Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897
[p. 17] A sketch of Mr. Browne's life might appropriately commence with the narration of the event that took place on Sept. 3, 1896. The community of New Castle and vicinity had taken occasion of "The Golden Wedding" anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Browne, and their first coming to New Castle and becoming citizens of the then borough, to give them a public reception (the parties most concerned being sent away before- hand on a vacation). The result was truly surprising. Many hundreds honored the occasion with their presence during the afternoon and evening; many more could not gain admission, because of the crush, to the church: while others sent their hearty congratulations by mail, manifesting by their expressions of regret their disappointment at not being able to be present. Old and young, contemporaries of former years and new comers, residents of the town and country, church people and others, men and women, all classes and conditions, and all without invitation except what was received through the columns of the newspapers of the city, were present, including "the grand old boys" of the war. Speeches were delivered and testimonials were made; such an ovation as Mr. and Mrs. Browne received could not have been foreseen Sept. 3, 1846, when they were married in Oakland, now a ward of the city of Pittsburg.
The anniversary occasion also stood in some sense connected with important events both in the life of this honored couple and in the history of the community during the intervening years. These events perhaps few living to-day were permitted to view face to face, but had it not been for them, the present enjoyable and instructive event could never have been enacted. Fifty years ago, New Castle was a village of about 1,600 inhabitants with four or five general country stores, doing much business with the farming people and mostly on the credit and barter system; a grist-mill; an oil-mill; a rolling- mill and nail factory; and another soon to begin work. The village had canal communications with Lake Erie on the one hand and the Ohio River on the other. It was a part of the County of Mercer on its north, while its outlying citizens on the south were in Beaver County. The county of Lawrence was not yet organized, the date of its separation being 1849. The borough only grew into a city in 1869, when the city charter was secured by Mr. Browne, as State Senator at that period for the district. Now, after the close of a half-century, there are many miles of streets paved with asphalt and vitrified brick, instead of the mud and dust of the earlier period. Gas lights and electric lights have made encroachments on the realm of darkness, that formerly prevailed during the night hours. Trolley cars traverse the streets. The sound of the boatman's horn is heard no more. In its stead, however, are the whistles of the locomotives on four great railroad lines, that afford rapid and comfortable communication with all parts of our wide domains. The fires of numerous furnaces help to illumine the night, while the smoke of many mills veils the sky by day. Four little one-story school houses and an intermittent academy have given place to seven graded schools with over 3,000 pupils and seventy-seven teachers, including a high school department. During these fifty years, no matter what changes have taken place from time to time, Mr. Browne has been continuously engaged in the work of the ministry of the gospel. He had been licensed three and one-half years earlier, and ordained one year and nine months before he took up his Master's work in New Castle. His education from childhood had pointed to the work of the ministry, and whatever else besides ministerial duties came to him, the ministry was the burden and theme of his life.
But his convictions of political responsibility, as an American citizen led him to oppose American slavery, and so affected his subsequent history. These convictions came to him early. He experienced them when the term "Abolitionist" was often invested with odium and false meanings; when fealty to slavery was made the test of loyalty to the union; and to train with professed Union-savers in politics was the path of peace. This was the period when Mr. Browne became a pastor in New Castle, his two preaching places, Shenango and East Brook, being some miles out of town. The voters of his flock and the citizens generally were all voting the Whig and Democratic tickets, except a small, but growing number, who were branded as "Abolitionists," and laughed at for "throwing their votes away," or abused as being responsible for the defeat of some favorite candidate if the contest became too close. The new pastor under these circumstances secured a hearing as he desired it; accorded every man his rights, and exercised his own; prayed for the slaves; spoke against slavery on fitting occasions; and voted against it always on election day. There was a growing ferment all the time among the political elements, with the result that by 1856 one of the old parties was retired from the stage of national politics, and in 1860 the other was broken into two irreconcilable sections. Meanwhile the bloody pro-slavery invasion of Kansas and John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry had startled the nation. A new party had been called to the front, which, under its leader, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, was strong enough to administer for peace and war, and to crush the greatest rebellion of modern times.
The war at last had burst. Loyal men all over the land were responding to the call to arms. Lawrence County promptly sent 167 men to the front. Three months later, a regiment for a three years' enlistment followed, a large portion of which was made up of Lawrence County men. This was the famous "Roundhead Regiment"—the 100th P.V.I. Dr. Leasure was its commander, and Mr. Browne was the chaplain. These were the two men who had called the first meeting in New Castle some years before in aid of the Free State settlers in Kansas, much of this aid taking the form of Sharp's rifles for defence against border ruffians. The enlistment of the new regiment dated from August 29. The chaplain was given leave of absence by his congregation for one year, by which time it was then thought the rebellion would be suppressed. How the loyal expectations of the North were disappointed! When the year was completed, the outlook was indeed disheartening, for the Union Army had just suffered one of its greatest defeats in the Second Battle of Bull Run. The chaplain's leave, in consequence of that defeat, was lengthened from twelve to twenty-eight months. The term of service of those twenty-eight months was truly a remarkable one.
