William Thomas Brown, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of William Thomas Brown

WILLIAM THOMAS BROWN. The honors of worthy and definite accomplishment as a member of the world's noble army of productive workers rest upon this well known and highly esteemed citizen of Porter county, which has represented his home since his infancy and which has been the stage of his varied activities as a man of affairs and as a citizen to whom all honor is due, even as it is uniformly accorded. His have been experiences that have compassed the conditions and incidents of the pioneer epoch in this now opulent section of the old Hoosier commonwealth, and it has also been his to keep pace with the march of development and progress and by his well ordered endeavors, combined with impregnable integrity of purpose, to win for himself a success that is worthy of the same, the while he has so ordered his ways as to merit and receive the confidence and high regard of those with whom he has come in contact in the varied relations of life. All history has as its nucleus the needs and achievements of men, and to the extent that they make proper use of their abilities and powers to that degree do they contribute to the wellbeing of the world and justify themselves during the various stages of advancement. One who has lived so long and done so much of worth as has Mr. Brown needs to have no brief carried for him in determining the estimate placed upon him by the people of the county which has been his home for many long years, and such is his status in the community that it is altogether consonant that a review of his career be incorporated in this publication. Integrity and honesty have characterized him at all times and under all conditions, and his fine heart and fine mind have proved an inspiration for the higher ideals of life. In the broader view, poverty and riches are of the spirit, and it is pleasing to note that the spiritual wealth of Mr. Brown is broad and substantial, and also that in temporal affairs he has been signally prospered, with the result that he may well be designated as one of the essentially representative citizens of the fine county to which this history is devoted. His life has been a busy one, and for general knowledge of business affairs he has few equals in Porter county. Estates to be settled and amicably adjusted have received much of his attention in addition to the demands placed upon him by his own large and substantial interests. His fairness of judgment and high actuating motives have given him secure place in the esteem and affection of the people of his home county, where it may well be said his circle of friends is limited only by that of his acquaintances.

William Thomas Brown was born in Mississippi county, in the southeastern part or the state of Missouri, and the date of his nativity was September 11, 1848. He is the youngest in the family of four sons and one daughter born to Presley and Mahala (Beckwith) Brown, and of the other children only one is living, Daniel, who is a carpenter and joiner by trade but who is now engaged in agricultural pursuits, as the owner of a valuable farm near the city of Lincoln, Nebraska. Presley Brown was born in Hardin county, Kentucky, near the old home of Abraham Lincoln, and he was nursed at the breast of Mrs. Lincoln, mother of the martyred president. Presley Brown was born in 1809, as was also President Lincoln, and his death occurred on the 23d of February, 1850. He was a man of marked mechanical skill and manufactured many flatboats for use on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, but the major part of his active life was devoted to agricultural pursuits. He was numbered among the early settlers of Spencer county, Indiana, and from that state made many trips down the rivers on flatboats to New Orleans. He was a Jacksonian Democrat and he and his wife held membership in the Methodist Episcopal church. He finally removed to Missouri, but in 1849 he came again to Indiana, arriving in Michigan City on the 1st of May of that year and thence coming directly to Porter county, where his death occurred in the following year. He brought his family by boat up the Mississippi and the Illinois rivers, continued the journey by canal and from Chicago to Michigan City the family came by boat on Lake Michigan.

Mrs. Mahala (Beckwith) Brown, mother of the subject of this review, was born in Warrick county, Indiana, on the 18th of May, 1818, and she died on the 2d of March, 1880. She was reared and educated in her native county, where her parents settled in the early pioneer days, and her marriage to Mr. Brown was solemnized in Spencer county, this state. She was a kind and devoted wife and mother, instant in good needs, and her prayers and admonitions will ever live in the hearts of those who came within the immediate sphere of her gentle influence. She taught her children the enduring value of honesty of purpose and left in their hearts the most perfect monument to her memory, since it is based on love, respect and filial devotion. Her husband died in Washington township, Porter county, and his remains were interred in the old Lutheran cemetery. She herself passed the closing years of her life in Freeborn County, Minnesota, where she died and was laid to her final rest.

James Brown, great-grandfather of him to whom this sketch is dedicated, was of Scotch-Irish lineage and was himself a native of the north of Ireland, whence he immigrated to America. This staunch Scotch-Irish stock has been one to play all important part in the development of the United States, and has ever represented sterling attributes of mind and heart.

