Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Brown, Chad

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BROWN, Chad or Chadd, elder in the Baptist church. The dates of his birth and death have not been definitely ascertained. He died, probably, in 1665; but the colonial records were largely destroyed during King Philip's war, ten years later, and it can not be verified. Concerning the trans-Atlantic origin of the Rhode Island Browns or Brownes (for the final vowel was in early times used or omitted indiscriminately) little is known. In Burke's “Encyclopædia” more than 150 heraldic escutcheons are described as the property of as many families bearing the name. The difficulty is obvious of identifying the particular one from which sprung the founder of the first American branch. Chad Brown came over in the ship “Martin” in July, 1638. His name appears as a witness to the nuncupative will of a passenger who died on the voyage. About this time occurred the “anabaptist heresy,” and many of the Boston colony removed to the Providence plantations. It is probable that Mr. Brown was among these, for his tombstone, erected by the town, bears record that he was “exiled from Massachusetts for conscience' sake.” The date of his arrival can not be exactly fixed, although some authorities erroneously place it as early as 1636; but the most probable date is the autumn of 1638, when Roger Williams and twelve others executed what is known as the “initial deed,” assigning the lands acquired by purchase from the Indians. Mr. Brown at once became a leader in the affairs of the colony, and when, after a few months, the restless Williams, finding that the church would not implicitly accept his teaching, again seceded, Mr. Brown was chosen as his successor. He was formally ordained elder in England in 1642, assumed the pastoral office on his return, and was in reality the first elder of the oldest Baptist church in America. Prior to his ordination serious dissensions had arisen in the colony, involving a quarrel with Massachusetts, and Mr. Brown was one of a committee appointed to make peace. He served also as town surveyor, and with two others compiled a list of the original divisions or grants of land. The original of this list (1660) is still on file in the clerk's office of Providence. During his pastorate arose the controversy respecting “the laying on of hands,” which resulted in the secession of the “Five-principle Baptists” from the original society, a schism that lasted until long after Elder Brown was laid to rest in his own home lot. His influence in shaping the early tendencies of the colony was marked, and it is probable that, but for his resolute character and judicious management, the daring and refractory spirits that composed the colony would have come to blows on a dozen different questions of civil and religious import. So successful was he in adjusting the quarrels of his flock that the honorable title of “Peacemaker” was popularly accorded him, and more than a century after his death (1792) the town of Providence voted a modest sum of money to erect a stone over his grave in the north burying-ground, whither his remains were moved at that date. He was married before coming to this country, and had five sons. — John, eldest son of Chad, b. in England about 1630. He came to America at the age of eight years and settled with his parents in Providence. He appears to have been a man of influence in the colony, and was appointed, in 1662, with Roger Williams and Thomas Harris, to make up the town council. The date of his death is not known. — James, second son of John, b. in Providence, R. I., in 1666; d. there, 28 Oct., 1732. He became the colleague, and afterward the successor, of the Rev. Pardon Tillinghast, in charge of the Baptist church. He married Mary, the granddaughter of William Harris, who came to Providence with Roger Williams, and had ten children, of whom James was b. in Providence, R. I., 22 March, 1698; d. there, 27 April, 1739. He engaged in active business and became a successful merchant of Providence. In 1723 he married Hope Power, the granddaughter of Rev. Pardon Tillinghast, and had one daughter, Mary, and five sons — James, Nicholas, Joseph, John, and Moses, of whom the last four are known in Providence annals as the “Four Brothers.” — Nicholas, b. in Providence, R. I., 28 July, 1729; d. there, 29 May, 1791. He was left an orphan at the age of ten years, and the early death of his elder brother, James, made him the senior representative of the family. On coming of age he could readily have claimed a double portion of his father's property, as, under the existing colonial laws, he was entitled to the inheritance of his brother James. Setting aside all legal rights in the matter, he divided that portion equally among his brothers and sister. He followed mercantile pursuits, and thereby acquired a very ample fortune. His success was largely due to habits of industry and punctuality which he assiduously observed throughout his career. Mr. Brown was a believer in the Baptist faith, and a careful observer of its forms, although he never made a public profession of that religion. He was liberal with his wealth, and a constant benefactor of the college and other public buildings devoted to religion or science in Providence. He was twice married, and his son of the same name survived him. — Joseph, b. in Providence, R. I., 3 Dec., 1733; d. there, 3 Dec., 1785. He was likewise engaged in business, and in manufacturing, and acquired sufficient wealth to permit him to follow his natural taste for science. He was greatly interested in the science of electricity, and his knowledge of that subject was remarkable for the time. At his death he left an electric machine of his own construction, then unsurpassed by any other in the country. He devoted considerable study to mechanics and was proficient in astronomy. His attention having been directed to the arrangements in course of preparation for the proper observation of the transit of Venus in 1769, he sent to England for suitable instruments, and subsequently an account of the observations made in Providence was published by Prof. Benjamin West, later professor of natural philosophy in the college. Mr. Brown was a warm friend of the college, and was one of its trustees from 1769 till 1785. In 1770 he received the honorary degree of A. M. from the college, and from 1784 until his death held the chair of natural philosophy, giving his services to the institution without compensation. He was a consistent member of the Baptist church, and he was the only one of the four brothers who ever made a public profession of religion. — John, b. in Providence, R. I., 27 Jan., 1736; d. there, 20 Sept., 1803. The most energetic of the four brothers, he became a very wealthy merchant, and was, it is said, the first in Rhode Island to carry trade to China and the East Indies. He was the leader of the party that destroyed the British sloop-of-war “Gaspée” in Narragansett bay on 17 June, 1772, and was sent in irons to Boston on suspicion of having been concerned in that affair, but released through the efforts of his brother Moses. Anticipating the war of the revolution, he instructed the captains of his ships to freight their vessels on their return voyages with powder, and he furnished the army at Cambridge with a supply when it had not four rounds. He was chosen delegate to the continental congress in 1784, but did not take his seat. Later he was elected to congress, serving from 2 Dec., 1799, till 3 March, 1801. Mr. Brown laid the corner-stone of the first building of Rhode Island college, now Brown university, to the endowment of which he was one of the largest contributors, and was for twenty years its treasurer. A view of some of the buildings is given on page 395. —

