Rev. Charles Edwin Brown’s Baptist Missionary Work in Iowa, 1857-1887

 

Rev. Charles E. Brown
Rev. Charles E. Brown

Rev. Charles Edwin Brown (my maternal second great-grandfather) and his family first went to Iowa for Baptist missionary work in 1842. He toiled at that work until 1851 when illness forced him and his family to return to their native New York State for recuperation.

In 1857 he and his family returned to Iowa to continue his missionary work, this time in the northeastern part of that State.[1]

The trip to Iowa this time presumably did not take a month like it had in 1842 although there is less discussion of the later journey in his memoirs.

Michigan Southern * Indiana Northern engine
Michigan Southern & Indiana Northern engine

All he mentions is taking an overnight voyage on the Great Lakes steamer “Southern Michigan” from Buffalo, New York to Toledo, Ohio and a train (the Michigan Southern and Indiana Northern Railway) to Chicago. Mrs. Brown and their three youngest sons continued by train to DeWitt, Iowa (not far from Maquoketa) while Rev. Brown went by horse and buggy to the latter town.

Howard County Iowa
Howard County Iowa

Rev. Brown soon learned that several Baptist families near the town of Vernon Springs in Howard County that abutted Minnesota to the north wanted to organize a church. He accepted their call, and he and his family made this town their home for the next 11 years and Howard County the site of his missionary work for the next 30 years.

This town then had a sparkling water spring, general store, post office, blacksmith shop, tavern, saw mill and a building for the county court house and about a dozen families. Soon thereafter the county seat was moved to another town, leaving its building for use as a school and church. The new Baptist church had an initial membership of 8 that grew to over 60 by 1860.

Baptist Church, Cresco
Baptist Church, Cresco

Today that church is located in the nearby larger town and county seat of Cresco, Iowa. Prominent in the sanctuary is a beautiful stained-glass window in honor of Rev. Brown. A panel states that he was “a Pioneer Missionary [who] settled in Iowa Territory in 1842 and continued in the work for nearly Fifty years, organizing Churches at many places in Illinois and Iowa” and that in “1857, He organized this Church, was its faithful Pastor for many years, and his revered example continues to inspire its membership.”

In 1858 Brown was elected as the very first Howard County Superintendent of Schools when it had only three schools and served in this position until 1861. He addition, he was a school teacher in the Vernon Springs, Iowa public school, 1858-1867.

The U.S. Civil War from April 1861 until its end in April 1865 was “a subject of absorbing interest and sleepless anxiety” for the people of Howard County. The War also affected the Brown family.

  • Brown’s eldest son, Charles Perry Brown (then 20 years old) in 1861 was the first volunteer from the County for Company D, Third Iowa Infantry. (In September 1862 Charles was home on leave during the U.S.-Dakota War in neighboring Minnesota as discussed in a prior post.)
  • In 1862 the Brown’s next eldest son and my first great-grandfather, James DeGrush Brown (then 17 years old) enlisted in the Sixteenth Regiment, U.S. Infantry (Regular Army), but a serious illness ended his service after a few months.
  • In early 1865 Rev. Brown was appointed the Chaplain of the 88th U.S.C. Infantry (and later the 3rd U.S.C. Artillery). In May 1866 he returned home to Vernon Springs to continue his pastoral work.

In 1868 Rev. Brown accepted a call to the pastorate of a Baptist church in Carroll County, Illinois, but he and his family returned to  Iowa and moved their home north to Lime Springs, but still in Howard County. There they helped build a new church and house. This was their home for the next 20 years except for another return to central New York in 1875-1876. During most of these years, he was not a full-time pastor although he did engage in pastoral work.

In his previously mentioned Fourth of July speech at Le Claire in 1845, Brown listed intemperance as the top domestic enemy. He elaborated at great length on this topic in a speech in Cresco, Iowa on January 3, 1875. He described intemperance as an “unsurpassed evil which entails upon the human family far more widespread and dreadful calamities than war, famine and pestilence combined.” It visits upon humanity “squalid wretchedness” and “untold and indescribable devastation, moral and physical.”

