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,
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
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,
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
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
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 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,
War). Joseph was a noted architect and is
credited with designing the Joseph Brown House,
the John Brown House, University Hall
at Brown University, and the First Baptist Meeting
House built in 1774. Joseph Brown died on
December 3, 1785.
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 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,
(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