orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

September 4, 2012

Orange Benefactors since 1871, the Brown Family

Mike Louviere
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — Samuel Brown, who would become the head of a family that would become a great benefactor to Orange and the surrounding area, was born in Anderson County, South Carolina in 1836. He and his family moved to Forsyth County, Georgia in 1850. Upon completion of his basic education, he enrolled at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky and obtained a medical degree.

In February, 1858, he married Georgia Ann Malone. He practiced medicine in Rome, Georgia and in Catoosa County, Georgia. After the start of the Civil War, he returned to his home state, South Carolina and enlisted in the Provisional Army at Anderson Court House, Anderson, County, South Carolina, in 1862.

He served as a Private in Company L of the 1st South Carolina Rifles until February, 1863 when he passed the Army Board of Medical Examination and was appointed an Assistant Surgeon. He reported to the Medical Director of the 2nd Army Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. His assignment was as Assistant Surgeon, 1st Virginia Infantry Battalion. Brown stayed with the 1st Infantry until the end of the war. His time in the army ended with his parole from service on April 9, 1865.

His sons, Edgar William and Walter Joseph had been born prior to his wartime service.  The family moved to Texas and he began a medical practice in Jasper County. He closed his practice in Magnolia Springs in southern Jasper County and moved to Orange in about 1871. He established a medical practice in Orange and became a well respected citizen and doctor. Often at no charge he would provide medical care for prisoners in the local jail and for those who could not afford to pay for his services.

On March 29, 1887 he was killed while attempting to aid a child who was in danger of being hit by a train. Sadly, he was struck by the train and died from the resulting injuries. His death was a great shock to Orange and it was reported that every business in Orange closed out of respect on the day of his funeral.

His son, Edgar William, graduated with honors from the medical school at Tulane University at New Orleans in 1882 and established a medical practice in Orange.

On November 28, 1888, Edgar William married Carrie Luna Lutcher, the daughter of Henry Jacob Lutcher and Frances Ann Lutcher. They would become the parents of Edgar W. Brown, Jr., Henry Lutcher Brown, and Fannie Brown.

Brown’s father- in- law was partner in the Lutcher and Moore Lumber Company. The lumber company had become very successful and was becoming an industrial empire. Henry Lutcher urged Brown to join the lumber company, with him and Brown’s brother-in-law, W. H. Stark. Dr. Brown closed his medical practice and joined the lumber company.

Brown took charge of the newly formed Dilbert, Stark, and Brown Cypress Company at Donner, Louisiana and for 12 years, he commuted weekly by train from Orange to Donner.

The company opened another cypress operation at Lutcher, Louisiana. Brown was originally president but he withdrew from active management and left management of the plant to L. W. Gilbert. Brown shared with Stark the general supervision of the yellow pine and cypress interests of the company. Brown was also president of the Lutcher and Moore Cypress Lumber Company, vice president of the Lutcher and Moore Lumber Company of Orange and a partner in the Yellow Pine Paper Mill. He became one of the wealthiest and most successful manufacturers in the United States.

He was instrumental in the development of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway and was a leader in the effort to replace the ferry crossing of the Sabine River with a metal bridge at Orange. Brown and Stark used their own money to build the dump for the approach to the bridge on the Louisiana side.

Brown acquired large landholdings in Orange County and became a successful farmer. He developed canals for irrigation and cleared and cultivated many acres for the growing of rice. He became interested in and invested in the fledgling oil industry in the Orange area.

On June 16, 1917, he died from cancer, at his home on the corner of Green Avenue and Sixth Street.  Mrs. Brown moved into her daughter, Fannie Brown Moore’s, home. The home was the mansion that had formerly been the home of John W. Link on Green Avenue and Ninth Street. Fannie Moore died from pneumonia on October 12, 1918, but Mrs. Brown continued to live in the home until her death on October 3, 1941.