Iowa Capitol Building, Des Moines
Iowa Capitol Building,      Des Moines

In 1877 Brown was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives. He served one term and declined to run for re-election in 1878. He was especially proud of his resolution, albeit unsuccessful, to amend the State Constitution to authorize majority civil jury verdicts, instead of unanimous ones. He lamented, “So long as our legislative bodies are made up largely of lawyers it can scarcely be hoped that measures looking to simplify litigation–expediting and reducing cost–will meet with favor.”[2]

After his death, the Iowa House of Representatives on February 13, 1902, adopted a resolution proclaiming that his “life and character . . . command our love and esteem, and his public series to the state and country were of such distinction as to demand the respect and gratitude of his fellow citizens” and that the State of Iowa “has lost an able conscientious citizen.”

One of the House members said on that occasion that Brown was “a man of excellent judgment, strong character, and of a progressive nature, and could have attained a high place in the commercial world, but preferred rather to devote his life to the betterment of his fellow men.” Another Representative said, “Throughout his life, whether in the cabin or more pretentious dwelling, he was always the same social, devout Christian gentleman, practicing in his daily walk those precepts he sought to inculcate in others. He was intensely loyal and patriotic and when his conclusions were reached upon any subject, they were definite and positive. He advocated his religious and political opinions with earnestness, sincerity, and fidelity, and he was never vacillating or uncertain. He had a clear head and a strong mind.”

The economic importance of the U.S. development of railroads in the latter part of the 19th century is seen by three of the Brown’s sons being initially employed by the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway.  William Carlos Brown (W.C. or “Will”) was in its Minneapolis’ trainmaster’s office; James DeGrush Brown was an engineer; and George Lyon Brown was a trainman. In September 1871 George (age 18) was killed in a railroad accident.

In the Fall of 1882 a diphtheria epidemic broke out in northern Iowa, and two of Rev. Brown’s grandchildren died of the disease.

Frances Lyon & Charles E. Brown
Frances Lyon & Charles E. Brown

On June 12, 1887, Frances Lyon Brown (my maternal second great-grandmother) died at age 74 in Lime Springs, Iowa. Her husband said, for “nearly fifty years, she was my constant companion and helpmeet [sic]. Her cheerful, sunny disposition made itself felt through all these years, in the lonely cabin on the frontier, or the more comfortable home in the East. Whatever of success attended my labors in the ministry, and the success attained and positions of honor and trust gained by our sons, are largely due to the loving care and instruction of the sainted wife and mother.”

Rev. Brown died at age 88 on July 23, 1901 in Ottumwa, Iowa.


[1] This post is based upon Charles E. Brown, 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 and The Family Record 1767-1907 (Ottumwa, IA 1907). Another source in that book is J.W. Wendell’s “Lest We Forget,” a Memorial Discourse in Honor of Rev. Charles E. Brown, Oct. 6, 1901.

[2]  Brown might be pleased to know that his great-grandson (the author of this blog) was an attorney who was an active member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s section for alternative dispute resolution, which sought to develop and promote less expensive and more conciliatory ways to resolve legal disputes.

Rev. Charles Edwin Brown’s Baptist Missionary Work in Iowa, 1842-1851

Rev. Charles E. Brown
Rev. Charles E. Brown

 In 1842, the 29-year-old Rev. Charles Edwin Brown (my maternal second great-grandfather) along with his wife, Frances Lyon Brown (my maternal second great-grandmother), and their two young sons, Benjamin Perry Brown and Charles Perry Brown, left their home in upstate New York and traveled to the eastern part of the Iowa Territory. A prior post described their month-long journey by horse carriage, Erie Canal pack boat and Great Lakes steamer.

Only a few days after their arrival in Iowa, Rev. Brown and his wife left by horse and wagon to go 100 miles south to Iowa City to help organize a Territorial Missionary Convention. Four months later, the two of them journeyed to Davenport for another meeting to organize an association of the eight Baptist churches in that part of the Territory. For the latter meeting they arrived in a one-horse “cart, constructed out of hind wheels and axle of an old lumber wagon, with a couple of old rails for thills [the long shafts between which an animal is fastened when pulling a wagon] and a bundle of oats for a cushion.” [1]

In Maquoketa, Iowa with the help of neighbors they built a log cabin home. Much of their furniture was constructed out of the boxes that had been used to bring their household goods from New York.

