James S. Brown

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James S. Brown
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1865
Preceded by John F. Potter
Succeeded by Halbert Eleazer Paine
13th Mayor of Milwaukee
In office
Preceded by William Pitt Lynde
Succeeded by Horace Chase
1st Attorney General of Wisconsin
In office
June 7, 1848 – January 7, 1850
Governor Nelson Dewey
Preceded by A. Hyatt Smith
(territorial government)
Succeeded by S. Park Coon
Personal details
Born (1824-02-01)February 1, 1824
Hampden. Maine
Died April 15, 1878(1878-04-15) (aged 54)
Chicago, Illinois
Resting place Forest Home Cemetery
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Political party Democratic
  • Elizabeth (Shepard) Brown
  • (died 1863)
  • Emily J. (Stetson) Brown
  • (died 1902)
  • Clarence S. Brown
  • (b. 1856; died 1925)
  • James P. Brown
  • (b. 1859; died 1913)
Mother Melinda (Padelford) Brown
Father Enoch Brown
Profession lawyer, politician

James Sproat Brown (February 1, 1824 – April 15, 1878) was an American lawyer and Democratic Party politician born in Maine who became the first attorney general of Wisconsin. He also served one term as mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and represented Wisconsin's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives during the 38th Congress.[1]

Early and family life

Brown was born in Hampden, Penobscot County, Maine, to Enoch Brown and his wife, the former Melinda Padelford, on February 1, 1824. He married twice. His first wife, the former Elizabeth Shepard (1835-1863) of New York, was a decade his junior and they had sons Clarence S. Brown (1856–1925) and James (1859–1913).[2] After her death and the end of the American Civil War, he returned to Maine and married widow Emily J. Stetson (1815-1902). They had no further children, and she survived him.


The 16-year-old Brown moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1840 and began studying law as well as learned to speak German. After being admitted to the Ohio bar in 1843, he moved west and began practicing law in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1844. Brown soon established a law partnership with Thomas L. Ogden, who was from New York (and with whom he lived),[3] and James Halliday. Brown was elected prosecuting attorney for Milwaukee County in 1846 (since Milwaukee had not yet been incorporated), and from 1848 to 1850 served as the first attorney general of Wisconsin. In the heated political climate, an arsonist tried to burn down his house in 1858 but only succeeded in destroying a woodshed. Brown was also part of a group that attempted to establish a law school in Milwaukee, but failed, so the fledgling Milwaukee Bar Association remained a social group. Elected the 11th mayor of Milwaukee in 1860, Brown took office in 1861 and restored the city's credit, as well as purchased the city's first steam engine fire truck and paid fire company, but declined to run for re-election in 1862.[4]

Instead in 1862, Brown ran for Congress and defeated Republican John Fox Potter to represent Wisconsin's 1st congressional district, despite facing criticism for his handling of a bank riot in June 1861 as well as for cuts in the police budget. He served one term in the United States House of Representatives during the 38th Congress, from March 4, 1863, to March 3, 1865. In 1864 he ran for re-election and was denounced as anti-Union and ultimately withdrew from the race. Union General Halbert Eleazer Paine, a Republican, succeeded to the seat. Brown would challenge him and lose in 1866.[4]

After his term in Congress ended early in 1865, Brown married the widow of former Maine Congressman Charles Stetson, who had died in 1863. By 1869 the Browns were in Dresden, Germany. They continued to travel around Europe (as Brown had more briefly in 1854) as Brown tried to recuperate his long-precarious health. He returned to the United States in 1873, where he practiced law once again in Milwaukee and managed his various real estate investments.[4]

Death and legacy

Brown died in 1878 in Chicago, Illinois, at age 54, survived by his two sons and second wife. After a service in his Milwaukee home led by a Unitarian minister, his body was interred beside his first wife at Forest Home Cemetery, where his sons would also be buried. His former house in Milwaukee (a double structure he built in 1852) survives, the oldest house in the former Yankee Hill neighborhood, and is a historic site.[4] His son Clarence Brown graduated from Harvard Law School and became an alderman.


  1. ^
    • United States Congress. "James S. Brown (id: B000922)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  2. ^ 1860 U.S. Federal Census for Ward 7 of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, family 9
  3. ^ 1850 U.S. Federal Census for Ward 1, Milwaukee, Wisconsin shows him in a household with fellow lawyer
  4. ^ a b c d "Historic designation study report | James S. Brown Double House" (PDF). City of Milwaukee. September 2005. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
Legal offices
Preceded by
new office
Attorney General of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
S. Park Coon
Political offices
Preceded by
William Pitt Lynde
Mayor of Milwaukee
Succeeded by
Horace Chase
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John F. Potter
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1865
Succeeded by
Halbert Eleazer Paine
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