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James S. Brown

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James S. Brown
James Sproat Brown.png
James Brown ca.1860-65
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1865
Preceded byJohn F. Potter
Succeeded byHalbert Eleazer Paine
13th Mayor of Milwaukee
In office
April 1861 – April 1862
Preceded byWilliam Pitt Lynde
Succeeded byHorace Chase
1st Attorney General of Wisconsin
In office
June 7, 1848 – January 7, 1850
GovernorNelson Dewey
Preceded byA. Hyatt Smith
(territorial government)
Succeeded byS. Park Coon
Personal details
Born(1824-02-01)February 1, 1824
Hampden, Maine
DiedApril 15, 1878(1878-04-15) (aged 54)
Chicago, Illinois
Resting placeForest Home Cemetery
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Political partyDemocratic
  • Elizabeth Shepard
    (m. 1855; died 1863)
  • Emily Jane (Pierce) Stetson
    (m. 1865)
  • Clarence S. Brown
  • (b. 1856; died 1925)
  • James P. Brown
  • (b. 1859; died 1913)
MotherMelinda (Padelford) Brown
FatherEnoch Brown
Professionlawyer, politician

James Sproat Brown (February 1, 1824 – April 15, 1878) was an American lawyer and politician who became the first Attorney General of Wisconsin. He also served one term as mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and represented Wisconsin's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives during the 38th Congress (1863–1865) as a member of the Democratic Party.

Early life and education

Brown was born in Hampden, Penobscot County, Maine, to Enoch Brown and his wife, the former Melinda Padelford, on February 1, 1824. He received private education from Professor Joseph Emerson Worcester, completing a college-level education by the time he was 16. His father died that same year. The 16-year-old Brown moved west to Cincinnati, Ohio, studying law and learning to speak German, supporting himself by teaching school. Because the Ohio State Bar Association did not permit members under age 20, Brown was admitted to the neighboring Kentucky Bar Association at age 18.[1]


Brown remained in Cincinnati and was admitted to the Ohio State Bar in 1843. While living there, he became acquainted with Catholic priest Father John Henni who, in 1843, became the first Archbishop of Milwaukee. In 1844, Archbishop Henni convinced Brown to follow him to Milwaukee. Although only 21, Brown quickly distinguished himself as an attorney in the Wisconsin Territory and, in 1845, was elected prosecuting attorney of Milwaukee County.[1]

Brown soon established a law partnership with Thomas L. Ogden, who was from New York (and with whom he lived),[2] and James Halliday. In 1848, in the election that also ratified the Constitution of Wisconsin, Brown was elected on the Democratic Party ticket as the state's first Attorney General—he was 24 years old.[3] Though a candidate for renomination in 1849, the Democratic party instead nominated S. Park Coon at their convention in Madison on the first ballot.[4]

In the heated political climate preceding the American Civil War, an arsonist tried to burn down his house in 1858 but only succeeded in destroying a woodshed. Brown was also part of a group that attempted to establish a law school in Milwaukee, but failed, so the fledgling Milwaukee Bar Association remained a social group. Elected—without opposition—the 13th mayor of Milwaukee in 1860, Brown took office in 1861 and restored the city's credit, as well as purchased the city's first steam engine fire truck and paid fire company.[5] He declined to run for re-election in 1862, facing criticism for his handling of a bank riot in June 1861 as well as for cuts in the police budget.[6]

Instead in 1862, Brown ran for Congress as a War Democrat and defeated incumbent Republican John F. Potter to represent Wisconsin's 1st congressional district. He served one term in the United States House of Representatives during the 38th Congress, from March 4, 1863, to March 3, 1865. In 1864 he ran for re-election but was denounced as anti-Union and ultimately withdrew from the race. Union General Halbert E. Paine, a Republican, succeeded to the seat. Brown would challenge him and lose in 1866.[6]

After his loss in 1866 and suffering from health problems, Brown traveled to Europe with his second wife, Emily. By 1869 the Browns were in Dresden in the Kingdom of Saxony (present day Germany). They returned to the United States in 1873, where he practiced law once again in Milwaukee and managed his various real estate investments.[6]

Personal life and family

Brown married twice. His first wife, the former Elizabeth Shepard (1835–1863) of New York, was a decade his junior and they had sons Clarence S. Brown (1856–1925) and James (1859–1913).[7] Mrs. Elizabeth Brown died in 1863 shortly after Brown began his term in Congress.

