Napoleon Bonaparte Brown

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Napoleon Bonaparte Brown
Napoleon Bonaparte Brown
Born 1834 [1]
Died March 18, 1910(1910-03-18)
St Joseph, Missouri, United States
Occupation Businessman and Philanthropist
Spouse(s) Katherine Fitzgibbons(second wife)[2]
Children Earl Van Dom Brown

Napoleon Bonaparte Brown (1834 – March 18, 1910) was a soldier, businessman, philanthropist, politician, and resident of Kansas and Missouri in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[2] He is most known as the namesake and builder of the Brown Grand Theatre in Concordia, Kansas, a majestic opera house completed in 1907 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The theatre has been called "the most elegant theater between Kansas City and Denver."[2]

Early life[edit]

Brown was named after Napoleon Bonaparte by his parents James & Nancy Brown. The 1850 Pike County, Illinois census gives his age as 16 at that time. A later census (1900) in Concordia, KS gives his birthdate as Oct 1833.[3] He appeared to have two siblings: a brother, Benjamin age 14; and a sister named May or Mary aged 11 listed in the census as well.[4] Later military records list his hometown as Concord, Illinois in neighboring Morgan County.[5] until he resigned on January 17, 1865[6]

Military career[edit]

"Colonel" Brown enlisted in the 101st Illinois Infantry on January 3, 1864 and given the rank of major. Major Brown served in "B" Company[5] until he resigned on January 17, 1865[6]—the very day the 101st crossed into South Carolina from Georgia under General William Tecumseh Sherman.[5] Cloud county records show that he was paid the pension ($25.00) of a major.[7] After he retired from the military, he "promoted himself" to the rank of colonel.[8]

In a letter to the editor of the Kansas Blade (now the Concordia Blade-Empire), Brown claimed that he enlisted as a private on April 22, 1862, and was subsequently promoted to captain, major, and brevet lieutenant colonel.[9]

Business and philanthropy[edit]

"Colonel" Brown served in the state legislatures for both Kansas and Missouri[8] and was a prominent banker in Kansas during its early years of development as the owner of the first bank in Cloud County, Kansas.[10] N. B. Brown & Co., founded in 1878[11] with a rumored "suitcase full of money" that he had with him upon his arrival.[8] Colonel Brown and is wife Katherine (Katie) then built Brownstone Hall,[12] a 23-room Victorian-style 5,000-square-foot (460 m2) stone mansion built in Concordia in 1883.[13] Colonel Brown served first in the Missouri House of Representatives,[14] and then in the Kansas State Senate.[15]

In 1905, Colonel Brown commissioned the building of the Brown Grand Theatre and entrusted its completion to his son, Earl Van Dom Brown. The theatre was completed in 1907.[16]


As a state Senator in Kansas, Brown fought a losing battle to restore Concordia Normal School as a state-run institution. The school was one of several Normal schools placed throughout the state in 1874 under governor Thomas A. Osborn, but was consolidated by the state legislature in 1876.[17] The state normal school would later become Emporia State University.

Image gallery[edit]


  1. ^ 1850 Pike County, Illinois census at the age of 16-son of James & Nancy Brown
  2. ^ a b c "Brown Grand Theatre Ladies Parlor". The Brown Grand Theatre. Retrieved 2008-02-29.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "loc" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  3. ^ 1900 Cloud County, Kansas Census
  4. ^ 1850 Pike County, Illinois Census
  5. ^ a b c "The One Hundred-First Illinois". Jacksonville Daily Journal. Jacksonville, Illinois via Illinois in the Civil War. May 30, 1909. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  6. ^ a b "Roster of Field and Staff 101st Illinois Infantry". Archived from the original on January 6, 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  7. ^ "Cloud County KS GenWeb". Blue Skyways at the Kansas State Library. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  8. ^ a b c "History of the Brown Grand Theatre in Concordia, Kansas". Brown Grand Theater. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  9. ^ Concordia Blade-Empire "NB Brown's War Record-His slanderers Laid on Stretchers", June 2, 1882
  10. ^ Inside Cloud "Happy 100th Birthday Brown Grand Theatre" by Jenny Acree, September 21, 2007
  11. ^ Cutler, William G. (1883). History of the State of Kansas: Cloud County. Chicago, IL: A. T. Andreas. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  12. ^ "Kansas Historical Notes". Kansas History off the Press. Kansas State Historical Society. 43 (1): 112–120. Summer 1977. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  13. ^ Hatteberg, Larry (November 9, 2003). "Hatteberg's People: Caroline Gocke". KAKE. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ The Emporia Gazette "The Brown Grand Theater" February 23, 2009
  17. ^ Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas "State Normal School" by E.F. Hollibaugh, 1903
  • Bell, Rachel Lowrey (1998a). A Proud Past... A Pictorial History of Concordia, Kansas, Marceline, Missouri: D-Books Publishing.
  • Emery, Janet Pease (1970a). It Takes People to Make a Town, Salina, Kansas: Arrow Printing Company. Library of Congress number 75-135688.

External links[edit]