One of Wildomar’s great ties to history has passed.
Nancy Jane Brown died Sept. 5 at the age of 89.
The wife of a famous Wildomar figure -- -- Nancy is being remembered by her family as a loving, hardworking woman whose memory recalls simpler times when farming was the way of life in town.
“It’s hard to describe,” shared the Brown’s only child, David. “It was a different era. It was not uncommon to live and die within 30 miles of where you were born.”
Child Of The Great Depression
Nancy never really left Southern California. Born Oct. 22, 1922 to Stacy and Della Ware, she was raised in San Bernardino during tough economic times. Her family “lived very, very, very poorly,” explained her son, speaking by phone from his Texas home.
“She truly was a child of the Great Depression,” he said, noting that Nancy’s father worked for the railroad yards in San Bernardino, but lost his job during the labor strikes. To make ends meet, he started his own one-vehicle trucking company.
Nancy graduated high school as an accomplished singer and dancer, and was even offered a matching college scholarship for her skills, but the family could not come up with the remaining tuition for her secondary education, David said.
“She had a wonderful voice for singing and she loved to dance. She could high kick until she was 80,” he said.
Instead of a glamorous performance career, Nancy took a job at a local retail store, working behind the scenes in a warehouse.
“She did heavy work and she did it well,” David said. But the country was embroiled in World War II, and it wasn’t long after soldiers returned home that Nancy lost her job to a man.
“It’s just the way it was back then,” David said.
Beginnings In Wildomar
Nancy’s life in Wildomar really began with her sister Ann, who was married to Charles Forbes, a farmer whose property sat near the old Elsinore High School campus.
In 1946, Ann introduced Nancy to her future husband, who is now referred to simply as "Mr. Wildomar," due to his deep ties to the community.
“I don’t know what the circumstances were,” David said of that first meeting, “but they were married January 20, 1947 in the Forbes’ clapboard farmhouse.”
Nancy wed into a family that will forever be part of Wildomar’s rural heritage. David A. Brown’s father owned thousands of acres in Wildomar and the surrounding area. Rudolph Brown grew wheat, alfalfa hay, oats, and barley, and raised cattle. Their two-story farmhouse, built by the family in the 19th century, sat on Grand Avenue at Route 1, Box 14 – the place Nancy and David A.’s only son was born in 1948.
The young family lived on the Brown Ranch, and David said his mother continued her hardworking ways.
“She drove tractors, loaded hay, herded cattle from horseback,” he said. “She worked right alongside my dad.”
The work took its toll, however. David said his mother paid for her farm-related injuries throughout her life, including a fall she took while pregnant from a very tall stack of baled hay.
“She suffered a miscarriage that almost killed her,” he said.
Nancy was never able to bear children after the accident, and so by 6 years old David was at work in the fields.
“It was a beautiful time,” David recalled. “Sitting upstairs in the old house after dark, there was no [artificial] light anywhere – only farmland. Water from irrigation glistened under the stars and moon, and the wheat blowing in the wind was like watching the ocean.”
Nancy loved collecting wildflowers and antiques, she was an excellent cook, and she liked spending time with critters that inhabited the ranch, David said. Taking in the smell of horses and the sound of barn mice scampering and owls in the night – that’s who his mother was.
She also adored her husband, according to granddaughter Amelia Ross, 30, who now lives in Virginia.
“She missed him when he wasn’t there,” she said.
Days Forever Gone
As times progressed, agrarian life changed. Family patriarch Rudolph Brown passed in 1959 and the thousands of acres he owned were parceled off to beneficiaries, David said. David A. received approximately 1,500 to 2,000 acres, the son recalled, and the family continued to farm, but over the years they sold off much of the land. Around 1970 the couple built a new home on their last 27 acres at 22180 Palomar Street, and they continued farming until David A.’s passing in 1993.
By 2000, Nancy moved into a “modern cookie-cutter house,” David said, and much of what had once been the several-thousand-acre Brown Ranch was being developed.
Rest In Wildomar
Nancy’s plain graveside service at Wildomar Cemetery, provided by Brown Evans Funeral Home of Lake Elsinore, is scheduled 10:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14, and the public is invited to attend.
There will be no reception, no pomp.
She didn’t want it that way, David said, explaining, “In her expressed wishes, she wanted a simple service and to be placed with her husband.”
Editor’s Note: David Brown said he is unable to attend his mother’s service due to health problems. Amelia Ross will be in attendance.