Brown, James Sproat
Correspondence and Ephemera of American Lawyer and Democratic Politician, James Sproat Brown, one time U.S. Congressman and Mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, written while in Europe, 1872-1878

35 letters, 119 pp., 3 envelopes, dated 7 June 1869 to February 1914. Two of the letters are typed, the remaining handwritten, several letters written after James S. brown’s death; plus 12 pieces of related ephemeral items.

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James Sproat Brown (1824-1878)

James Sproat Brown was an American lawyer and Democratic politician from Wisconsin who served in the United States Congress.

Brown was born on 1 February 1824 in Hampden, Penobscot County, Maine, the son of Judge Enoch Brown and his wife, the daughter of Judge Padelford of Taunton, Massachusetts.  He attended public schools before moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1840. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1843 and commenced practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1844. He was elected prosecuting attorney for Milwaukee County in 1846, and from 1848 to 1850 served as the first attorney general of Wisconsin. In 1861 Brown served as mayor of Milwaukee. From 1863 to 1865, Brown served one term in the United States House of Representatives during the 38th Congress representing Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District from March 4, 1863 to March 3, 1865. He ran for re-election in 1864 but was defeated by Halbert Eleazer Paine, a Civil War General from Wisconsin who served in congress from 1865 to 1871 before retiring.

After his term in Congress, Brown moved to Europe in 1865 to recuperate his health. He returned to the United States in 1873, where he practiced law once again in Milwaukee. Brown died on 14 April 1878 in Chicago, Illinois, at age 54. He was buried at Milwaukee's Forest Home Cemetery.


Brown was married first to Elizabeth Shephard (1835-1862). Elizabeth was the daughter of Clarence Shephard (1810-1892) and Mary Fowler (1816-1888). Brown and his wife Elizabeth had two sons, Clarence S. Brown (1856-1925) and James Padelford Brown (1859-1913).

Clarence S. Brown became a lawyer and a member of the Wisconsin State Bar. He was a partner in the firm of Brazee & Brown, later with Hathaway, Brown, & Walker. He also had ties to the firm of Van Wyck, Brown and Schley. Clarence remained in Milwaukee until his death. He became District Attorney for Milwaukee for two years in 1890-1892. Clarence lived at 542 Van Buren Street in Milwaukee,

Clarence's brother James P. Brown was one of the directors of the Milwaukee Associated Charities organization. He made a living as an insurance and real estate broker. James lived a couple of doors away from his brother Clarence at 571 Van Buren. James married Nora Lee (1859-1932) and they had at least one daughter named Dorothy. James also remained in Milwaukee.

After the death of his first wife Elizabeth in 1862, James Sproat Brown married in 1865, a second time to Emily J. Stetson (1836-1918), of Bangor, Maine. All of the Browns (except the second wife) are buried at their family plot at Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee.

        Description of Collection:

In 1862 James Sproat Brown's wife died. By 1865, he had completed his term in Congress and remarried. He was also experiencing poor health and for these reasons, he traveled to Europe for a couple of years. The correspondence offered here written by Brown, his wife and younger son James, is from the time (1872-1873) that they spent in Europe, and also includes several letters after they returned to America. James P. Brown and his step mother also wrote from Europe, with letters to Clarence S. Brown, who is studying at school in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


21 letters, 74 pp., of James Sproat Brown written to his son Clarence S. Brown, dated 7 June 1869 to 6 November 1873, two letters not dated, a couple of letters have tears at folds, or margins, one letter is in two pieces. The first letter written to Clarence is from Bangor, Maine, then one from New York City, followed by a letter on the steamer to Europe. Once in Europe he writes from Stuttgart, Dresden, Florence, Pisa, Milan, Frankfort, Hamburg, Gottingen, and London, as well as a couple of letters from Milwaukee upon his return to the United States after being abroad for about a year.

5 letters, 14 pp., of James P. Brown, to his brother Clarence S. Brown, dated 8 December 1872 to 28 January 1873, three letters not dated. Four of the letters written by James P. Brown to his brother Clarence are written Gottingen, Germany, the other from Chicago. His letters from Germany describe his trip to Hanover and to Gottingen, as well as a medieval armor collection he saw.

2 letters, 9 pp., of Mrs. E. S. Brown to her son Clarence S. Brown, not dated. One letter is written by Mrs. Brown from Paris, France, it is unclear where the other was written.

4 letters, 16 pp., of Clarence S. Brown, three to his father James S. Brown, and one to his brother James, dated 23 March 1873 to 13 January 1878, one letter not dated. Clarence informs his father about school, his expenses, etc., and the situation at home. He also writes to his brother about his life at school. He appears to be studying at Ann Arbor.