The regiment had a wonderful experience of wide and varied service, transportation by railroad and by ocean and river navigation for long distances, to Newport News, South Carolina, to James Island in the first siege of Charleston, to Newport News again, to Acquia Creek, to Fredericksburg, to the Rapidan, to Bull Run, to South Mountain, to Antietam, back again to Fredericksburg, to Baltimore, thence to Lexington, Ky., and Camp Dick Robinson, to Vicksburg and Jackson, Miss., back to Kentucky, and thence across inland mountain ridges and rivers through Cumberland Gap to Knoxville, Tenn., where, after repulsing Longstreet's forces and helping to secure Grant's great victory at Chattanooga, the regiment re-enlisted in the dead of winter, and having received their veteran furloughs marched North again over that rugged country and in that fearful winter to the railroad connections at Nicholasville, Ky. It was a great feature of Chaplain Browne's history to have shared in most of these hardships and dangers, by field and flood, facing disease and battle, being a member of the column on the march, and of the host in bivouac or camp, through summer's heat and winter's cold. In Beaufort, South Carolina, he was seized with spotted fever, from which he recovered with a hardened liver. The chaplain's presence was a marked feature of the regimental life. The nightly Psalm of Praise at his services often was carried on the night breezes to listeners in the enemy's lines.
Mr. Browne applied for and received his discharge in Eastern Tennessee. It came to him after the siege of Knoxville and the repulse of Longstreet. He reached his home from Blaine's Cross Roads, the point of starting, by the circuitous route of Chattenooga and Stevenson, Alabama. It was during the wild winter storm of that season, that had inflicted itself on all the country from Alabama to the pole, and through which his recent comrades were on the march across the mountains and rivers of Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. After a journey of nearly a thousand miles, he arrived at his home in the middle of January, 1864, and immediately resumed his pastoral duties. He found himself soon after his return beset and crowded from many points with invitations and appointments, and was expected to do a thousand and one incompatible and impossible things. Under such a strain, and because of exposure past and now undergone in his pastoral duties in the winter when rest was needed, his health broke down. It was clearly beyond his reach to accomplish all that was at once expected of him publicly and privately, socially and professionally. At the time of his discharge he had engaged to write a history of the regiment till that date. It has not yet been accomplished.
Other events, however, should be mentioned as included in the 15 years which preceded Mr. Browne's army life. These were events of his personal ministerial and pastoral work on which he entered upon his first arrival in New Castle in 1846. Although he resided in the town, his people were mostly in the country, with two out-of-town places of preaching. The parish was twelve miles long and twelve miles wide. It included the two congregations of East Brook and Shenango. The labor involved was great. It required travel and included visiting the families pastorally and socially, with ministrations to the sick, catechizing, preaching in school houses at odd times, and in general and special the usual ministerial duties of a country pastor. The country, too, by this time was requiring new organizations at new points, adjusted to the growth of the population. New Castle and New Wilmington were two of these, and "The Harbor" was a third. All these demanded for a time the pastor's fostering care and extra service of preaching on his part to prepare the way for new laborers yet to be called. And all this was in the first instance while he yet was in connection with the other two congregations which were his special charge.
The New Castle congregation was organized Dec. 2 , 1849. The church edifice was built by Joseph Kissick, Robert Cochran, George Henderson, Capt. James Leslie, Samuel F. Cooke, and a few others. The corner-stone was laid on a bleak day in May, 1849. It is the building in which the golden anniversary was held. At the outset Mr. Browne had twelve church members in the town. The congregation was organized as a church with thirty-two members. The pastor was relieved of the pastoral charge of his East Brook congregation which had claimed a half of his time to devote that half to New Castle. He resuscitated and for one year took charge of the New Castle Academy.
In 1850 he organized the New Wilmington Church. In 1852 he organized "The Harbor" Church, and ministered to it for one year. He was still ministering to the Shenango flock. Only half of his time was as yet taken up by New Castle. It was a day of small things. Mr. Browne's congregation now (1897) numbers almost three hundred souls. Eight years ago, a second congregation was organized with ninety-three dismissals from the parent body, and this offshoot, planted in the eastern part of the city, has now grown to be a prosperous church of four hundred members. The population of the city is about 22,000.
