Joseph Newton Brown, lawyer, business man, and banker, was prominently identified with the practice of law in his part of the state and with business interests of Anderson since the close of the Civil War. He was born near Anderson, on December 16, 1832. His father, Samuel Brown, was a merchant and a planter, a solid business man, who held no public office, but made activity and integrity in business his leading aim in life. His mother, Mrs. Helena T. (Vandiver) Brown, like his father, had strong religious convictions and much of practical benevolence in life; and they both gave religious training to their son from his earliest years. His father’s father was John Brown, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, of English descent. His mother was a descendant of Jacob Van der Weer, a Dutch settler of New York in the 1650’s, who served in the Dutch Army which captured from the Swedes Fort Christina (now Wilmington, Delaware) in 1655, and settled there. Edward Vandiver, Colonel Brown’s great-grandfather, was a Revolutionary soldier, who fought at Eutaw Springs; and he had six sons who were preachers of the Baptist Church, among whom Reverent Sanford Vandiver, Mrs. Brown’s father, was prominent.

          Joseph, a healthy country boy, enjoyed the sports of hunting and fishing. He, early in life, became habituated to moderate labor on the family farm, with the Negroes who belonged to his father; and this, gave him strength and the habit of perseverance. He attended the country schools within reach of his home, old field schools. An accident to his father interrupted his attendance and he had to take a place as a clerk in his father’s store. Later he attended the classical school of Wesley Leverett, at Williamston, South Carolina.

          In 1855, when he was twenty-three, he entered mercantile life at Laurens, South Carolina. Soon afterwards he began studying law in the office of Colonel J. H. Irby. He was admitted to the bar in 1858. With his preceptor he formed the partnership of Irby & Brown Law Firm, which was dissolved by the death of Colonel Irby in 1860. A partnership with Colonel R. P. Todd, was then formed; but in 1861 both partners entered the Confederate Army. Colonel Todd attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Third South Carolina Regiment, while Joseph Brown, by successive promotions, became the Colonel of the Fourteenth South Carolina Volunteers.

          Enlisting as a private in Company D, Captain James M. Perrin, Gregg’s Regiment, on Sullivan’s Island, Janurary 11, 1861, he was transferred on March 5 to Morris Island, where he served through the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Returning to Laurens, he organized Company E of the Fourteenth South Carolina Volunteers, and as Captain of that company, he re-entered the service on August 16, of 1861. On February 20, 1863, he was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of that regiment. He became colonel of the regiment on September 17, of 1863, continuing in that command until the close of the war. He commanded the regiment in most of the important battles from Chancellorsville until April 2, 1865, when he was captured at the fall of Petersburg and was held as a prisoner of war at Johnson’s Island until July, of 1865.

          As senior colonel, McGowan’s brigade, he commanded the brigade in the battle of the Bloody Angle, Spottsylvania courthouse, Virginia, May 12, of 1864. He had commanded his regiment in the battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, and with the First Regiment, colonel McCrary’s, his men were the first troops to enter Gettysburg. He was severely wounded at Gaines’s Mill, June 27, 1862, and again at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. He participated in most of the battles of Stonewall Jackson’s corps. His military record appears in Caldwell’s book: “History of McGowan’s Brigade.”

          After his release at the close of the war, Colonel Brown returned to Anderson, South Carolina, and in October of 1865, he formed a partnership with J. P. Reed, which continued until 1874. Mr. Reed was at that time the solicitor of the Western circuit. For the next six years, Colonel Brown practiced his profession alone. From 1880 to 1888 he was in partnership with J. L. Tribble and William S. Brown. In 1888 he virtually retired from the practice of law, having acquired a large, lucrative practice as a handsome competence.

          In his political relations he was always a Democrat and he voted the regular ticket, even voting for W. J. Bryan. Although he “differed from him on financial questions,” he “was unwilling to be a bolter.”

          In 1886 and 1887, Joseph Brown was a member of the house of representatives, and drew up the bill for refunding the state debt. He took an active part in advocating the sale of the Columbia canal by the state of South Carolina to the city of Columbia. He was a director in the Anderson Cotton Mills, and the Cluck Mills. He was a public-spirited citizen, that contributed largely to various manufacturing interests of the city. Mr. Brown once gave ten thousand dollars to the Anderson Public library, to the help of bettering it’s services. In August of 1872, he took a leading part in organizing the State Savings and Insurance Bank of Anderson. He also took part in forming the National Bank of Anderson, in January of 1873. A bank which “paid good dividends for nineteen years, before closing up the business in September 1891. Paying the stockholders $470. per share on each $100. share invested.” Throughout this periods, Colonel Brown was president of the bank. Many recall with pride the fact that when the bank did close “it stood eight in point of success in the United States, and third in the South.” It was for several years the pioneer in making small loans to farmers, enabling them to purchase their supplies for cash; and it was a strong factor in beginning to make Southern planters and farmers financiers, by teaching them the value of ready money.

          On February 28, 1866, Colonel Brown married Miss Lizzie Louisa Bruce, the daughter of Thomas and Nancy Bruce, of Anderson County.

          Whatever measure of success Joseph Brown attained to his profession in business life, he attributes it to “industry, perseverance, and a strong will.” “Diligence,” he once said, “insures success.” To the youth of South Carolina he said the most helpful things he commends to attaining TRUE success in life were: “Industry, economy, and I don’t mean stinginess, temperance, honesty, and fair dealings.” To young lawyers he added, “Above all things, inspire in your clients confidence that the interest of the client is your first and leading thought, from the beginning to the end of your relationship with him and his affairs.”


Men Of Mark in South Carolina, Volume I


James Calvin Hemphill



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