Biography of Capt. John D. Brown
Decatur County, IA Biographies





Captain John D. Brown, of Leon, Decatur county, has been signally honored by the Grand Army of the Republic, having been elected commander of the Department of Iowa at the state encampment in June, 1912. He has also served as state senator and is widely known throughout Iowa. A native of Huron county, Ohio, his birth occurred on the 1st of August, 1840, and his parents were Hugh and Harriet A. (Burns) Brown. The paternal grandfather, Thomas Brown, was born in the north of Ireland, of Scotch-Irish parentage. When a young man he crossed the Atlantic to the new world and settled in the state of New York. During the War of 1812 he fought in the American army and thus gave indubitable proof of his patriotism. The maternal grandfather was James Burns, a native of Scotland and a descendant of Robert Burns, the famous and much beloved Scotch poet.

Hugh Brown was born in the Empire state but when a young man emigrated to Ohio and there followed the occupation of farming. In 1854 he came to Decatur county, Iowa, and purchased five hundred acres of land, to the cultivation of which he gave much of his time. He was also a miller, however, and bought one of the first flour mills built in Decatur county, and he likewise engaged in merchandising to some extent. At the time of his arrival in Iowa there were no railroads in the state and it required twenty two days to make the round trip with oxen to Burlington, the nearest market. He was a prominent and influential man and served in a number of offices, including that of county supervisor. To him and his wife were born the following children: James E.; Susan, who married K. J. Bartlett; Frances, the wife of Robert Farquhar; Thomas H., who served in the Union army for four years during the Civil war and was a staff officer in the commissary department; John D., of this review, whose twin died in infancy; Melissa, who gave her hand in marriage to A. C. Northrup; William A. and George W., both deceased; and Walter P.

Captain John D. Brown accompanied his parents to Garden Grove, Iowa, in 1854 and was reared upon the homestead in Decatur county His education was received in the public schools and in the Garden Grove high school and in 1861, when a young man twenty one years of age, he enlisted in the Union army as a private in Company L, Third Iowa Cavalry. Before entering the field he was promoted to lieutenant of his company and afterward was made captain thereof. He saw a great deal of active service, participating in hard fought battles in' Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia His command was a member of the army which under General A. J. Smith met General Forrest at Harrisburg and participated in the battle of Tupelo, where General Forrest's army was practically disorganized. Returning to Memphis, Captain Brown's command was ordered to cross the Mississippi river into Arkansas and join the forces which were to engage General Price. That well known Confederate leader was marching north with his army to invade Missouri and was considerably in advance of the Federal troops which were pursuing him. However, the two forces met at Independence, Missouri, and as the result of the battle General Price was driven back. In a charge across the Big Blue, in Missouri, Captain Brown fell, shot through the right hip. For two days and nights he was left upon the battlefield and would doubtless have perished if Lot Abram, his predecessor in the office of department commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, had not seen him in marching past and given him his canteen of water. Captain Brown was eventually taken to Kansas City and thence to St. Louis, where he remained until he recovered from his wounds. As soon as he was able he rejoined his regiment and participated in battles in various parts of the south. His regiment was sent to Columbus, Georgia, where there were several thousand Confederates on parole, as it was feared that an attempt might be made by the southerners to rescue Jefferson Davis, who had been captured, when he was brought through the city under guard of thirty cavalrymen. General Upton, in command of the Federal forces in Columbus, detailed one hundred men from the Third Iowa Cavalry, under Captain Brown, as an additional guard to make sure that the prisoner was not rescued by the Confederates. However, no demonstration or attempt at rescue was made. On the 9th of August, 1865, Captain Brown was mustered out at Atlanta, Georgia, and on the 20th day of September he was paid off at Davenport, Iowa, after which he returned to his home at Garden Grove.

He gave his attention to agricultural pursuits and for many years engaged in farming and in the stock business. He raised stock extensively and also bought and shipped a large number of cattle and hogs each year, from the sale of which he derived a substantial return. He studied the markets carefully so as to secure the highest price possible and as his animals were in good condition when sold they were readily disposed of. He still owns several fine farms in Decatur county and supervises their operation, although for a number of years he has resided in his beautiful home in Leon. He also is part owner of the Hotel Continental at Centerville, Iowa.

Captain Brown has always taken a great interest in matters relating to the general welfare and has been especially concerned in regard to the agricultural development of his county and state. For nine years he was a member of the board of directors of the Iowa State Fair and was a member of that body when the present beautiful fairgrounds at Des Moines were purchased His knowledge of public questions, his clear insight and marked public spirit fitted him eminently for service in the legislature and in 1909 he was elected as state senator from the fifth district and became one of the leaders in the upper house. He was chairman of the committee on military affairs and a member of the committees on appropriations, railroads, agriculture and highways. He was listened to with much respect in committee rooms as it was recognized that he made a careful study of the questions involved in the various measures to be reported upon and he proved a convincing speaker on the floor of the house. He introduced a number of important bills that later became laws, including the bill to establish a board of inspectors whose business it should be to inspect the gasoline sold in the state. This bill was bitterly opposed by the Standard Oil interests but its supporters led by Captain Brown made such a splendid fight for its adoption that it was passed. He served for two terms and his record shows that he was at all times loyal to the best interests of the common people. He has also been a member of the county board of supervisors and takes much interest in local governmental affairs.

Captain Brown is justly proud of his military record and has for years been a prominent member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He has been willing to serve the organization in any way possible and his devotion to its interests has been recognized and rewarded, as in June, 1912, at the state encampment at Mason City he was unanimously elected department commander, an honor which he fully deserved. There was never the slightest question as to his efficiency or loyalty as a soldier and officer and he was equally distinguished by generosity and appreciation of the fine qualities of his foes. He cherishes the following letter which he received from a Confederate and which bears witness to his magnanimity:

"Okolona, Miss., July 22, 1909.

"Captain J D Brown will please accept this little poem, not only as a token of personal esteem, but of grateful remembrance of his kindness in protecting my home and family when defenseless and in the power of his soldiers, for which the name of Captain Brown will ever be remembered as a generous foe, who made a friend while life lasts.

(Signed) Colonel James Gordon."


Captain Brown has been twice married, his first union being with Miss Clara C. Hoodley, a daughter of Merwin iloodley and a graduate of Hiram College. She was a student in that institution when James A. Garfield, who later became president of the United States, was its president and there learned much of his personality and ability. She was a member of the Christian church and was baptized by Mr. Garfield. By her marriage she became the mother of two children: Elmer J., who married Miss Etta Stone and has six children, John O., Harry B., Thomas R., Hugh, Margaret C. and George W.; and E. J., who died when two years of age. The wife and mother died on the 23d of June, 1903, and on the 25th of October, 1905, Captain Brown married Anna E. Thissell, widow of Charles Thissell. Her father, William West, was born in North Carolina but removed to Massachusetts when a young man and her mother was born and reared in the Bay state, where they were married.

There is no more highly esteemed or more popular resident of Leon than Captain Brown and all of his friends and acquaintances have rejoiced' with him in the honors that have been bestowed upon him and all hold him in high regard as a man and as a citizen.

From:
History of Decatur County, Iowa
And its People
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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