit. Mrs Brent had a complete wardrobe of formal dress and they entertained important travelers in top style. They called their new home "Rosemont."
        According to a story passed down in the family, marketing trips were made in a huge canoe, paddled by 6 Indians up the river to the settlement then known as Flint River Crossing (now the City of Flint), where the Saginaw trail from Detroit forded the river. The Indians usually went on a spree, but the Brents had the current with them for the return journey and only had to steer their laden craft.
        Thomas Brent had been a successful diplomat but he made a poor business man. He had expended his capital in land to the point where he had no reserve to pay taxes. His first dam on the Flint River to operate his sawmill was swept away by the spring floods and a second mill on one of the tributary streams was not large enough to be practical. He died of ague in the winter of 1858-9 and his coffin had to be lowered out of a window because the winding staircase was too fancy to permit it. His estate was badly in debt so that a large part of his acreage was sold at distress prices.
        The widow and her 2 children handled the estate in even worse shape. Mrs Brent was an easy mark for the land grabbers and her son Henry spent most of his time making fiddles. Then one of the tenant farmers named Palmer started making a play for the daughter, Charlotte. About this time Mrs Palmer died under peculiar circumstances. Palmer was tried for murder but was not convicted because the evidence against him was circumstantial. When Charlotte eloped with Palmer, it was the last straw for poor Mrs Brent. She went into a rapid decline and died in a neighbor's house as creditors were carting the furnishings out of Rosemont.
        Thus ended in bitter tragedy what might have been a lumber empire. The beautiful home went through a succession of owners for 130 years, and was demolished in 1966 to make way for the inevitable subdivision.
        In Glenwood Cemetery, Flint, lie the bodies of Thomas Ludwell Lee Brent and his 2 children, in unmarked graves. All that remains of this venture are 2 streams in Genesee County - Brent Creek in Flushing township and Brent Run in Montrose.

"So fleet the works of man,
Back to the earth again,
Ancient and holy things
Fade like a dream."


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