BRAZEE, Christopher M.
Past and Present of the City of Rockford & Winnebago County, IL, C. A. Church. Chicago: Clarke, 1905, pp 802-806
A distinguished military service, a successful career as a lawyer, and prominent connection to the welfare and progress of Rockford [Winnebago County, IL] well entitled Colonel Christopher M. BRAZEE to rank as one of the leading and influential residents of this city. He left the impress of his individuality upon its judicial records and its public life, and came to be honored wherever known and most of all where best known. He was a native of Lockport, NY, born 10 Mar 1832, and when 26 years of age became a resident of Winnebago County. His parents were Andrew and Sarah (WASHBURN) BRAZEE, both of whom were natives of the state of NY, where the father followed the occupation of farming in the vicinity of Lockport, making his home there until called to his final rest. His wife also died in that locality.
Colonel BRAZEE acquired his early education in the common schools of Lockport, NY, and continued his studies in Wilson, NY, where he entered the collegiate institute. Sometime afterward he returned to his native township, where [p 805] he entered upon the study of law under the direction of his brother, who was a practicing attorney there. Colonel BRAZEE continued his reading until 1856, when he joined an engineering corps who were coming to the west. He made his way to IA, where he remained with the corps in survey and other work for two years, and in 1858, as before stated, he arrived in Rockford. Here he resumed his legal studies in the office of MILLER & TAYLOR, well known attorneys here at that time, and after reading for a year he was admitted to the bar in 1859 and entered at once upon active practice. The favorable opinion which the public passed upon him at the outset of his career was in no degree put aside or modified as time went by, but on the contrary was strengthened by the able manner in which he handled his cases and his fidelity to the interests of his clients. He has been spoken of as one of the most aggressive advocates who have ever practiced at the bar of Winnebago County. He was notable because of the careful manner in which he prepared his cases, and for the clear and forcible way in which he presented his cause before court or jury, never failing to make a strong impression and seldom failing to gain the verdict desired. In 1860 he was elected city attorney and was holding that office when the Civil war broke out.
His patriotic spirit being aroused by the attempt of the south to overthrow the Union, Mr. BRAZEE enlisted as a private in Company C, 74th IL Infantry, under Captain Sloan and Colonel Marsh, but before leaving Rockford in Dec 1862 he was elected 1st Lieutenant, and was placed in command of the pioneer brigade of the Army of the Cumberland in Sep 1863. He received a captain's commission and was assigned to duty on General Rosecran's staff as assistant quartermaster of the Army of the Cumberland, and held that position until he was mustered out in Jan 1864, on account of ill health. He was in the engagements of Champion Hill and Stone River as well as many others of less importance. Later he served as colonel of the National Guards for ten years, and was holding that rank at the time of his death.
Following his return from the war, Colonel BRAZEE resumed the practice of law in Rockford, and was accorded a large and distinctively representative clientage. He had an office over the Winnebago National Bank, and was retained on either the defense or prosecution in almost every case of importance that came up in his district. In fact his practice was so extensive and his work so arduous in connection with his preparation of cases that it undermined his health, and after an illness of three months he passed away on 06 Sep 1886.
In Apr 1861 Colonel BRAZEE was married to Miss Lydia HOLMES, of Rockford, who died in 1883, leaving four children: (1) Mary Elizabeth, residing in Chicago; (2) Kate L., living in Minneapolis, MN; (3) Caroline L., the wife of F. C. GOODSPEED, a business man of Chicago; and (4) Martin Holmes, who married Clara HARBAUGH and is a pressman and machinist living at 524 Division Street, Rockford. In 1884 Colonel BRAZEE was again married, his second union being with Miss Caroline POTTER, a native of NY, and a daughter of Joel B. POTTER. Her father was born in Sherman Township, Fairfield County, CT, 25 Jul 1810, and died in Rockford [Winnebago County, IL], 30 Nov 1880. His parents were William C. and Anna (HUBBLE) POTTER, who removed from CT to Orleans County, NY, about 1826, the father following the occupation of farming throughout his entire business career. Both held membership in the Congregational church in New England, but became Presbyterians in NY, and their exemplary lives commended them to the confidence, trust, and friendship of those with whom they were associated. Mr. POTTER passed away when more than 80 years of age, and his wife was more than 70 years of age when her death occurred.
