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Published by Brink, McDonough & Co., Philadelphia 1879

Page 167

M. BROWN is the oldest settler now living in Brighton township. He was born in Champaign county, Ohio, two miles south of Mechanicsburg, June 4th, 1810. His grandfather, Jonathan Brown, formerly lived in the state of New York, where his father, whose name was also Jonathan Brown, was born. About the year 1805 his father emigrated from New York to Ohio, and was one of the early settlers of Greene county, where he married in the year 1806, Delilah Spencer. The Spencer family was of English origin. Mr. Brown's great-grandfather, on his mother's side, settled in Virginia while it was yet a colony of Great Britain. His grandfather, Michael Spencer, was a soldier in the war of the Revolution, and after the conclusion of that memorable struggle on the part of the colonies for their independence, emigrated to Kentucky, having previously been married in Virginia. Michael Spencer was a man of great strength and activity, and possessed remarkable powers of endurance. He took part in the Indian troubles which marked the first settlement of the whites on "the dark and bloody ground" of Kentucky. His superior bodily strength and courage made him usually the leader in the pursuit of the bands of Indians who would frequently make incursions on the white settlements, stealing horses, carrying off children, and sometimes butchering the surprised inhabitants. His home in Kentucky was in Washington county. He afterward removed to Greene county, Ohio. Delilah Spencer was born in Washington county, Kentucky. About the year 1808, Mr. Brown's father moved with the family to Champaign county, Ohio, and lived there until 1817, and then came to Illinois, settling at Upper Alton; he afterward removed to Brighton, where he died July 4th, 1836.

When his father moved to Alton, Mr. Brown was seven years old. The first school he attended was a little log building which stood about half a miles from his father's house. The rough floor was made of split timber, the door of clap-boards, and a log conveniently left out along the sides answered the purpose of a window. There was no fireplace, for school was kept only during the summer months, and then only at irregular intervals. His first teacher, to whom he went three months, was David Rose, a near-sighted and cross-eyed man, who added to these physical peculiarities a hasty disposition and irregular and eccentric habits. It may be imagined that his proficiency as a teacher was very moderate. His next teacher, two years afterward, was a man named Jencks, who had better educational qualifications. He was a writer of respectable poetry, but had an ungovernable appetite for liquor, and when under the influence of the intoxicating bowl would go to sleep in school, leaving the children to amuse themselves in any manner which suited their fancy. In May, 1828, just before his eighteenth birthday, Mr. Brown started for the lead mines in Galena. He formed a partnership with Enoch Long, and they bought an interest in the Mineral Point Mining Company, and built the first shanty ever erected at Mineral Point. The enterprise proved fairly remunerative, though the low price of lead prevented large profits. His partner, Mr. Long, was a native of New Hampshire, twenty years older than himself, a man of ability, and is still living at Sebula, Iowa, to which place he removed from Galena. He reached Alton on his return, Christmas, 1829, and spent the next two months at school.

His uncle, Oliver Brown had settled at Brighton in February, 1826, and on the9th of March, 1830, Mr. Brown also came to Brighton, where he has resided ever since. At that time he was not quite twenty years of age. In partnership with his brother, James Brown, he entered eighty acres of land, the east half of the north-east quarter of section nineteen. The entry was made in his brother's name. The land was partly timber and partly prairie.

At first his home was with his parents, who had moved out from Alton. November 15th, 1836, he married Sarah B. Peter, daughter of John Peter, who settled at Godfrey about the year 1839, and the spring of 1836 removed to Whitehall. After his marriage he changed his residence to where he now lives on the west half of the north-east quarter of section nineteen. Nature had endowed him with abundant energy, a good constitution, and great powers of endurance. He began life without a capital except good health, industrious habits, and a determination to succeed in the world. He put the land of which he was owner, under cultivation as rapidly as possible; and his activity, energy, and ability to undergo exposure and perform a great deal of hard work without detriment, have been the chief instruments of his success in life. He now owns 550 acres of land, part of which lies in McLean and Madison counties. The death of his first wife occurred in July 16th, 1851. His second marriage was on the 3d of March, 1853, to Mrs. Margaret A. Sumner. Her maiden name was Hackney; she was born in the state of New York, and came to Illinois with her father, William Hackney, in 1836, and settled at Delhi, in Jersey county. Mr. Brown has nine children as follows: James McKendree Brown, of McLean county; George A. Brown and M. Spencer Brown, who live in Brighton township; Emma J., the wife of James B. Pinckhard, of Venice, Illinois; Thomas C. Brown, who is in the mercantile business at Greenfield; Charles W. Brown an attorney at Springfield; Edward B. Brown, who is farming in Montgomery county, near Litchfield; and William H. and Allen R. Brown, whose home is still with their father. The last two named are children by his second marriage. Mrs. Brown also has two children by her first husband, Mrs. Mary Simmons, of Jersey county, and John E. Sumner, now residing at St. Charles, Missouri.