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Moses, b. in Providence, R. I., 23 Sept., 1738; d. there, 6 Sept., 1836. He was brought up in the family of his uncle, Obadiah Brown, whose daughter he married, and a portion of whose estate he inherited by will. In 1763 he became engaged in business with his three brothers, but, after ten years' active experience, withdrew to follow more congenial interests. Although brought up in the Baptist faith, he became, subsequent to severe domestic affliction, a member of the Society of Friends, and remained until his death a firm adherent to the doctrines of that society. He exerted a strong influence in all its concerns, and filled many of its important offices with dignity and usefulness. The Friends' boarding-school in Providence was founded by him, and his donations to its support were frequent and liberal. In 1773 he manumitted his slaves, and was one of the founders of the abolition society of Rhode Island. He was also an active member and liberal supporter of the Rhode Island Peace and Bible societies. —

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Nicholas, philanthropist, son of Nicholas, b. in Providence, R. I., 4 April, 1769; d. there, 27 Sept., 1841, was graduated at Rhode Island college in 1786, and in 1791 the death of his father left him with a handsome fortune. Forming a partnership with his brother-in-law, Thomas P. Ives, he became a merchant, and, by his wisdom and honorable dealing, made the firm of Brown & Ives one of the most successful in the country, notwithstanding the dangers with which commerce was threatened by the French revolution and the war of 1812. For many years he was a member of the Rhode Island legislature, and was a delegate to the Harrisburg convention of 1840, which nominated Harrison to the presidency. He was one of the most munificent patrons of Rhode Island college, which, in 1804, changed its name to Brown university in his honor. His donations to the college amounted in all to nearly $100,000. In 1804 hs gave $5,000 to found a professorship of oratory and belles-lettres. In 1822 he erected the second college building, which he presented to the corporation in a letter dated 13 Jan., 1823. At his suggestion it was named Hope college in honor of his only surviving sister, Mrs. Hope Ives. In 1835 he erected the third building, requesting that it be named Manning hall, after Dr. Manning, who was president of the college during his undergraduate days. He also gave $10,000 toward building Rhode Island hall and the president's house. Mr. Brown was officially connected with the college for fifty years, during twenty-nine of which he was its treasurer. He was chosen a trustee in 1791, and was a member of its board of fellows from 1825 till his death. Besides his donations to the university, he gave nearly $10,000 to the Providence Athenæum, liberally aided in the building of churches and the endowment of colleges and academies, and bequeathed $30,000 for an insane asylum, to be established at Providence. See Hunt's “Lives of American Merchants” (New York, 1856). — Obadiah, merchant, the only son of Moses, b. in Providence, R. I., 15 July, 1771; d. there, 15 Oct., 1822. He engaged in business with William Almy, and they associated with them Samuel Slater, who introduced into this country the spinning of cotton by machinery on Arkwright's principle, under the firm-name of Almy, Brown & Slater. The business developed very largely under their management, they became very wealthy, and the source of support to a large population. Mr. Brown continued in the religious faith of his father, and, as he had no children of his own, distributed his wealth among deserving objects of public and private charity. His benefactions were extended to worthy enterprises in all Christian bodies, although his principal donations were to the Friends' boarding-school, founded by his father, to which he left $100,000 by his will, to form a permanent charitable fund. — John Carter, merchant, son of the second Nicholas, b. in Providence, R. I., 28 Aug., 1797; d. there, 10 June, 1874, was graduated at Brown university in 1816, and at once entered his father's counting-room, becoming, in 1832, a partner in the business. Mr. Brown was part owner in several cotton-factories, and was interested in business enterprises in Rhode Island, New York, and elsewhere. Although an active merchant, he continued his interest in literary topics, and gathered a fine library of Americana prior to 1800, which was considered the most complete in the world, and its treasures were freely placed at the service of scholars. On several occasions he sent to eminent historians in Europe books that, if they had been lost, could not have been replaced. The library contained the most complete known collection of the “Jesuit Relations”; the letters and journals of the Jesuit missionaries in North America, embracing forty-eight volumes; books relating to the settlement and history of New England, scarcely an important work being wanting; volumes relating to Spanish and Portuguese America, the north polar district, and other regions of North and South America. It comprised in all 6,235 separate works or titles, of which an elaborate catalogue was prepared by John Russell Bartlett, and printed (4 vols., 8vo, 1865-'71). Mr. Brown was liberal in his gifts for educational purposes, and gave to Brown university more than $160,000, which was devoted principally to the erection of a fire-proof library building. He was a trustee of the university from 1828 till 1842, and a fellow from 1842 till 1874. On his death he left about $50,000 to charitable institutions in Rhode Island. A full account of this family is given in the “Life, Times, and Correspondence of James Manning, and the Early History of Brown University,” by Reuben Aldridge Guild (Boston, 1864). See, also, “Historical Sketch of the Library of Brown University,” by the same author (New Haven, 1861).