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Charles Oliver Brown at Dubuque: A Study in the Ideals of Midwestern Congregationalists in the Late Nineteenth Century

  • Dewey D. Wallace (a1)


Most of the standard books on the social gospel mention Charles Oliver Brown's Talks on the Labor Troubles, published in 1886, the year of the Haymarket riot, as one of the early clerical statements on the problem of labor in America. Several of them also allude to Brown's controversy in San Francisco with George D. Herron in 1895. But these writers on the social gospel were unaware of Brown's importance, even though Henry F. May noted that a whole issue of The Kingdom, a paper issued by Herron's supporters, was devoted to the refutation of Brown's charges against Herron.



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1. May, Henry F., Protestant Churches and Industrial America (New York, 1949), pp. 100,255256;Hopkins, C. Howard, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism,1865–1915 (New Haven, 1940), pp. 71, 9091;Dombrowski, James, The Early Days of Christian Socialism in America (New York, 1936), pp. 110, 178181;Frederick, Peter J., Knights of the Golden Rule: The Intellectual as Christian Social Reformer in the 1890's(Lexington, Ky., 1976), p. 168. May misplaces Brown as a pastor at Oakland, confusing him with Charles R. Brown, the later dean of Yale Divinity School.

2. Manuscript materials formerly belonging to Brown's second wife came into my possession in1980, including a six-page “Brief Sketch of His Life” written by him in 1935, a 655-page manuscript memoir of his early life and Civil War adventures written in 1878, a number of letters, and miscellaneous memorabilia. Unless otherwise noted, all Brown manuscripts cited are in my possession. I am preparing a biography of Brown.

3. See, for example, Littell, Franklin H., From State Church to Pluralism: A Protestant Interpretation of Religion in American History (Garden City, N.Y., 1962), pp. 61, 71.

4. C. O. Brown, “Memoir of Early Life.” The first two hundred pages include an account of these events.

5. Ibid., pp. 429–431.

6. Brown, C. O., Life and Character of Mrs. C. C. Wheat, of Oberlin, Ohio (n.p., n.d.), pp. 78, 10.

7. Brown, C. O., “Brief Sketch of His Life,” p. 3;Brown, C. O., “History of the Congregational Church, Rochester, Michigan, 1827–1877,” mimeograph of typescript provided by Carol J. Kohl, historian, First Congregational Church, Rochester, Michigan, [p. 3]Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Olivet College for the Year 1875–76.

8. Minutes of the First Congregational Church, Rochester, Michigan, 7 September 1876, 31 December 1879, 18 January 1880; Clerk's Records of the First Congregational Church, Galesburg, Michigan, 2 January 1880, 30 January 1881; Minutes of the First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 7 December 1885; untitled typescript history of the First Congregational Church of Tacoma, Washington, pp. 8–10.

9. The details were reported in the San Francisco newspapers; Minutes of the Bay Conference for 14 April 1896; “Commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Green Street Church,” pamphlet (1938), Chicago Theological Seminary Library, Chicago, Illinois.

10. Brown, Charles O., “Abraham Lincoln,” pamphlet, privately printed (1931);Chicago Daily News, 30 May 1934; untitled broadsheet on Brown's GAR record, printed by Ulysses S. Grant Post, Chicago.

11. Sweet, William Warren, Religion on the American Frontier, 1783–1850, vol. 3, The Congregationalists: A Collection of Source Materials (Chicago, 1939), PP. 3942;Brown, C. O., ed., Semi-Centennial Celebration of the First Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa, May 12th and 13th, 1889 (n.p., n.d.), pp. 6165, 70, 72, 73, 121.

12. Brown, , “Memoir of Early Life,” p. 432.

13. Brown, , “History of the Congregational Church, Rochester, Michigan,” [p. 7] Minutes of the First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 7 December 1885; Brown, , Life of Mrs. Wheat, pp. 2526; for Whittle, see McLoughlin, William G., Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney to Billy Graham (New York, 1959), p. 286;Brown, , Semi-Centennial Celebration, p. 73.

14. Brown, C. O., “The Problem of Satanic Influence Considered,” broadsheet, (n.p., n.d.), pp. 712.

15. For a discussion of Finney's outlook and approach, see McLoughlin, , Modern Revivalism, pp. 3121.

16. Brown, Charles Oliver, Short Talks to Young Christians on the Evidences (Chicago, 1885), pp. 31, 42, 122135, 140147.

17. Brown, , “History of the Congregational Church, Rochester, Michigan,” [p. 4];Brown, , Life of Mrs. Wheat, pp. 2122, 2425.

18. Brown, C. O., Battlefields Revisited (n.p., 1886).

19. Brown, Charles O., “Military Preparedness and the Word of God,” pamphlet, privately printed, 1915.

20. Brown, C. O., Talks on the Labor Troubles (Chicago, 1886), preface, pp. 7, 10, 13, 19, 2830, 69.

21. Ibid., pp. 26–28, 42, 44, 47, 71, 85, 90.

22. Ibid., pp. 106, 23.

23. Ibid., p. 81.

24. Brown, C. O., “Professor Herron's Teachings Reviewed,” pp. [1], [4]. The story of the encounter between Brown and Herron has been told by Dombrowski, pp. 179–180.

25. Brown, C. O., Brown vs. Ingersoll: Did the Great Infidel Petition for Repeal of the Laws Against Obscenity? (broadsheet, 1888), p. 1; for Ingersoll's role in this petition, see Larson, Orvin, American Infidel: Robert G. Ingersoll (New York, 1962), pp. 144, 146, 149, 153.

26. Brown, , Brown vs. Ingersoll, pp. 25.

27. Ibid., p. 8.

28. Moorhead, James H., American Apocalypse: Yankee Protestants and the Civil War, 1860–1869 (New Haven, 1978), pp. 219220, notes that after the Civil War many ministers turned from the dangers of Richmond to those of Rome.

29. Brown, C. O., The Public Schools and Their Foes (Dubuque, 1890), p. [2].

30. Ibid., p. 5.

31. Ibid., pp. 7, 8, 15.

32. Ibid., p. 10.

33. For these developments, see especially Pearson, Samuel C. Jr, “From Church to Denomination: American Congregationalism in the Nineteenth Century,” Church History 38 (1969): 6787.

34. Douglass, Truman O., The Pilgrims of Iowa (Boston, 1911).

35. Brown, , “History of the Congregational Church, Rochester, Michigan,” [p. 2]; Minutes of the First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 6 June 1885; Brown, , SemiCentennial Celebration of the First Congregational Church of Dubuque, pp. 35.

36. Brown, , Semi-Centennial Celebration, pp. 67.

37. Ibid., pp. 9, 28–34, 34–56, 78–97, 62, 74, 134–135.

38. Ibid., pp. 137–139.

39. Santayana, George, Character and Opinion in the United States (New York, 1956), p.3.

40. Typescript history of First Congregational Church of Tacoma, pp. 8–9; “C. O. Brown's Lectures,” printed brochure; “Dedication of Illinois Monument in the Memphis National Cemetery, October 15, 1929: ‘The Monument with a Soul,’” pamphlet, privately printed, 1929.

41. “C. O. Brown's Lectures.”

42. A typescript containing many of his poems is in the author's possession.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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