The second year after Mr. Browne's return from the army he was invited to accept a nomination for the State Senate. The invitation was made unanimous by his fellow Republicans of the county. The nomination was confirmed by the conferees, and the result was his election, and his discharging the duties of Senator for the sessions of 1866, 1867 and 1868, sitting for the district comprising Lawrence, Butler and Armstrong counties. The honor thus conferred was to him a grateful recognition of his advanced convictions of years before, which had now become the policy of the State and Nation. His action, votes and speeches on record were in accordance with the just expectations of his constituents.
Before his third session in the Senate commenced, he was induced to accept the presidency of Westminster College, New Wilmington. This required his resignation of his congregation and removal to the latter place. After three years in this connection he resigned it, and filled temporary appointments in Cleveland, Leavenworth, and Titusville, residing one year in the latter place, which was the only year in fifty in which he had not continued to be a citizen of the county of Lawrence. Rev. J. W. Bain had succeeded him as pastor of his New Castle congregation, but he having resigned, Mr. Browne was recalled by the congregation, and in October, 1873, entered upon his second pastoral term. This continues till this time.
In 1875, upon the repeal of the Local Option Law of the State, he was made the standard- bearer of the Prohibition Party as gubernatorial candidate. He received a vacation of two months from his congregation, during which period he made a very notable canvass of the State.
His action in this candidacy was in harmony with his life-long convictions. These have logically allied him to every cause of reform, the maintenance of government, law and order and the preservation of the Christianity of the institutions of State and Nation against all assailants, whether born on the soil or importations from foreign lands.
Mr. Browne's parents, David Lyons Browne and Sarah (Miller) Browne, each born in County Tyrone, Ireland, embarked for America in 1812, being with their parental families emigrants to America. They were respectively eighteen and seventeen years of age. At their marriage in 1817 they became Pittsburgers. Their children were mostly born in Pittsburg; but Robert Audley their third son, was born in Steubenville, Dec. 3, 1821, during a two years sojourn of the family in that place. From his infancy he was reared in Pittsburg under the ministry of Dr. Joseph Kerr and his eloquent son and successor, Joseph Reynolds Kerr. His education was in its schools, including his college course in the Western University under the presidency of Rev. Robert Bruce, D.D., a very learned graduate of the University of Edinburgh. Here also he had for instructors Hon. Thomas Mellon and Rev. Alexander Young, D.D., LL.D., men who acquired distinction and did honor to Western University, also their Alma Mater, and here he received his degree of A. B. in 1840. In the Allegheny Theological Seminary he had for instructors the eminent Dr. John T. Pressley and the refined and learned Dr. Jas. L. Dinwiddie. In the seminary he was of the class of 1844, but was licensed to preach the gospel March 29, 1843. At the time of the great fire of Pittsburg, April 10, 1845, he was engaged in his second year as stated supply in the Second Associate Reformed congregation. The church was totally destroyed by the fire. Mr. Browne obtaincd the first collections from abroad to secure their second place of worship, after which he was free to release himself from his late informal pastoral relations. A year later he began his settled pastorate at New Castle.
Mr. Browne was born, baptized, reared licensed and ordained in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian, now the United Presbyterian Church. He is descended by blood and church connection from the Covenanters of the West of Scotland. Tradition points to a noble ancestor in the person of that Capt. John Browne mentioned by the Ettrick Shepherd in his tale, "The Brownie of Bodsbeck," who was wounded by a sabre stroke at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, June 22, 1679. The Millers, his mother's family, were of kindred Scottish Presbyterian stock. Of this same stock also were Mrs. Browne's ancestors, on the one side, namely, that of her mother, Rebecca Johnston, while her father, William Eichbaum, was Prussian, as his name indicates; he for seventy years from his boyhood in Pittsburg stood abreast of the foremost citizens of that great growing comniunity.
Mr. Browne is a member of the Regimental Association of the 100th P. V. I., an honorary member of Post 100 of the G. A. R., and a companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States—the latter honor conferred for "having been specially distinguished for faithful services in maintaining and defending the honor, integrity and supremacy of the United States of America." In 1865 his Alma Mater conferred on him the degree of D.D. He was Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the year 1869.
There are few citizens of Lawrence County so prominent, so well known, and so universally respected as is Dr. Browne. Three distinct life-phases have been included in his career, namely, that of pastor, army chaplain, and politician and legislator. In all his diversified relations he has borne himself fittingly and with the dignity requisite to the station. His friends are legion, and are to be found in all the walks of life. Few portraits in this volume will meet an equal amount of interest as his, which we have placed on a preceding page.
Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897
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