Channing John Brown

CHANNING JOHN BROWN. One of the most beautiful spots in the State of Kansas is Blue Rapids in Marshall County. Besides its picturesque location near a waterfall that has furnished power for manufacturing purposes for many years the town itself was originated by a colony of very substantial people from Genesee County, New York. The secretary of this company was Mr. C. J. Brown, still living in Blue Rapids. Mr. Brown is a former state senator and for many years was clerk of the Supreme Court of Kansas.

Mr. Brown was born in Genesee County, New York, October 31, 1847. His father, John B. Brown, was born in the same county in 1816, grew up and married there and spent his active career as a farmer. He was one of the commissioners of the Genesee Colony who came out and founded the Town of Blue Rapids in 1869. His associates on this committee were Rev. C. F. Mussey and H. J. Bovee. Following them came about fifty families, comprising the Genesee Colony. A townsite of nearly 300 acres was secured, including the water power privileges, for $15,000, and in addition 8,000 acres of farming land was made available for the colonists. A stone dam was built in 1870, and in a short time Blue Rapids had attained the dignity of a city. John B. Brown himself located on a farm near Blue Rapids and lived there until he retired into the town, where he died in 1886. He was a republican and a very active member of the Baptist Church. He also belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. John B. Brown married Prudence D. Davis, who was born in Western New York in 1821, and died at Topeka, Kansas, in 1891. However, her home was at Blue Rapids. They had six children. The oldest, Alice M., is now living at Topeka, the wife of Herbert Armstrong, retired. Their son, H. L. Armstrong, is deputy clerk of the Supreme Court of Kansas. The second in age is Mr. C. J. Brown. Stella, the third child, married Charles J. McHarg, who is now superintendent of some important irrigation projects owned by his uncle Henry McHarg. Mr. and Mrs. McHarg live at Pueblo, Colorado. Walter P. Brown is the leading Blue Rapids hardware merchant, and further mention of him is made in later paragraphs. Frederick K. was formerly a merchant and afterward was stamp agent for the United States Government under Willard Hall. He died at Blue Rapids in 1910. E J. Brown, the youngest of the family, lives at Blue Rapids and is traveling representative over Northern Kansas for the Simmons Hardware Company of St. Louis.

Channing John Brown grew up in Genesee County, New York, attending the public schools of Caryville. He prepared for college at Lima, New York, and in 1865 entered Hamilton College, where he took the full four years course and was graduated A. B. in 1869.

About the conclusion of his college course he became an active factor in the organization of the Genesee Colony and was elected its secretary. He came out to Blue Rapids and had much to do with the laying out and the incorporation of the town during the following year. At the same time Mr. Brown engaged in the real estate business and actively promoted many of the earlier institutions. For a time he conducted a law office at Blue Rapids. He assisted in organizing the township, and was a member of the township board and helped to build some of the early bridges.

In 1874 he was elected a member of the Legislature and served during the session of 1875. In 1877 he became a member of the Senate, serving during the session of that year and of 1879. In 1879 Mr. Brown was appointed clerk of the Supreme Court of Kansas, and filled that office consecutively for eighteen years, until 1897. While clerk of the Supreme Court he had his residence in Topeka and continued to live there several years after the close of his term.

In 1900 he returned to Blue Rapids and engaged in the hardware business with his brother Walter P., but sold out his interest and retired in 1912. He has since developed the only important commercial orchard in Marshall County. His entire farm consists of 160 acres, adjacent to Blue Rapids on the southwest, and his orchard of many hundreds of bearing trees comprises thirty acres. Mr. Brown owns a large amount of town property, including a modern brick residence on Genesee Street. He is a republican and is now junior warden of the Episcopal Church.

In 1881, at Topeka, Mr. Brown married Mrs. Julia E. (Gilmore) Greer, daughter of William D. and Mary (Harvison) Gilmore. Her parents are both deceased. Her father was a merchant in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Mrs. Brown had two daughters by her first marriage. Grace Greer is now the wife of Mr. J. W. Gleed, a prominent Topeka lawyer, member of the firm of Gleed, Palmer & Gleed, general attorneys for the Southwestern Telephone Company. The second daughter, Florence Greer, died unmarried at Blue Rapids in 1915.

The Brown family is of old Colonial American stock. They were originally from Scotland and on coming to this country first settled in Rhode Island.

Walter P. Brown, younger brother of C. J. Brown, was born at Oak Field, Genesee County, New York, October 20, 1862. He was educated in the public schools of Blue Rapids, and at the age of eighteen left school to enter the hardware firm of Blish, Mize & Silliman at Atchison. He remained with that firm until 1888, and there laid the foundation of the experience which has made him successful in the hardware business. Returning to Blue Rapids, he established a small stock of general hardware and for a number of years was associated with his brother C. J. Brown under the name Brown Brothers. Since 1912 he has been sole proprietor of this business. The store, located on the public square in Blue Rapids, is the largest of its kind in this part of Marshall County. It supplies a district in a radius of six miles around Blue Rapids with most of its hardware, plumbing and heating equipments. Mr. Walter P. Brown is a republican. He was elected a member of the State Senate in 1908, serving during the sessions of 1909-11. In both sessions he was chairman of the fees, salary and milage committee, and a member of the ways and means committee, banks and banking committee, assessment and taxation committee and other committees. For three terms he was mayor of Blue Rapids. During his last term in 1900 he was instrumental in securing the electric light franchise for Blue Rapids. Mr. Brown, who is unmarried, is affiliated with Blue Rapids Lodge No. 169, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Topeka Consistory No. 1 of the Scottish Rite, and Abdallah Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Leavenworth. Besides his home on Genesee Street he owns the building in which his store is conducted and considerable other town property.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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