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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

John Henry Brown

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery

John Henry Brown was seventy-five years of age when he left this earth in 1895. Like so many other men who came to Texas, Brown led a colorful life filled with excitement and success.

In her piece that appears in The Handbook of Texas, Erma Baker writes that John Henry Brown was born in Missouri. His father Henry S. Brown had moved to Texas, leaving his family behind in Missouri - the elder Brown was active in Texas politics until he died in 1834.

The young John Henry was already working in a printing office at the age of twelve and was on the way to a career in the newspaper business. Although he didn't have much schooling, the youth worked for several Missouri newspapers.

However, the young man decided to move to Texas in 1837 and live with his uncle John Kerr on land near the Lavaca River. But it seems that John Henry Brown became bored with rural life and moved to Austin where he could once again work as a newspaperman.

In 1840, hostile Indians were threatening the frontier, and being a somewhat adventurous youth Brown decided to try his hand at Indian fighting - he was a private in the militia and participated in the Battle of Plum Creek. He must have been a good soldier because a year later he was promoted to sergeant.

Brown's newspaper career had to stay on hold due to another attempted invasion into Texas by the Mexican army. He became a member of John C. Hays' company after the Battle of Salado Creek. He also took part in the Somervell Expedition before returning to San Antonio.

April of 1843 would find Henry Brown back in Missouri where he married Marion Mary F. Mitchel on July 9. After two years in Missouri, Brown decided to bring his wife and return to Texas. They lived in Rock Spring and then Victoria where he went to work for the Victoria Advocate.

Always willing to defend his home, he became a major in the state militia. By 1848, the Brown family included two sons and they moved to Indianola where John Henry founded and edited the Indianola Bulletin.

By 1854, Brown was working in Galveston for the Civilian and Galveston Gazette. He was a popular man in the island city - he was elected to the state legislature and then to the mayor of Galveston. He was editor of several more Texas newspapers during his life.

When the Civil War came along, John Henry joined the Confederate army - he served on Brig. Gen. Benjamin McCulloch's staff. Later he was a member of the staff of Gen. Henry E. McCulloch until he became ill in 1863 and returned home. But always the patriot, Brown continued to serve with the Texas militia.

After the South surrendered, Brown and his family emigrated to Mexico where they settled in the Tuxpan River valley. While in Mexico he was once again in politics serving under the government of Maximilian.

The family returned to Texas in 1871 and by that time three more children had been added to the group. Brown would continue to work for newspapers after he settled in Dallas and as always, he stayed involved in politics.

Brown served as a state commissioner for locating school lands. He was a Dallas alderman and became mayor of that city from 1885 to 1887. He was also a justice of the peace.

Before he died in 1895, Brown wrote the following books: The History of Dallas County; The Life and Times of Henry Smith; Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas; The History of Texas from 1685 to 1892.

John Henry Brown joins a long list of people who came to Texas for a new beginning, and their accomplishments created an unsurpassed legacy in the history of the Lone Star State.

Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary July 11, 2020 Column



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