John Fea: Lock Keeper / Thomas Brown Fea / Jessie Fea
Ben Franklin Brown
"Ben Franklin Brown, Much Loved Negro Pioneer of Newport, Buried on Saturday." That headline is the exact one that appeared in The Newport Miner of Nov. 18 1955, over a story of the death of Ben Brown that reveals the genuine love and respect local people had for Ben, who had no need of "sympathy" due to color as in these latter days.
Funeral services for Ben Franklin Brown, 78, who died early Thursday morning (17th Nov. 1955) at a Spokane nursing home following a heart attack, were held at the Sherman funeral home at 2 p.m. Saturday with the Rev. Floyd L. Looney officiating. Many Newport oldtimers had a soft spot in the hearts for "Old Ben" as he was affectionately known. A few will remember him as cook and man of all work at the old Cottage House, and others will remember him as dreaming the time away in the lobby of the Martin hotel, or hobbling down to the post office with a cheery smile and greeting for old friends along the way.
In a published interview with Ben in 1942, Charles L. Barker recounted how Ben (b. 1877) told about early Newport history. He came to Newport with Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Cass from Moberly Mo., in 1893 when he was but 15 years old. Mr. Cass had arrived the year before and with the assistance of his wife's brother, Joseph Fea, and his son Thomas Fea, later be become a Pond Oreille county commissioner, he constructed a 10-room boarding and rooming house near the Great Northern depot which he called the Cottage House. When completed he returned to Missouri for his wife and Ben. Other members of Joseph Fea's family came west with them.
According to Ben, the main part of Newport at that time was across the state line in Idaho and the only buildings he could remember in what is now the main part of town were the Cottage House and the depot. In 1904 the original Cottage House was moved to Fourth and Scott and a fine new building of 22 rooms was erected where the first had been. It became the new Cottage House and Ben remained as cook. Newport residents found it a good place to go for special dinners and Ben recalled that Louis Davenport of the Davenport hotel, Spokane, was a frequent visitor when he came to this area on hunting trips.
Ben was buried in the Fea family plot at the Newport Pioneer Cemetery.