Their new log-cabin home was not yet suitable for their first winter in the Territory (1842-1843), and the Brown family relocated to Davenport for the season where Rev. Brown served a church in that town and another in Rock Island, Illinois. An ice bridge across the frozen Mississippi River enabled Brown to walk between the two towns.

The people of Maquoketa also built a log school-house/church. In addition to preaching there, Rev. Brown also preached in other nearby east-central Iowa towns (Marion, Tipton and Andrew).

In the Spring of 1844 the family moved to Le Claire, Iowa on the Mississippi River, where a brick Baptist church was built with money raised in New York by Mrs. Brown. The next Fourth of July Brown was chosen to give the speech to the town on the meaning of this national holiday.

As a Baptist, Brown’s speech appropriately commended fellow Baptist, Roger Williams,for his defense of the freedom of conscience and for his saying, “No one should be compelled to worship, or maintain a worship against his conscience.”

Brown went on to say that society violates personal liberty “by restricting or coercing religious faith and forms of worship.” Indeed, Brown continued, “each and every person, so far as his fellow men are concerned, has a perfect right to believe what he has a mind to; to worship what, and in what form he is disposed to; provided, he leaves the same right to others unimpaired, and none must molest or make him afraid. To connect church with state, or establish a specified form of religion by law is a gross and palpable violation of the most sacred rights of men and should be sternly and persistently resisted.”

Brown concluded his Fourth of July address with the following list of “domestic enemies:”

  1. “Intemperance . . . puts shackles on a man so effectually he cannot stir and unfits him for all business.”
  2. “Avarice, insatiable avarice, which leads to bribery and corruption.”
  3. “The reign of the mob is the reign of anarchy and terror.”
  4. The “system of slavery. . . . Because slavery and liberty are opposites–they are antagonistic and cannot live in harmony–the one must be subverted to the other sooner or later. One is based upon principles contained in the Declaration of Independence, the other a palpable denial of those principles . . . . God speed the day when another declaration shall be made in this land . . . which will proclaim the emancipation of a race now held in bondage, triumphantly vindicating the [1776] declaration, that ‘all men are created equal.'”

On February 9, 1846, their third child (and my maternal first great-grandfather), James DeGrush Brown, was born in Le Claire.

"Buffalo Bill" Cody
“Buffalo Bill” Cody

One of their neighbors in Le Claire was the Cody family, whose young son, William F. Cody, later became famous as Buffalo Bill. (Today there is a Buffalo Bill Museum in the town.)

In the Fall of 1847 the family returned to Maquoketa when a public school (the Academy) was built and organized. The next summer, the Brown’s two youngest sons, Benjamin (“Benny”) (age 8) and Charles (age 7), went swimming with friends in the Maquoketa River. Benny, who had an “uncommonly amiable, winning disposition; loving and obedient, considerate and conscientious,” drowned. His death was a “terrible affliction,” especially for his mother, who “adored him.”

Rev. Brown remarked that Indians were frequent visitors during his early years in Iowa. “They were the genuine Aborigines, uncontaminated by contact with the whites. As a rule friendly but when game was scarce disposed to make free with the cattle and hogs of the settlers, and their presence always excited some fear of possible danger. They were savages and we never knew what they might do. These Indians were fine specimens of their race; stalwart, dignified, comely, active and fearless; well supplied with wigwams, ponies, robes and blankets, bows, arrows and guns.”

Prairie Fire
Prairie Fire

Prairie fires were phenomena of this time. They were “novel, exciting, and often dangerous . . . . In the fall when the heavy growth of grass on prairie and in sloughs was dead and dry they were frequent. Seen in the night, driven swiftly by high winds, extending for miles, and lighting the heavens with their lurid glow, the sight was something to remember.”

