Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

George William Brown (1812-1890)
MSA SC 3520-2830

Source:  Wilbur F. Coyle, The Mayors of Baltimore (Reprinted from The Baltimore Municipal Journal, 1919), 99-101.
 
George William Brown served as Mayor from November 12th, 1860, to September 12th, 1861.  His term did not expire until November 10th, 1862, but he was taken into custody and imprisoned by the Federal authorities, the President of the Council, First Branch, John C. Blackburn, then succeeding as Ex-Officio Mayor. 

It was during Mayor Brown's administration that the long threatened conflict between the North and South began.  

Baltimore was a Southern city; Maryland a slave state, and the people were deeply attached to the South, being intimately associated with its traditions and institutions.  On the other hand, Baltimore was identified with the North in a business or commercial way, and when the storm broke, the city found itself in the throes of many intense and conflicting emotions.  The sentiment of the community was opposed to the passage of troops through the city, "to make war upon the South."  Hence, when the armed Sixth Massachusetts Regiment attempted to march from President Street depot (Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad) to Camden Station (Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) on the 19th of April, 1861*, the inevitable clash took place and the first bloodshed of the Civil War occurred.  This resulted in the death of soldiers and citizens, and the injury of many more.  Intense excitement prevailed, not only in Baltimore, but throughout the entire country.  In fact, it was freely stated at the time, that if an effort was made to send more Northern troops through the city, great bloodshed would result.  By order of President Lincoln, the route of the soldiers destined for Washington was diverted for the time being, and no more entered Baltimore.

It was this situation with which Mayor Brown had to deal between the first clash and the time he was summarily relieved of office.  He had a very exciting administration, one episode following another.  The city as stated was wrought up to a high pitch and the Mayor was the central figure in all the turmoil. 

When the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment passed along Pratt Street he attempted to quell the riot, even placing himself at the head of the beset companies.  Many important events occurred in Baltimore within a very brief period.  The Police Commissioners were placed under arrest and numerous other prominent citizens suffered a like fate; Mayor Brown, himself, being taken into custody September 12th, 1861, fourteen months before the expiration of his term.  While in office he issued several very important edicts pertaining to the conflict and the disturbed state of affairs, and helped shape the early policy of the City in its relation to the Civil War.  

During his brief experience as executive the site for Bay View Asylum was purchased; Lake Roland, Hampden and Mt. Royal Reservoirs were completed. 

Ordinances were passed abolishing the office of Commissioners for Opening Streets and transferring their powers to the Appeal Tax Court, also authorizing the appointment of a Board of City Commissioners and Port Wardens, to whom were conveyed the duties, etc., of the former Port Wardens. Provision for separating the office of Superintendents of lamps from the jurisdiction of Police Department, and for closing certain streets and alleys in Patterson Park was made. The construction of a sewer in Calhoun Street, from Franklin to Townsend (now Lafayette Avenue) Street, was approved during this administration. 

*   *   *   *   *   *

Mr. Brown was born in Baltimore City, October 13th, 1812.  He graduated from Rutgers College, New Jersey.  His grandfather, Dr. George Brown, was born in Ireland, graduated in medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and settled in Baltimore about 1783, where he soon became one of the leaders in his profession.  Mayor Brown's father was George John Brown, and his mother was Esther Allison, a daughter of Rev. Dr. Patrick Allison, the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.  George William Brown, the subject of this sketch, entered the sophomore class of Dartmouth College at the age of sixteen, but the death of his father caused his withdrawal.  He, however, later was graduated from Rutgers College, New Jersey, and read law in Baltimore, where he was admitted to the bar.  He took a prominent part in public affairs and was conspicuous in quelling the riot caused by the failure of the Bank of Maryland in 1835.  He formed a law partnership with Mr. Frederick W. Brune and shortly afterwards married Miss Clara Maria Brune, October 29, 1839.  On November 12,1860, he entered the office of Mayor, having been elected by the reform element, with which he had long been identified, in opposition to Know-Nothingism.  He likewise was a candidate on the Fusion ticket for the same office in 1885, but was defeated by James Hodges, Democrat.  Mr. Brown was a leader in the movement which resulted in the founding of the Baltimore Bar Library, of which he later became president.  He was a member of the first Board of Trustees of the Peabody Institute; one of the founders of the Maryland Historical Society; a regent of the University of Maryland; a visitor of St. John's College, Annapolis; a trustee of Johns Hopkins University of Maryland; president of the Athenaeum club, and a a member of the State Constitutional Convention of 1867.  With two collaborators he complied the first Digest of Decisions of the Court of Appeals of Maryland.  In October 1872, he was elected chief judge of the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City, having been nominated by the Democratic Conservative Party.  Reaching the age limit before expiration of his full term, he was not retired, serving the full term.  Judge Brown died September 8, 1890. 

*  In 1877 Mr. Brown published a history of the riot of the 19th of April, 1861, in which he gave an exhaustive story, not only of the clash which resulted from the first bloodshed of the Civil War, but circumstances leading up to it as well as subsequent events.  He also set forth his position in connection with the conflict, and explained in detail the sentiments of the community at that important period of the nation's history.

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