Biography of General William H. Brown of Grand Forks, North Dakota

General William H. Brown. Probably no one stands higher in the estimation of every one in the Red River valley than our esteemed citizen, William H. Brown, first mayor of Grand Forks. As a pioneer of the place, he was one of the early residents to blaze the way for others, and to him and his contemporaries the people of this city owe a debt of gratitude.

General Brown is a native of North Hampton, Massachusetts, where he was born seventy-seven years ago, dating the event from the thirteenth of November, 1907. His father, Joseph S. Brown, was a carpenter, but at one time, served as a stage coach superintendent, in the early days of stage driving; also taking charge of a supply barn of 150 horses. His duties were similar to those of a division superintendent, but the salary was not so munificent, as he received only $12.00 per month and board. He died at the age of eighty-three years, in Grand Forks. General Brown‘s mother, was a Miss Lucinda Jones. She was a native of Deerfield, Massachusetts. She died at the age of ninety-eight, in Grand Forks.

At fourteen years of age, young Brown left North Hampton for Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he entered a hardware store and where he thoroughly mastered the principles of that line of trade, and which subsequently brought him into prominence with the commercial world.

General Brown‘s patriotism was never a question of doubt. At the breaking out of the Civil War, he entered the contest, enlisting as a private soldier on July 21, 1861, in Company B, 10th Massachusetts Regiment, serving until the close of the war, and was mustered out as first lieutenant in 1865, in Company A, 61st Massachusetts, at Arlington, Virginia, near General Lee’s old home.

Following the war period, Mr. Brown went to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he carried on the hardware business for twelve years. In 1877, he came to Grand Forks, and continued his business in the hardware line. The store stood on the corner of Third Street and De Mers Avenue; it was destroyed by fire in 1880.

General Brown was appointed mayor of Grand Forks, and served two terms. No salary was allowed at that time, but the strenuous administration of his duties while holding that office brought him honors to be coveted by any one in preference to a salary.

The General also served one term in the legislature. He accepted the nomination for this high position with the express understanding that no stringtied-requirements were to be made in case of his election. And he served his state as he had done his city to the best of his ability and best interests of his constituency.

General Brown received his title, as Colonel, from service on the governor’s staff, and that of General in consequence of a refusal of the governor to accept his resignation as Colonel in honor of his distinguished services. He was appointed on the governor’s staff by Governor Church, the first governor of North Dakota. At the close of the gubernatorial term of that office, he resigned the position to give the younger men their chance in the race of military honors, but was always appointed again, not-withstanding his resignations from that time to the present. The last governor of North Dakota, however, accepted his resignation and bestowed upon him the title of general, an honor richly deserved and which has met with general approval.

The general resides at the old homestead place, south Fifth street, where he located when he first came to Grand Forks. His son, F. A. Brown, now holding a responsible position in the Evening Times office, was recorder of the city of Grand Forks for a number of years.

W. H. Brown was sergeant-at-arms of the senate of North Dakota, for three terms, was chief engineer and ordnance officer with rank of colonel; was also register of the United States land office located at Grand Forks, was police magistrate of the city of Grand Forks for eight years, and resigned to accept the appointment of register of land office.

Colonel W. H. Brown served as department commander of North Dakota Grand Army of the Republic, and always attended all the national and state encampments, and took active part in G. A. R. matters. He was a delegate of the state on General Porter’s staff, to attend the inauguration of President McKinley’s second term.


C.F. Cooper & Company, History of the Red River Valley, Past And Present: Including an Account of the Counties, Cities, Towns And Villages of the Valley From the Time of Their First Settlement And Formation, volumes 1-2; Grand Forks: Herald printing company, 1909.

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