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Browne, John Rhodes
JOHN RHODES BROWNE
John Rhodes Browne was born at Taunton, Massachusetts, December 14th., 1819. Died at Baltimore, Md., May 8th., 1900.
His father was Thomas Clark Browne, a merchant of Taunton, whose parents moved there from Coventry, Rhode island where the family had settled in 1750. His mother was Sarah Ann Carver, a descendant of the Carver family established in Plymouth in 1685: On her mother's side she was descended from "Richard Warren, gentleman, Devonshire, England" of the Earls of Warren. He was a signer of the Compact made by the Pilgrams on the Mayflower.
Mr. Browne was a pioneer cotton manufacturer of this country having been apprenticed to his uncle Mr. Augustus Leonard, in whose mills at Rocky Glen near Matteawan, N. Y., he learned his business.
At the age of twenty he went to Salisbury, N. C., to install the machinery in a cotton mill and remained for some time until it was in good working order. Upon his return to Matteawan he engaged in manufacturing with a Mr. Crosby, the firm name being Browne and Crosby.
In 1851 he became interested in the erection at Columbus, Ga., of the Eagle Mill of which Mr. Wm. W. Young was president and came South to install the machinery and remained to be its superintendent.
In 1848 he married Mary Wood Byrnes of Fishkill on-the-Hudson, daughter of Joseph Byrnes and his wife, Aletta, (nee Van Wyck) and they had one son, Henry Glover.
In 1855 Mrs. Browne died, and March 3rd., 1858 in Savannah, Ga., he married Roberta Hansen Harrison Yonge, (laughter of Wm. Phillip and Sarah Ann (Easton) Yonge, pioneer citizens of Columbus.
When the war between the states became inevitable, Mr. Browne threw in his lot with the state of his adoption and offered his services in the field. He was appointed a Colonel on the Governor's Staff and asked to continue in his position in the mill "as there were plenty of men to fight but a dearth of men to clothe them." The Eagle worked day and night turning out enough cloth every twenty-four hours to clothe a regiment.
At the close of the war, Mr. Browne received a letter from Gen. Bragg thanking him for his services.
Finding that General Wilson's orders were to burn everything, Mr. Browne waited upon him to avert if possible such a disaster. He was promished that if he could extinguish the flames the city would not be fired again, but the firing was too well done. The Eagle arose from its ashes as the Eagle and Phoenix, Mr. Browne continuing with the Company until he severed the connection to become President of the Georgia Home Insurance Company, one of the two insurance companies surviving the war in Georgia.
In 1876 he organized the National Bank of Columbus and was president of the Bank and Georgia Home Insurance Co. until his death.
While deeply interested in insurance and banking he never lost interest in cotton manufacturing. He was a director of the Muscogee Mills, and for some time president of the first Columbus Manufacturing Co., of the Swift Manufacturing Co., a director of the Tallassee Falls Manufacturing Co., of the Hamburger Cotton Mills, and owned the Steam Cotton Mills, formerly located on First Ave., where the Georgia Manufacturing Co., now is. He was also a director of the Southern Mutual Insurance Co., and a member of the first Board of Commons Commissioners of Columbus.
He contributed liberally to all educational matters, assisted in the foundation of the University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn., and was chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Columbus Female College of which Mr. G. R. Glenn was president.
In 1895 he built and presented to the diocese of Georgia a beautiful memorial church. He was a vestryman of Trinity Episcopal Church of Columbus, from 1856 to the day of his death.
"He was a true man liberal in all public affairs, charitable, a pure christian, and unwavering friend, man of exalted private and public worth."
A history of Columbus, Georgia : 1828-1928; Columbus, Ga.: Historical Pub. Co., 1929