Portrait and Biographical Record of Winnebago and Boone Counties, IL. Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1892, pp 191-2
In the death of William BROWN on 15 Jan 1891, Rockford lost one of its high-minded and public-spirited citzens, while from the bereaved family circle a loving husband and father was removed, leaving a void in their lives. He received his early education in the common schools of Oneida County, NY, at which time were instilled in his mind 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. His father, Thomas BROWN, was also a native of England. The latter named gentleman, 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 [NY], 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.
Mr. 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 with the intention of removing here, 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 that 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 connecton existed for three years, when he took in as partner H. W. TAYLOR, with whom he was associated until 1870, at which time our subeject was elected to the bench. He was first elected as Judge to fill the vacany occasioned by the promotion of Judge SHELDON to the Supreme Court, and was subsequently selected 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 Superme 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 the Hon. Horace and Hannah (CLARK) MILLER. [See also the Winnebago Co IL biography of William H. MILLER.] Mrs. BROWN still resides in Rockford, where she is greatly beloved by all who know her. She is the mother of three children who are, respectively: 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. A handsome and substantial office building has just been erected to the memory of Judge Brown on South Main Street, Rockford, known as the William Brown Building.
Submitted by Cathy Kubly.