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BROWN, Edward W., Morton A., & William

Biography of Morton A. BROWN [Nephew of William BROWN]
Portrait & Biographical Record Winnebago & Boone Cos., IL. Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1892, pp 356-359)

Morton A. BROWN, a retired farmer living on West State Street, Rockford, was born in Oneida County, NY, in 1842, and is of English descent.  His grandfather, Thomas BROWN, Sr., was born in England and married Miss Mary MORTON, a native of that country.   After all their children were born and the eldest daughter was married, they emigrated to this country, in 1829, the married daughter continuing to reside in her native land.  They sailed from Liverpool and after a pleasant voyage arrived at NY.   A year later Mr. BROWN settled on a farm in Oneida County, NY, where his death occurred in 1855, at the age of 81 years.  His wife died in 1843, when 60 years of age.  They were members of the Episcopal Church in England, but after coming to this country became active members in the Methodist Church.

Thomas Brown Jr., the father of our subject, was born in 1814 in Cumberland County, England, and at the age of 15 accompanied his parents on their emigration to America.   He was reared on the farm which his father had purchased in Oneida County, and after attaining to man's estate he wedded Alma FULLER, a native of Oneida County, who belonged to an old CT family.  Her grandfather removed to Oneida County in an early day and improved what is known as Fuller's Hollow.  Her people were among the prominent and leading citizens of that community.  After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. BROWN resided upon their farm in Oneida County until they emigrated to IL, becoming pioneers of Burritt Township, Winnebago County.  Mr. BROWN secured 160 acres of land from the Government, developed therefrom a fine farm, and became one of the leading citizens of the community.  He made the first wagon road north of Winnebago Village, and was one of the organizers of the Methodist Church, in which he continued a faithful worker until his death in Jun 1890.  He was first a Whig and afterward a stanch Republican in politics.  Throughout the community he had a wide acquaintance, and the noble, upright life which he lived won him the high regard of all.  His death occurred at the home of our subject [Morton A. BROWN], and his wife also died at the home of her son in Oct 1888.  Their only daughter died at the age of 20 years, and our subject is now the only surviving member of the family.  Thomas BROWN was a brother of the late Judge William BROWN, a very prominent citizen of Rockford.

In the usual manner of farmer lads, Morton A. BROWN was reared to manhood, and after he had attained his majority wedded Jane HOUGHTON, who was born and reared in Durand Township, Winnebago County, and is a daughter of Robert HOUGHTON, now deceased.  Her mother still resides in Pecatonica Township at an advanced age.  Eight children have been born unto our subject and his wife, six of whom are yet living:  Mary, Agnes, Etta, Alma, Bessie, and Horace.  Thomas and Nellie are both deceased.

Mr. BROWN is numbered among the early settlers of this county, and for many years was one of its successful farmers.  He located in Burritt Township in 1853, and there engaged in agricultural pursuits, and also in raising stock and dairying.  He kept an average of 30 cows and at the same time fed cattle.  He yet owns 420 acres of valuable land, a part of which is his father's old homestead.  He has led a busy and useful life, and the success which has crowned his efforts is well deserved.  Having acquired a handsome competence, he decided to live a retired life, and about a year since came to Rockford, where he now makes his home.  Both Mr. and [p 359] Mrs. BROWN are members of the Presbyterian Church and are highly respected people.  Their home is a pleasant residence, surrounded by commodious grounds, where hospitality abounds and where their friends are always sure of a hearty welcome.

1st Biography of William BROWN [Uncle of Morton A. BROWN]
Portrait & Biographical Record Winnebago & Boone Cos., IL. Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1892, pp 191-192

In the death of William BROWN, 15 Jan 1891, Rockford [Winnebago County, IL], lost one of its high-minded and public-spirited citizens, while from the bereaved family circle a loving husband and father was removed, leaving a void in their lives that not even his honored memory can fill.  He received his early education in the common schools of Oneida County, NY, at which time were instilled into him the firm principles which characterized him through life.  He was an able lawyer, upright and honest, a devoted member of the Methodist Church, and a strong advocate of temperance principles, being a total abstainer himself.

