Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters
The History of Brown and Ives - 1638-1792 - Part I
(Includes Genealogy of the Brown Family)
Brown Family Tree

The Progenitor of the Brown family in America; Reverend Chad Brown (or Chaddus Browne) arrived at Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in July of 1638 aboard the ship "Martin" with his wife Elizabeth and young son John. Chaddus Browne was born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England around 1600. He married Elizabeth Sharparowe of  Melbourne, Bedfordshire, England on September 11, 1626. Chad Brown and his family moved to Providence, Rhode Island shortly after arriving in Boston, where along with Roger Williams and others he was a signer of the Rhode Island Compact which denied religious interference in civil affairs. 

In 1642 Chad Brown was ordained as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Providence. There has been some controversy as to whether Chad or Roger Williams was the first pastor of the church, however Reverend Brown was most certainly the first ordained minister of the church. The oldest authority available; "The History of the Baptists in America" published in 1772 by Morgan Edwards states, "Williams was pastor from the establishment of the church until he left the colony for England in 1643, and he then resigned it to Messers. Brown and Wickenden. Mr. Chad Brown died between 1660 and 1665 leaving the church in charge of his colleague.

Chad Brown's home was located at the corner of Market Square and  College Street, (Brown University now occupies a portion of this property). He was originally buried on his own property and his remains were later relocated to the North Burial Ground in 1792. The inscription on his tombstone reads as follows: 

"In Memory of Chad Brown Elder of the Baptist Church in this town. He was one of the original Proprietors of the Providence Purchase Having been exiled from Massachusetts for Conscience Sake. He had five sons John, James, Jeremiah, Chad and Daniel who have left a numerous Posterity. He died about A. D. 1665. This Monument was erected by the Town of Providence."

Chad's oldest son John, who was born in England and made the voyage on the Martin to Boston with his family was born in 1630. He married Mary Holmes of Lancashire, England in 1654 in Providence, Rhode Island. Their son, James Browne, (Elder) was born May 18, 1662 in Providence, Rhode Island. He married Mary Harris and their son Captain James Brown, Jr. was born on March 22, 1698 in Providence, Rhode Island. 

Captain James Brown and his brother Obadiah established the basis of the family fortune. James was the first Brown to enter the slave trade in 1736 with his sloop "Mary" under the command of Captain John Godfrey with his younger brother Obadiah acting as the Supercargo. Obadiah raised the four sons of his brother James after he died suddenly in 1739. Those four sons later became known as the famous "Four Brothers" of Providence. They were Nicholas (Sr.), Joseph, John, and Moses. Obadiah established the firm of Obadiah Brown & Co. with Moses Brown in 1750. Nicholas, John and Joseph joined the firm later on. After Obadiah died in 1762, Nicholas and his three brothers continued in business as Nicholas Brown & Co., which became Brown and Benson when George Benson joined the firm in 1783; then Brown, Benson and Ives in 1792 and under his son Nicholas Jr.; Brown and Ives in 1796

The Four Brothers

Nicholas Brown, Sr.
Nicholas Brown was the son of Captain James Brown and Hope Power Brown. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 28, 1729. Nicholas founded the firm of Nicholas Brown & Company in 1762 in partnership with his three brothers. The firm was engaged in every aspect of maritime trade, including sugar cane, rum, tea, silk, and initially in the slave trade. Nicholas and his brothers dispatched their ships to every corner of the globe from China to the coast of Africa. Nicholas along with Joseph and Moses had given up the slave trade by 1767, however brother John remained involved in the trade until his death in 1803. After 1765, Nicholas Brown & Co. began to diversify into other industries, including pig iron, (Hope Furnace) and spermaceti candles, (United Company of Spermaceti Manufacturers). Nicholas married Rhoda Jenckes, the daughter of Judge Daniel Jenckes in 1762 and they had ten children. After the death of his first wife Nicholas married Avis Binney, the daughter of Captain Barnabas Binney. By 1779 his three brothers had mostly withdrawn from the firm and in 1783 Nicholas formed a partnership with George Benson who began as a clerk with the firm in 1767. Nicholas Brown, Sr. died in Providence on May 29, 1791.

