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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Brown, Hamilton

by Sarah E. Holeman, 1979; Revised by SLNC Government and Heritage Library, July 2023

30 Sept. 1786–27 Mar. 1870

Hamilton Brown, planter, stockraiser, and land speculator, a resident of Wilkesboro, was the son of Jane McDowell and John Brown, a Scot-Irish immigrant. Brown served as a lieutenant, Eighteenth Regiment, U.S. Infantry, in the War of 1812 and afterward was colonel of the Wilkes County militia. He served a number of years as county justice and was sheriff from 1816 to 1818. He also served as overseer of a program to clear the Yadkin River, in order to allow the passage of boats up the Yadkin to the mouth of Buffalo Creek.

Brown inherited land in Wilkes and adjoining counties, as well as in Virginia, and purchased additional land in North Carolina and in Tennessee. He had business dealings in South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas. He inherited the rights to enslave a number of people in Virginia from his mother's brother but was unwilling to separate the men (two of whom were skilled blacksmiths) from their wives and, being prevented by Virginia law from freeing them, he arranged for them to continue their work there under the modest supervision of a local resident.

Brown married Mrs. Sarah Gwyn Gordon, widow of Major Nathaniel Gordon (who died in 1829); they were the parents of two sons, Hugh Thomas (1835–61), a graduate of The University of North Carolina who was killed in the Civil War, and Hamilton Allen (1837–1917), who also served in the Confederate Army. Brown's stepson, General James B. Gordon, was killed near Richmond in 1864. Brown and his wife were buried in the yard of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Wilkesboro.


Hamilton Brown Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

Additional Resources:

United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form:  Brown-Cowles House and Cowles Law Office. By Laura A.W. Phillips, Wilkesboro, N.C. May 1980. (accessed December 10, 2013).

North Carolina General Assembly. Journals of the Senate and House of Commons of the General Assembly of North Carolina at its Session of 1818. Raleigh [N.C.]: Thomas Henderson, Jr. State Printer. 1819. 12, 15, 35, 199, 241. (accessed December 10, 2013).

"The Brown-Cowles House." Old Wilkes, Inc. (accessed December 10, 2013).

Lankford, Jerry. "Markings believed to be curse: Tragedies befell slave owners after children were sold."  The Record [Wilkes County, N.C.] Internet Edition no. 625. October 12, 2011. (accessed December 10, 2013).

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