He was born in Cumberland, in the North of England, 01 Jun 1819.  [The biography which follows states he was born 16 Jun 1819.]  Also a native of England, his father, Thomas BROWN, accompanied by his family, emigrated to America and landed at NY on 20 May 1827.  They resided for a few months in Albany [Albany County, NY], then removed to Oneida County, where the father purchased a farm near the village of North Western, and was for many years engaged in agricultural pursuits, but subsequently retired and moved to North Western, where his death occurred.  The maiden name of his wife was Mary MORTON, also a native of England, who spent her last years on the home farm in Oneida County. 

William BROWN, desiring to become a lawyer, began the study of that profession in Rome, NY, and in 1846, after having been admitted to the Bar, started for the growing West, choosing as his permanent abiding place the then village of Rockford.  Mr. BROWN began even with the world, but having little to do in a professional way for some time, accepted a situation the first winter as teacher in a district school.  In 1847 he talked quite strongly of leaving Rockford, and went to Beloit [Rock County, WI] with the intention of removing there, but was not sufficiently charmed with the outlook to do so.

In the election of 1847 Mr. BROWN was chosen Justice of the Peace, and in speaking of the event later, remarked that he felt more thankful for that office than for any other to which he was afterward chosen.  This arose from the fact that he was in need of something to do.  In 1852 he was elected States Attorney for the district comprising Winnebago, Stephenson, and Jo Daviess Counties, serving for a period of three years.   At the expiration of that time, he was elected Mayor of Rockford, and in 1864 was sent to the Legislature on the Republican ticket.  In 1857 he formed a partnership with William LATHROP, which connection existed for three years, when he took in as partner H. W. TAYLOR, with whom he was associated until 1870, at which time our subject was elected to the bench.  He ws first elected as Judge to fill the vacancy occaseioned by the promotion of Judge SHELDON to the Supreme Court, and was subsequently elected three full terms of six years each, making altogether a period of 20 years as Judge.  He left a pure and untarnished record as an able and upright Judge, and by the judiciary of the State was greatly honored for his ability and talent.  The old lawyers of the district, as well as [p 192] the people, speak of him in the highest terms of commendation and love.  He always enjoyed the confidence and esteem of the community, and was recognized as very painstaking and careful in the preparation of his decisions, which were regarded as able by the Supreme Court of the State.

William BROWN and Miss Caroline H. MILLER, who was born in Livingston County, NY, were united in marriage 19 Sep 1850.  Mrs. BROWN was the daughter of Horace and Hannah (CLARK) MILLER.  [See also the Winnebago County biography of William MILLER for additional information on this MILLER family.]  Mrs. BROWN still resides in Rockford, where she is greatly beloved by all who know her.  She is the mother of three chidren:  Edward W., agent of the Illinois Central Railroad; Frank R., superintendent of the Nelson Knitting Company; and May, wife of H. W. BUCKBEE, florist and seedsman.   [See also the combined Winnebago County biographies of Jesse and Theodore E. BUCKBEE for additional information on this BUCKBEE family.]  A handsome and substantial office building has just been erected to the memory of Judge BROWN on South Main Street in Rockford, which is known as the William BROWN Building.

2nd Biography of William BROWN
Past and Present of the City of Rockford & Winnebago County, IL, C. A. Church.   Chicago: Clarke, 1905, pp 199-202

No citizen of Winnebago County was ever more respected and no man ever more fully enjoyed the confidence of the people or more richly [p 200] deserved the esteem in which he was held than did Judge William BROWN.  In his lifetime the peole of his state, recognizing his merit, rejoiced in his advancement and in the honors to which he attained, and since his death they have cherished his memory.  Honorable in business, loyal in citizenship, charitable in thought, kindly in action, true to every trust confided to his care, his life was of the highest type of American manhood.  He was for many years active in practice at the Winnebago County bar, and comparatively few men endear themselves to so great an extent to their professional associates and to those with whom they come in contact in the discharge of public duties.

