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Fayette County, Iowa  

 Biography Directory


Portrait & Biographical Album of Fayette County Iowa

Containing Full Page Portraits and Biographical Sketches of

Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County

Lake City Publishing Co., Chicago

March 1891


     ~Page 235~


Aaron Brown


Col Aaron Brown resides on section 31, Westfield Township. The history of Fayette County would be incomplete without a record of this distinguished citizen, who through years of public service has won the highest respect of those with whom he came in , while in private life he has endeared himself to the hearts of many friends by his sterling worth and many excellencies of character. Such a man is an honor to the community in which he makes his home and we are pleased to present this biography to our readers.


Col. Brown was born in Marion County, Miss., June 7, 1822. His mother's people were among the earliest German settlers of South Carolina; his father's people belonged to the Quakers or Society of Friends and were from North Carolina. His grandfather, Edward Brown, served in the Revolutionary War, and in the military history of the country we find mentioned with honor the names of a number of representatives of this family. Moses Brown, father of the Colonel, was born in North Carolina, in 1777, and grew to manhood on the plantation, his father being a slaveholder. He received his education in the common schools of the South and married in North Carolina, Sarah Graham, who became the mother of four children, all now deceased. She died and he removed to Georgia and afterward to Mississippi, where he married the mother of our subject, Nancy Perkins, about 1807. She was born in South Carolina in 1787. He followed his occupation of planter there until 1822, when he removed to Louisiana, and in 1825 came North. Our subject was then three years

old and distinctly remembers the illumination at New Orleans, as they came up the river, in honor of Gen. LaFayette, who was then visiting the city. On reaching free territory at Cincinnati, Mr. Brown liberated the slaves which he had inherited from his father and sold those which he himself had purchased, thus giving a practical proof of his abolition principles. He purchased land and resided on it until his death in 1833. His wife survived him until 1868. He had been reared a Quaker and doubtless to that fact was due his anti-slavery principles. In later life he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and his wife, who was brought up in the Presbyterian faith, became a member of the Baptist Church. He was active in church work, an eloquent speaker and able in argument. Well informed on public questions, he, however, was no politician but was an ardent supporter of Gen. Jackson, under whom he served in the War of 1812.


The children of the second marriage of Moses Brown are Amanda P., who died in McGregor, Iowa; Nancy P., who died in Cass County, Mich.; Margaret C., whose death occurred in the same State; and Samantha C., who passed away in Cass County. The next child, R. P. was tortured and murdered in Kansas by border ruffians and now lies buried on Pilot Knob, opposite Leavenworth. He was a prominent anti-slavery man and was a Free State candidate for the Legislature. On election day he was captured near the polls and literally hacked to pieces with hatchets. The mob dragged him through the streets, opened his eyes and spit tobacco juice into them, inflicted every possible indignity upon him and at last took him, still breathing, to his own home, threw open the door and pushed him into the presence of his wife whose health was in a precarious condition. Such was one of the acts perpetrated by a blood-thirsty and lawless mob during the exciting times just prior to the late war. Moses Brown, the only survivor of the family, with the exception of our subject, is living in Mitchellville, Iowa.


Aaron was the fifth child in the family and when three years of age was taken by his parents to Ohio, where he spent the days of his boyhood and youth on his father's farm, attending subscription schools in winter and aiding in the cultivation of the land during the summer months. His father died when he was a lad of fourteen summers and the care and management of the farm fell upon him and his brother. He married in 1844 and began life for himself, the lady of his choice being Miss Elizabeth Lingrell, a native of Logan County, Ohio, and a daughter of John and Polly (Samples) Lingrell, the former a native of Maryland, and the latter of West Virginia. Both died in Michigan whither they removed at an early day. Not long after his marriage Col. Brown took his young wife to Cass County, Mich., then a very new country and gave himself up to the study of medicine under Drs. Bloodgood and J. E. Bonnie of Niles, Mich., and Leander Thompkins of Cassapolis, which was the home of the Colonel until 1849, when he made an overland trip to California with ox-teams, reaching his destination after five months. He spent nearly three years on the Pacific Slope engaged in mining and the practice of medicine, and returned in 1852. The same year he visited Fayette County, Iowa, coming on horseback as the railroad then terminated at Rockford, Ill.


Mr. Brown determined here to locate and soon afterward brought his family, they settling on the old Robertson place in Fayette. In 1853 he erected a cabin where his present comfortable home now stands. He first purchased one hundred and sixty acres at $1.97 an acre in the edge of the timber, thinking he would always have the open prairie near by for a cattle range, but he was doomed to disappointment in this for the land has been transformed into farms these many years. Since 1852 he has resided here excepting when in public service and during his Southern trip. He now owns two hundred and forty acres of land but it is rented and he is living a retired life. His family numbers himself, wife and two children and they have also lost two. Preston Seward, the second eldest, born in Michigan, was educated in the Upper Iowa University of Fayette, and after a four years' course of study was graduated from the Iowa Agricultural College at Ames. He is now a teacher in Oregon and has been employed on the Government survey. He married Lillie Parker of West Union. Charles Sumner is now in the railroad service and makes his home in Belle Plaine, Iowa. Mellisa I., the first-born, became the wife of Henry M. Berch, and died leaving one child. Martha A. died in Fayette when the father was lying at home wounded during the war. They have with them a grandson, Harlan, son of Charles S., twelve years old.