William T. Brown was but an infant at the time of the family removal to Porter county, which has continued to be his abiding place during the long intervening years. He was reared to the life of the farm and has not severed his allegiance to the great basic industries of agriculture and stock-growing, through which he has won prosperity and definite independence. He has also worked at the carpenter trade and thus followed in the footsteps of some of his ancestors. Mr. Brown's early educational training began in the log-cabin school of the pioneer days. He well recalls this primitive "temple of learning," which was substantially constructed of logs and which was twenty-four feet square. The seats were slabs supported by wooden legs crudely inserted, and the slanting desk used by the older pupils consisted of a board held in this position by pegs driven into the log wall. The room was heated by one of the old-time foot-stoves, which stood in the center of the building, and the wood for which was supplied by patrons, who held "bees" to cut and prepare the necessary fuel. This particular log school-house, in Pleasant township, was familiarly and facetiously known as the "Mud-jam" school-house, and the school was maintained on the subscription plan. Mr. Brown's first teacher was John Jones, who eventually became familiarly and affectionately known as "Old Johnnie Jones," though there is a measure of doubt concerning the affection some of his unruly pupils must have entertained for him after he had made judicious application of the chastising rod. It has been within the experience of Mr. Brown to have broken new land with ox teams, and he gained familiarity with the scythe, the old-fashioned cradle and other primitive implements of the pioneer days. His portion as a boy and youth was that of arduous and consecutive toil, but he has never failed in appreciation of the lessons gained thereby nor of the sturdy physical health engendered. He early began to work for wages and assisted in the support of his widowed mother.

On the 2d of July, 1873, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Brown to Miss Indiana Shinabargar, and to them have been born two sons and three daughters. Martha, the eldest of the children, is the wife of Silas B. Stewart, who is a skilled carpenter and who is engaged in the successful work of his trade in the prosperous young city of Gary, Indiana. Mrs. Stewart gained her early education in the district school and thereafter attended the Valparaiso high school for two years. Both she and her husband are members of the Methodist Episcopal church and Mr. Stewart is a member of the Masonic fraternity, in the adjunct organization of which, the Order of the Eastern Star, his wife holds membership. Myron P. Brown, who holds a responsible position with the Chicago Telephone Company and who resides in Windsor Park, one of the attractive suburbs of the great western metropolis, married Miss Gladys DeHart, and they have two children -- Amzetta Maple and William Allen. Myron P. Brown was afforded the advantages of Valparaiso University, which he attended for two terms after leaving the public schools, and for four years he was a successful teacher in the district schools of his native county. He and his wife hold membership in the Methodist Episcopal church and the Order of the Eastern Star, and in the regular York Rite of Masonry he has received the capitular degrees. J. Lucile Brown, who remains at the parental home, is a young woman of marked literary appreciation and many social charms, and is a favorite in the circles in which she moves. She, like others of the family, is a member of the Methodist church and she is affiliated with the chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star in the city of Valparaiso. Ross M. Brown, the younger son, was graduated in the Valparaiso high school as a member of the class of 1904, and thereafter passed two years as a student in the department of civil engineering in Purdue University. On his vacation thereafter he found employment in the great municipal city government at Gary, Indiana, and incidentally became interested in railway engineering. He finally entered the University of Illinois, where he continued his technical studies for two years and thus admirably fitted himself for successful work as a civil and electrical engineer. He resides on his farm in Washington township and is ambitious and earnest in connection with the work of his chosen profession. He wedded Miss Sarah E. Hermance January 4, 1911. She was a daughter of Abram S. Hermance of Porter county. Mrs. Brown was educated in the common schools and spent two years in the Valparaiso high school. She is a member of the Valparaiso chapter of the Eastern Star, No. 164. Mr. Ross Brown fraternally is a member of the A. F. & A. M., Lodge No. 137, of Valparaiso, also a member of the Valparaiso Chapter, No. 79, and of Valparaiso Council No. 86. The first in order of birth of the five children of Mr. and Mrs. Brown was a daughter, Minnie, who died at the age of fourteen months. Mrs. Brown was born in Porter county on the 4th of February, 1843, and has here passed her entire life thus far. She is the youngest of the nine children -- five sons and four daughters -- of John and Eleanor (Blatchley) Shinabargar, and the only other one of the children now living is Pauline, who is the widow of Henry Waddell and who resides at Burlingame, Kansas. John Shinabargar was born in Pennsylvania and was a scion of the staunch old German stock that has been so prominently concerned with the history of that commonwealth. He came to Porter county, Indiana, in 1836, and here he eventually accumulated a fine landed estate of about one thousand acres. He was one of the influential citizens and sterling pioneers of the county and was prominently identified with the development of its agricultural resources. He died November 28, 1872, when about seventy-two years of age, and his cherished and devoted wife passed to the life eternal on the 14th of January, 1874, when about seventy-three years of age. She was a native of Ohio and was of English lineage. Mr. Shinabargar was a Democrat in his political proclivities and both he and his wife were earnest and consistent members of the Baptist church. The remains of these honored pioneers rest in the Blatchley cemetery, four miles west of Valparaiso. Mrs. Brown was afforded the advantages of the common schools of the pioneer days and her gracious personality can not but beget love and respect. She has ever maintained high ideals and her loving and careful advice and solicitude had much to do with shaping the characters of her children and making them the worthy men and women which they are today. Her interests have centered in her home and she has been at all times a veritable friend in need, ready to aid those in affliction and distress and appreciative of her duties in this regard. She and her husband are both zealous members of the Methodist Episcopal church and were prominently concerned in the founding of the Pleasant View church of this denomination, as well as generous contributors to the erection of the present consistent and beautiful church edifice, which is located in Washington township. Mrs. Brown is a valued and active member of the Ladies' Aid Society of this church and she is also identified with the Valparaiso Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Mr. and Mrs. Brown began their wedded life on their present fine homestead, which then comprised but fifty-seven acres and which represented the sum of their worldly possessions. Well merited success attended their earnest efforts, and their landed estate at the present time comprises two hundred and ten acres, in Washington township -- one of the valuable and finely improved rural demesnes of the county, the land all in one body and with everything betokening thrift and prosperity. This beautiful country home has been consistently named Maple Dale Farm and is most eligibly located about four and one-half miles northeast of Valparaiso, the metropolis and judicial center of the county.

