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The Brown Quadruplets


There had never been such joy at St. John’s Hospital in Fargo as there was on February 6, 1941. That’s the day Ella Brown gave birth to North Dakota’s first surviving quadruplets, a girl and three boys.

Nick and Ella Brown lived on a farm near Leonard, where Nick also operated a nearby service station. With four other sons, ages 12, 10, 3 and 16 months, they now had a family of seven sons and one daughter.

After an x-ray on December 2 indicated quadruplets, Ella Brown was hospitalized with only a brief trip home for Christmas. Finally, on February 6, Dr. J.F. Hanna delivered all four babies within five minutes, each weighing around four pounds.

A private nursery with four incubators was set up and, because the babies were attracting national attention, it was locked at all times. Only medical personnel in sterile clothing could enter. Mother Ella got her first look at her new children when Dr. Lancaster, an amateur photographer, brought her a copy of The Fargo Forum featuring a large picture he’d taken. She did not see the babies in person until she left the hospital when they were 16 days old.

The Brown quadruplets edged out the news of World War Two on the front page of The Forum for a week. Readers learned the babies were fed every two hours, alternating between a fraction of an ounce of water and mother’s milk donated by other new mothers in the hospital. Family members were photographed and interviewed, no detail too small to report. The happy parents received hundreds of telegrams, letters and gifts. Early letters suggested creative names for the children, such as Franklin, Delano, Roosevelt and Eleanor. But Nick and Ella decided on Connie, Clayton, Cleo and Clair.

After 13 months in the hospital, the quadruplets went home to Leonard, where they would grow up. Connie now lives in Breckenridge, Minnesota, where she’s involved in civic affairs and enjoys gardening. Clayton farmed the family farm. Cleo became president of the Leonard Fire District. Clair became a plumber in Lisbon, and passed away in 2001.

The birth of quadruplets at Fargo’s St. John’s Hospital on this date in 1941 was indeed an exciting event. But the Brown family experienced still another blessing a few years later with the birth of yet another baby – a little sister for Connie.

Dakota Datebook written by Karen Horsley


The Fargo Forum - February 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 23, 25, 1941; March 13, 1942

The Forum, Fargo, ND - February 7, 2011

Anecdotal comments of acquaintances