Edgar William Brown, Jr. was in his junior year at Princeton University when his father died. He left Princeton and returned to Orange to take over his father’s business interests.

He took his father’s place as president of the Lutcher and Moore Cypress Lumber Company and vice president of the Dilbert, Stark, and Brown Cypress Lumber Company. With his brother, Henry Lutcher Brown, and his mother, he organized the Brown Paper Mill Company in Monroe, Louisiana, and in 1923 acquired vast lumber holdings to provide the timber for its supply. In 1959 this property was sold to the Olin Corporation.

In 1933, he became the principal owner of the Levingston Shipbuilding Company. During World War II, the company built a variety of utility ships and seagoing tugs for both the U. S. Navy and the Royal Navy. Levingston Shipbuilding was awarded the “E” award for outstanding service to the United States Navy.  Brown, Jr. also acquired the Higman Towing Company, which he sold to his son, L. Slade Brown in 1969. He also owned and operated Gulfport Shipbuilding Company in Port Arthur.

After World War II, with his first cousin, H. J. Lutcher Stark, he was a founder of the Industrial Development Committee, which led to the development of the Chemical Row petrochemical complex in Orange.

He was instrumental in the formation and the development of the Sabine River Authority. The SRA later developed the large Toledo Bend Reservoir.

Brown, Jr. also served as a director and officer of First National Bank, chairman of the board of Orange National Bank and organizer  and chairman of County National Bank.

His philanthropic efforts extended to Houston. He was a director and life member of the Houston Fat Stock Show. The 1974 show and rodeo were dedicated to him in recognition of his years of support. The Variety Club of Houston voted him the Man of the Year in 1967 in recognition of his years of support for their projects.

At home in Orange he supported and provided new facilities for the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. He and his first wife, Gladys Slade Brown provided funds to expand the Bancroft School library and founded and supported Girls Haven in Orange. They gave the Slade Memorial Chapel to the First Methodist Church of Orange and set up a foundation to provide for its maintenance; they also contributed a parsonage. To the First Presbyterian Church, they gave the church its manse and a protective dome for its priceless glass. They gave to First Baptist Church of Orange money toward the building of the McCorquodale Educational Building and a recreational building. The building for use by the Orange Community Playhouse was donated by his family and in appreciation the annual Mr. Edgar award given to distinguished actors was named for him.

In about 1944, he and Gladys sold their red brick, green-roofed Craftsman-style house on Green Avenue to the City of Orange for a nominal price. The home was renovated and is still in use as the City Hall.

Edgar, Jr. and Gladys built a southern styled mansion for their new home. Due to World War II material shortages they were not able to start construction of the mansion until after the war. The plans were not put into operation until 1952. Actual construction began in October, 1954. The home was finished in April, 1956. It was called “Linden of Pinehurst”, after the Natchez, Mississippi home built in the 1790s that bears the name ”Linden”. The 20 rooms of the mansion encompass approximately 20,000 square feet. There are four bedrooms, six bathrooms, two family rooms, a formal dining room, drawing room, library, solarium, kitchen with butler’s pantry, freezer room, laundry room, office, hobby room, two foyers, two porches, a three-car garage, and a working basement.

Gladys Brown died unexpectedly in 1959. Several years after her death, Edgar, Jr. married Elizabeth Smith Hustmeyer. He and “Miss Smitty” continued philanthropic endeavors until “Mr. Edgar” died in 1976. In addition to his wife, he was survived by his four sons, Edgar W., III, John, Slade, and Charles.

After their father’s death the four sons were executors of their father’s will. Following the terms of the will, they offered the home and property to the Methodist Church. The church was unable to accept the offer. The trust fund, home, and 88 acres of property was then conveyed to Lamar University. The property is used as a center for cultural and educational activities for the benefit of the people of Orange County and Southeast Texas. It is now known as the “Brown Center.”

The home cost a little over $1 million to construct. Replacement cost in today’s dollars would be slightly over $10 million.