William Carlos Brown’s Loyalty to His Parents and Home State of Iowa

While W C. Brown (my great-great-uncle) was an important top executive of the powerful New York Central Railroad in New York City, 1902-1913, he still demonstrated loyalty to the state of Iowa, where he grew up, and to his parents (and my maternal great-great-grandparents), Rev. Charles E. Brown and Frances Lyon Brown.

W. C. Brown
W. C. Brown
Frances Lyon Brown & Charles E. Brown
Frances Lyon Brown & Charles E. Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Rev. Charles E. Brown, died in 1901, W.C. paid for an imposing monument for his parents in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery” in Lime Springs in northeastern Iowa, for the establishment of the “Brown Park in the town and for a beautiful stained-glass window in honor of his father at the First Baptist Church of nearby Cresco, Iowa. W.C. also financed the private publication of his father’s memoirs, Personal Recollections 1813-1893 of Rev. Charles E. Brown with Sketches of His Wife and Children and Extracts from an Autobiography of Rev. Phillip Perry Brown 1790-1862 with Sketches of His Children and the Family Record 1767-1907.[1]

Brown Park, LIme Springs, IA
Brown Park, LIme Springs, IA
Baptist Church, Cresco
Baptist Church, Cresco, IA

 

 

 

 

 

 

W.C. owned a home in Lime Springs (Howard County) for himself and his family as well as a farm in the neighboring countryside. In addition, W.C. owned a farm and home near the southwestern Iowa town of Clarinda (Page County) where a brother-in-law (Charles P. Hewitt) and a sister-in-law (Hattie Hewitt Galloway) lived. In that town W.C. also owned an interest in a small bank and manufacturer. Brown usually returned in the summers to visit these towns and farms during his New York City years.

Howard County Iowa
Howard County Iowa
Page County Iowa
Page County Iowa

 

 

 

 

 

His summer sojourns to Lime Springs were in W. C.’s private railroad car, which sat on a siding while he and his family (but not always his daughters) stayed in their home in the town. The African-American cook and chauffeur stayed in another house across the street from the Brown house.

Back in the City, W. C. served as the president of the Iowa Society of New York. At its annual dinner in 1910, he spoke with pride of Iowa’s hatred of slavery and its first railroad, the underground railroad, whose “builder and maker were God.” One of its passengers was John Brown, who in 1859 stayed with Josiah B. Grinnell, after whom Grinnell College (my alma mater) was named. W.C. also commended Iowa’s “unconditional, sleepless opposition to the saloon,” which was a cause dear to his father’s heart.

At the Iowa Society’s dinner two years later, in March 1912, W. C. said “I love Iowa and her people, and when I go back to Iowa, as I hope to very soon, . . . I look forward to . . . returning to New York . . . and telling you of their sensible citizenship, a citizenship that has always saved her from the sophistries of the designing demagogue.”[2]

After Brown retired from the New York Central at the end of 1913, he and his wife usually returned to their Iowa homes in the summer after spending the winter months at their retirement home in Pasadena, California.

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[1] W. C. also donated the organ to the Methodist Church of Lime Springs in honor of his wife and made large financial contributions for the construction of the Church’s building and for the endowment of the town’s Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

[2] Also in attendance at the dinner that night was the Iowa Congressman from Clarinda, William P. Hepburn, about whom we hear in a later post about federal regulation of railroad freight rates.

 

 

White Settler’s Contemporaneous Reaction to U.S.-Dakota War of 1862

In 1862 Rev. Charles E. Brown,my maternal second great-grandfather, had been a Baptist missionary to the Iowa Territory and State since 1842, and he and his family lived in the village of Vernon Springs in Howard County in northern Iowa. This was not far from the U.S.-Dakota War in neighboring Minnesota.[1] (In the map to the left, Howard County is the third from the right in the northern tier of Iowa.)

About 31 years after the War Rev. Brown used his diaries to start writing his memoirs, including comments on that War.[2]

He said, “In August 1862, the Sioux Indians in Minnesota raided the homes and villages of settlers, murdering–and mutilating–men, women and children, and burning–and destroying– a large amount of property.”

The Indians, he added, were “[e]ncouraged by and taking advantage of the [Civil War], and incited by agents of the Confederacy, unscrupulous and possibly unauthorized.” The Indians were “brooding–over real and fancied wrong’s [sic] suffered in dealing–with the Government and its agents.” The Indians “took the war path and spread terror, death and destruction through the southwestern part of the State [of Minnesota].”

Because the U.S.-Dakota War was so close to northern Iowa, “thousands of people abandoned their [Minnesota] homes and fled for their lives into Northern Iowa.” By September of 1862, “the panic of the Minnesota settlers was at its height and the town [of Vernon Springs] and roads [were] filled with refugees.”

Into this commotion came Rev. Brown’s son, Charles P. Brown, a Second Sergeant of Company D, Third Regiment of the Iowa Infantry, on a furlough leave from the Civil War. The “blue coat and brass buttons of [his] . . . uniform [were]. . .  inspiring. . . . [The uniform] represented the war power of the government, and was looked on as the advance guard of military protection.”

The proximity of the U.S.-Dakota War also prompted “some families in our immediate neighborhood [to engage in] . . .  hastily packing . . . a few thing’s [sic] and leaving.”

In addition, The Iowa county where the Browns lived (Howard County) organized and mounted a  “company . . .  for home defense, armed with such weapons, rifles and shot guns as were available, and set out to meet the savages.” However, this “company of home guards did not meet any Indians.”

This undoubtedly was due, according to Rev. Brown, to the “prompt action by Governor Ramsey of Minnesota, and General Sibley with militia and volunteers, speedily overpowered the Indians, defeating, capturing and punishing them.”

Brown continued, “About twelve hundred Sioux Indians were engaged in the raid. Governor Ramsey estimated the loss of life among settlers at eight hundred.” In addition, between twenty and thirty thousand people had abandoned their homes, and the loss of property was estimated from two and one-half to three million dollars.”

“Five hundred Indians were captured, tried by a Military Court, and three hundred sentenced to suffer death by hanging. Of this number thirty-eight were executed December 26, 1862.”

The sources of Brown’s information about the War are not stated, but the essence of his account is consistent with what historians today have to say.

I, however, am disappointed that he did not see any of the reasons for the Dakota’s initiating the War (other than his acknowledging that they had suffered real wrongs in dealing with the Government and its agents). Nor does he seem to be aware of the due process problems of the military commission’s prosecution and conviction of the Indians. Most seriously, as a Christian pastor he does not cope with the obvious religious issues associated with Governor Ramsey’s demand for extermination of the Dakota Indians or with the execution of the 38 Indians on the day after Christmas.


[1] A summary of the War was provided in a prior post. Subsequent posts will explore this year’s sesquicentennial commemoration of the War and Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s October 7th worship service devoted to remembering the War and its consequences.

[2]  Charles E. Brown, Personal Recollections of Rev. Charles E. Brown with Sketches of His Wife and Children and Extracts from an Autobiography of Rev. Phillip Perry Brown 1790-1862 with Sketches of His Children and the Family Record 1797-1907 at 82-85 (Ottumwa, IA 1907).