His life record began in Cumberland County, England, where occurred his birth on 16 Jun 1819. [Note the above bio of William BROWN gives his date of birth as 01 Jun 1819.]   He possessed a very retentive memory and recalled vividly all of the circumstances of his trip across the ocean to the new world when he was eight years of age.  He had too a strong mental picture of his native town and the schoolhouse in which he began his education, and he frequently told of his surprise at first seeing the negro, meeting that colored individual in Liverpool when on his way to America.  It was in 1827 that he was brought to the United States, and his boyhood days were passed on a farm in Oneida County, NY.  His educational privileges were somewhat limited because it was necessary that he should assist in the labors of the fields from the time of early spring planting until crops were harvested in the late autumn, but during the winter months he applied himself diligently to the mastery of such branches of learning as were taught in the public schools.  He entered college but was obliged to leave before completing the course.  His ambition was in the direction of a professional career, and determining upon the practice of law as a life work, by indomitable energy and close application he prepared himself for practice, and was admitted to the bar in NY state.

Attracted by the opportunities of the great and growing west, he started for IL in 1846.   His cash capital was very limited, but he possessed strong and determined purpose.   He arrived at Rockford on 10 Nov, finding a little town of less than 1,000 inhabitants, and where now are some of Rockford's busiest streets there were forests and thickets.  He cast in his lot with the early settlers, being at that time a young man of 27 years and having a capital of $48.50.  His entrance into business life in the west was as a teacher of a country school about ten miles from Rockford, but he soon became ill and was unable to pursue his labors for several months.  He recovered to face debts and discouragement brought on by his long continued illness.  Friends advised him to go to Wisconsin, and he visited Beloit [Rock County], after which he returned to Rockford.  At the time he was endeavoring to decide whether to maintain his residence in this place or seek a home elsewhere, he was elected justice of the peace, and though the office did not pay him a very liberal salary, it proved the turning point and he decided to remain in Winnebago County.

In 1850 Judge BROWN was united in marriage to Miss Caroline H. MILLER, and ever afteward said that was the wisest move he ever made.  They began their domestic life in a little cottage on the present site of the CARPENTER home of Rockford, and Judge BROWN continued a member of the bar, doing his best to secure clientage and to so conduct his cases as to win the confidence of the public.  After six years of service as justice of the peace he was elected state attorney in 1852.  Already he was demonstrating his ability to handle involved litigated interests, and he rendered capable service in the second position to which he was elected, a fact which also did much to win him public confidence and support.  He was also called to other public offices, being one of the township trustees prior to the incorporation of the city, and in 1857 he was honored by election to the mayoralty, in which office he gave to the young city a business like and progressive administration, carefully guarding its financial interests and at the same time using his influence and official perogatives for the upbuilding and promotion of its welfare.  In 1864 he was elected to the state legislature, and for a term of two years was active in framing the laws of the commonwealth.  For six years he served by appointment as master in chancery, and in 1870 he was elected to the circuit bench, serving for 20 yeasrs with conspicuous ability in that position.  He had great respect for the dignity of judicial place and power, and no man ever presided in a court with more respect for his environments than did Judge BROWN.  As the result of this personal characteristic the proceedings were always orderly upon the part of everyone, audience, bar and the officers from the highest to the lowest.  The court records are the best proof of his capability.  His opinions are fine specimens of judicial thought, always clear, logical and as brief as the character of the case will permit.   His life during the entire period of his course at the bar and on the bench was directed in the line of his profession and his duty.  He was exceptionally free from all judicial bias, his varied legal learning and wide experience in the courts, the patient care with which he ascertained all the facts bearing upon every case which came before him, gave his decisions a solidity and an exhaustiveness from which no member of the bar could take exceptions.

The home life of Judge BROWN was largely ideal.  Unto him and his wife, who still survives him, were born two sons, Edward W. [his biography follows] and Frank R. BROWN, of the Nelson Knitting Company; and a daughter, May, now the wife of H. W. BUCKBEE.   [For addition information on the family of Hiram W. BUCKBEE, see the combined Winnebago County, IL, biographies of Jesse and Theodore E. BUCKBEE.]  His interests centered in his family and he counted no personal sacrifice on his part too great if it would promote the welfare or happiness of his wife and children.  No better indication for his love for his family and the desire for the best development of his sons and daughters can be given than to print a letter which he wrote to them after his election to the bench, which read as follows:

Galena, IL, 08 Jun 1873 - To Eddie, Frankie and May:

My Dear Children: 

Your pa was unanimously elected judge of the First Judicial Circuit of the State of IL last Monday, for the term of six years.

