HON. CHARLES E. BROWNE

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 99-101

HON. CHARLES E. BROWNE.  Among the pioneers of Cook County, none is deserving of a more honorable place in its annals than the subject of this brief biography.  His grandfather, Jonathan Browne, was of Scotch extraction, and resided in Granville, New York.  He was a farmer and a pioneer in that town.  His son Jonathan was also a farmer and a distinguished soldier in the War of 1812, in which he commanded a company, and was noted for bravery, intelligence and personal worth.  He was a devoted husband and father, the attachment between himself and wife being so rare as to be often remarked upon by their friends.  He reached the age of more than threescore, surviving her death only one year.  Both were active members of the Baptist Church, Mrs. Brown being a woman of exceptional refinement and Christian character.  They were the parents of eleven children, all of whom reached maturity, were married and reared families.   Three of the sons were western pioneers, and the two youngest prominent attorneys.  Five children are yet living, namely: Edward L., who is now a resident of Waupaca, Wisconsin; Jonathan; Mrs. Elvira Hanks; Mrs. Maria L. Mann; and Mrs. Amanda A. Bugh, the youngest member of the family, who is now living in Glencoe, Illinois.

Charles E. Browne received a good common-school and academic education in Granville, Washington County, New York, where he was born January 16, 1816.  At the age of seventeen he accompanied an uncle to Chicago, the journey being made on foot and occupying nearly four weeks.  The uncle, who had left college on account of ill-health, soon afterward sickened and died.  The trip was made in the summer of 1835, and during the following winter young Browne taught a term of school on the site now occupied by the Chamber of Commerce, corner of La Salle and Washington Streets.  The history of the development of Chicago dates from 1833, so Mr. Browne is certainly entitle to be called a pioneer of the great city.  Many of his pupils became leading citizens of Chicago, and whether the liberal application of birch in some instances promoted their good citizenship, history does not record, but the following well known men were among those who received the benefit of his well-balanced mind and firm hand: Archibald Clybourne, James Collins, William Jones, two of the latter’s brothers, and many others.

In February, 1836, Mr. Browne went to Milwaukee, which at that time consisted of but three dwellings.  He remained only one year, passing through many privations and hardships incident to pioneer life, and then returned to Chicago, walking the entire distance.   The city of Evanston, now so attractive as a place of residence, then contained but one building, a log house near the present site of the Baptist Church.

On reaching Chicago, Mr. Browne was employed by H. O. Stone, who later became a prominent capitalist.  In 1839 he decided to make Milwaukee his future home, and there became closely associated with the early history of the state of Wisconsin.  He was a delegate to the convention which framed the present constitution of that state, and was also appointed a member of the board which made the appraisement of public school land.  In 1842 and 1843 Mr. Browne was a member of the Council, or Upper House, of the Territorial Legislature, representing the counties of Milwaukee, Washington and Ozaukee, among his intimate colleagues being many who became prominent citizens of that state, including George M. Walker, Governor Doty and Chief-Justice Ryan.  Although the youngest of the public men, Mr. Browne was distinguished as being one of the most active.  His family had in the mean time removed to Wisconsin, and his sister Cordelia, aged eleven years, kept house for him in a little log cabin, where the scarcity of furniture compelled her to sit on his knee while they ate their frugal meals.  Soon after, he made an extended tour through the east, visiting his old home and the cities of Boston, Washington and New York.  At the latter place he met his future wife, Miss Martha E., daughter of Samuel P. Everts.   Mr. Everts held a commission as Major of the regiment in which Mr. Browne’s father served throughout the War of 1812.  He was a man widely known and highly esteemed for his sterling traits of character and unusual scholarly attainments.  Phoebe Spicer, the wife of Mr. Everts, was a noble woman, of sweet and Christlike disposition, endearing herself to all with whom she came in contact.  Her death occurred in 1876, at the age of eighty-six years.

Mr. and Mrs. Browne were married June 6, 1850, Rev. Dr. W. W. Everts, for over twenty years pastor of the First Baptist Church of Chicago, performing the ceremony which united them.  Mrs. Browne was a lady of fine culture, greatly esteemed and prominently identified with every good work in her community, who made the beautiful home over which she presided a place of delight and a haven of rest and refuge to her family and friends.  She was the mother of five children, of whom three survive, namely: Ida Isabel, Evelyn Everts and Alice Duffield.  The second daughter is the wife of W. J. Underwood, who resides in Milwaukee, and is Assistant General Superintendent of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad.  The youngest is the wife of J. K. Calhoun, Teller in the American Exchange National Bank, Chicago.  During the last six years of her life Mrs. Browne was an invalid, and she died on the 19th of December, 1886.

In the spring of 1865 Mr. Browne removed with his family to Evanston, and the next year engaged in the real-estate business, establishing offices in that suburb and Chicago.  His operations were confined mainly to suburban property, and he may be justly considered the founder of North and West Evanston and the village of Glencoe.  Those towns and Evanston received the benefit of his enterprising spirit.  He erected over sixty houses, including his once beautiful home at Evanston, known as “Prairie Side.”  Every movement for the good of that town found in him a ready and able advocate and hearty cooperator, and in many of these he has been the prime mover.  Realizing the position of the middle and poorer classes who were exhausting their means in paying rent, he originated the system of monthly payments, which has met with such success that it has been generally adopted.  It has been the means of securing homes to thousands of deserving people.

Mr. Browne’s most marked characteristics were unflinching integrity, perseverance, a cheerful benevolence, and a firmness of purpose which acknowledged no obstacles to be insurmountable.  Always the possessor of robust health, his seventy-seventh year found him hale and active, when he was stricken with a slight attack of apoplexy, from which he never fully recovered.  He died October 1, 1895, and was buried at Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, by the side of parents, wife and children.

Mr. Browne was a member of the Baptist Church for over sixty years, and the city of Evanston is greatly indebted to him for one of its handsome churches.  He supported a missionary in India for many years.

In June, 1882, Mr. Browne made the village of Glencoe his permanent home. He greatly admired the scenery of the lake bluffs and ravines, and the fine, old trees of the North Shore, foretelling its rapid growth as a residence suburb of the great metropolis.  He often grew eloquent in presenting the attractions of this region to its possible citizens.  In Glencoe his place will never be filled.  His pleasant, hearty greeting to every one, remarkably agile movements, his public enterprise and active interest in all the affairs of the village, will long be missed and their absence prove a positive loss.  His great buoyancy of spirits and cheerful appearance even in adversity were among his strongest traits of character, and stand out in bold relief in the memory of his life.

                                -- Submitted on February 26, 2000 by Sherri Hessick ( shessick@flash.net )