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Reverend Edward Brown

Minister of the First Congregational Church of De Smet, 1880-1884.

Next Sunday will be the fifth anniversary of the organization of the Congregational Church of De Smet. The occasion will be appropriately observed. Rev. Edward Brown, the first pastor, will preach the sermon. – De Smet Leader, July 11, 1885

Edward Brown was born in Colebrook, Connecticut, November 1, 1814, the son of the Honorable Frederick Brown and Chloe (Pettibone) Brown.

John Brown’s cousin? In Little Town on the Prairie (Chapter 17, “The Sociable”), Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that Reverend Brown claimed to be a cousin of famed abolitionist John Brown. The two were indeed first cousins. Both John and Edward were grandsons of Captain John Brown (born 1728) of Wintonbury, Connecticut. Edward Brown’s father, Frederick (born 1769), was younger brother of John Brown’s father, Owen (born 1771). John Brown was born in 1800 in Torrington, Connecticut. Although this was six miles from Colebrook, John Brown moved to Ohio almost ten years before Edward was born. The two later lived about forty miles apart, however, south of Cleveland, Ohio.

Edward Brown was educated in Connecticut, Ohio, and Indiana, and he was ordained to the Congregational ministry in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in January 1854. He served as Home Missionary in Wisconsin and Minnesota through 1866.

Brown married Eliza Jane Johnson in May 1844, in Indiana. They had four children: Florence, Marian, Ellen, and Marcus. Eliza Brown died January 29, 1864.

November 2, 1867, Reverend Brown married Laura Jane Goodale in West Salem (La Crosse County) Wisconsin. Laura was born October 8, 1828, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Prior to June 1870, they adopted a daughter, Ida Belle Wright. In 1880, the family moved to Kingsbury County, Dakota Territory.

In August 1881, Reverend Brown filed on a preemption claim southwest of De Smet. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about visiting Ida here in These Happy Golden Years (Chapter 18, “The Perry School”), saying that they could see the Wessington Hills from the hill on the property. Today, “Brown’s Hill” is a residential subdivision in De Smet, with homes covering the same hill that Laura and Ida once roamed.

Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder were married at Reverend Brown’s home on August 25, 1885 (see These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 33, “Little Gray Home in the West”).

Laura Brown died in De Smet on September 9, 1889. She was buried in the De Smet Cemetery, her grave originally marked with a large triangular rock from the Brown homestead. On March 23, 1895, Edward Brown died while visiting Ida at her home in West Superior, Wisconsin. Although his obituary reported that he was buried in West Superior, he was believed to have been buried in an unmarked grave beside his first wife in Oak Grove Cemetery, West Salem, Wisconsin. The fate of Mrs. Brown’s rock marker is unknown; in 1982, the De Smet Congregational Church replaced it with commemorative markers for both Reverend and Mrs. Brown, shown here.

De Smet Congretational Church. Reverend Edwin Alden conducted the first religious services in the Surveyors’ House near the townsite of De Smet, on February 29, 1880. He was appointed to have charge of the mission field by Superintendent Stewart Sheldon, missionary in charge of Dakota Territory. In May 1880, Reverend Alden relinquished his mission field to Reverend Brown.

In June 1880, Reverend Brown organized a Congregational church, conducting services in the railroad depot. The first recorded members were Mr. and Mrs. C. P. Ingalls, Mary Ingalls, the Reverend and Mrs. Edward Brown, Mr. and Mrs. S. N. Gilbert, and Visscher V. Barnes. All joined by letter from other churches. Barnes, Charles Ingalls, and S. N. Gilbert were elected trustees. In November of that year, a certificate of organization was issued to the First Congregational Church of De Smet by the Secretary of the Territory of Dakota. Click HERE to see some early records of the De Smet Congregational Church.

In 1881, the Congregational Church moved to raise $1000 for the building of a sanctuary. The Congregational Church Building Society offered to loan them $500 provided the same amount could be raised. During January 1882, the shell of the new church had been completed. One of the fundraisers held in the new building was a “New England Supper” sponsored by both the Congregational Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church; the two congregations shared the building for services. The supper was held on Thursday, January 10, 1882, and according to the De Smet News and Leader, “a fine Dakota pig, roasted whole, was the feature of the occasion.” Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about this New England Supper in Little Town on the Prairie (Chapter 19, “The Whirl of Gaiety”).

Reverend Brown resigned in August 1882, asking that his resignation take place in six months. As no replacement could be found, he was asked to remain as pastor of the church for one year following the January 1883 board meeting. In August 1883, he was again asked to remain for the following year. His resignation became official on October 26, 1884.

In January 1885, Reverend Jonathan T. Otis took charge of the De Smet Congregational Church. Reverend Otis had been pastor of the Lake Preston Congregational Church for several years. Owing to ill health of his wife Rebecca, Otis had planned to leave Dakota and return to his home state of New York, but was persuaded to take charge of the De Smet church instead. The Otis’s son, Arthur, taught the Lake Preston town school.

Mark A. Brown. Marcus Aurelius Brown was born in October 1853 in Wisconsin, the son of Edward and Eliza Brown. In 1882, Mark Brown settled in De Smet, homesteading west of the slough from Charles Ingalls. He was editor of the De Smet News and Leader from 1882 to 1884. Brown was elected to the De Smet Township School board in 1883. July 9, 1884, he married Laura M. Dudley from La Crosse County, Wisconsin, and the Browns remained in Wisconsin. A son was born in May 1885 (Reverend Brown’s first grandchild). Because of his own ill health, Mark Brown moved his family to Texas in October 1885. He died there in August 1887.


Edward Brown family
     Edward (LTP 11, 16-21, 23, 30-33; THGY 4; PG)
     Laura (LTP 11, 17, 19, 23, 33; THGY 4, 11-12; PG)
     Ida Brown (LTP 11, 13-17, 19-21, 23-24; THGY 1, 4, 6, 11-13, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 33; PG), see Ida Belle Wright