Sam Brown and family

Sam (b. 1830) and Lucy (b. 1840) Brown lived at or near Hampden-Sydney and raised five children: Bettie (b. 1862), Anna (b. 1864), Eliza (b. 1866), Julia (b. 1866), and Nannie (b. 1873); and four grandchildren: Lucy (b. 1880), Bessie (b. 1882), Sam (b. 1885), and Annie (b. 1895). Lucy and Bessie were active members of the Mercy Seat community their entire lives, as was Sam. The younger Sam Brown worked as a janitor and bell ringer for Hampden-Sydney for decades. Brown’s former neighbor, William Paige, remembers seeing Sam walk to work through the woods carrying a lantern because he left so early it was still dark outside. (Paige also worked at Hampden-Sydney for years as a janitor and painter.) Frances Scott, who recently retired from running Hampden-Sydney’s “Log Cabin” daycare, remembers that her family purchased their land from Mr. Sam, and remembers visiting with he and Mamie as a child. Sam and Mamie had five children: Egarbeth (b. 1902), Sallie (b. 1903), Roberta (b. 1907), Willie Herman (b. 1920), and James (b. 1924). Willie Herman married Martha Austen, and they had two children: Samuel and Altamae. Sam and Lucy, Sam and Mamie, Lucy, Bessie, Egarbeth, and Willie Herman are all buried in the Mercy Seat Baptist Church cemetery.

Of Brown, Dr. Graves Thompson explained, “…one of Sam Hines‘ predecessors, Sam Brown, was known for ringing the bell a long time to let students get up to the third floor of Morton; professors were then known to lock their doors at the end of the bell. Brown was also known for his irregular timing, and was presented with a good watch when he retired.” (“The Tiger,” February 1978)

*Photos courtesy Bortz Library, Hampden-Sydney College


  • Charlie Watson says:

    How long did Sam live and ring the bell? I grew up at HSC. My brother-in-law attended there from 1968-72 and tells this story: Tradition had it that you were NOT officially late to class until the bell stopped ringing. I believe he referred to the bellman at the time as “Sam” but I can’t tell if that’s possible from the dates in your history. In any event, with many classes in Bagby and Morton at the time, boys running late to class would run past the belltower and yell, “Keep ringing, Sam! Keep ringing!”. Reportedly, Sam would smile and keep ringing.

  • Elizabeth Baker says:

    Hi Charlie! Sam Brown passed away in 1968. However, there was a bell ringer closer to that time named Sam Hines. I don’t know as much about him, yet, but I’ll update these pages as soon as I do! I suspect that’s the Sam your brother-in-law referred to.

  • ebaker says:

    Hi Charlie,

    I don’t know if you’re still following this post or not, but in case your brother-in-law is interested, below is a link to some information about Sam Hines. Perhaps this is bellringer he remembers.

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