When the Brown family arrived in 1842 Iowa was a territory with a population of 43,000.

Iowa Capitol, Iowa City
Iowa Capitol, Iowa City

In 1846 Iowa became a State with its capitol in Iowa City. The original Capitol building, now known as The Old Capitol is still used by the University of Iowa as a Museum and as the Office of its President.

In the summer of 1850 Rev. Brown had an attack of “inflammatory rheumatism,” which confined him to bed for many months. By May of 1851 he decided to return to New York with his family to recuperate. When they left, Iowa was a State with over 192,000 people.

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[1] This post is based upon Charles E. Brown, 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 and The Family Record 1767-1907 (Ottumwa, IA 1907). Another source in that book is J.W. Wendell’s “Lest We Forget,” a Memorial Discourse in Honor of Rev. Charles E. Brown, Oct. 6, 1901.

An 1842 Journey from New York to the Iowa Territory

In May 1842 Rev. Charles Edwin Brown and his wife, Frances Lyon Brown, both 29 years old, and their two young sons (Benjamin Perry Brown, almost three years old, and Charles Perry Brown, one and a half years old) left their home in the small village of Warren in the central part of the State of New York to go on a Baptist missionary trip of roughly 1,500 miles to another small village, Maquoketa, in the eastern part of the Iowa Territory.

At the time Rev. Brown was the Pastor of the Baptist Church in Warren. Previously he had submitted an application for appointment as a missionary “in the distant West” with a preference for the Iowa Territory, and his application had been endorsed by the New York State Missionary Convention. Later the American Baptist Home Missionary Society appointed him to be a missionary to the forks of the Maquoketa River in Iowa at an annual salary of $100 plus $75 for travel expenses.

The Browns could not economically ship all of their household goods to Iowa so they sold everything except clothing, bedding, a table, a stand, a rocking chair and a small cook stove. These remnants weighed approximately 1,600 pounds.

This would not be an easy journey.  Of course, there were no airplanes or automobiles on Interstate highways to take them there. Nor were there any cross-country railroads. An account of the journey that is set forth in the memoirs of Rev. Brown, my maternal great-great grandfather (2nd great-grandfather in Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s parlance), provides a window into what life and transportation were like in the U.S. of 1842 when approximately 17 million people lived in the 26 states of the Union. (Four years later, in 1846, Iowa became the 29th state in the Union.)

The First Stage: Warren to Utica, New York

Utica, NY, 1855

The initial stage of their trip for six or seven days, from Warren to Little Falls and Utica, New York, of approximately 130 miles presumably was by horse-drawn wagon. Utica, then a town with a population of approximately 13,000, was a terminus on the 17-year old Erie Canal that had been built to connect New York City’s harbor with Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes and thereby improve transportation into, and from, the interior of the U.S. This stage cost the family $15.00.

The Second Stage: Utica to Buffalo, New York

Erie Canal
Erie Canal Packet Boat

On Monday, May 2nd, at Utica the Browns boarded the Little Western, a passenger packet or Line boat on the Erie Canal for the second stage of their journey. They had a comfortable cabin in the bow. The kitchen and dining cabin were in the stern with freight and baggage amidships. “With good company, clean wholesome food, a sober and accommodating master and crew, the two hundred mile trip from Utica to Buffalo was comfortable and pleasant.”  As the boat did not run on Sunday, it was tied up for the day in Tonawanda, New York. This gave the family the opportunity to attend a Methodist Church worship service in the morning and for Rev. Brown to preach in the afternoon. On Monday (May 9th), they arrived in Buffalo, then a town of 18,000 people. The family’s total fare at 2 cents per mile for each adult was $8.00.

The Dart Grain Elevator, Buffalo, NY, 1842

With the Erie Canal, Buffalo became a key junction for the shipment of western grain to the east coast and beyond as the Great Lakes ships were too big to go on the Erie Canal. Until 1842 loose grain on the ships had to be manually scooped into baskets and transferred to the wharves by block and tackle while sacks, barrels and casks of grain and flour had be to manually hauled to the wharves and then loaded onto the canal boats, oftentimes with an in-between hauling into and out of warehouses. In late 1842, however, this changed with the invention by Joseph Dart and Robert Dunbar of a grain elevator with a steam-powered conveyor belt and buckets for the direct transfer of grain from the ships to grain elevators on the land.