If we live to the close of my term in office, Eddie will be 22, Frankie 19, and little May 14 years of age.  The boys will be young men and May will be almost a young lady.   As to you, boys, there is no more important period in your lives than the next six years.  Your characters ought to be fomred for good or for evil.  It will be developed by that time, whether you will make noble, useful men in the world, or whether you will be worthless loafers, respected by none and despised by all.  It will be a terrible affliction to your pa and ma to raise up a worthless boy.  What will be of more value to you than anything else is a fixedness of purpose, a determinatin and a will to do right, let others do as they may.  You want a fixed principle so that you can not under any circumstances be influenced to do wrong.  When you go out (as you will soon have to go) from home and home influences, you want your habits so firmly established that you will not drink, that you will not use tobacco, that you will not use profane or vulgar language, and that you will not associated with the wicked or the vile.

Boys, you have ability enough to make talented men, and a noble future awaits you, if you only dare to do right.

Another thing that I want to particularly impress upon you is this:  always be kind, respectful and obedient to your dear mother.  I never knew a boy to make a good man who was unkind to his mother.  Your mother will mostly have charge of you for the next six years.  If you will under all circumstances obey her, and kindly do her bidding, I will have no fears of your future; but if on the other hand you disobey her and treat her unkindly, you will become worthless, cruel and wicked.  In the Bible children are commanded to obey their parents, for this is right.

I trust that little May will always be a bright, twinkling little star, shedding her light upon a sin-cursed and darkened world.  May you all grow up to be a blessing in the world, and a comfort and joy to your parents.

From Your Loving Pa

Only those who knew Judge BROWN best appreciated to the full extent his ability, his character, and the depths of his kindly nature.  The local press at the time of his demise, which occurred 15 Jan 1891, said:

"Judge BROWN was a high type of American manhood.  He was earnest, honest, and self-reliant.  From a poor boy he made his way up to a position which any man might envy, and in doing so pushed no other man down, nor was there ever a suspicion of trickery or dishonesty in any way attached to him.  None ever knew him but to respect him.   He possessed strong opinions which he held tenaciously but never obtruded them upon others.  He acquired a considerable [competence] by strict business principles and shrewd speculations.  It was ever a pleasure to meet him.  He possessed a large fund of information, which he could impart with rare ability, and was a whole-soulded, genial and conpanionable gentleman."

"As a jurist, Judge BROWN bore the highest reputation.  For 20 years he sat on the circuit bench, and rarely did he have a decison reversed in the higher courts.   He was deeply learned in legal lore, and was so eminently fair that all litigants and attorneys were glad to have him try their cases.  Strong temperance man as he was, the saloonists themselves were glad to have him on the bench at their trials.   His reputation as a jurist was not local, but extended far and wide, and it would be well inscribed on this tomb that he was a righteous judge.  He was deeply interested in his duties on the bench, and sought only to raise the standard of Ameircan jurisprudence, make decisions which would stand the test of time, and leave an honorable reputation, all of which he accomplished.  He kenw no way to administer the law but on the great principles of the science, and with painstaking conscientiousness worked out the problems presented by each suit tried before him.  His reward was in the consciousness of duty well performed, and the universal honor and respect of the legal profession."

"As a citizen, Judge BROWN was a noble type.  He fully appreciated the responsibilities of American citizenship, and earnestly sought to meet them.  Never a politician, and far removed in nature and vocation from affinity with the noisey strife of partisanship, he fairly faced every issue [p 202] of the day, decided which course was the better for his country and the people in his estimation, and then by voice and vote forwarded the cause which his clear head had caused him to espouse.  He was an earnest republican, a republican from deeply rooted principle and no minor mistake which the party could make, no abuse of the party by individuals, could swerve him from his principles.  Right was right with him, and his attention could not be distracted by minor issues.  He did loyal work for the party in a quiet way, and his time, energy and his purse was always at its command.  He was a strong temperance man and worked with a wiill for the cause.  The old residents will remember with how firm a hand he enforced the liquor laws during his term as mayor.  Careful as he was as a judge not to allow his personal opinion to interefere with his interpretation of the law, as an executive officer he was as firm as adamant, and enforced the temperance laws with a hand of iron.  Once convinced of his duty naught could swerve him.  The liquor men girdled his fruit and ornamental trees, and otherwise injured the grounds, out of anger at his fairness, but he never wavered.  They threathened him, but he knew not fear, and went about his business as openly as ever and entirely unattended.  Nearly all his life long occupying public positions, no man ever charged that he did not in every case do his duty, and no man ever suggested a word against his absolute honesty.  He was a good citizen.  If all were such as he government would be as simple matter, and the community would be an Elsium indeed."