Joseph Brown
Joseph Brown was an early partner in the family business, but left the firm in 1784. He was born in Providence on December 3, 1733. He married his cousin Elizabeth Power in 1759. Joseph was the most active politically of all the Brown brothers; serving in the Legislature and on the Committee of Inspection, (Revolutionary War). Joseph was a noted architect and is credited with designing the Joseph Brown House, the John Brown HouseUniversity Hall at Brown University, and the First Baptist Meeting House built in 1774. Joseph Brown died on December 3, 1785.

John Brown
John Brown was born January 27, 1736 in Providence, Rhode Island. Although a partner with his three brothers in the firm of Nicholas Brown & Co., he was involved in a great many enterprises on his own. He was the primary owner of several slave ships and was a co-owner or financier on many other slave trading ventures. He owned a large plantation in Surinam, (South America). He was also engaged in the smelting of iron and in several other local businesses. John continued to be active in the slave trade long after his brothers had given it up. John Brown was an active participant in the Gaspee Affair, in fact actually supplying the boats used to board the British revenue vessel. There is some evidence that he actually participated in the raid. John remained in the slave trade until his death in 1803. In 1794 one of his ships was seized by the government for illegally engaging in the slave trade. The court case held in 1797 pitted his brother Moses Brown, a member of the "Providence Abolition Society" against John.  Although the ship was condemned, the court awarded John damages for the lose of his ship; a bitter pill for Moses and the abolitionists to swallow. John also played a part in the kidnapping of Samuel Bosworth in the case of the DeWolf slaver "Lucy's" condemnation.

John Brown was the first Rhode Islander to become engaged in the "China Trade." His ship "General Washington" departed from Rhode Island bound for the "Far East" on December 27, 1787 arriving in Whampoa, China on October 27, 1788. The firm of Brown, Benson and Ives had helped finance John's Far Eastern ventures and after noting the vast profits to be made, entered the China trade on their own in 1792 with their ship "Rising Sun." John married Sarah Smith on November 27, 1760 and died in Providence on September 20, 1803. 

Moses Brown
Moses Brown was born in Providence on September 12, 1738. He apprenticed to his Uncle Obadiah in as a clerk in 1751 and joined Nicholas Brown & Co. in 1762. He married his first cousin, Anna Brown (daughter of Obadiah) on January 1, 1764. After the death of his wife, Moses became a Quaker. Moses married Mary Olney after his first wife died and after she also died, he married again to Phoebe Lockwood. After his conversion to the Quaker faith, Moses became an Abolitionist; taking an active part in the Rhode Island antislavery movement,  freeing his own slaves and helping other slaves to escape.

Moses was an early participant in the textile industry. He formed a company with his son in law, William Almy, (Almy & Brown) in 1789 for the manufacture of cotton cloth. He became interested in the advanced techniques employed in England by the Arkwright Mills and paid the passage for Samuel Slater to come to America and build one of the new style mills for Almy & Brown. This mill built in Pawtucket, RI was the first water-powered mill in America. Moses also helped to found the Providence Bank in 1791.

In 1770 Moses helped to bring Rhode Island College (Brown University) to Providence. He also worked diligently to establish a Quaker school and in 1819, the "New England Yearly Meeting Boarding School," (renamed Moses Brown School in 1904) was established.

GO TO PAGE TWO - Brown & Ives - 1792 to 1874
Return to 1793 Brown, Benson, Ives Stampless Cover Page

RI Historical Society
Stampless I
Stampless II

Stampless III
Stampless IV
Stampless V
Stampless VI
Brown & Ives Letters
The Hazard Family Letters
Joseph Tillinghast
Free Franked Letters
DeWolf Family Letters

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1792 to 1874