BROWN, William
Back Up Next

Brown, William, of Paxtang, thus designated in the act for the erection of the county of Dauphin to distinguish him from Capt. William Brown, of Hanover, a cousin. Of the ancestry of this prominent man and citizen we have the following: John Brown, "the pious carrier" of Muirkirk parish, Ayrshire, Scotland, was captured by Graham, of Claverhouse, and his troops the first of May, 1685, and ordered to take the oath of conformity, which he refused to do. Claverhouse bid him go to his prayers, because he had but a few minutes to live. He did pray with such power that when Claverhouse ordered his men to fire upon him they refused, and with a pistol and an oath he blew his brains out, and then turned to the widow and said, "What thinkest thou of thy husband now?" She answered, "I ever thought meikle of him, but never so meikle as I do this day." He said, "It were but justice to lay thee beside him." She answered, "If you were permitted, I doubt not but your cruelty would go that length; but how will you answer for this morning’s work?" "To man I can be answerable, and as for God I will take him into my own hand, " he replied and rode away. She laid down her child, tied up her husband’s head with her apron, stretched out his limbs, covered him with her plaid, and sat down and wept long and bitterly. Without means, without a friend to help, and liable to be persecuted, she was at her wit’s end. But God cared for her and removed her to Ireland, where she found friends, and where she married again. From this second marriage sprung the Weir family of our county. John Brown’s sons were James and John, both of whom came to America about 1720, the former settling on the Swatara, the latter in Paxtang. A son of John, born 30th of June, 1720, was William Brown, of Paxtang. He was a prominent actor in Provincial and Revolutionary times, a representative man on the frontier, and as might be supposed a zealous Covenanter. At his own expense he visited Ireland and Scotland on behalf of his religious brethren to procure a supply of ministers, and brought over the celebrated divines Lind and Dobbins. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1776, and during its sessions proposed the gradual emancipation of slaves within the Commonwealth, a measure not very favorably received at the time, but which four years afterwards was enacted into a law. He served again in the Assembly in 1784, and was a member of the Board of Property December 5, 1785. He was afterwards, October 2, 1786, appointed one of the commissioners to superintend the drawing of the donation land lottery. Mr. Brown died on the 10th of October, 1787, and is buried in Paxtang church graveyard. He was not only an active, earnest and public-spirited Christian, of unquestioned piety of heart, but as a neighbor and citizen generous and kind-hearted, which insured respect and won friendship. He had no children, but to his paternal and loving care are we indebted for the education of his distinguished nephew, Rev. Matthew Brown, LL.D., president of Washington and Jefferson College.

These were the men who a century ago fulfilled the trust confided to them. They were all Scotch-Irish Presbyterians – all save one born in the Paxtang of old – and all save one rest beneath the hallowed God’s acre which lies within the shadow of that historic landmark, Paxtang church. The founder and his friends (for they were his warm personal friends) lie within the same enclosure. They were but human, it is true, yet they were men who never shrunk from the fulfillment of duty, and we of to-day in calling up their names and honoring their memories will do well to follow their example.