"The judge was an honest and consistent Chrstian and has ever been devoted to the church.  He has been closely identified with the Centennial Methodist Episopal church for many years, and was one of the principal movers in erecting the new church.  He held all the affairs of Methodism close to his heart, and was interested in the church at large as well as local organizations.  Ther was no Chrisitian movement but appealed to his heart and interest.  He was always to be found in the front rank of workers for the cause of Christ and right.  He filled various lay offices in the Methodist church and will ge greatly missed by his fellow workers in the field.  He possessed to an eminent degree the Christian virtues of forgiveness and benevolence, and did what he could to lighten the loads of others."

"In his family Judge BROWN was a king, enthroned in the love and honor of his children.  He was a great home man and loved the joys of his fireside.  Nothing was too good for his family that he could get.  Their happiness was the apple of his eye and the life inside of the charmed home circle was most beautiful.  He was the idol of his wife and children.  The latter have ever regarded his opinion as beyond debate or doubt, and what he said they were willing to stake their lives on.  It has been a beautiful example of faith to all who knew them.  The sons, grown men of strong opinions themselves, and ready to combat their opinions in the world, have ever bowed before his wider experience and riper judgment.  During the past year since failing health compelled him to give up the active duties of life, he has especially enjoyed his home and the sunny smiles of his granddaughters growing up about him.   During the last hours when naught else could arouse him from the lethargy into which he was sinking, the presence of the little girls in his room would summon the scattered faculties like a gleam of sunshine and he would notice them pleasantly.  It is in this circle where the loss falls most heavily.  The state loses a good citizen, the people a good neighbor, the church a good member, humanity a good man, and a thousand hearts bow in sadness at his death; but one circle about the deserted fireside lose something more tangible.  They lose a guide ever ready with advice and encouragement; a father and husband whom they loved with passionate tenderness."

Biography of E. W. BROWN [Son of William]
Past and Present of the City of Rockford & Winnebago County, IL, C. A. Church.   Chicago: Clarke, 1905, pp 181-182

Hon. E.  W. BROWN, whose intense and well directed activity has been of material benefit to the city of Rockford as well as the source of his business success, has resided in Rockford throughout his entire life.  It would be difficult to find one who has contributed in larger or more effective measure toward the upbuilding and improvement of this place.  His patriotic citizenship and his interest in community affairs has taken tangible form in his zealous labors for the improvements instituted through aldermanic measures, and through the reforms and progressive movements which he has fathered during his six years of service a mayor.

Mr. BROWN was born in Rockford [Winnebago County, IL], 08 Aug 1857, and was a student in the public schools.  Later he attended school in Mount Morris, IL, but the strain placed upon his eyes forced him to lay aside his textbooks.  At that time he entered upon an active business career, which in its scope and result has broadened until few men have exerted the influence upon matieral progress in Rockford that Mr. BROWN has done.   For five years he was a member of the BROWN & EDKSTINE Drug Company, the sales of which constantly increased until they were represented by an annual figure of $60,000.   On the expiration of that period Mr. BROWN sold his interest in the drug store and became a wholesale dealer in oil, securing a contract with the Standard Oil Company which enabled him to secure the product at excellent terms and to supply many surrounding towns.   He built the first oil tank in Rockford and secured equipment for conducting an extensive trade.  He began with a capital of $3,000 and within six months his business had reached the sum of $30,000.  He then sold out to John P. PORTER & Company, for other interests claimed his attention.

