Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


William Brown

[p. 587] Lawrence County, although not including coal-mining as one of her chief industries and sources of wealth, for she is not so favorably situated as some of her sister counties in that respect, and depending mainly on her surpassing agricultural and manufacturing interests for her excellent showing, yet has no small number of mines and banks still untouched. Without doubt the largest and best conducted mine in the county is the one at Chewton in the southern part of Wayne township, which the P. & W. Co. operates. The mine is only a three-foot vein but is advantageously worked by means of an incline; it is situated on the bluffs above Chewton. The mines were put in operation and have since been superintended by William Brown, the subject of this biography, whose acquaintance with mines and mining methods is unsurpassed by that of anyone in this region. The P. & W. Co. was indeed fortunate in obtaining the services of such a mining expert, for if there is any success to be had in the development of a mine, he is the one to find it and secure it.

The gentleman named above was born in Schuylkill Co., Pa., Sept. 10, 1844, and was a son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Potter) Brown, who were both natives of Dudley, England, and tenants on the estate of the Earl of Dudley. The father of Elizabeth Potter was a mine operator, leasing his mine from the Earl of Dudley; it was practically equivalent to being a mine owner in this country, for, as evervone knows, in the Old Country there are very few men of small holdings, and nearly everybody leases from the landed proprietor who is generally found in the ranks of the nobility. Thus Mr. Potter was in very comfortable circumstances and gave his children all the advantages that could be readily obtained where he lived at that time. His father was a soldier in the British Army under the Duke of Wellington, at Waterloo, as was also our subject's grandfather, Brown. William Brown's father, Thomas, mentioned before, was a lad of about seven years when that decisive Victory over the French took place, which sent the ambitious world-conqueror to the Island of St. Helena, and he remembered well the talk of the victory and the fact that his father was a participant. From that tender age he began working in the mines, and his whole life was devoted to that industry. Thomas Brown emigrated with his family from England about 1837 or 1838, settling first in Nova Scotia, where he remained a few years, but he was not taken with the country and the climate was too cold to please him. Coming from there to New York, via the Boston & Fall River route, he shortly afterwards settled near Pottsville, Schuylkill Co., Pa., where he had charge of extensive mines, and where our subject was born. Later he moved to Lock Haven, Pa., where he resided a few years, going from there to Irving Station, and thence to Freeport, located on the Allegheny River, where he was prominent in mining circles, and accumulated a comfortable competency in real estate and other property. Intending to spend his declining years among his kinsfolk in Nova Scotia, he sold his property in Pennsylvania and in 1866 moved to that British province. He found, however, that he could not live contented on the Queen's soil, for he was not in harmony with the institutions of the Dominion, having become a naturalized citizen of the United States, and a true sympathizer of the "Stars and Stripes." On his return to the States he settled at Leetonia, Ohio, which place continued to be his home until his death in 1873 at the age of sixty-four.

Our subject lived in Schuylkill County until be was eight years of age, when his parents moved to Lock Haven, remaining there a few years and eventually going to Irving Station and finally taking up their residence in Freeport. In all of these places he attended the common schools, and finished his education at the age of sixteen, thereupon becoming a mine-worker, commencing at the lowest station and working his way to the top. When nearly of age, Mr. Brown enlisted in Co. C, 14th Reg. Pa. Vol. Inf., under Col. McCombs, serving one year in the emergency. The bloody battle of Antietam was the only one in which his regiment participated during its year of service, it being employed the rest of the time in chasing the enemy from point to point, but never succeeding in bringing on an engagement more than a slight skirmish. He was mustered out at Harrisburg at the close of the war.

Resuming the work and duties of civilian life, Mr. Brown removed with his parents to Nova Scotia, where he at once took a prominent part in the mining industry, and, according to the regulations of the company and the laws of the Dominion, became a member of the militia company stationed there. He was offered an officer's commission, but refused it, for he was only obliged to spend one-seventh the time as a private as he would have as an officer. When his parents again removed to the States at the end of a year, Mr. Brown remained behind four months longer, as the wages he was receiving were quite remunerative, and he did not know just how soon he might do as well in his native country. When he finally did come back to this country, he settled with his parents at Leetonia, which continued to be his home for many years.

From his boyhood up Mr. Brown has taken an intense interest in mining, a taste that was largely hereditary, for his ancestors for a number of generations in both branches of the family had looked to mining as the means of supporting themselves and family; so it was natural that when choosing his walk in life he selected that to which he was the best adapted by birth and training. His knowledge has been gained by experience in all the grades of work, and also from the best works on practical mining, written by men whose authority in such matters is supreme. Our subject is known as one of the most efficient experts in mining matters in the Ohio Valley, being called into consultation when new mines are to be opened and old ones are to undergo development in new directions. When it was decided by the B. & O. and P. & W. Co. to open mines of their own to supply their motive power, the officials of the road, who were old schoolmates and intimate friends of Mr. Brown and knew well his excellent standing among mine operators, turned to him for his opinion as an expert on the venture, and to locate, open and develop their mines. He accordingly selected a spot on the bluffs above Chewton, where the three-foot vein of excellent steam coal should be opened, and superintended the construction of the incline and of the chutes by which the coal is distributed with no unnecessary handling, and with a speed and efficiency that is truly surprising, as it is very unusual. Mr. Brown has unusual tact in managing men. Having begun at the bottom of the ladder he knows their good points as well as their faults, their natures and their needs, and at the same time possesses executive ability to employ them to the best advantage of his employers, looking always to the rights and privileges of the men, and respecting them. When he must use the iron hand of discipline and show his authority, the sting of the blow is tempered by its judicious use. It was through Mr. Brown's management that the mines at Leetonia were nearly trebled in their output by putting in an incline; the measure was eventually worked out there in less than half of the time it would ordinarily have taken.

Mr. Brown was married in Leetonia to Emma Byerly, a native of Washingtonville, Columbiana Co., Ohio, and daughter of Christopher and Barbara (Grimm) Byerly, the former of whom died May 6, 1897. The Grimms were among the pioneers of Leetonia, Washingtonville, the suburb of that city being located on the old Grimm farm. The union of our subject and his excellent companion has been blessed with six children, namely—Arthur, who is his father's clerk and bookkeeper at the mines; Curtis, who is learning the machinist's trade and a noble young man; Charles Clyde, Lillie May, and Ada Edna. Mr. Brown was reared an Episcopalian and still adheres to that faith. Mrs. Brown is a member of the M. E. Church, while Arthur, the eldest son has united himself to the Lutheran Church. In politics Mr. Brown is a Republican and has been a local leader in the various towns in which he has lived. He has served as president of the school board, and has been a member of the town council. He is treasurer of the Miners' Society, and was always elected their spokesman in convention and assemblies. He serves in county conventions, and was a member of the delegation that attended the unveiling of the Garfield Monument. Socially he is a member of the Knights of Pythias, Welcome Lodge, No. 279, at Washingtonville, Ohio.

Mr. Brown has always taken a lively interest in educational matters, serving frequently on school boards and giving his best talents in such services. He was a member of two library associations in Washingtonville, and is now a member of the association at Wampum, the borough across the river from his present home. He is a reader and thinker, giving especial attention to general scientific subjects, as well as to all that pertains to mines and mining, his chosen vocation. As a practical mine operator, and a fitting representative in many particulars of one of our most important industries, the publishers take pleasure in presenting Mr. Brown's portrait in connection with this, a brief outline of his life and works, his likeness appearing on a preceding page.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

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Updated: 19 Jul 2001