Melville C. Brown
Few men are able to speak more authoritatively concerning the history of the great west and its development than Hon. Melville C. Brown, who has been extensively identified with mining interests in various sections of the country and who in the practice of his profession has tried cases in many states west of the Mississippi. As lawyer and jurist he has attained a high reputation and as one of the pioneer attorneys of Wyoming has left the impress of his individuality upon the judicial history of the state. He dates his residence in Laramie from 1868. arriving in this city when a young man of thirty years.
He was born in Kennebec county. Maine, on a farm near the city of Augusta. August 16, 1838, a son of Captain Enoch Brown, who was also a native of the Pine Tree state and was a seafaring man. The father was descended from one of the old families of New England, whose founder, Peter Brown, came to the new world in the Mayflower and established the family soon afterward in Connecticut. From the same ancestry came John Brown, the apostle of freedom. Captain Enoch Brown was united in marriage to Sarah S. Reed, a native of Maine and a descendant of Colonel Reed of the British army, who settled in Maine in early colonial days and commanded a regiment of British forces. Mrs. Brown was born in Newcastle, Maine, and spent her last days in Kennebec county, that state. In the year 1850 Captain Enoch Brown, who hitherto had been a ship builder on the Atlantic coast, started for California following the excitement concerning the discovery of gold in that state. The day after his arrival in San Francisco he was taken with inflammatory rheumatism and for a year was unable to do anything. His brother-in-law took him from San Francisco to Sacramento and there, after a year spent in an effort to recover his health, he purchased a hotel which he conducted for about a year, although still in an invalid condition. He was afterward taken to Butte county, California, where in the mountains he recovered his health. He then turned his attention to mining in California and Idaho and spent his last days near Centerville, in Boise county, Idaho, where 'he passed away at the age of sixty-eight. To him and his wife were born nine children, seven sons and two daughters who reached adult age.
Of that family Hon. Melville C. Brown was the fourth in order of birth. After attending the common schools of his native state he continued his education in an academy of Maine and studied for college in the old Hallowell Academy and also at Waterville, Maine. When eighteen years of age he started from the Atlantic coast for the Pacific, settling in Oroville, Butte county, California, where he engaged in merchandising and in mining, remaining a resident of that place until 1862, when he removed to Idaho, settling at Florence, then a new mining camp. Later he went to Boise county, Idaho, where he studied the profession of law in the office and under the direction of Judge Kelley. He was elected to the legislature of Idaho, in which he served for one term, at which period the general assembly convened in Lewiston. He was appointed assistant assessor of internal revenue during the second administration of President Lincoln and acted in that capacity for two years, practically organizing the office. On the death of Calvin Bodfish, assessor, who was also a native of Maine, Judge Brown became his successor and continued in that office for two years, when he resigned. He became interested in important mining deals and followed mining in Idaho successfully for a considerable period. It was Judge Brown who took the first quartz mills across the plains in 1865, at which time th Northwestern Railroad had not yet been extended to Council Bluffs, Iowa. He operated very largely in mining in those days and after disposing of his mining interests in Idaho in October, 1867, he located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he entered upon the practice of law. That was the only city in the state in which court was at that time held. This section of the country was then largely an unsettled and undeveloped region, the railroad not having reached beyond Cheyenne. In 1868, however, Laramie became the terminus of the Union Pacific and in May of that year Judge Brown removed to Laramie, arriving on the 1st of the month by stage. It was on the 10th of May that the first train made its appearance in the city. Laramie has since been his home with the exception of the period which he spent in Alaska and in Seattle. In 1900 he was appointed United States judge for the district of Alaska by President McKinley and spent five years in the far northwest. On his return to the States he settled in Seattle, where he engaged in law practice for three years and then returned to Laramie, where he resumed the practice of law, in which he continued until his retirement from active life. He has practiced and tried cases in every county in the state and in various other states. During his active career he has appeared in litigation in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and other western states and while the Union Pacific Railroad was in the hands of a receiver he acted as assistant to the chief, who was ex-Governor George Hoadley of Ohio, who was appointed to that position by the president.
On the 20th of May, 1874, in Laramie, Judge Brown was united in marriage to Miss Nancy W. Fillmore, a native of Manlius, New York, and a daughter of the late Luther Fillmore, who came to Laramie as the superintendent of the Union Pacific Railroad during its construction. Her mother was in her maidenhood Miss Susan J. Pock. The Fillmores are of the same ancestry as was President Millard Fillmore. Mrs. Susan Fillmore passed away at the home of her son-in-law, Judge Brown, in Laramie, while Mr. Fillmore died in Oakland, California. To Judge and Mrs. Brown were born three children. Adelaide Fillmore is the wife of Major H. D. Coburn, of the United States Army, by whom she has two children: Eleanor Coburn, twelve years of age; and Melville Brown, aged five years. Ethel J. married Colonel Robert W. Mearns, a graduate of West Point and now in the regular army. Susan J., the youngest of the family, is at home. Colonel Mearns and his wife have two sons, Robert J. and Fillmore. Judge Brown is justly proud of his four beautiful grandchildren.
In politics Judge Brown has always been a stalwart republican since the organization of the party and is one of its recognized leaders. He was a member of the second legislature of the territory of Wyoming and was mayor -of Laramie for a two years' term. Fraternally he is identified with the Masons and his religious faith is that of the Presbyterian church, in which he has filled all of the offices and is now an elder for life. His history if written in detail would present a clear and accurate picture of the development of the west, for since 1856 he has been identified with the great region west of the Mississippi and has been an active factor in the upbuilding of this wonderful empire, contributing to the utilization of its natural resources, to the upholding of its legal status and to its advancement along social, material, intellectual and moral lines. The record of no man in public life in Wyoming has been more faultless in honor, fearless in conduct or stainless in reputation than that of Judge Melville C. Brown, today one of the honored pioneer settlers of the state of Wyoming, fast approaching the eightieth milestone on life's journey.