William T. Brain


Portrait And Biographical Record Of Northern Michigan
Containing Portraits And Biographical Sketches Of Prominent
And Representative Citizens
Record Publishing Co., 1895

William T. Brain. This well known business man of Manistee was born in Birmingham, England, on the 21st of October, 1840. In 1853 he crossed the ocean to New York, and in the fall of that year arrived in Jonesville, Hillsdale County, Mich., where he remained for a number of years. He is a son of Richard and Mary E. (Nelson) Brain, the former of whom is a builder and contractor by trade, and is now living in Allegan, at eighty years of age.

June 19, 1861, Mr. Brain enlisted in Company C. Seventh Michigan Infantry, under Capt. Henry Baxter. The engagements in which he participated were principally in the East, and among them were the battle of Edward's Ferry, in 1861; that of Ball's Bluff, where Col. Baker was killed; Winchester, Malvern Hill, the second battle of Bull Run, South Mountain, and many other memorable engagements. At Antietam, September 17, 1862, he was wounded by a gunshot in the left foot, while charging a battery of the enemy. His Captain was wounded at the same time, and the company lost heavily. He was serving as Orderly, and took in thirty-seven able men, but only four privates left in the field. Even later, when the slightly wounded rejoined the company, there were but ten men in all.

After receiving the wound, Mr. Brain was carried away from the battlefield, and was taken to a barn that had been temporarily converted into a hospital. For six weeks he was in a hospital in Washington, whence he was sent home on a sixty days furlough. Though offered a full discharge, he refused, but two months later he was discharged at Detroit and prohibited from re-enlisting on account of his wounds. The bones of his foot were shattered to such an extent that he has never fully regained the use of it, and in partial compensation for his injuries he was granted a pension by the Government.

While standing in the line of battle on the last day of the memorable seven-days conflict, the sun shone fiercely upon the field of stubble, without any shade to break the powers of its rays, that Mr. Brain was overcome by the heat, and on making the last charge of that last day he lost all consciousness. For some hours he lay under fire from the enemy, but was finally carried off the field. He was unable to rejoin his command until the next day, but recovered in time to help haul up the heavy siege guns at Malvern Hill.

After his discharge from the army, Mr. Brain resumed work at his trade as a mason in Jonesville. In that city, December 31, 1863, he married Miss Mary A. Smith, a native of Hillsdale, where he worked at his trade. In the fall of 1864 he was in the employ of the Government at Chattanooga, Tenn., where he put furnaces in a rolling-mill built by the Government for the purpose of re-working the old rails that had been torn up during the war. He also built piers for the Atlanta railroad. While in the South the famous Hood campaign occurred, and for two months all supplies were cut off and he was forced to live on quarter rations. As an instance of the high price paid for provisions, it may be stated that for a dried-apple pie he was obliged to pay $2.

Returning to the North in the spring of 1865, Mr. Brain located at Dowagiac, Mich., where he remained for a few months. He then went to Bear Lake, Manistee County, and located a homestead which he began to improve. In October, 1866, he moved his family to the land. He then entered the employ of T.J. Ramsdell, the contractor for the first union school building in Manistee, on which he worked until the completion of the structure. Much of his time afterward was spent in this city, though he did not move here from his farm until 1872. Among the buildings constructed under his supervision are the Jones and Nungesser Blocks, Captain Smith's building, First Congregational Church, part of the union school building, and the Canfield, Wheeler and Buckley residences. His attention has been largely given to general mason work, and he has also improved several pieces of property for himself.

Politically Mr. Brain is somewhat independent in his views, though favoring Republican principles. In April, 1864, ha was made a Mason at Lafayette Lodge No. 16, and has been an influential member of Manistee Lodge No. 228. He has served as Worshipful Master of Manistee Lodge, High Priest in Manistee Chapter No. 65, and is the present Thrice Illustrious Master of Manistee Council No. 46, R. & M. He is also identified with the Manistee Commandery No. 32. In the Order of United Workmen he has been Master of his lodge. He was one of the incorporators of James McGinley Post No. 201, G.A.R. and has been active in its circles.

Mrs. Mary A. Brain died December 16, 1893, after having become the mother of the following children: Annie M., Mrs. Ira Mathias, of Chief Lake, Mich.; Flora R., who married Charles O'Connor, of Buffalo, N.Y.; Charles W., bookkeeper for the Seymour Transportation Company, of Manistee; William R., who is engaged at milling at Chief Lake; Lewis E., who works in a mill at Empire (Mich); Frankie, who died at the age of twenty months; and Alpheus Smith, fourteen years of age, and at present is a student at Niles, this state.

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1895 Portrait And Biographical Record
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