In 1865, after leaving office, Brown married Emily J. Stetson (1815–1902) the widow of former Maine Congressman Charles Stetson, who had died in 1863. They had no further children, and she survived him.

Brown's elder son Clarence was also elected district attorney of Milwaukee county, serving in the 1890s.

Death and legacy

Brown died in 1878 in Chicago, Illinois, at age 54, survived by his two sons and second wife. After a service in his Milwaukee home led by a Unitarian minister, his body was interred beside his first wife at Milwaukee's Forest Home Cemetery, where his sons would also be buried. His former house in Milwaukee (a double structure he built in 1852) survives, the oldest house in the former Yankee Hill neighborhood, and is a historic site.[6] His son Clarence Brown graduated from Harvard Law School and became an alderman.

Electoral history

Wisconsin Attorney General (1848)

Wisconsin Attorney General Election, 1848[8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election, May 8, 1848
Democratic James S. Brown 17,788 56.00%
Whig Henry S. Baird 13,975 44.00%
Plurality 3,813 12.00%
Total votes 31,763 100.0%
Democratic win (new seat)

Wisconsin Attorney General (1849)

Wisconsin Attorney General Election, 1849[4]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Vote of the Wisconsin Democratic Convention, September 6, 1849
Democratic S. Park Coon 34 54.84%
Democratic James S. Brown (incumbent) 14 22.58%
Democratic George Baldwin Smith 5 8.06%
Democratic Edward George Ryan 4 6.45%
Democratic F. C. Fairchild 2 3.23%
Democratic Experience Estabrook 2 3.23%
Blank 1 1.61%
Plurality 20 32.26%
Total votes 62 100.0%

U.S. House of Representatives (1862)

Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District Election, 1862[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election, November 4, 1862
Democratic James S. Brown 12,598 55.56% +10.09%
Republican John F. Potter (incumbent) 10,077 44.44%
Plurality 2,521 11.12% +2.07%
Total votes 22,675 100.0% -23.67%
Democratic gain from Republican Swing 20.17%

U.S. House of Representatives (1866)

Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District Election, 1866[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
General Election, November 4, 1866
National Union Halbert E. Paine (incumbent) 14,678 58.77% +10.09%
Democratic James S. Brown 10,298 41.23% -7.87%
Plurality 4,380 17.54% +15.73%
Total votes 22,675 100.0% -7.31%
National Union hold


  1. ^ a b "Politics and Official Honors". Memoirs of Milwaukee County. Madison, Wisconsin: Western Historical Association. 1909. pp. 135–137. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  2. ^ 1850 U.S. Federal Census for Ward 1, Milwaukee, Wisconsin shows him in a household with fellow lawyer
  3. ^ "The Bar". History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Chicago: Western Historical Company. 1881. p. 664.
  4. ^ a b "Proceedings of the Democratic State Convention". Wisconsin Argus. Madison, Wisconsin. September 18, 1849. p. 2. Retrieved August 6, 2020 – via
  5. ^ "Brown, James Sproat 1824 - 1878". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d "Historic designation study report | James S. Brown Double House" (PDF). City of Milwaukee. September 2005. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  7. ^ 1860 U.S. Federal Census for Ward 7 of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, family 9
  8. ^ "Wisconsin Official Canvass". Watertown Chronicle. Watertown, Wisconsin. June 21, 1848. p. 2. Retrieved August 6, 2020 – via
  9. ^ a b "Wisconsin U.S. House Election Results" (PDF). Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 5, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2020.

External links

Party political offices
New state Democratic nominee for Attorney General of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
S. Park Coon
Legal offices
Preceded by
A. Hyatt Smith
(Wisconsin Territory)
Attorney General of Wisconsin
1848 – 1850
Succeeded by
S. Park Coon
Political offices
Preceded by
William Pitt Lynde
Mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1861 – 1862
Succeeded by
Horace Chase
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John F. Potter
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1865
Succeeded by
Halbert Eleazer Paine
This page was last edited on 22 August 2020, at 00:06
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