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Brown, John A. (1841–1925)

Cottonwood County Historical Society
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John A. Brown

John A. Brown, Cottonwood County auditor, in Windom, Minnesota, 1910. Photograph by Jesse O. Thompson.

John A. Brown, a Civil War veteran, settled in Cottonwood County in 1878 on land that he homesteaded near Windom. After surviving many hardships, he became one of the county’s best-known citizens and contributed significantly to its welfare and advancement.

Brown was born in Symington, Ayrshire, Scotland on August 8, 1841, to John and Elizabeth Brown. After receiving some schooling in Scotland, he came to the United States in June 1856, when he was fifteen years old. Whether he immigrated alone or with family is unclear. He settled in West Salem, Wisconsin, where he became a naturalized citizen and lived until the outbreak of the Civil War.

On December 10, 1861, Brown enlisted at La Crosse, Wisconsin, in Company B of the Second Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry. Appointed corporal and then quartermaster sergeant, he served under Generals Grant and Sherman and took part in numerous raids and expeditions in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi, as well as in the siege of Vicksburg.

After the surrender of General Robert E. Lee in 1865, Brown was sent under General Custer to Austin, Texas, to protect the southern border from warring factions in Mexico. He remained in Texas with his unit until November 16, 1865, when it was honorably discharged. They were paid off on December 10, 1865, and mustered out at Madison, Wisconsin.

After the war, Brown returned to West Salem, where he engaged in lumbering. In 1878, he moved to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, where he bought a farm outside Windom. While living in a granary during his first winter in his new home, he endured a severe winter.

On October 22, 1880, Brown married Edith C. Allen, daughter of Dr. Silas S. Allen, a pioneer physician. They had two sons and a daughter: S. A., Eugene, and Lucy. The family lived on the farm near Windom until 1890 when Brown, a Republican, was elected county auditor and they moved into Windom. He served as the county auditor and as deputy until 1910.

In 1912, Brown was elected as a county commissioner for two terms. In all, he was in public service for twenty-four years. This record of public service was remarkable for its longevity and also is a testimonial to the personal popularity of Brown. After his retirement, Brown’s son, S. A., became the county auditor.

Outside of his public service, Brown was involved in several local businesses, owning shares of the Farmer’s Co-operative Elevator Company in Windom and the State Bank in Storden. He also edited the two-volume History of Cottonwood and Watonwan Counties, published in Indianapolis in 1914.

In addition to his work, Brown served his community as a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.) where he was an adjutant. (Organized on December 3, 1874, the G.A.R. had fifty members and existed for only a few years in Windom, the only town in Cottonwood County where the organization flourished.

Toward the end of his life, Brown was physically weakened by hardening of the arteries. He died peacefully on March 25, 1925 as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage and is buried at Lakeview Cemetery, in Windom, Minnesota.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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Brown, John A., ed. History of Cottonwood and Watonwan Counties, Minnesota: Their People, Industries, and Institutions. Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen: 1916.

“Former Auditor is Called by Death.” Cottonwood County Citizen, March 11, 1925.

“County Candidates: A Review of the Candidates Who Are Seeking the Suffrage of the Voters at the Republican Primaries on September Fifteen.” Windom Reporter, August 20, 1908.

“Nominee for Auditor.” Windom Reporter, October 23, 1902.
Civil War Archive. 2nd Regiment Cavalry.

Related Images

John A. Brown
John A. Brown
County Officials and John Brown in front of old Cottonwood County Courthouse
County Officials and John Brown in front of old Cottonwood County Courthouse
Edith Brown
Edith Brown
Children of John A. and Edith Brown
Children of John A. and Edith Brown
John A. Brown
John A. Brown

Turning Point

In 1890, Brown, a Republican, is elected county auditor and moves to Windom.



Brown is born in Scotland.


Brown immigrates to the United States and settles in Wisconsin.


Brown enlists in Company B of the Second Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry.


Brown is discharged and returns to Wisconsin.


Brown moves to Cottonwood County, Minnesota.


Brown marries Edith C. Allen.


After running as a Republican, Brown is elected county auditor.


Brown’s term as county auditor expires.


Brown is elected as a county commissioner for two terms.


Brown serves as editor-in-chief of a two-volume book: History of Cottonwood and Watonwan Counties.


Brown dies and is buried at Lakeview Cemetery, Windom.