Mr. Brown, with well taken opinions and earnest convictions as to matters of public polity, has ever given a staunch allegiance to the Democratic party, and his first presidential vote was cast in support of Horace Greeley, whose ideas he considered representative of true Democratic principles. He is humanity's friend and believes in those things which make for the general good of all people, so that he finds plutocracy and corporate lust of gain abhorrent in every way. He has thus been a staunch advocate of those things which make for the best in the scheme of human life and which tend to promote general prosperity and happiness. He has not denied service in public office and in the same his course has ever shown the high principles which have guided and guarded him in all relations of life. He served four years as township treasurer of Washington township, and within his regime was erected here the fine brick school-house known as the Prattville school. He has a comprehension of the marvelous changes that have been wrought in physical, educational, industrial and general social lines, and has done well his part in progressive movements which have brought about this marvelous transformation. He stands as the best type of citizen and is known and honored for his strong and noble character and his large achievement.

In April, 1888, Mr. Brown was made a Mason, in Valparaiso Lodge, No. 137, Free & Accepted Masons, and his other Masonic affiliations are with Valparaiso Chapter, No. 79, Royal Arch Masons; Valparaiso Council, No. 86, Royal & Select Masters; and Valparaiso Commandery, No. 28, Knights Templars. As a member of the Knights Templars at Washington, D. C., in 1889; at Denver, Colorado, in 1895; at San Francisco, California, in 1904; and in the city of Chicago in 1909. In addition to his other affiliations in the city of Valparaiso he holds membership in the local chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. Mr. Brown as already intimated, is one of the pioneer members of the Pleasant View Methodist Episcopal church, and he has been one of its most earnest supporters, and the various departments of the church work have profited by his labors and deep interest. He served for years as superintendent of the Sunday school and was township superintendent of the organization of Sunday schools.

Mr. and Mrs. Brown have availed themselves of the pleasures and broadening influences of travel, in which they have visited the most diverse sections of the United States, but they have never failed in appreciation of the manifold resources and attractions of their home county and on each occasion have been glad to return to its gracious borders, here to enjoy "smiling plenty, and fair, prosperous days." Here, too, are the friends who have proved tried and true, and here they find memories and associations which cannot but hallow the old home to them for all time, so that, in their declining years, they find their lines cast in pleasant places, even as they have the loving regard of those who have passed with them along the journey of life and also of the younger generation who have grown up about them.

Source: Lewis Publishing Company. 1912. History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company. 881 p.
Page(s) in Source: 488-497

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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