Perhaps the work that has contributed most largely to the improvement of Rockford was his labor in securing the building of the Illinois Central Railroad to this point.  In 1884 the company was making plans for the construction of an air line between Chicago and Freeport.  Their survey had been completed and it was decided to leave Rockford out and build the road east of New Milford, crossing the river at Hoisington Rocks below this city.  Judge BROWN, the father, realizing the detriment this would be to Rockford, at once entered upon active measures to secure the construction of the road through this city.  He was personally acquainted with E. T. JEFFERIES, general manager of the Illinois Central, and with Stuyvesant FISH, president of the road.  He sought an interview with the former and induced him to come to Rockford and look over the city before determining upon a final settlement for the location of the line.  Mr. JEFFERIES, accompanied by Isaiah RANDOLPH, chief engineer of the road, visited Rockford and was entertained at the home of Judge BROWN.  They met with a number of prominent manufacturers including Ralph EMERSON, W. A. TALCOTT, John P. MANNY, H. W. PRICE and Gilbert WOODRUFF, and that night Mr. JEFFERIES decided to build into Rockford.  He secured the services of Mr. BROWN to obtain a right of way for the new line and active operations in promoting this valuable enterprise were instituted on 01 Nov 1884.  E. W. BROWN was made the first agent for the company in this city, and still holds that position.  His thorough business ability is recognized by the corporation, and his advice is frequently sought on important matters, his judgment being regarded as safe and reliable.  During his connection with the company the business at this point has grown in an astonishing measure until it exceeds that of any other railway interest in the city in its property investments and volume of business.  The company now owns a frontage of 800 feet on South Main Street, while its yard, extending for three-quarters of a mile, is free from grade crossings.  Its passenger and freight buildings are the finest in the city, and in both is handled an immense amount of business, the freight output now averaging 80 cars per day.  Employment is furnished to 40 people in the various departments of the company's service in this city, and at the head remains Mr. BROWN, who has perfected a system [p 182] of work here that has produced excellent results and made this one of the important stations on the line.

In political affairs in Rockford, Mr. BROWN has been equally prominent, and in 1885 was chosen alderman from the second ward, which position he filled for seven years.   Those who had watched his public service recognized his fitness for leadership in affairs of the municipality, and in 1895 he was elected mayor.  Again he was called to the office in 1897, and for a third term in 1899, and he could have undoubtedly have won election again had he not declined further service.  In 1903 representative citizens of Rockford endeavored to induce him to again accept the office, but the extent and importance of his private business affairs prevented.  His administration was business-like and progressive.  He worked along the practical lines that have ever been manifest in the conduct of his private interests.  He regards a public office as a public trust, and no trust reposed in him has ever been betrayed in the slightest degree.  He was the champion of all progressive measures that he believed would benefit the city without proving an extravagance, and he studied closely its needs and possibilities, carefully weighing every question which came up for consideration.  It was through his efforts and recommendation that the present system of water supply was instituted in 1897, and was put into effective operation by D. W. MEAD at a cost of $50,000, affording a supply of seven million gallons of water daily.  The water works park was a product of the general improvements instituted.  The present system of macadamizing was instituted and is doubtless the most efficient means for doing effective work that could have been planned.  He appointed to different city positions men well qualified by experience or capability for duties which would devolve upon them.  A review of his several annual messages to the council demonstrates a determination to adhere to a rigid economy in the expenditure of the city funds; a just and exact enforcement of the laws; and together with the cooperation of the council to so administer the city government as to insure stable progress and permanent good.

Mr. BROWN was married to Miss Lizzie A. WHITE, a daugher of Joshua WHITE, who is well known in Rockford as a prominent citizen, and has extensive realty holdings in Stillman Valley.  Mr. and Mrs. BROWN have three children, and the family home is at 312 South Third Street.  Such in brief is the history of one of the best known citizens of Rockford.  The consensus of public opinion regarding his political and business life is most favorable.  He has ever discharged his duties with marked ability and fairness, for he is a most loyal public-spirited citizen.  As a business man he has been conspicuous among his associates and not only for his success, but for his fairness, probity, and honorable methods.  In everything he as been manifestly practical, and this has been shown not only in his business undertakings, but also in his private and social life.

Submitted by Cathy Kubly.