Of the personal traits of his character we can speak with the fullest freedom, knowing well that no man stands higher in the community, nor is more deserving of commendation for along life, whose influences have all been thrown on the side of religion, morality, and virtue. He is one of the oldest members of the Methodist church in the county, becoming connected with the church at Alton in 1823, when thirteen years old. He was one of the founders of the Brighton Methodist Church, and its first class-leader. While his sympathies have connected him with the Methodist denomination, he has not loved his creed so much as he has loved the whole Christian church more, and he has been glad to assist other denominations. To the building of every church in Brighton, with the possible exception of the Baptist, which was erected when all his means were taken up in assisting the Methodist Church, he has contributed, the antagonism usually existing between Protestants and Catholics not even been sufficient to induce him to refuse aid for the erection of the Catholic Church. He believed there were good people among the Catholics, and that they should have a house of worship. He was also one of the earliest advocates of the temperance cause about Alton. In February, 1830, he attended the first temperance meeting ever held at Alton, and signed the pledge to abstain from ardent spirits. The pledge was afterward amended to include all intoxicating liquors, and he has kept it. The society formed in 1830, was the first temperance organization in existence in Alton. He has been connected with all the temperance organizations which have ever been formed at Brighton, including the old Washingtonians, the Sons of Temperance, the Good Templars, and the Red Ribbon Society, and has never missed an opportunity of voting for prohibition, and against the sale of intoxicating liquors.

For four years he held the office of justice of the peace, and was the second treasurer of Brighton township, which office he held for twenty-seven consecutive years. He was captain of a militia company during the war, and a member of the Union League. He was originally a member of the Whig party. His sentiments were always strongly opposed to the institution of slavery, and in early days of the Republican party, when questions concerning slavery were the most important themes of political discussion, and during the war of the Rebellion, he was an active and outspoken Republican. Of late years he has occupied an independent and conservative position in politics.

It may be said of Mr. Brown, that an ambition to accumulate money was never a trait of his character. He desired a comfortable abundance, with which to supply the wants of himself and family, but to become rich for the mere sake of money was beyond his wishes. He had natural ability and business sagacity, and had he devoted his energies to that purpose, he might doubtless have been one of the wealthiest men of the community. His expenditures have been liberal in all directions. He has paid ten large security debts, one of which of eight hundred dollars he was called upon to meet the third year after his marriage, when he was just beginning to get a good start in life, and when it seemed impossible for him to raise and spare a sum of such magnitude. He could have managed his property so that the debt could never have been collected, but instead he strained every nerve to meet the obligation. Its payment in the end he regards as a benefit to himself, as his efforts to meet the amount taught him valuable lessons of economy, and his honorable and straight-forward course gave him standing in the community. He has raised a large family of children, and provided for them liberally, having divided among them about seven thousand dollars. During the recent Rebellion he contributed to the Sanitary Commission and other benevolent objects growing out of the year about $350 annually. He was always an earnest supporter of free schools and all educational enterprises. Even before he was married, he assisted to carry on the subscription schools of the neighborhood. The proposition to build a schoolhouse at Brighton was at first defeated at four successive elections, and then the friends of a school determined to accomplish their object by private subscriptions. A joint stock company was formed, to which Mr. Brown subscribed three different times, and the much needed building was erected. By a change in the law, however, which authorized school directors to purchase property, the building was finally sold to the school district. To other public enterprises, (such as the Rockford and Rock Island railroad, to which he subscribed fifteen hundred dollars, and the Park Hotel company), he has given his means and his influence, and it may with justice be said that Macoupin county possesses few citizens whose lives have been more creditable to themselves, or more useful to their fellow-men.

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