The Third Stage: Buffalo, New York to Chicago, Illinois

Great Western Steamer

 On May 9th, the family boarded the Great Western, a Great Lakes steamer, for the third stage of their journey. The four-year old, 185-foot Great Western was one of the largest and finest of the day and was the first to have a spacious upper cabin for its nearly 400 passengers. The entire hull was occupied by the boilers with holds for freight and wood.

Great Lakes Map

Prior to completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, shipping on the Great Lakes was primarily on sailing craft as traffic was not sufficient to make the more-expensive steamers profitable to operate. The Erie Canal, however, expanded Lakes traffic so that steamers increasingly became the preferred mode of transportation as they offered fast, efficient and predictable delivery of passengers and freight.

The Great Lakes voyage on the Great Western steamer took six days before arrival on Sunday, May 15th, in the village of Chicago, population of approximately 5,000. Other than a storm the first night out, the trip was pleasant with short stops in Cleveland (population of 6,000) and Detroit (population of 9,000). Mrs. Brown commented that on the way they had seen the “pleasant villages” of Milwaukee, Racine and Southport, Wisconsin. The total fare for the family was $48.00.

The Fourth Stage: Chicago to Savanna, Illinois

After an overnight stay at the New York House, a two-story hotel in Chicago, Rev. Brown hired a man with horses and lumber wagon to take the family and their possessions the additional 200 miles to Savanna, Illinois on the Mississippi River. Their rocking chair and a small chair were put on top of the boxes for Mrs. Brown and the older son to sit on during the ride.

On Monday, May 16th, the fourth stage of the journey began in the lumber wagon. After two over-night stops, they arrived in the town of Rockford, Illinois, the home of the wagon owner. Unfortunately the owner had to testify in a trial, and the family was forced to stay there until the following Monday. The delay, however, gave Rev. Brown the opportunity to preach that Sunday in Rockford’s Baptist Church, his “first sermon in the west.”

On the following Monday after a day’s ride, near Crane’s Grove, Illinois, they asked Mrs. Crane, “middle aged and stout” with a pail of milk, if they could stay there that night. She replied, “Oh, I reckon, though I am mighty tired. The old cow gives a right smart of milk, well on to half a bushel.”

The next morning, the owner of the lumber wagon discovered that he had overfed his horses and one had died. Mr. Crane was then enlisted to take the Browns, again by horse-drawn wagon, the next 18 miles to Cherry Grove, Illinois, where the next day (May 24th) another man, Mr. Gardner, took the family to Savanna, Illinois on the Mississippi River. This was the Brown family’s first view “of the mighty river, its volume then being much greater than in later years.”

The Fifth Stage: Savanna, Illinois to Charleston, Iowa

Mississippi River,    Savanna, Illinois

The fifth stage of the journey on the evening of the 24th was a ferry across the Mississippi River from Savanna to Charleston (later Sabula), Iowa where they stayed the night in the local tavern. Perhaps the ferry looked like the one pictured at the right.

The Sixth Stage: Charleston to Maquoketa, Iowa

The next morning, May 25th, Rev. Brown hired yet another man and team to take them the final 25 to 30 miles to Maquoketa, Iowa. Around midnight they arrived at their destination, Mr. C. W. Doolittle’s cabin. “With cordial frontier hospitality . . . Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle turned out and welcomed us, prepared supper and then gave us their bed, while they found lodging for themselves and family in the cabin loft. Tired and worn by the long and tedious last day’s drive we slept sweetly and soundly, four in the bed, myself, wife and two children.”

Conclusion

This six-stage journey took a month: 6 or 7 days from Warren to Utica plus 24 days from Utica to Maquoketa.

Rev. Brown served as a Baptist missionary in Iowa for most of the following 36 years, a subject that will be examined in a subsequent post.