3 miscellaneous letters, 6 pp., dated 1895-1914, includes 1 letter of Anna Shephard to her cousin Jenny Shephard in New York City, not dated; 1 letter of Walston H. Brown & Bros., NYC to H.K. Southwick, Esq., concerning capital stock ownership in the California Company for power purposes in Stockton, California, dated 1895; 1 letter, typed, not signed, written to "Dorothy" from someone in Milwaukee. Dorothy is likely the daughter of James P. Brown. This is a three page typed letter that includes a detailed biography of James S. Brown on his younger days.



1 application (filled out) for "Proof of Eligibility for Membership" to The Colonial Dames of the State of Connecticut, dated 1923, for Dorothy Woodbridge Brown, daughter of James Padelford Brown.


1 application (partially completed) for membership to The Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames of America, for Mrs. Nora Lee Brown, wife of James Padelford Brown, not dated.

2 copies of marriage certificate for James S. Brown and Elizabeth Shephard, dated 1855 (copy dated 1922)

        1 bond, 3 typed pp., for the executors of the estate of Mary Fowler Shephard, dated 1892.

        1 genealogy, 13 mss pp. of genealogical records for Shephard-Fowler family, not dated.

1 property deed for Reformed Church of Lawyersville, to C. Sidney Shephard (Cemetery Deed Lot), dated 1908.

1 court argument, 6 typed pp., "The Central Trust Co. of NY vs. Toledo, Delphos & Burlington RR Co., et al, argued by Clarence Brown before A.J. Ricks, not dated c1885.

1 mss list, 2 pp., Ann Arbor Law Course, apparently taken by Clarence S. Brown, gives list of books, or lectures, not dated.

1 biography, 10 mss pp., in pencil, of James S. Brown, taken from "Memoirs of Milwaukee County" Western Historical Association, 1909, Vol, 1, Lt. Col. Jerome A. Watrons, Editor.

        1 inventory & appraisal, 5 pp., of estate of James P. Brown, dated 1913/

        1 court judgment, 2 pp. of Gertrude Emily Shephard against Clarence H. Shephard, copy, filed 1873.


        Sample Quotations:

"London, Sept 14, 1873

My dear child,

We are at last in London in a land appearing so much nearer to us because English is spoken here. It seems odd that the cab drivers understood us, & it is not necessary to speak German or French to the chambermaid. Mama at first found it necessary to explain herself in German to the servants, but she has already found out that she can get along in English.

My last was from Brussels, where we remained only two days. It boasts of being an imitation of Paris. Many of the first class are proved not to be able to speak their own language, Flemish, and speak pators, which they call French. They certainly have adopted French honesty, you can not trust any of them in the slightest thing. At our hotel from the landlord down to the lowest servant, they would lie...In fact the difference between them and the French they admire was a Frenchman would cheat you with greatest courtesy, but a Belgian using bad French would cheat you as rudely as a Flemish boar.

My bill for two days at the principal hotel, Bellevue, was seventy six francs, and the bed bugs were thrown in. We have found such animals in no other hotel in Europe. We hastened to finish our purchases and sightseeing & went to Ostend, where we spent the night...

At Ostend we embark for England. The trip on the North Sea is about 5 hours. The cabins fro Gentlemen and Ladies are separate. And the scene was such I had never before witnessed. Great overgrown men lay down [with] seasickness & screaming at the top of their voices. In our instance, two person were on the same lounge, which was long enough for two to lie down, both were screaming & writing; at length one of them changed his position, took his cushion, & laid it on the back of the other & laid down upon it with all the attendant consequences; the other for the first time stopped his screaming & remonstrated with the intruder...”

"Milwaukee Nov 6th, 1873

My dear child,

James & myself arrived safely at the Sherman Hotel at about 10 o'clock in the evening. James was tired and went directly to bed, but I preferred to learn a little about the Chicago election in which I did not succeed, as it took long to count the votes. In the morning I heard not only of the success of the anti Republican ticket, but of the complete overthrow of the old Republican bummers in Wisconsin & in New York.

In all parts of the country there seems to have been an anti Republican movement. Even in Massachusetts, it was only the want of hope in the Democrats which prevented a grand defeat of the Republicans. I think Grant has had his warning...”


Other letters detail his trips to Milan, Florence, and Pisa in Italy, number of letters relate his stay in several German cities. He appears to have stayed for some time in Dresden and Gottingen.