In connection with improving and carrying on his farm, Col. Brown practiced medicine in this county until 1856, when he was elected State Senator for four years under the old Constitution, serving through the last session held at Iowa City and the first at Des Moines." The war broke out and on the 8th of May, 1861, he enlisted in Company F, Third Iowa Infantry, and was mustered into service June 6, as Second Lieutenant. The summer following was mostly spent in Missouri guarding bridges on the Hannibal & St. Jo Railroad. The regiment was stationed in St. Louis during the winter and during the spring Lieut. Brown was sent North on recruiting service, while his command went to Pittsburg Landing where he joined it soon after the battle. He was immediately promoted to the Captaincy of his company, the former Captain and First Lieutenant having resigned their commissions just after the battle for reasons entirely satisfactory to themselves. He was with the regiment during the siege of Corinth and then went to Memphis where a large part of the summer was passed. In the fall of 1862 while again at home on recruiting service, his regiment took part in the battle of Hatchie River. On his return to La Grange, Tenn. he was appointed Major of the regiment, although the youngest of the Captains. He rejoined his command at La Grange and the next morning was directed to take command of the regiment, the Colonel having resigned. Shortly afterward he received a notice from Gov. Kirkwood to call together the line officers for the election of a Colonel and he was unanimously chosen. There had been considerable friction and trouble in the regiment and in order to allay any jealousy among the officers who out-ranked him and might feel aggrieved, Major Brown refused to accept the office of Colonel until he had the opinion of the rank and file. The soldiers also voted unanimously for him and from that time there was perfect harmony in the regiment.


Colonel Brown was in command of the Third Iowa through the siege of Vicksburg, and after its surrender the regiment followed Johnston and took part in the battle of Jackson, Miss., where the Colonel was severely wounded in the leg from the effects of which he has never yet fully recovered. He had been wounded in the hand by a buckshot at the battle of Blue Mills, and at the same time his clothes were perforated by bullets. From Jackson, Miss., he came home on leave of absence, remaining four months, when having partially recovered he rejoined his regiment at Natchez, Miss. The following spring he came home with the veterans of the Third Iowa on a thirty days' furlough, and returned with them to Cairo, Ill., and up the Tennessee River to Clifton, marching thence across the State to Huntsville, Ala., on to Kingston, Ga., to Rome and to Cartersville, Ga., where he was placed in command of two forts and other fortifications, in charge of transportations and mails, and had to picket thirty miles of river, having at one time fifteen thousand men under his command. From there he proceeded to Atlanta, where he was discharged July 22, 1864, and left for his home on the same day. He served over his time at the special request of Gen. McPherson, who wished him to re-organize the regiment, since when its term of enlistment was out, only one officer had re-enlisted, thus leaving the regiment without experienced officers. Having re-organized it, Col. Brown left on the morning of the day that McPherson was killed, and before the battle commenced, having served a little over three years.


Mr. Brown returned to retirement as he hoped, but he was not allowed to remain long on his farm. In 1866 he was elected on the Republican ticket as Representative of his district in the State Legislature, and re-elected in 1868. When that term had expired in 1870, he was elected Register of the State Land Office, and again was chosen for that position in 1872. This term of office closed his public service in 1874, and he returned to his farm, where he has since lived with the exception of a period from 1878 to 1882, when he resided in the South, practicing medicine very successfully. He imbibed sentiments hostile to slavery in his childhood, and these grew and strengthened with his growth. He cast his first Presidential vote for James G. Birney, voting that year in Ohio for Governor and Congressman, and on moving to Michigan, being there considered a citizen, was allowed to vote for President. He was active and prominent among the Abolitionists, and in 1856 was chosen organizer of the Republican party for twelve counties in Northern Iowa, and by general consent was nominated for Senator and elected. He traveled and spoke all over these counties at his own expense, there being no campaign funds in those days. The positions he has held amply attest his valued services and his influence in the party he helped to form and which he has steadily supported until 1888, when the high tariff platform caused him to vote the Union Labor ticket. However he is still Republican in principle, but opposed to the measure of high tariff. He supported the prohibition amendment, and is as radical on that subject as he was on abolition. In 1844 Mr. Brown became a member of the Baptist Church, but soon severed his connection with it on account of the stand taken against anti-slavery resolutions. His creed is strictly to adhere to right and justice. He was the first commander of W. W. Warner Post, No. 46, of which he is still a member; and in the Masonic Lodge to which he belongs he has served as Senior Warden, and for two years was Worshipful Master. He is taking an active part in organizing the Farmers' Alliance, and is a member of the Menard branch. His acquaintances takes in the leading men of the State, and he richly merits the respect and honor given him. Col. Brown is a faithful citizen, was a loyal and efficient commander during the late war, won and retains the confidence of his business associates, and in all things is an upright, honorable business man."


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