Alexander Blaine Brown, Jr.

 

REV. ALEXANDER BLAINE BROWN, JR. As in the case of his brother Rev. A. B. Brown, Jr., was born amidst the classic scenes of Jefferson College, at Canonsburg, Penn., at the time when his father was the president of this renowned institution. In early life he manifested a decided taste for literary pursuits, and having adopted one of the mottoes of Jefferson College, "Inter silvas Academi quoerere verum" ("Among the groves of the Academy seek truth"), he spent a number of years at Jefferson Academy. Jefferson College having been removed from Canonsburg, he went to Lancaster, Penn., and entered the junior class of Franklin and Marshall College, of which his uncle, Rev. John W. Nevin, D. D., LL. D., was for many years the honored and successful president. Having completed his collegiate course at Lancaster, he was elected professor of Latin in Jefferson Academy, in which institution he taught for a year, when he entered the Western Theological Seminary, at Allegheny City, Penn., from which he was graduated in 1878. The following year he was unanimously called to the pastorate of the Centre Presbyterian Church, five miles east of Canonsburg, a church of which his father had also been pastor, and to which he ministered during the latter part of his life, and in the bounds of which he died. This call young Mr. Brown accepted, and December 15, 1879, he was ordained and installed the pastor of a people among whom he had grown up, and of a church which he had attended and with which he united in his earlier years. In this field he has labored faithfully for thirteen years, during which time his ministry has been greatly blessed, and his services highly appreciated by a people by whom he has always been dearly beloved. As a preacher Rev. Mr. Brown is earnest, impressive, instructive and eloquent. His sermons give evidence that he is a man of decided talents and a diligent student, who always brings beaten oil into the sanctuary. His reading of the Scriptures and hymns has won for him the reputation of being one of the best readers in the Presbytery. As a pastor he is faithful, devoted and sympathetic, whose bright, genial ways and pure, noble character cause him to be highly esteemed and greatly beloved by all who know him. A few days since (March 13, 1893), he received a unanimous call to the pastorate of the Fairview Presbyterian Church, which is situated a few miles south of Centre. So great was the desire and so urgent the request of the Fairview people to have him become their pastor that he felt it his duty to transfer his labors to this neighboring field, in which he has received a most cordial welcome.

BROWN BROTHERS. In addition to the two eloquent ministers mentioned above, there were four other sons in the family of Rev. Dr. and Mrs. A. B. Brown. While all of these sons enjoyed an enviable reputation, on account of their educational qualities and moral worth, they possessed extraordinary musical talents which gave them great celebrity. Without making it a specialty, these six brothers excelled in music, each one being a fine singer, and also a skillful performer on some musical instrument. They appeared in public for the first time when they exerted themselves to raise funds to carry on the suit for the recovery of Jefferson College, which had been consolidated with Washington College. By this act Jefferson College was removed from Canonsburg to the town of Washington, which caused a litigation that lasted for several years. Those who had contributed funds to Jefferson College, feeling that the trustees had violated their trust in transferring the College from its original location, brought suit for the recovery of the institution. Suit having been entered, the case was tried in both the State and the United States Supreme Courts, and this involved considerable expense. To help defray this the Brown Brothers, whose grandfather and father had contributed thousands of dollars, and devoted the greater part of their lives to the institution, offered their services as musicians. The proposition received a hearty response, and many churches and halls were offered free to these brothers, who took rank at once as distinguished vocalists and instrumentalists. Thus by their musical entertainments they succeeded in liquidating almost the entire cost of the suit, a part of the amount having previously been raised by subscription. In this way they became known as the "Brown Brothers." Up to that period, this was the first instance on record where the brothers of one family had given either a vocal or an instrumental concert. Referring to them as "A Band of Brothers," the Washington (Penn.) Advance said: "There are a few cases where the male and female members of one family appear as professional musicians, but we doubt very much if such an instance as this furnished by the Brown Brothers is to be found in our own or other countries."

Having, while invoking the aid of the muses in behalf of Jefferson College, acquired the reputation of being musicians of a high order, the Brown Brothers were frequently requested to give concerts for the benefit of churches, Sabbath-schools, educational institutions and various objects to which they generously devoted the proceeds of their entertainments. Frequently they appeared four or five times in one place, and on each occasion drew a large audience. The concerts of these brothers were characterized by a great variety of songs which were rendered with remarkably fine expression, clear and distinct articulation, intermingled in a most pleasing manner with many different kinds of instruments. From a Pittsburgh paper we give the following extract: "When either one or all of the brothers begin to sing, the audience is subdued into the most tender mood by the exquisite rendering of their pathetic songs, or breaks out into the most rapturous applause over their rendering of the sentimental and comic. But besides being remarkable as vocalists they are equally so as instrumentalists. Much of their music too is of their own composition and many of their songs are original with themselves. Such a combination of musical talent in one family is not, perhaps, to be found in this or any other country. It is a sight worth seeing, six noble young men, brother musicians, and all of them gentlemen of high personal worth." Although great inducements were offered the brothers to enter the public arena as professional musicians, they declined all such propositions, preferring only to appear in public when they could benefit some worthy object by the proceeds of their concerts. Being invited to sing at the centennial celebration of the Chartiers Presbyterian Church, of which the Rev. Dr. John McMillan, the religions and educational pioneer of western Pennsylvania was the first pastor, they composed and sang an appropriate ode, giving a brief history of that distinguished minister, which was so well received that its repetition was requested three times on that occasion. At the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of Rev. William Smith, D. D., at the Miller's Run Presbyterian Church, by special request they gave two concerts, in the afternoon and evening of the same day, when they donated the proceeds to a purse that was being raised as a token of respect for the honored Doctor. For this anniversary they also composed a special song which, having been rendered at their afternoon concert, was, at the request of the audience, sung again in the evening. The entertainments given by these brothers extended over a period of fourteen years, during which time they continued to pursue their regular occupations and professions.

By the death of Matthew, a young man of bright promise, the tuneful circle of the Brown Brothers was suddenly broken, and since then the voices of the rest are seldom heard together in public. The names of the six brothers are as follows: J. Nevin, Henry H., William F., Alexander B., Matthew B. and D. Finley Brown. At the last concert in which they all took part they sang an original ode entitled, "We're a Band of Brothers," in which their sentiments were portrayed. Of this ode we give the closing verse:

      "We'll keep the bells of freedom ringing,
       We'll keep the voice of Temperance singing;
       To the Bible we'll keep clinging,
       While upon this earth we stand.
       And when death has come before us,
       And the vesper stars shine o'er us,
       Let others swell the chorus,
       And shout it through our land."

Soon after this concert the Brown Brothers numbered but five on earth, Matthew having been called to join the Heavenly Choir.

Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, PA, page 89

Rev Alexander Blaine Brown, Jr. was the son of Rev. Alexander Blaine Brown and grandson of Rev. Matthew Brown.

 

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