Joel B. POTTER supplemented his early educational privileges by a collegiate course and prepared to enter the Presbyterian ministry, but failing in health interfered and led him to seek another field of labor. He became a pioneer merchant of Rockford, settling in this city in 1839, and he also became identified with the agricultural pursuits of the county. Some years later he purchased a drug store of East State Street, and in partnership with J. F. HARDING was closely connected with mercantile interests. The enterprise was attended with success, but soon after the death of Mr. HARDING, which occurred in 1867, Mr. POTTER withdrew from business life and lived retired in the enjoyment of a well earned ease. He was a public spirited man, giving helpful cooperation to many interests that benefited the county aside from his activity in business, which contributed in large measure to the commercial prosperity of Rockford. His political views accorded with republican principles, and he always stood strong in support of whatever he believed to be right. Two brothers of Mr. POTTER also became residents of the county, their arrival antedating that of Joel B. POTTER. Herman B. carried on farming near Rockford, while Eleazer Hubble was a merchant of the city, and then in 1839 Joel POTTER came to add his forces to the business activity of Winnebago County.
In Jul 1836 Joel B. POTTER was married to Miss Adaline LATHROP, who was born in VT, 18 May 1813, a daughter of Adgate and Martha (MOSS) LATHROP, who in early life removed from their native state of CT to VT, where they were married. Mr. LATHROP [p 806] was a carpenter and joiner by trade and in connection with building operations he also successfully followed farming. In 1816 he removed with his family to Genesee County, NY, where he passed away at the age of 75, while his wife survived him until 80 years of age. In religious faith they were Baptists and were earnest, consistent Christian people who enjoyed the high regard of all who knew them. Mrs. POTTER was one of ten children and by her marriage became the mother of seven children, of whom two died in infancy, while Mrs. Mary WILLIS died at the age of 22 years. Those still living are: Caroline A., now Mrs. BRAZEE; Harriet J., who is the widow of J. F. HARDING, at one time her father's partner and now resides in St. Joseph, MO; Frances L., who for many years was a prominent educator and a well known teacher in the high schools of Chicago; and Laura J., who is the wife of Edward S. GREGORY, a wholesale and retail dealer in sanitary goods and heating apparatus in Rockford.
Mr. and Mrs. POTTER were devoted members of the Westminster Presbyterian church and its teachings permeated their lives and molded their relations to their fellowmen. Mr. POTTER passed away in Rockford on 30 Nov 1880, and was survived for almost 23 years by his wife, who died in Rockford in Sep 1903, at the advanced age of 90 years.
Colonel BRAZEE was a very stanch republican in politics, and took an active and helpful interest in the work of the party. He belonged to Nevius post, No. 1, G. A. R., of Rockford, to the Knights of Pythias fraternity, and in the Masonic order attained the 32nd degree of the Scottish rite. He attended regularly the services of the Second Congregational church, of which his wife was a member. For 22 years he resided in Rockford save for the period spent in the Civil war, and throughout the city and wherever known he was honored for his capability as a lawyer and his record as a man and citizen.
Following her husband's death, Mrs. BRAZEE reared his four children, to whom she displayed all a mother's love and devotion. She is a lady of superior culture and refinement, having been provided with excellent educational privileges in her girlhood days, while for many years she was a successful teacher. She taught in the colleges of Rockford for a long period, also in St. Joseph, MO, for five years, conducted private classes in her home, and has also been a leader in many classes of different clubs of the city. She is very prominent socially and is a recognized leader in philanthropic and benevolent work and in intellectual research, and for some years has been the leader of the Outlook Club, one of the largest organizations of the kind in Rockford. It is composed of a number of the prominent women of the city and under the guidance of Mrs. BRAZEE the club has been a success. Its course of study has been very broad, covering art, science and literature in the past, as well as the present age. Mrs. BRAZEE now resides in an attractive home at No. 314 South Second Street, where she is living with her sister, and she also owns the old POTTER home on Oak Street.
Submitted by Cathy Kubly.