Biography of Newton J. Brown of Sugar Grove Township, Iowa

A life of intense and well directed activity has made Newton J. Brown the owner of an excellent farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Sugar Grove township, Dallas county. He now resides in Minburn and has made his home in Iowa since the 18th of April, 1838. He is therefore one of the oldest settlers of the state. His birth occurred in Union county, Indiana, on the 6th of June, 1837, his father being Matthew Brown, a native of North Carolina, while the grandfather was Colonel Brown, a soldier of the Revolutionary war, who held a commission and served throughout the period of hostilities in defense of the colonial cause. Some years after the establishment of American independence he removed to Indiana, casting in his lot with the early settlers of Union county. He was a man of good education and was a government surveyor. He and his son Matthew were afterwards sent to Iowa to make the surveys for a number of cities in the eastern part of the state.

Matthew Brown was reared in the Hoosier state and attended the primitive schools there at an early day but was largely self-educated. Having reached adult age he was married in Union county to Miss Julia Brumage, a native of Virginia, who in early life became a resident of Indiana. Matthew Brown followed general agricultural pursuits in Union county, that state, and be and his wife continued to reside there until after the birth of five of their children. During the infancy of their son Newton they removed to Iowa, settling in Muscatine county on the 18th of April. There the father entered land and opened up a farm. The Indians still roamed at will over the greater part of the state and white men had hardly penetrated into some districts of Iowa. The broad, unbroken prairies stretched away for miles and the forests were uncut and the rivers unbridged. Indeed there were few indications of civilization in the entire state save along the river, but a few brave and courageous spirits had dared to venture into the state and had made settlements, thus planting the seeds of civilization upon the western frontier. Matthew Brown continued to engage in farming and in the development of a good home for his family until 1842, when, at the comparatively early age of thirty-six years, he was called to his final rest. His wife survived him, reared a family and died in 1893.

Newton J. Brown, whose name introduces this review, was not quite a year old when brought by his parents to Iowa, and amid the wild scenes of the frontier he was reared, sharing in the hardships and privations which usually come to those who establish homes amid pioneer conditions. He worked on the farm as soon as old enough to handle the plow and remained with his mother until his marriage. In Muscatine county, on the 16th of October, 1862, he wedded Miss Vesta C. Ferry, who was born in Burlington, Iowa, but was reared in Muscatine county and subsequently engaged in teaching prior to her marriage. Her parents were Captain Silas and Flavia (French) Ferry, who were married in Hornellsville, New York. Her mother, who was born in Massachusetts in 1806, died in Burlington, Iowa, in 1850, while her father, whose birth occurred in Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, in 1800, passed away in Muscatine county, Iowa, in 1863. In 1835 he removed to Burlington, where as a contractor he engaged in grading the streets, and in 1855 became a resident of Muscatine county, the remainder of his life being devoted to farming. His father, John Ferry, was a soldier of the war of 1812, and his grandfather fought under General La Fayette for American independence in the Revolutionary war. He came to the United States with two brothers and after peace was restored they were granted a large tract of land in Pennsylvania for their services.

After his marriage, Mr. Brown rented a farm in Muscatine county for fifteen years, and then removed to Dallas county. He bought land in the winter of 1875 and moved on to this in 1878. He broke the prairie, built a good house and opened up his farm, bringing the fields under a high state of cultivation as he raised various cereals. He also put up a good barn, granary and cribs and built a pen for his hogs. The drainage was greatly improved by the use of tiling, and he divided the place into fields of convenient size by well kept fences. He has today one of the best improved farms in Sugar Grove township and although Iowa was once largely bare of all trees, it being a great broad prairie, he now has about his home a fine growth of maple, evergreen, ash and other trees. The land is well kept and the place is most pleasing in appearance, being known as Greenwood Home. In connection with the tilling of the soil Mr. Brown raised and fed stock, and continued his active farming operations until 1904, when he purchased his residence in Minburn and rented his land. On land adjoining Mr. Brown’s is a cemetery organized by him and his neighbors, which is known as Greenwood Cemetery, and around Sugar Grove school No. 1 is a grove of trees planted by him and ha family which will always remain a monument to them.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Brown have been born thirteen children, of whom five sons and five daughters are yet living, namely: Harvey W., who follows farming on the old homestead and is married and has ten children; Professor H. C. Brown, president of the Northern Iowa Normal Business College, who is married and has five sons; M. A., who resides in Adel; Bertha L., the wife of C. E. Basart, a pharmacist at Minburn; George E., who is engaged in the lumber business in Minneapolis; Flavia M., the wife of H. F. Everett, a business man of Iowa Falls; Elsie S., who is a graduate of the Columbia College of Expression at Chicago, and is now a teacher of oratory and expression in that city; Professor Clyde F. Brown, who is principal of the schools at Cromwell; Hattie B., the wife of Rush Shortley, a banker of Spokane, Washington; and Elma E., a teacher in the schools of Spokane. The two daughters who have passed away are Emeline, who died June 6, 1867, at the age of sixteen months; and Laura E., who died in infancy on the 17th of February 1888; A. W., who followed teaching in Wisconsin, Dakota and Iowa, died April 27, 1907.

Mr. Brown is a member of the Masonic fraternity, being affiliated with Minburn lodge, and he and his wife are connected with the Order of the Eastern Star, Mrs. Brown being chaplain and treasurer of the local chapter. Mr. Brown votes with the democracy and proudly cast his first presidential ballot in 1860, supporting Stephen A. Douglas. Be has never failed to vote at a presidential election since that time but he would never accept political office. He has served, however, as school director and clerk of the district for some years. He is well known as an active business man and progressive citizen and until a recent date continued to personally supervise and operate his farm but has now retired to enjoy a well earned rest, having valuable property which has come to him through his earnest and diligent efforts.


Wood, Robert F., Past and Present of Dallas County, Iowa, Chicago, IL: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1907.

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