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Biography of William C. Brown

Not by leaps and bounds but by orderly progression did WILLIAM C. BROWN advance from a humble position on a western railroad to the presidency of one of the greatest railroad systems of the county. Today he is practically living retired personally overseeing the operation of one of the finest farms in Iowa, situated near Lime Springs, in a district in which his boyhood days were passed. He has thus come to a fulfillment of one of his dreams of life,  his attention being now given to improved and and scientific agriculture.

Mr. Brown was born in Norway, Herkimer county, New York, on July 29, 1853, his parents being the Rev. Charles E. Brown and Francis (Lyon) Brown. He comes of Scotch Irish ancestry, the line being traced back to William Brown, who came from England in 1686, and established his home in Massachusetts, where he became a leader in civic affairs of the colony. He served as judge of the colonial court and was also a military officer.

His son, Captain John Brown, was born near Concord in 1703 and served as a soldier in the French and Indian War, commanding a company in the Louisburg Expedition of 1745. He became one of the prominent and influential citizens of his district and was a member of the general court of the colony for twenty years.

His son, Parley Brown, born May 27, 1737, was one of the farmers who responded to the call of Paul Revere, on his famous night ride on the 18th of April, 1775. He was in the fight at Lexington and was a member of the company commanded by Captain Seth Washburn at the battle of Bunker Hill, in which engagement his brother, John Brown, was badly wounded. Parley Brown carried his brother from the battlefield and afterward went west with the American Army under command of General George Washington and was killed in the battle of White Plains, New York, on the 28th of October, 1776.

Nathaniel Brown, son of Parley Brown, was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, November 5, 1767, and afterward became a resident of Vermont, from which state he removed to New York, then a western wilderness. He died in Hamburg, New York, in 1854.

His son, Rev. Phillip Berry Brown, was born in Bennington, Vermont, September 17, 1790 and was a Baptist missionary and preacher of central New York to the time of his death, which occurred in Madison, that state, on the 28th of September, 1876.

His son, Charles Edwin Brown, father of William C. Brown, of this review, was born February 23, 1767, in Augusta, New York, which at that time was situated on the frontier. He was converted at a revival meeting in September, 1832, was baptized by his father and joined the church. He entered upon a course of study preparatory for the ministry at the Hamilton Literary and Theological Seminary and finished his studies in 1838. On the 20th of September of the year he was ordained to the ministry and on the 26th of September, he was married to Frances Lyon at Little Falls, New York. His bride was a school teacher, a woman of marked refinement and liberal education.

For four years the Rev. Charles E Brown was minister of the Baptist Church at Norway and Warren, New York, after which he had the opportunity of carrying out a long cherished desire of becoming a home missionary in the west. He served in areas of New York and Iowa and then was sent by the Baptist Home Mission Society of Iowa to an area he was permitted to select.

In July, 1857, he arrived in Howard County, Iowa and by August had organized the Baptist churches in Vernon Springs and Lime Springs, and was pastor for many years. His work extended all over Howard county and adjoining counties and there are few of the old pioneer schoolhouses in which he did not preach and organize Sabbath schools. He was the first superintendent of Howard County Schools and was one of the early teachers in school at Vernon Springs.

In late 70's he was selected to represent his district in the state legislature. Rev. Charles E. Brown passed away July 23,1901, in his 89th year and was laid to rest by the side of his wife, who died in 1887, in the beautiful cemetery of Lime Springs. The Iowa State Legislature passed a resolution to its honored member who had died in Ottumwa, Iowa on July 23, 1901. ( Note -- Copy of resolution is available by contacting Lookup Person)

His son, William C. Brown, in the environment of a Christian home upon the frontier spent the summers of his boyhood and youth working on the family farm and attending the district schools in the winter seasons. During the years 1868 and 1869, Elder Brown was pastor of the Baptist church in Thompson, Illinois.

1869 --While at Thompson, when sixteen of age, William C Brown, began work with a shovel as a section hand on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. He took advantage of an offer by the station agent to learn telegraphy by studying and practicing nights in the office.

1870 -- Continued studies in railroad office in Lime Springs and in summer of 1870 secured first position as an operator.

1871 -- In the summer of 1871, was made night operator in the train dispatcher's office in Minneapolis, Minn.

1872 -- Accepted a position as train dispatcher with The Illinois Central at Waterloo, Iowa. Wile there residing he returned to Lime Springs and on 3d of June 1874, he was married to Miss Mary Ella Hewett, a daughter of Squire C. C. Hewett, one of the early settlers and prominent citizens of Howard County. Three daughters and seven grandchildren, all living in Chicago, comprise the family.

1875 -- Mr. Brown was made train dispatcher at Wilton Junction, Iowa for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad.

1876 --Became train dispatcher for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, with which road he remained for 26 years, being promoted from one position to another until he became general manager of the system east of the Missouri River on Jan 1, 1896, with offices in Chicago.

1901 -- Became vice president and general manager of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad and the Lake Erie & Western Railroad, with headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio.

1902 -- Was made Vice President of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad.

1906 -- Elected senior vice president of all the railroads in the system of the New York Central, comprising some 12,000 miles.

1909 -- Mr. Brown was elected president of the New York Central System.

1914 -- After 44 years, with 12 years serving the New York Central System, Mr. William C. Brown resigns as president as of Jan 1, 1914. He as president was in charge of 160,000 men with a railroad of 12,000 miles serving 9 states and parts of Canada. He has kept harmony while maintaining discipline and efficiency with this great working force. ( Copy of New York Central letter available)

1919 -- Mr. Brown, continues as a member of the board of directors of several railroads. He owns farms in Iowa, Colorado and California. However, the Oaklawn Stock Farm, located on the bank of the Upper Iowa River, one mile north of the village of Lime Springs and the home of Mrs. Brown's grandfather, M. M. Marsh, is perhaps his favorite. A more beautiful location or a finer farm could scarcely be found in the state of Iowa. The farm residence is a solid, comfortable stone house built by Esquire Marsh a half century ago.

History of Chickasaw and Howard Counties,
By Robert Herd Fairbairn (Published 1919 - Volume II)
S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois
Transcribed by Leonard Granger